Question: when is a new Rush live album not a new Rush live album? Answer: when it’s a recording from 1974, originally broadcast on US radio, later circulated on the bootleg market, and now available in lawful form for the first time.
The release of ABC 1974 comes just two months after that of the official Rush live album Time Machine 2011: Live In Cleveland. And coincidentally, ABC 1974 was recorded in the same city (the album title is an acronym for Agora Ballroom, Cleveland).
Its 15 tracks are culled from two different shows at that venue in ’74 and ’75. The nascent Rush sound supercharged as they blast out their earliest classic songs, including Finding My Way, Anthem and Working Man. Also, the sound quality is considerably better than could be expected of an unofficial album on which drummer Neil Peart’s name is spelled incorrectly.
But the big selling point is a trio of songs that have never featured on any legit Rush album. Fancy Dancer channels late-60s British blues-rock. Garden Road is a pummelling boogie. And a cover of Larry Williams’s 50s rock‘n’roll favourite Bad Boy has Rush sounding… well, funky. And who ever thought they’d hear that?