If Rush’s Alex Lifeson doesn’t immediately leap to mind when you think “guitar hero,” it may be because he’s spent his career in the shadow of bassist Geddy Lee and drummer Neil Peart—the most technically deft rhythm section to ever throw down an 11/8 groove. To his credit, Lifeson has made a career of being a team player, using his formidable chops to support the band’s intricately arranged progressive power-rock. Lee’s nasally falsetto coupled with the band’s early penchant for writing epics based on Ayn Rand novels ensured Rush would never be critic’s darlings. But more than three decades after their debut album, the Canadian trio still has one of the most rabidly loyal fan bases of any band.


Permanent Waves, 1980

Lee notches his falsetto down a register, and the band abandons its high-concept diatribes. Lifeson serves up his baddest solo ever in “Freewill,” and, on the extended ending to “Jacobs Ladder,” Rush proves you can boogie in 13/8.

Moving Pictures, 1981

Heavy riffs plus thought-provoking lyrics plus saw-toothed, odd-time grooves equal an album that both metalheads and proggers can love. Lifeson’s riff to “Red Barchetta” is a clever use of natural harmonics, and his lyrical solo on “Limelight” helped elevate the whammy bar from a gimmicky sound effect to an expressive compositional tool.

Grace Under Pressure, 1984

Assimilating the influences of The Edge, Adrian Belew, and Andy Summers, Lifeson tracks his most innovative playing yet, full of textural delay and Harmonizer-crafted soundscapes.

Chronicles, 1990

If you only have enough space for one Rush release, this double-disc features most of the key tracks from the band’s first 15 years.


Fly By Night, 1975

The first album with the classic Lee/Lifeson/ Peart lineup is also the most focused effort from Rush’s early hard rock rampage. Lifeson emerges as a melodic—if not yet terribly original—player.

Hemispheres, 1978

The epic about a spaceship that travels through a black hole to unite the warring forces of Apollo and Dionysus is pretty geeky fare. Still, Lifeson provides some harmonically sophisticated chord work, and the instrumental “La Villa Strangiato” is a welcome break from shrieking vocals and stuffy lyrics.

VaporTrails, 2002

When Rush experimented with keyboards, bass pedals, and sequencers in the ’80s, purists complained they’d changed their sound for the worse. When they jettisoned the electronic trappings as Lifeson beefed up his tone for this lean and mean comeback effort, purists complained again. They were wrong twice.

R30, 2005

This DVD/CD features a complete live concert from 2004, along with career-spanning interviews, video clips, and TV appearances. It’s a must for hardcore fans, and a fine introduction for newbies.


Caress of Steel, 1975

“The Fountain of Lamneth” is Rush’s first attempt at an epic, but they hadn’t yet developed the chops to pull it off.

A Show of Hands,1988

Rush has released no less than six live albums—a generous amount for a band that plays things pretty much like the record. This is the most keyboard-heavy of the lot, and it’s rendered obsolete by R30, Rush in Rio, and Different Stages.

Roll the Bones, 1991

Rush’s highbrow lyric writing has produced some embarrassing moments, but the rap breakdown in the title track that rhymes “parallax” with “gluteus max” takes the cake.