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June 29th, 2004 - 10:43 am

What’s your favorite band?

Are they still around, still recording and/or touring? If so, do you still get that particular buzz of excitement the day the “new” album comes out? Do you drop the disc in your CD player for the first time with an anticipation unmatched by any other album you’ll buy that year?

And do you still fell that pang of sadness as the last new song fades out, that little fear that this might be the last time you hear a new song from that band?

For me, “that band” is Rush, and has been since roughly 1982.

I know, I know. What a surprise, an engineer who’s also a Rush fan–hey, have you heard the one about how a chemistry lab broke out in the middle of one of their concerts?

Yeah, heard that one, but in the immortal words of Barney Frank, let’s move on.

Today is the release date of Rush’s twenty-third album, this one’s titled Feedback. It’s something of a first for the band, an EP (remember EP’s?) of late-60′s covers, songs that inspired the band members themselves to pick up their instruments as teenagers.

I just played it for the first time, and it’s wonderful. It’s been forever since I’ve bought a record (you can get it on vinyl, appropriately enough) that’s as much fun for the fan to hear as it obviously was for the artists to record. The high points are a blistering Who-esqe “Summertime Blues,” a really tasteful take on Buffalo Springfield’s “Mr. Soul,” and the closer, “Crossroads,” delivered in a fashion that would make both Robert Johnson and Eric Clapton proud.

Would I rather have an album of new material? Of course I would, particularly given the still-unresolved case of guitarist Alex Lifeson, who is facing very serious criminal charges over a New Year’s Eve fracas in Florida.

But for now, oh man, it’s fun, and the band deserves extra credit for getting a new record out, even a covers record, in the midst of their 30th-anniversary tour. Way too many ageing “classic” acts are hitting the road these days without bothering to release anything other than warmed-over greatest hits packages (if that).

I can’t wait to see which of these songs makes the live set–and if you’ve seen the tour already, and post a spoiler in the comments, I will personally… well, I’ll be very upset. Let’s leave it at that.

NOTE: According to the band members (and assuming Lifeson stays out of jail), Rush is set to start work on an album of new material after this fall’s European tour.

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