A Farewell to Kings

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A Farewell to Kings
Rush A Farewell to Kings.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedSeptember 1977 (1977-09)
RecordedJune 1977
StudioRockfield (Rockfield, Wales)
GenreProgressive rock
Rush chronology
All the World's a Stage
A Farewell to Kings
Singles from A Farewell to Kings
  1. "Closer to the Heart"
    Released: October 1977
  2. "Cinderella Man"
    Released: January 1978

A Farewell to Kings is the fifth studio album by Canadian rock band Rush, released in September 1977 by Anthem Records. After touring their previous album 2112 (1976), which saw the group reach a new critical and commercial peak, they started work on a follow-up. They decided to record at Rockfield Studios in Wales, the first time Rush recorded an album outside of Toronto. The band expanded their sound with each member playing new instruments that he had not previously used, and recorded a mix of concise and long songs.

A Farewell to Kings reached No. 11 in Canada and helped the group to continue to expand its audience internationally, reaching inside the top-40 in the UK and the US for the first time. "Closer to the Heart" was released as the album's first single, which reached No. 36 in the UK. Rush toured in support of the album from August 1977 to June 1978. The tour saw the band headline major venues across Canada and play in the UK.

Background and recording[edit]

Rockfield Studios

In June 1977 Rush ended their sixteen-month tour in support of their previous album, 2112 (1976). They decided not to take a break and started on a follow-up straight away. Later that month, they retreated to Rockfield Studios in Rockfield, Monmouthshire in Wales to record.[1] This marked the first time that Rush recorded an album outside of Toronto, and Neil Peart recalled the decision to pick a studio suitable enough as "extremely difficult". After longtime Rush producer Terry Brown did some research, he became excited about working in Rockfield and the group chose it.[1][2][3] Peart later wrote that the seclusion and the "mellow" atmosphere at the studio created a productive environment for the group to work in, which gave them the opportunity to record outdoors.[1]

The album was recorded in three weeks, followed by two weeks of mixing at Advision Studios in London.[3] Peart said that 2112 made the band sound confined in their sound, so for A Farewell to Kings, the group decided to write material that featured instruments they could play naturally as well as new ones, thus allowing them to play multiple instruments when performing on stage. As a result, A Farewell to Kings features Peart playing orchestra bells, tubular bells, chimes, and other percussion; Geddy Lee playing double neck bass (a Rickenbacker 4080) and Minimoog; and Alex Lifeson on new guitars and for the first time, a Moog Taurus bass pedal synthesizer (used by both Lee and Lifeson).[2] Prior to recording, Rush completed a short tour in 1977 which saw the group perform "Xanadu" prior to recording. Apart from early ideas for "Closer to the Heart", the majority of the album was developed in the studio.[4]

In 2017, Lee considered the album as a particularly important one in regard to his musical development. "I learned a lot; I was learning a lot. I was always challenged and I was very stimulated and the end result was A Farewell to Kings, so I guess it was a pivotal record in that regard."[4] A Farewell to Kings was the first Rush album where synthesizers were an integral part of their sound.


Side one[edit]

"A Farewell to Kings" features birds chirping that were recorded outside the studio.[1] The title originated from an idea Peart had a year before Rush started work on the album, and recalled Lee and Rush manager Ray Danniels pushing him to work it into a song and make it the album's title.[2] The track became one of the band's favourite because, as Peart wrote, "it seems to encapsulate everything that we want Rush to represent."[1]

"Xanadu" opens with birdsong that was also featured on the opening track. It is a fantasy-inspired song that Peart described as "the most complex and multi-textured piece we have ever attempted" at the time of recording.[1] The opening line is taken from the poem Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Initially, Peart had an idea based on Citizen Kane before he found Coleridge's poem, the lines of which "etched like a burning image in my head."[2] On the day of recording the song, Rush initially played a run-through of the track to gauge the balance and tone that the microphones were picking up. They performed it a second time once the equipment was set up, and the take was used for the album.[4]

Side two[edit]

"Closer to the Heart" was the first song Rush developed for A Farewell to Kings and for a time, was the album's early title.[3][5] In a lyrical sense, Peart noted that as "A Farewell to Kings" deals with the idea of problems, "Closer to the Heart" addresses solutions. It is based on a verse by Peter Talbot, a friend of the group from Seattle who, in addition to being a writer, worked in the media.[1][3]

"Cinderella Man" features lyrics written by Lee with assistance from Lifeson, and based on Lee's thoughts and feelings from the romantic comedy film Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), a favourite of his.[1][4]

"Madrigal" is a love ballad. The drums were recorded in an echo room.[1]

"Cygnus X-1 Book I: The Voyage" is a ten-minute science-fiction song in four distinct sections. The story takes place in outer space in the centre of a black hole named Cygnus X-1, where the character decides to take a closer look in his spaceship, the Rocinante. Peart was inspired by an article about black holes and their origin in Time magazine and went about researching the topic further.[2][3] The song's arrangement was almost entirely devised by the time Rush had moved into Rockfield Studios.[1] Lee thought that the science-fiction genre presented limitless ideas which gave the band the excuse to "use all your goofy, weird sounds because that's what’s happening out in space."[6] In the tourbook for A Farewell to Kings, Peart wrote that the group had already decided to conclude the story on their next album, which became Hemispheres (1978).[1] It opens with the six-part sequel, "Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres", forming a song series with a combined length of 28 minutes.[1]


The cover was designed by longtime Rush collaborator Hugh Syme. He started on the design after Rush had begun recording the album. It features a composite photograph of a Buffalo, NY demolition site with the Harbour Castle Hotel in Toronto in the background, while the foreground depicts a retouched human figure that resembles a "grotesque puppet", all of which represents themes addressed in the title track.[2]


A Farewell to Kings was released in September 1977. In the UK, Phonogram Inc. prepared an extensive advertising campaign for the album to increase the band's profile in the territory.[5]

In November 1977, A Farewell to Kings was one of three Rush albums to be certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America for selling 500,000 copies. The others were 2112 and All the World's a Stage.[4][5]

Reception and legacy[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Christgau's Record GuideD[8]
Classic Rock[11]
The Encyclopedia of Popular Music[12]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[10]

In the Q & Mojo 2005 Classic Special Edition Pink Floyd & The Story of Prog Rock, the album came in sixth in a list of "40 Cosmic Rock Albums".[13] AllMusic's Greg Prato gave the album 4 out of 5 stars, saying they "had improved their songwriting and strengthened their focus and musical approach". He took notice of the synthesizers that were creeping into the arrangements, "a direction the band would continue to pursue on future releases". He said "Xanadu" "remains an outstanding accomplishment all these years later".[7] Conversely, Village Voice critic Robert Christgau gave the record a D rating, calling Rush "the most obnoxious band currently making a killing on the zonked teen circuit". He compared them to bands such as "...Angel. Or Kansas. Or Uriah Heep, with vocals revved up an octave. Or two."[8]

In 2021, American funk metal band Primus embarked on their "A Tribute to Kings" Tour. At each show, Primus played their original material in the first set before covering the entire "A Farewell to Kings" album in their second set. The first leg began August 10, 2021 in Boise, Idaho, and ended October 25 in Phoenix, Arizona.[14] The second leg began April 15, 2022 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and plans to finish June 25, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada.


Rush toured in support of the album from August 1977 to June 1978.[15] Early into the tour, Rush headlined a sold out gig at the Exhibition Stadium in Toronto in August 1977 that was attended by over 22,000 people.[16] In late 1977, tickets for a 16-date leg across the UK from February 1978 were announced which quickly sold out.[5]


Year Label Format Notes
1986 Mercury CD, cassette Catalogue number: 822-546-2 M-1
1997 Anthem/Mercury CD Catalogue number: ANMD1079. As part of "The Rush Remasters" series.
2015 Anthem/Mercury LP, Blu-ray Catalogue number: B0022376-01. Digitally remastered, 200 g audiophile vinyl. Also available in 24-bit/96 kHz and 24-bit/192 kHz digital formats.
2017 Anthem/Mercury CD Catalogue number: B0027245-02. 40th anniversary edition.

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics are written by Neil Peart, except where noted; all music is composed by Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson, except where noted.

Side one
1."A Farewell to Kings"Lee, Lifeson, Peart5:51
2."Xanadu" 11:05
Side two
3."Closer to the Heart"Peart, Peter Talbot2:54
4."Cinderella Man"Lee4:20
5."Madrigal" 2:35
6."Cygnus X-1 Book I: The Voyage"
  • "Prologue"
  • "1"
  • "2"
  • "3"
 10:25 5:01
2017 40th Anniversary Edition bonus disc 1
1."Bastille Day" (includes intro tape of "Nights Winters Years" by Justin Hayward & John Lodge; previously released (without intro) on Different Stages in 1998)6:03
2."Lakeside Park"4:30
3."By-Tor & the Snow Dog" (previously released on Different Stages)5:07
4."Xanadu" (previously released on Different Stages)12:21
5."A Farewell to Kings" (previously released on Different Stages)6:19
6."Something for Nothing" (previously released on Different Stages)4:11
7."Cygnus X-1" (previously released on Different Stages)10:26

N.B. All tracks recorded live February 20, 1978 at the Hammersmith Odeon, London; mixed by Terry Brown June/July 2017

2017 40th Anniversary Edition bonus disc 2
1."Anthem" (previously released on Different Stages)4:54
2."Closer to the Heart"3:26
3."2112" (Parts I-IV, VI-VII)19:30
4."Working Man" (previously released on Different Stages)4:08
5."Fly by Night" (previously released on Different Stages)2:04
6."In the Mood" (previously released on Different Stages)2:36
7."Drum Solo"6:43
8."Cinderella Man" (previously released on Different Stages)4:48
9."Xanadu" (Performed by Dream Theater)11:12
10."Closer to the Heart" (Performed by Big Wreck)3:25
11."Cinderella Man" (Performed by The Trews)4:28
12."Madrigal" (Performed by Alain Johannes)3:26
13."Cygnus X-2 EH" (Previously unreleased instrumental studio outtake of sound effects)4:09

N.B. Tracks 1-8 recorded live February 20, 1978 at the Hammersmith Odeon, London; mixed by Terry Brown June/July 2017



Additional personnel

  • Terry Brown – spoken vocals on "Cygnus X-1 Book I: The Voyage"


  • Rush – production, arrangement
  • Terry Brown – production, arrangement, mixing
  • Terry Brown – recording engineer
  • Pat Moran – recording engineer
  • Declan O'Doherty – mixing assistant
  • Ken Thomas – mixing assistant
  • George Graves – mastering
  • Bob Ludwig – remastering
  • Brian Lee – remastering
  • Yosh Inouye – cover photography
  • Hugh Syme – art and graphic direction
  • Roger Stowell – sleeve photograph
  • Fin Costello – liner notes photograph


Year Chart Position
1977 Billboard 200 33[17]
UK Albums Chart 22[18]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Peart, Neil (1977). "Rush – World Tour 77–78 – Exclusive Concert Edition – "A Condensed Rush Primer"". Archived from the original on January 8, 2019. Retrieved January 9, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Harrison, Tom (September 1977). "Canada's Most Successful (And Least Recognized) Rock Band". Georgia Straight. Archived from the original on January 26, 2020. Retrieved January 9, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e Cohen, Scott (October 13, 1977). "The Rush Tapes, Part 1". Circus. Archived from the original on January 26, 2020. Retrieved January 9, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e Wilding, Philip (November 14, 2017). "The real story behind how Rush made A Farewell to Kings". Louder Sound. Archived from the original on April 17, 2019. Retrieved January 9, 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d Harrigan, Brian (1982). "RUSH by Brian Harrigan". Archived from the original on January 10, 2020. Retrieved January 10, 2020 – via 2112.net.
  6. ^ "The real story behind how Rush made A Farewell To Kings". Prog magazine. November 14, 2017. Archived from the original on July 24, 2020. Retrieved July 24, 2020.
  7. ^ a b "Allmusic review". AllMusic. Archived from the original on October 16, 2014. Retrieved September 20, 2014.
  8. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: R". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Archived from the original on May 25, 2020. Retrieved March 9, 2019 – via robertchristgau.com.
  9. ^ Thiessen, Christopher (January 16, 2018). "A Farewell To Kings". PopMatters. Archived from the original on January 25, 2018. Retrieved January 24, 2018.
  10. ^ "Rush: Album Guide". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on July 4, 2013. Retrieved February 21, 2013.
  11. ^ Jeffries, Neil (December 27, 2017). "Rush – A Farewell To Kings – 40th Anniversary album review". Classic Rock. Archived from the original on December 5, 2018. Retrieved December 5, 2018.
  12. ^ Larkin, Colin (2007). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (4th ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195313734.
  13. ^ Q Classic: Pink Floyd & The Story of Prog Rock, 2005.
  14. ^ "Watch Primus Tear Through Rush's 'A Farewell to Kings' in Its Entirety on Tribute Tour". Rolling Stone. August 11, 2021.
  15. ^ "A Farewell to Kings Tour". Archived from the original on January 11, 2020. Retrieved January 9, 2020.
  16. ^ ""Performance's Spotlight on Rush" - Performance Weekly, October 1977". Archived from the original on January 26, 2020. Retrieved January 9, 2020.
  17. ^ "A Farewell to Kings chart position in the US". Billboard. Archived from the original on December 11, 2012. Retrieved January 1, 2013.
  18. ^ "Rush chart positions in the UK". The Official Charts Company. Archived from the original on March 13, 2013. Retrieved January 1, 2013.

External links[edit]