No album in Rush’s catalog demands being revisited as much as “Caress of Steel.” Sure you could argue the debut album but for me, that album is almost a different band style-wise. Though, it does play a part in “Caress of Steel.”
Why did this album flop so badly and nearly kill the band? Putting the album in context with its legendary follow-up “2112” is a good place to start. Compare the artwork for starters. “Caress of Steel” is brown and dingy. “2112” is bright and shiny.
I know what you’re thinking. Who cares about artwork? Back in 1975, bands like Rush relied on artwork to grab a buyer’s attention. You couldn’t just find a band like this on the radio or anywhere other than a record store where the cover HAD to grab you. The artwork on this album is hard to make out and honestly does nothing for it.
Musically, the album really has a split personality, much like “2112.” It has a side long epic in “The Fountain of Lamneth” which is one of the band’s most underrated songs and a great mini epic in “The Necromancer.” These two songs alone make this album a MUST own.
The problem is that the other 3 tracks were designed to be more “user-friendly.” “Bastille Day” always felt like another try at “Anthem.” “I Think I’m Going Bald” is both horrible lyrically and musically. Musically it’s similar to that damn debut album! “Lakeside Park” is my favorite of the 3 songs. It makes for a nice change of pace.
So what could have saved “Caress of Steel”? Besides better artwork, I think naming it after one of the epics would have been MUCH better. Why do you think “2112” works so well? No one knew what the fuck it meant! Dump the shitty song of course and re-sequencing the album would have been wise.
I think they could have left “The Fountain of Lamneth” as the second side, but since it worked for “2112,” it probably would have worked here. Otherwise, I think starting with the awesomeness of “The Necromancer” would have been fine. Then they could just include “Bastille Day” and “Lakeside Park” at the end of either side. Let’s remember that the songs on side 2 of “2112” are not THAT much better than these two songs!
“Caress of Steel” has some greatness. But it also has a couple of terrible ideas too. Back in 1975, you couldn’t afford to make a mistake like they did and expect it to work. This album (specifically the two epics) deserved better than it got. Luckily, the band survived and now we can look back and revisit this album that is far better than its sales would indicate!
1. Bastille Day
2. I Think I’m Going Bald
3. Lakeside Park
4. The Necromancer
5. The Fountain of Lamneth