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(I promise this gets to Rush in a second) I was just listening to a drum cover of Jet City Woman by Queensryche (great song), and when the guitar solo section came I noticed how the drums just kept playing straightforward even when there were lines and phrases coming from the solo that I would think might ask for a little nod or fill in response from the drums. It sounded like the drummer couldn't hear the solo, just the backing track, and I figured well that may well have been the case! The solo was more than likely overdubbed afterwards, so the drummer wouldn't have known what to play along to other than the very simple hard rock backing. In that scenario the guitarist has to make choices of where to play right in line with the already recorded backing track and where to let his phrasing flow a little more freely even though no one in the backing track will respond to it. Then I thought about Rush. Now, Rush certainly didn't write and record the solos before the backing tracks. That would be very difficult and kind of crazy to imagine. And Rush also didn't tend to record things all at the same time so that they could play off of one another in real time. But, what they did do, that I think is responsible for some of the magic, is they let Neil compose his drum parts after the song proper had already been hashed out by Alex and Geddy. Now, I doubt the guitars and vocals were actually recorded first, but it seems to work the total opposite way in Rush of how most bands operate. Usually the drummer will be laying down a groove--maybe a complex one, maybe a simple one, probably somewhere in between--and the other bands members will play over it as a foundation. But in Rush, I often find it's the rhythm guitars (and keys at times) which provide the song's basic foundation, and the bass, the drums, the vocals, and the guitar solos are all playing off of that. It's totally unusual, because Neil then has the freedom and opportunity to play off of what he already knows is there, which allows him to find where all of the fills should go and really fill the track up with great magic drum moments. I think what also helps is that Geddy is such a hyperactive bassist at times, especially in guitar solo sections where the rhythm guitar will drop out at live shows forcing the bass to pick up the slack there. So when it gets to a solo section, and the solo hasn't been recorded yet, Neil at least already knows what the bassline is, and it's usually quite detailed and active, so Neil can write a similarly detailed and active drum part to complement it. Suddenly when Alex goes to solo over it, the track is already vibrant with magic interplay between Geddy and Neil, giving him much more phrasing and melodic information to feed off of as a soloist. Thus the magic happens that leads to great solo sections like Freewill. Now of course, I'm speculating a bit. I can't say for sure exactly what happened in those writing and recording sessions, but I know that the order in which you do things will inevitably affect how they're done, and I think Geddy and Alex giving Neil the space and freedom to fully compose his drum parts after working out the bass and guitars is something really special in the rock world. I think most bands will kind of indicate to the drummer what kind of beat they're looking for under a song that they've written, or just jam it out in real time. Those methods can be wonderful as well, but none of them produce that peculiar magic of interlocking parts that Rush always did. Oh and then, just to make things even more in synch, Neil's role as lyricist establishes a direct link between drummer and singer, a link that I think most bands overlook. Drums are usually the lowest on the totem poll in terms of melody and what people generally pay attention to in a song, whereas vocals are usually the highest. Separated by literally every other instrument in the mix, it can be easy for the drum part and the vocal part to kind of ignore each other... but they shouldn't! And in Rush they never did. With that essential link between Geddy and Neil established by Neil's role as lyricist, Neil would always be keeping the vocals and melodies at the forefront of his mind when composing drum parts, and would take the extra effort to play along to the song rather than just the groove, to let the drums sing in the gaps where Geddy doesn't. And on the flip side, Geddy's role as the bass player meant he was always intrinsically locked in to everything Neil was doing (the bass acts in many ways as an extension of the drums, adding body to the hits which naturally fade away). So when he would figure out how to sing and play something at the same time, he would be, rhythmically speaking, doing something very similar to figuring out how to sing and drum at the same time. This is where so much of the magic comes from, I think, that the vocals and drums, theoretically the two parts farthest away from each other, were intrinsically connected by the dual roles of both players. Then both of them are playing off of Alex as well, whose riffs and arpeggios are often the songs' true anchors, and this incredible togetherness makes it all the more freeing and magical to break into a solo or a jam. This is what makes Rush the greatest power trio of all time.