Power Windows (album)
Power Windows is the eleventh studio album by Canadian rock band Rush, released on October 14, 1985 by Anthem Records. After touring in support of their previous album, Grace Under Pressure (1984), the band took a break and reconvened in early 1985 to work on a follow-up. The material continued to display the band's exploration of synthesizer-oriented music, this time with the addition of sampling, electronic drums, a string section, and choir, with power being a running lyrical theme. Power Windows was recorded in Montserrat and England with Peter Collins as co-producer and Andy Richards on additional keyboards.
|Studio album by|
|Released||October 14, 1985|
|Singles from Power Windows|
The album reached No. 2 in Canada, No. 9 in the United Kingdom, and No. 10 in the United States. In January 1986, the album reached platinum certification by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for one million copies sold in the United States. Rush released five singles from the album between 1985 and 1986: "The Big Money", "Territories", "Manhattan Project", "Mystic Rhythms", and "Marathon". The band supported the album with their 1985–1986 tour.
Background and writingEdit
In November 1984, the band ended their concert tour in support of their previous album, Grace Under Pressure (1984). After a short respite, the group started work for a follow-up album in early 1985. Guitarist Alex Lifeson looked back at this period, and noted their conscious effort in taking the strongest elements of their previous two records, Signals (1982) and Grace Under Pressure and capitalising on them for Power Windows. To Lifeson, this resulted in a more cohesive and satisfying album.
In February 1985, Rush had relocated to Elora Sound Studios in Elora, Ontario to write and rehearse new songs. Drummer Neil Peart would write a set of lyrics from the studio's farmhouse while Lifeson and frontman Geddy Lee worked on music to fit Peart's words in the adjacent barn which housed a 24-track recording studio. Peart worked on a small desk in his room, "about the right size for a five-year-old". During this time, Peart researched the Manhattan Project to write lyrics for the same-titled song. He also had a head start, having written outline lyrics for "The Big Money", "Mystic Rhythms", and "Marathon" before these sessions had begun. Lee and Lifeson sorted through jams recorded at soundchecks on tour and Lifeson's own tapes of ideas to assemble music for the three tracks, with each song taking up to a week. They then began on "Middletown Dreams", "Marathon" once again, and then "Grand Designs". Having worked out some material, Rush underwent a five-day warm-up tour in Florida in March 1985 to sharpen their performance and to test the new songs on stage prior to recording. Peart continued to work on lyrics in his hotel room in Miami.
Following their warm-up gigs, the band returned to Elora and continued working on their new songs, their break away being a positive impact on their work upon returning. Peart had initially struggled to finish "Territories" and "Manhattan Project", "but now they just fell together". On their first day back at Elora, Peart began work on lyrics for a ballad titled "Emotion Detector" as the group had discussed the possibility of recording one for their new album. Upon presenting his words to Lee and Lifeson, his lyrics fit to the piece of music that his bandmates were working on at the time. This was followed by Rush arranging the music for "Emotion Detector" and "Territories", after which they had assembled a demo tape of seven new songs ready to present to Collins for recording.
Later in 1985, Peart told an interviewer that Rush's sound "is changing from having been progressive to not being progressive". He noted that despite the album might "seem simpler", it was just as difficult to compose and perform. Lifeson expressed some resistance to the emphasis on keyboards during this period of their history. He noted the trend began on Signals which pushed his guitar parts too far into the background as a result. However, he thought Rush achieved a much greater balance of the two instruments on Power Windows, which he thought Moving Pictures (1981) successfully had.
Rush recorded Power Windows from April to August 1985 in five different recording studios. The group recorded Power Windows with a new producer, Peter Collins. During their warm-up gigs in Florida, the band first met Australian engineer James "Jimbo" Barton who Collins had recommended. They accepted, and Peart later praised Barton's contributions and suggestions to the band, considering his small recommendations to improve a song, which he referred to as "events", was "just what we were looking for". Lifeson compared the experience of recording Power Windows as more pleasant and fun than Grace Under Pressure, which presented various problems for the band. He added that the album contained elements that Rush had not incorporated before and broke several boundaries that had existed with previous albums. Lee supported this view and said the group decided "not to hold anything back" and make the album first and worry about presenting the music on stage later.
Recording began at The Manor Studios in Oxfordshire, England, where the basic rhythm, keyboards, and bass tracks were recorded more quickly than usual, in the span of five weeks, to capture more spontaneous performances ready for overdubs. Here, the music was recorded using two Studer A800 24-track tape machines with an SSL console. It was during sessions at The Manor where Rush brought in musician Andy Richards to play additional synthesizers and assist in their programming. His rig consisted of a PPG Wave 2.3 synthesizer connected to a Roland Super Jupiter module through a MIDI system, a Yamaha QX-1 digital sequencer, and a Roland Jupiter-8 and Yamaha DX7 synthesizer. In one incident, Peart's drum technician Larry Allen drove with him to London to collect a set of African and Indian drums to use on "Mystic Rhythms", and bongos for "Territories".
In May 1985, the band had relocated to AIR Studios in the island of Montserrat in the Caribbean. They had discussed recording at the studio for several years and booked the facility for three weeks for Lifeson to record guitar overdubs. The tracks were put down using two Studer tape recorders with a Neve console. Collins recalled this period of recording as painstaking work due to the various combination of microphone and amplifier set-ups that were experimented. This was followed by a return to England in June to record in London, firstly at SARM East Studios. The band chose to live together in a single apartment rather than separate hotel rooms. At SARM East, the guitar solos and Lee's vocals were put down.
Mixing began in July after the band took a one week break from the material, which coincided with decisions on the final running order, artwork, credits, and photos. In August, the string section was recorded which featured a 30-piece orchestra in studio 1 at Abbey Road Studios. Rush wanted musician and arranger Anne Dudley to complete the string arrangements, which she agreed to do, and the group was conducted by Andrew Pryce Jackman. A 25-piece choir was recorded at Angel Recording Studios for the ending of "Marathon". The album completed, Lee oversaw the mastering in New York City in September, and proofs were approved for the album cover.
Power Windows lyrics are focused primarily on various manifestations of power. For example, "Territories" comments on nationalism around the world. Like "Subdivisions" from Signals, "Middletown Dreams" explores suburban monotony and the average person's attempts to temporarily escape it. "Grand Designs" was partly written to criticise mainstream music which the group felt was too superficial. The song also echoes individualistic themes such as non-conformism.
"The Big Money" features the sampling of Peart's voice using an AMS and triggered through his Simmons drum kit.
"Manhattan Project" refers to the Manhattan Project and the development and explosion of the first nuclear weapon. It was a difficult track for the band to put together, partly due to Peart's difficulty in writing lyrics from an objective point of view, rather than as an observer of the event. Lifeson recalled Peart "thoroughly" researched on the topic beforehand.
"Territories" was another difficult track for Rush to get right. After Peart had written some lyrical ideas he went through them with Lee, who noticed it was telling a story and found them difficult to sing once he and Lifeson had come up with music for them. Peart then rewrote them in a more direct way which suited Lee better.
"Middletown Dreams" was a song that involved several rewrites before the band reached an arrangement that worked. After the album was completed, Lifeson expressed some dissatisfaction with the guitar parts, but it grew to become a "very satisfying" track for him.
"Marathon" is a song that Lifeson thought would be difficult to arrange and record, but it turned out to be one of the easiest songs on the album to complete. It contains various samples, the least amount of recorded overdubs, and incorporates the string section and choir recorded in London. Collins had the idea of using a choir and the group, witnessing the recording, saw the humour in "pregnant women and old men sing our song". Lifeson considered the song close to Peart as he had taken up cycling during days off on the Grace Under Pressure tour, riding 100 miles each time.
"Emotion Detector" turned out to be a song that Rush initially thought would be easy to complete, but encountered difficulties.
"Mystic Rhythms", as described by Lee, is "the most synthetic track on the record" with each instrument being fed through "a synthesized something". It features Lifeson playing an acoustic Ovation guitar which generated a synthesizer-like sound once fed through amplification.
"Territories" features the lyric "Better beer", which is an inside joke. Peart played his drum kit without a snare drum, and the middle section features a sample of Lee's voice saying the phrase "Round and round".
The pictures on the front and back covers were taken by photographer Dimo Safari, and the model is Neill Cunningham from Toronto.
Power Windows was released on October 14, 1985.
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
|Rock Hard (de)||9/10|
|The Daily Vault||B+|
Power Windows has been met with mostly positive reviews from music critics. AllMusic's Eduardo Rivadavia retrospectively described the album as Rush's coldest album, citing the sparse, horn-like guitar playing of Lifeson, the prominent synthesizer of Lee and Peart's crisp, clinical percussion and stark lyrical themes. However, he also described the album as one that rewards patience and repeated listens. Rolling Stone magazine, in a positive review of the album, highlighted a number of bands that seemingly influenced Power Windows, such as The Police, U2, Genesis and Siouxsie and the Banshees. The review concludes that Power Windows may be the missing link between Yes and the Sex Pistols. In 2005, the album was ranked number 382 in Rock Hard magazine's book The 500 Greatest Rock & Metal Albums of All Time.
Power Windows introduced more synthesizers into the band's sound. During the period when the album was produced, the band were expanding into new directions from their progressive rock base, having "tightened up their sidelong suites and rhythmic abstractions into balled-up song fists, art-pop blasts of angular, slashing guitar, spatial keyboards and hyperpercussion, all resolved with forthright melodic sense".
Although the original recording had a SPARS code of DDD and was considered to be of good quality, a remastered edition was issued in 1997. The remastered edition follows the trend of newer albums, as it is considerably louder.
- The tray has a picture of three fingerprints, light blue, pink, and lime green (left to right) with "The Rush Remasters" printed in all capital letters just to the left. All remasters from Moving Pictures to A Show of Hands feature this logo, originally found on the cover art of Retrospective II.
- Includes the original grey border around the back cover image, along with lyrics and credits.
Power Windows was remastered again in 2011 by Andy VanDette for the "Sector" box sets, which re-released all of Rush's Mercury-era albums. Power Windows is included in the Sector 3 set.
Power Windows was remastered for vinyl in 2015 as a part of the official "12 Months of Rush" promotion. The high definition master prepared for this release was also made available for purchase in a 24-bit/48 kHz digital format at several high-resolution audio online music stores. These remasters have significantly less dynamic range compression than the 1997 remasters and the "Sector" remasters by Andy VanDette. Sean Magee remastered the audio from an analog copy of the original digital master, using a 192 kHz sample rate. But since Power Windows was originally mixed on digital equipment at 16-bit/44.1 kHz, no audio above 22 kHz exists in the original digital master or any of the remasters, which is why many digital music stores are only selling the album at a maximum sample rate of 48 kHz.
|1.||"The Big Money"||5:36|
- Geddy Lee – lead vocals, bass guitar, bass pedals, synthesizers
- Alex Lifeson – electric and acoustic guitars
- Neil Peart – drums, percussion, electric percussion
- Andy Richards – additional keyboards, synthesizer programming
- Jim Burgess – synthesizer programming
- Anne Dudley – string arrangement, conductor
- Andrew Jackman – conductor, choir arrangements
- The Choir – additional vocals
- Rush – production, arrangements
- Peter Collins – production, arrangements
- Jim Barton – engineer
- Matt Butler – assistant engineer
- Stephen Chase – assistant engineer
- Dave Meegan – assistant engineer
- Heff Moraes – assistant engineer
- Bob Ludwig – mastering
- Brian Lee – mastering
- Hugh Syme – art direction, graphics, cover design and painting
|Canadian RPM100 Albums||2|
|Dutch Albums Chart||44|
|Swedish Albums Chart||26|
|UK Album Chart||9|
|US Billboard 200||10|
|"The Big Money"|
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