Popoff, Martin – Limelight (Book review)

Spread the metal:

Reviewed: November, 2020
Released: 2020, ECW Press
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: JP

Aptly titled LIMELIGHT, Martin Popoff in conjunction with ECW has published Part two of the definitive Rush trilogy. I did a fairly in-depth review about the background layout and design of this trilogy, when I reviewed Part I, ANTHEM, which was published in late 2019. For a more detailed analysis please feel free to read that review.

This time, instead of repeating myself, I’ll keep the review a bit shorter. In terms of the book, it’s top quality in terms of presentation and as predicted this well-appointed hard-cover matches the look and style of ANTHEM.

As the sub-title suggests Popoff covers the 80’s from PERMANENT WAVES to PRESTO. The methodology is much the same; chapter by chapter, album by album. Deeper than that we go through the entire cycle per album, song-writing, demo and pre-production, actual recording, art and album design, then the tour, chart positions, critical acclaim and then time off for six months before it starts again. Rush was a machine in the 80’s; more albums, more tours, more studios, more (big) money, more fame, more downtime hobbies (wine, baseball, cars, bicycling, tennis, volleyball and model airplanes) and more keyboards!

Rush were working men by this point, a well-oiled machine, lifers on the crew, management secure and they had their pick of the studios more often than not working in Quebec, close to home but far way enough not to be bothered. The boys churned out seven studio albums and two double live albums in 10 years back when charts and physical albums still mattered and still made (big) money.

In an odd way I didn’t enjoy LIMELIGHT as much as ANTHEM because it was all work, work, work.  Stability, routine, dare I say predictability (not musically) were the watch-words of the decade. They say that conflict, tension, plot-twists, drama and suspense make for a good story and Rush in the 80’ s had none of those characteristics. Being newly well-off  financially, musically established, educated, polite, Canadian, suburban white boys with families, Rush in the 80’s had less band and personal drama in the entire decade than a single night on a Motley Crüe tour stop (on a Tuesday) in Boise, Idaho circa 1986.

The cumulative total of drama for Rush in the 80’s was that, on occasion they were mildly displeased with the choice of record producers and that Lifeson felt a bit grumpy for about ten minutes that Geddy’s new love of keyboards overshadowed his guitars. Wow! It’s a crisis!  Let’s sit down and have a bowl of soup and talk about it like adults.

I should be careful of what I ask for because Part III, DRIVEN, slated for release in 2021, is going to have half the musical output but triple the drama, heartache and heartbreak than the first two books combined.

Aside from the relatively benign decade (again not musically) LIMELIGHT is utterly packed with trivia, stories, quotes and anecdotes. Popoff digs deep and we discover little tidbits about things such as Geddy’s appearance on the Bob & Doug (The MacKenzie Brothers) comedy album, Peart setting up his drums out on a dock in a lake (for some reason) and many more.  We hear from not only the band but producers, managers, artists, engineers, roadies and more.  Everyone says that Rush to a fault were… quiet and nice.  There are worse things their ex-employees could call them I suppose.

LIMELIGHT is even getting a bit of traction with some mainstream media exposure in Canada so you better catch the spirit quick before it sells out faster than a Rush concert in Toronto. I love Rush and I love this book, and you will too. It’s a beauty eh??

PS. I’m anticipating DRIVEN with trepidation…