Released September 29, 1976
79 min, 32 sec
1976 was a pretty good year for Rush.
2112, the Canadian trio’s breakthrough album, had been their last chance to make it in the music business. Their label recommended not following in the footsteps of 1975’s incredibly disappointing Caress of Steel, with its two high-concept, multi-part suites that took up well over half of the album; ignoring that advice, Rush instead doubled down on the concept, producing the iconic 21-minute “2112,” engulfing the entirety of the record’s side A. That track on its own proved to the world that Rush had what it takes to be one of the greatest bands in rock history, and they continued to prove it with every single album after that (yes, even Vapor Trails; give the remaster a listen sometime).
As a result, the tour that followed 2112 was a bit of a victory lap, especially considering the horrendously low sales the Caress of Steel tour brought in. In order to capitalize on the band’s newfound success, a live album was recorded during that tour, from June 11 to June 13. Certain tracks were pulled from each performance to create All the World’s a Stage, Rush’s very first live album.
There’s not much to say when it comes to live albums. They’re a portrait of a band at the time they’re recorded, and, if a band is any good, no two live albums will ever paint the same portrait. Rush noted that this album represented the end of the band’s “first chapter,” and indeed, the four studio albums and live album up to this point created the template for Rush’s release schedule all the way through 2003, where each “chapter” of Rush’s career was defined by the same pattern of four studio albums followed by a live album. Rush finally broke this pattern in 2003 with the release of Rush in Rio immediately following 2002’s Vapor Trails, beginning a new cycle of releasing a live album for every tour, regardless of whether or not there were studio albums on either side of that tour. In fact, compared to the three studio albums Rush has released since 2002, there have been five live albums. It’s honestly kind of silly – just do official tour bootlegs like everyone else does these days, guys.
All the World’s a Stage, then. It’s a great album – Rush didn’t have a lot of material to work with in 1976, so the album is only nine tracks. Three of those, however, are over twelve minutes long, thanks to the inclusion of the entirety of the “By-Tor and the Snow Dog” suite, most of the “2112” suite, and a combination of “Working Man” and “Finding My Way” to end the album. Rush has a reputation for sounding almost exactly like their studio recordings in a live setting – this isn’t quite the case on All the World’s a Stage, where Geddy has a tendency to change his vocal rhythms to basically whatever he feels like singing, and the three of them play similarly loose with their instrumentation, particularly during their solo sections.
However, the album accurately captures the sound of a triumphant band, rebounding from the very brink of extinction, and in the process of catapulting themselves into superstardom. All the World’s a Stage is the very last record of the band before it entered its prime; after 1976, they never looked back, not even once. Canada’s greatest musical heroes had finally arrived.
One miscellaneous note:
– I just now realized, after writing this post and preparing to post it, that the copy of All the World’s a Stage in my iTunes library omits the ending track “What You’re Doing,” because apparently my copy is the original CD release, which cut the track due to the constraints of the CD medium at the time (74 minutes, as opposed to 80). It wouldn’t alter my post at all if I had the track, but I just wanted to make note of that. Thanks, 1980s CDs.