Rank ‘Em: Rush studio albums

It doesn’t get much harder than ranking Rush studio albums. There are so many and the band have had different sounds through the years. Still, Rush have always been about the “song” regardless of how long the song is. That’s how I ranked them. The more songs I like, the higher it goes. But still, many of the albums are SO CLOSE in ranking. This is another of those times when I could easily do this list next week and it would be different. Here we go…


19. Rush (1974)
This one was easy. The album is of course very different from the rest and Neil isn’t there. I can’t remember the last time I listened to it.



18. Test for Echo (1996)
For as good as some of the songs are on this album (“Driven,” “Totem”), there are too many listless tracks (the title track, “Resist”) and even one of my least favorite tracks in “Dog Years.” The band just doesn’t have the fire they usually do, in my opinion.


17. Clockwork Angels (2012)
16. Snakes & Arrows (2007)
Plenty of great songs and good songs on each of these undone by shitty production by Nick Raskulinecz. He is terrible. Both albums are mixed inconsistently and often you cannot hear Neil. Each album needs a remix. Plus he has Geddy practically yodeling at times.


15. Fly By Night (1975)
14. Caress of Steel (1975)
If they had combine the better songs on these two albums and perhaps dumped the shitty tracks like “I Think I’m Going Bald,” there’s a classic album in here. They were young and still learning, plus 2 albums in one year is crazy. Plenty of classics on each album regardless.



13. Roll the Bones (1991)
Between the rapping on the title track, crappy songs like “Face Up” and a thin production by Rupert Hine, this album just slid down here. It could slide further but it does have “Dreamline,” “Where’s My Thing,” and “The Big Wheel.”



12. Vapor Trails, Remixed (2002)
If this album wasn’t remixed, it would be near the bottom. The new mix is amazing. The songs are solid and there are a few gems. Let Bottrill remix the Raskulinecz albums!!



11. Counterparts (1993)
This is a great album, other than “The Speed of Love.” It can easily crack the top ten depending on my mood. The production is amazing. Plus it has one of my favorite underrated Rush songs “Cold Fire.”



10. Grace Under Pressure (1984)
9. Presto (1989)
8. Power Windows (1986)
These three albums are ones that all are about the same for me. Each have some of my favorite Rush songs of all time. “Distant Early Warning,” “The Pass, “Available Light,” “Marathon,” “The Manhattan Project.” Each album has a song or two that are not great but no real glaring weaknesses.



7. 2112 (1976)
Not much can be said about this album. I have no doubt that many people will say it should be higher or even at #1. I think some tracks on the second side aren’t as strong as the rest. The title track is incredible of course.



6. Moving Pictures (1981)
If not for “Tom Sawyer,” I love this album. I hate that song. This album does not go any higher than this for me. “Limelight” alone keeps this album from falling at all.


5. Permanent Waves (1980)
4. Hemispheres (1978)
My top 5 are all consistently just that. These two albums can shift places but neither would ever fall out of the top five. Not a wasted note on either. These are consistently great albums.



3. Signals (1982)
I have a soft spot for this album because it was my first Rush album. Plus I love “Subdivisions” “Losing It” and “The Analog Kid.” The whole album is solid.



2. A Farewell to Kings (1977)
“Xanadu” makes this album what it is. But the rest of it is unbelievable. Yes I still love “Closer to the Heart” no matter how many times I hear it. “Madrigal” is underrated, as is “Cinderella Man.”



1. Hold Your Fire (1987)
This album is special to me. “Mission” is my favorite Rush song and “Prime Mover” is my second favorite. And yes I love “Tai Shan” too. When I am not sure what album to listen to, this is always the one I grab.

And now you may tell me how insane I am! Give me your rankings!

About Rob

I have been a fan of progressive metal and progressive rock for most of my life. My music collection is insanely large. My passion for life is music...progressive music!
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17 Responses to Rank ‘Em: Rush studio albums

  1. C.G. says:

    I don’t know if I could rank Rush albums because I often choose which Rush album I listen too based on mood and/or the time of year we’re in. However, nothing on your list jumps out at me to make me want comment on an album’s position. My least favorite albums production-wise are the Ruper Hines albums, Presto and Roll the Bones. Rolls the Bones is slightly worse because, even though I didn’t think it was possible, Neil’s drums sound even thinner than on Presto. Both albums just have an ugly painful drum sound. Alex’s guitar sound on both are super tinny and harsh too. Geddy’s voice and bass are about the only things well produced on those albums. Both albums have some great tunes on them though…and some real stinkers.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jeb says:

    19. Presto
    18. Hold Your Fire
    17. Clockwork Angels
    16. Power Windows
    15. Snakes and Arrows
    14. Vapor Trails
    13. Test or Echo
    12. Counterparts
    11. Roll The Bones
    10. Grace Under Pressure
    09. Rush
    08. Fly By Night
    07. Signals
    06. Caress of Steel
    05. A Farewell To Kings
    04. Hemispheres
    03. 2112
    02. Moving Pictures
    01. Permanent Waves

    That’s pretty close!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. TempleAcezan says:

    This is a little belated comment. (TempleAcezan on twitter. i’m the one who sent you the Alex Lifeson 2112 thing.. Bottom line is, I am a huge fan of you and your work, and Progressive Rock/Metal) This is a ranking of MY least-favorite, to favorite Rush albums. It’s a little different than yours, but I think it’s still a good list.

    19. Test For Echo (I have no love for this album. Period.)
    18. Snakes & Arrows (Besides “The Main Monkey Business,” I don’t enjoy this album at all. Plus, fuck Raskulinecz)
    17. Roll The Bones (Nothing too special about this one. “Where’s my thing” is alright, but I really don’t enjoy this album very much.)
    16. Grace Under Pressure
    15. Clockwork Angels (I do like “The Garden,” “BU2B,” and “The Anarchist,” but I’m gonna leave you to figure out why this album ranks this low. It may take you a while)
    14. Presto
    13. Power Windows
    12. Counterparts
    11. Vapor Trails
    10. Signals
    9. Rush
    8. Fly By Night
    7. Caress Of Steel
    6. Moving Pictures
    5. Hold Your Fire
    4. Permanent Waves
    3. 2112
    2. A Farewell to Kings
    1. Hemispheres

    Like I said, the list is a bit different, but tell me what you think of it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • progmanrob says:

      Thanks for the kind words! I like your list a lot. Any list that ranks “HYF” in the top 5 is good with me. The self titled seems high. I agree on TfE though. Not sure why you don’t like CA but I know for me it’s the shitty mix and production!


      • Temple Acezan says:

        Haha. Yeah. It was the shitty mix and production. It is not really my cup of tea. I will say that it is a slight improvement over “S&A,” but it isn’t anything too special. Also, I made a slight error in that, I meant to put Signals at number 7 and put Rush, FBN, and COS, behind it. I wish I caught that before posting my initial list, but other than that, the list is pretty much good to go! Also, same as your list, my list could flip-flop depending on my mood!

        *Fixed List*

        19. Test For Echo (I have no love for this album. Period.)
        18. Snakes & Arrows (Besides “The Main Monkey Business,” I don’t enjoy this album at all. Plus, fuck Raskulinecz)
        17. Roll The Bones (Nothing too special about this one. “Where’s my thing” is alright, but I really don’t enjoy this album very much.)
        16. Grace Under Pressure
        15. Clockwork Angels (I do like “The Garden,” “BU2B,” and “The Anarchist,” but I’m gonna leave you to figure out why this album ranks this low. It may take you a while)
        14. Presto
        13. Power Windows
        12. Counterparts
        11. Vapor Trails
        10. Rush
        9. Fly By Night
        8. Caress Of Steel
        7. Signals
        6. Moving Pictures
        5. Hold Your Fire
        4. Permanent Waves
        3. 2112
        2. A Farewell to Kings
        1. Hemispheres

        Liked by 1 person

    • progmanrob says:

      Haha! I like that you moved Signaks up. And yes fuck Nick Rcazhhciotdbkbz!! Though I will say, he didn’t fuck up the new Dream the Electric Sleep album. No idea how that happened!


  4. Temple Acezan says:

    Maybe Raskulisapieceofshiticz learned something? I agree that, he didn’t fuck up Heretics, but I ponder: how is he a grammy-winner? Not that Grammys actually fucking matter or anything, but still, it does baffle me that people don’t seem to mind mediocre production.

    Also, I do have a soft spot for their debut album because it helped me out with my personal life, but some songs on the album are not good at all (I’m looking at you, In The Mood), and Moving Pictures is a great album, funny how it’s number 6 on both my list and your list, but “Vital Signs is one of my least favorite Rush songs ever, and Tom Sawyer it is overplayed so fucking much, and the thing I hate about it the most is that, people, specifically bad Rock music critics, say it’s “THE RUSH SONG.” Which, I disagree 2112% with. I can think of at least 50 Rush songs off the top of my head that are “THE RUSH SONGS” before you got to Tom Sawyer. I hate that people label Rush as only good because of Tom Sawyer, but really, Rush has done so much more than just Tom Sawyer, and people seem oblivious to the GREAT things that Rush has done over the years. It really ticks me off. That’s my opinion on all of that! Haha

    Liked by 1 person

  5. C. G. says:

    I’m just super thankful that Rush never tapped Kevin Shirley to produce any of their stuff. That guy is a horrible producer. When he is in charge, you might as well have the drummer play on cardboard boxes. To be clear, I’m not defending Nick Rcazhhciotdbkbz. I’m saying Kevin ‘shit-for-sound” Shirley is way worse.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Luke Henson says:

    Awesome! Rush is my favorite group by a mile so I feel mildly qualified to do this.
    1: Hold Your Fire
    2: Permanent Waves
    3: Moving Pictures
    4: A Farewell To Kings
    5: Signals
    6: Hemispheres
    7: 2112
    8: Grace Under Pressure
    9: Roll The Bones
    10: Caress Of Steel
    11: Power Windows
    12: Counterparts
    13: Clockwork Angels
    14: Presto
    15: Fly By Night
    16: Rush
    17: Snakes And Arrows
    18: Vapor Trails
    19: Test For Echo

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Anthony says:

    I hated your list until I read your number 1 pick. I think Hold your Fire is a great album. I think your list is cool because it is not a typical list where Hemispheres and moving pictures takes the top spots. Give Snakes and Arrows another chance it’s a different and cool album. Not a big fan of clockwork either.

    19. TFE
    18. VT
    17. RTB
    16. Rush
    15. Presto
    14. Clock work Angels
    13. COS
    12. FBN
    11. Counterparts
    10. GUP
    9. Signals
    8. 2112
    7. A Farwell to Kings
    6. Snakes and Arrows
    5. Moving Pictures
    4. Hold your fire
    3. Hemispheres
    2. Permanent waves
    1. Power windows

    Liked by 1 person

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  13. Paul Ardoin says:

    19) Test for Echo
    18) Vapor Trails
    17) Snakes & Arrows
    These three albums have a lot of thundering dissonance, which I haven’t been able to latch onto. I get listening fatigue after a few songs of each of these albums. I couldn’t tell you the name of a single non-title track. I’ve really tried to give all these albums a fair listen, too.

    16) Rush
    Neil’s lyrics and drumming make such a big difference. This doesn’t even feel like a Rush album.

    15) Clockwork Angels
    I have the same problem with the thundering dissonance, but I like the concept behind the album, and find this more listenable than other albums Rush released this millennium.

    14) Roll the Bones
    “Bravado” is in my Top 20, but most of the other songs don’t have enough to say. The rap in the title track was embarrassing when I bought the album in 1992 and it’s still embarrassing.

    13) Caress of Steel
    A mostly enjoyable album, but “The Necromancer” bogs down under the spoken word story. I like “The Fountain of Lamneth,” and even the silly name of “I Think I’m Going Bald” can’t undermine the great music.

    12) Counterparts
    Some excellent tunes: “Cold Fire,” “Between Sun and Moon,” and “Cut to the Chase” are all go-tos in my playlists, and I even like the cheesiness of “Double Agent.” I like the sentiment but hate the treacly execution of “Nobody’s Hero.”

    11) Fly By Night
    The title track is excellent. A few other solid songs. A few muddled ideas.

    10) 2112
    The title track is awesome. “Lessons” is terrific. “A Passage to Bangkok” is fun if a little tired with the stereotypical Asian motif. The other songs are OK if a little flawed. As cohesive as the title track is, the second side is a little all-over-the-place, which is why this album is so far down on the list.

    9) Presto
    This tour was my first Rush concert, so the album might be a bit artificially inflated because of that. Still, there are no songs that I skip when I listen to this album—the first on this list. My favorites: “Scars,” “Red Tide,” “Available Light.” The title track is the weakest song on the album, and it’s still decent.

    8) Signals
    I feel like I ought to like this album more than I do. I enjoy all the songs and don’t skip any, but I don’t think any track on here would make it to my top 25 Rush songs. (No, not even “Subdivisions” or “The Analog Kid.”) Let’s put it this way: If I’m listening to this album and I pull into my driveway, there isn’t a song on here where I’ll stay in the car until the song is over. (Every other Rush album above #15 has at least ONE song where I’ll keep the car on.)

    7) Grace Under Pressure
    “Distant Early Warning” is excellent. “Between the Wheels” is one of my top 5—and it’s my favorite “song to close an album” of all time. I really like “red lenses” (which I know a lot of people think is silly). There are a couple of less-inspired tracks—”Afterimage” and “Red Sector A” are thematically and musically too similar, and having them back to back does a disservice to both. (Probably the second best cover art of all the albums.)

    6) Hemispheres
    Some huge highlights on this album. Part IV Armageddon has one of my favorite guitar riffs of all time. I love each of Side 2’s songs separately, but the whole package is not quite as cohesive as I’d like.

    5) Hold Your Fire
    Thoroughly solid album from front to back. “Turn the Page” and “Lock and Key” are in my top 10. “Prime Mover,” “Force Ten,” and “Time Stand Still” are up there too. The rest of the album is good-to-very good, although I never warmed up to “Second Nature.”

    4) A Farewell to Kings
    I *still* don’t like “Cygnus X-1.” Maybe the spoken word stuff is a holdover from “The Necromancer,” but it just doesn’t flow for me. The rest of the album is outstanding. The title track is in my top 10, “Xanadu,” “Closer to the Heart” and “Cinderella Man” are all great songs too. I actually got into Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poetry after listening to “Xanadu.”

    3) Permanent Waves
    Such a great, great album. “The Spirit of Radio” isn’t the best Side-One-Track-One ever made (that honor IMO goes to The Police’s “Synchronicity I”), but it’s a solid second (and third place isn’t close). “Natural Science” is outstanding and was the first Rush song my son ever requested (when he was 6). “Jacob’s Ladder” is brilliant. I love “Different Strings” and “Entre Nous.” And I think something is wrong with me because I’m not a fan of “Free Will,” which is why this album isn’t #1. (This one gets the nod for best cover art.)

    2) Moving Pictures
    This is one of those “grabs you from the start and doesn’t let go” albums. It was my first Rush album that I bought; I could listen to this album on repeat for a full day. “Red Barchetta” is my all-time favorite Rush song. Every song on Side 1 is a classic. Side 2 is solid, although “The Camera Eye” and “Witch Hunt” aren’t up to the quality of the rest of the songs on the album (though still better than every single song in albums 11-19).

    1) Power Windows
    I love every song on this album. I love the little nooks and crannies and surprises—the ending of “Grand Designs,” the fade-out-then-back-in of “The Big Money,” the kick-it-up-a-notch of “Marathon,” the wonderful and unusual percussion in “Mystic Rhythms.” And Neil IMO hit his zenith with the lyrics on this one—”Emotion Detector” in particular. The bridges of most of these songs are brilliant, too. It’s a bit odd to put this as #1, since none of the songs individually would make my top 10 Rush songs, but every one of them is in my top 40. And thematically, I think this album is the most cohesive of all of Rush’s works, which is probably why it’s #1 and not #3.

    Liked by 1 person

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