In my opinion the Canadian rock band Rush recorded its last true progressive rock album in 1987 with Hold Your Fire. Maybe I'm just one of the few who dares to say this, because most diehard Rush-fans will never admit that this is really the case. Sure, some songs from their later releases were worth listening to, but they never again wrote epic progressive rock tunes like Cygnus X-1 Book II Hemispheres: Prelude, Cygnus X-1, The Camera Eye or La Villa Strangiato. However, the answer to this shortcoming might be the latest release of Elf Project.
Elf Project hails from the greater New York area; it's the vision of multi-instrumentalist Carl Schultz who blends progressive rock from the seventies with elements of psychedelic music from the sixties and hard rock. Their debut album Mirage (2009) was more or less Carl's studio project together with guest musicians. On this second album The Great Divide, Schultz (lead vocals, bass, keyboards) is accompanied by Mike Cappadozy (guitars) and Dave Wayne (drums).
Right from the first notes of the first track Rush crossed my mind. The sound of Rush is clearly emphasized throughout the album. Schultz is unmistakably influenced by this famous Canadian trio. The way he sings is strongly reminiscent of Geddy Lee's singing, although his voice is less high-pitched. Also the bass lines are quite similar to the way Mr. Lee plays on his Rickenbacker. However, the keyboard parts are less emphasized in the mix than Geddy Lee used to do on many Rush-compositions. The guitar parts, however, are less good than those of Alex Lifeson, but that doesn't mean that they aren't enjoyable. Most tracks contain vocals except for the instrumental piece called No More Monkey Business, which is undoubtedly the highlight on The Great Divide. You might compare it to the Rush-tune YYZ, since the same kind of outstanding instrumental parts can be enjoyed on this track. The other tracks are worthwhile listening to as well although they don't have the same impact as the Rush-songs mentioned in the intro. But these pieces are better than most of the ones Rush recorded after Hold Your Fire.
People who agree that Rush's music nowadays sounds less progressive and more straightforward should try the music of Elf Project. I think they will probably be more pleased with The Great Divide than with, for example, the Rush-album Vapor Trails (2002). If you liked the music of Rush in the eighties you should check out this one for sure. You won't regret it!
*** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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