Grace Under Pressure is the tenth studio album by Canadianrock band Rush, released in 1984. It reached #10 on the Billboard 200 chart and went platinum in the US upon its initial release. On the back cover is a band portrait by the photographer Yousuf Karsh. The original vinyl pressing also featured a photo depicting an egg being held in a C-clamp. Also, the cover art was painted by Hugh Syme, a collaborator with Rush since he performed as a guest musician on the song "Tears" from 2112. Alex Lifeson once described Grace Under Pressure as the "most satisfying of all our records."
During the tour supporting their previous album, Signals, the members of Rush began by meeting with producer Terry Brown in Miami, calmly informing him that they wanted to move on. They'd become increasingly unhappy with the sound of the Signals album, and they were also keen to see how they would work with someone other than Brown. Despite their decision to part ways with Brown, Rush decided to include a small tribute to him in the liner notes of Grace Under Pressure, which states, "et toujours notre bon vieil ami — Broon." The quote translates to "and always our good old friend". Following Brown's amicable departure, Rush approached producer Steve Lillywhite to record the album. However, Lillywhite withdrew at the last minute, much to the chagrin of the band members. Rush eventually produced the album themselves, with assistance from Peter Henderson, who had previously worked with Supertramp, Split Enz, Wings, Frank Zappa and King Crimson.
Rush decided to record the album in the band members' native Canada at Le Studio, deciding on the title "Grace Under Pressure" for the album. The various current events found in the Toronto Globe & Mail newspaper inspired many of the lyrics on the album, particularly those of "Distant Early Warning", "Red Lenses" and "Between the Wheels". After a few months, the mixing stage had begun, and Neil Peart discussed the details of the cover art with Hugh Syme. The band spent up to fourteen hours per day in the studio, perfecting the album's dystopian sound.
Generally acknowledged as one of Rush's darkest albums, influenced by the growing tensions in the cold war at the time, the album's running theme is pressure and how humans act under different kinds of pressure. In songs like "Between the Wheels" and "The Body Electric", Peart's lyrics explore the pressure put on by life as a whole. In "Afterimage", he describes the impressions left by a loved one that dies suddenly. One track, "Red Sector A," is notable for its allusions to The Holocaust and concentration camps, inspired by Geddy Lee's memories of his mother's stories about the liberation of Bergen-Belsen, where she was held prisoner. While the album's opening track "Distant Early Warning" has been interpreted as dealing with the pressure involving the aftermath of nuclear holocaust, Peart demurred in a contemporaneous interview, saying, "It's about a lot of stuff". "The Enemy Within" is part of the "Fear" series of songs that also includes "Witch Hunt" from Rush's 1981 album Moving Pictures, "The Weapon" from Signals and "Freeze" from Vapor Trails.
The video for "The Enemy Within" was the very first video broadcast on Canada's MuchMusic station in 1984.
Musically, the album marks yet another development in Rush's sound; whilst continuing to make extensive use of synthesizers as on Signals, the band also experimented by incorporating elements of ska and reggae into some of the songs. As well, the guitars played a larger role than on Signals, with Lifeson stating that "I think the guitar on 'Signals' took a bit of a back seat. The keyboards were really upfront...though in a sense that's what we were trying to achieve, we wanted to go for a different perspective on the whole sound. But, possibly, we lost direction at times on Signals."
This was also the first album released by Rush to include no program music. In an interview, Lee said that "It was time to stop the concept stories... what you have to say ends up being very nebulous, because you're concerned with this big story. You try to make the story right, you try to evoke the right moods, and invariably sixteen different people come up to you and tell you sixteen different things about what you're trying to say. That's fine, because that's the way it really should be, but for us it was time to come out of the fog for a while and put down something concrete."
The tray has a picture of three fingerprints, light blue, pink and lime green (left to right) with "The Rush Remasters" printed in all capital letters just to the left. All remasters from Moving Pictures through A Show of Hands feature this logo, originally found on the cover art of Retrospective II.
The back is a plain, off-white panel with the track titles printed as well as the production and copyright information.
The insert displays the cover art. The color of the cover art has been altered: it is of a richer, brown-gray color base, as opposed to the light blue base of the original LP release. The new cover is featured in nearly all of the album's modern representations. When the case is opened, the inside shows the photo of the band from the back of the LP version of the album. The insert unfolds to show the image of the egg in the C-clamp, which has a thin red border around it and credits the image to Deborah Samuel.
Also in the insert are the lyrics, similar to those included with the LP. Like the LP, the title and lyrics of "Red Lenses" are printed completely in lowercase.
Some consider the title in all lower case ("red lenses") to be the proper and accepted writing.
Grace Under Pressure was remastered again in 2011 by Andy VanDette for the "Sector" box sets, which re-released all of Rush's Mercury-era albums. Grace Under Pressure is included in the Sector 3 set. Unlike the other albums in the "Sector" series, the remaster for Grace Under Pressure was based on the 1997 digital masters, as opposed to the original master tapes, which were sonically degraded by 2011.