Presto (album)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Rush Presto.jpg
Studio album by Rush
Released November 21, 1989
August 31, 2004 (Remastered CD)[1]
Recorded 1989
Studio Le Studio in Morin Heights, Quebec and McClear Place in Toronto, Ontario
Length 52:11
Label Anthem (Canada)
Producer Rush, Rupert Hine
Rush chronology
A Show of Hands
(1989)A Show of Hands1989
Roll the Bones
(1991)Roll the Bones1991
Singles from Presto
  1. "Show Don't Tell"
    Released: 1989
  2. "The Pass"
    Released: 1990
  3. "Superconductor"
    Released: 1990
  4. "Presto"
    Released: 1990

Presto is the 13th studio album by Canadian rock band Rush, released in 1989. It was recorded at Le Studio in Morin Heights and at McClear Place in Toronto. Presto was Rush's first album with their new international label Atlantic Records, which the band signed to in early 1989 after deciding not to renew its contract with Mercury/PolyGram Records.

The band had intended to co-produce the album with Peter Collins, who had produced the previous two studio albums, Power Windows and Hold Your Fire; however, he reluctantly declined the offer for personal reasons. Instead, Rupert Hine, who had been approached for Grace Under Pressure, produced the album.

All singles released from the album ("Show Don't Tell", "The Pass" and "Superconductor") charted, with "Show Don't Tell" hitting #1 on the Album Rock Tracks chart.[5] The album itself charted at #16 on the Billboard 200 album chart, and sales of Presto earned the band a gold record (sales in excess of 500,000 copies) in the US, and Platinum in Canada.[6] The album has been remastered and reissued twice: once in 2004 as a continuation of "The Rush Remasters" series and again in 2013 as a part of the box set The Studio Albums 1989–2007.

Musical style and direction[edit]

Presto is generally held by fans to have marked the beginning of a transition period, moving away from a sound dominated by synthesizers and toward more traditional rock instrumentation and pop songwriting. In an interview in Canadian Musician, Geddy Lee explained:

"We wanted [Presto] to be more of a singer's album, and I think you'll notice that the arrangements musically support the vocal[s] ... Neil's lyrics to me are a lot more heartfelt. Presently, they're experience oriented. I think they deal with living ... This album was a real reaction against technology in a sense. I was getting sick and tired of working with computers and synthesizers. Fortunately, so was [co-producer] Rupert [Hine] ... We made a pact to stay away from strings, pianos, and organs—to stay away from digital technology. In the end, we couldn't resist using them for colour."[7]

"Scars" features a complex drum pattern in which both acoustic and electronic drums are utilized. The pattern was derived from a tribal rhythm Neil Peart experienced while on a bicycle tour of Africa (later chronicled in his first book, The Masked Rider: Cycling in West Africa). He has gone on to incorporate this pattern into his live drum solos. The song also features the use of a sequencer in place of, and often mistaken for, a bass guitar.

According to Lee during the Rush in Rio concert (as well as a Box Set episode on VH1 Classic), "The Pass" is one of Rush's favourite songs. In a 2011 interview, Peart said of Presto: "That was an album that, for all of us, should have been so much better than it was ... If we could do one [album] again, it would be that one, because we still love the songs from it, but... you can never make magic happen." [8]

During the 1990 Presto Tour, the title track itself was never played. It was first played live during the Time Machine Tour in 2010.


Presto also contained much lighter lyrics than previous releases such as Grace Under Pressure. Peart said that he "was conscious that maybe a couple of the last albums were a little on the heavy side, lyrically speaking. With Presto I took a little looser approach to things. These songs have their own stories and messages without necessarily being linked by some overall theme."[9] Peart also said that "Presto doesn't have a thematic message. There is no manifesto, although there are many threads and a strong motif of looking at life today and trying to act inside it."[10]

"The Pass" and "War Paint" deal with youth issues such as suicide and trying to make oneself attractive to fit in a group or to appear beautiful. "Superconductor" details with the superficiality of mainstream music. That topic also appears in other songs such as "Grand Designs" from the Power Windows album. "Red Tide" has been seen as a commentary on climate change and the growing problem of global warming.[11]

In "Anagram (for Mongo)," every line contains one or more words that are formed by using letters in another word from that same line (e.g. "There is no safe seat at the feast"), and certain lines contain anagrammed words (e.g. "Miracles will have their claimers"). According to Geddy Lee, the song's title is taken from a scene in the Mel Brooks film Blazing Saddles in which the new Sherriff in town makes a staged delivery exclaiming "Candygram for Mongo", the town brute. The Candygram subsequently blows up in the brute's face.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic2.5/5 stars[12]
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[13]
Rolling Stone3/5 stars[14]

Gregory Heaney of AllMusic described the album as 'workmanlike' and removed from the creativity of their earlier works. However, he asserts that the songs are not terrible, just a sense that something is not quite clicking, perhaps due to the length of time it has been since the band wrote more traditional, guitar based songs.[12] However, before such a review was posted on November 10, 2012, the site had listed a favorable 4.5 star (out of a possible 5) review of the album by Mackenzie Wilson, of which little trace remains. Wilson described the album as one that "intelligently leads Rush into the '90s without musical bleakness".[13]

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics written by Neil Peart; all music composed by Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee.

Side one
1."Show Don't Tell"5:01
2."Chain Lightning"4:33
3."The Pass"4:52
4."War Paint"5:24
Side two
8."Anagram (For Mongo)"4:00
9."Red Tide"4:29
10."Hand over Fist"4:11
11."Available Light"5:03



Year Chart Position
1989 Billboard 200 16[15]
UK Albums Chart 27[16]


Country Organization Sales
U.S. RIAA Gold (500,000)
Canada CRIA Platinum (100,000)
UK BPI Silver (60,000)


"Show Don't Tell"
  • Released: 1989
  • Written by: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart
  • Produced by: Rupert Hine and Rush
  • Chart positions: #1 US Mainstream Rock
  • Released: 1990
  • Written by: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart
  • Produced by: Rupert Hine and Rush
  • Chart positions: #14 US Mainstream Rock
"The Pass"
  • Released: 1990
  • Written by: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart
  • Produced by: Rupert Hine and Rush
  • Chart positions: #15 US Mainstream Rock
  • Released: 1990
  • Written by: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart
  • Produced by: Rupert Hine and Rush
  • Chart positions: #37 US Mainstream Rock


  1. ^ "Rush Remastered: Four Classic Collections Arrive in Stores Aug. 31st | Market Wire | Find Articles at BNET". Retrieved 2011-08-16. 
  2. ^ "Presto (1989)". Stereogum. Retrieved 30 July 2017. 
  3. ^ "Rush: 'Presto' Album Review". Odissey. 
  4. ^ "Presto – Rush". AllMusic. 
  5. ^ [1] Archived July 8, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ "Music - What The Hell Happened To... 06.08.09: Rush - Presto". 1990-06-27. Archived from the original on 2014-02-01. Retrieved 2014-08-20. 
  7. ^ Krewen, Nick. "Rush: Presto change-o" Canadian Musician 12.2
  8. ^ Corus Radio - YouTube. Retrieved on 2014-05-12.
  9. ^ "Something Up Their Sleeves" - Music Express, February 1990. Retrieved on 2014-05-12.
  10. ^ "Presto Change-O" - Canadian Musician, April 1990. Retrieved on 2014-05-12.
  11. ^ Rush: Presto - Album Review. Retrieved on 2014-05-12.
  12. ^ a b Heaney, Gregory. "Presto - Rush". Allmusic. Retrieved 2012-11-10. 
  13. ^ a b Wilson, Mackenzie. "Rush - Presto (Archived Entry from". Archived from the original on 2012-06-10. Retrieved 2017-09-06. 
  14. ^ Bob Mack (1990-01-25). "Presto". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2011-08-16. 
  15. ^ "Presto chart position in the US". Billboard. 
  16. ^ "Rush chart positions in the UK". The Official Charts Company.