Vapor Trails

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Vapor Trails
Rush Vapor Trails.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedMay 14, 2002 (2002-05-14)
RecordedJanuary–November 2001
StudioReaction, Toronto[1]
Rush chronology
Different Stages
Vapor Trails
The Spirit of Radio: Greatest Hits 1974–1987

Vapor Trails is the seventeenth studio album by Canadian rock band Rush. It was released on May 14, 2002, on Anthem Records, and was their first studio release since Test for Echo (1996), the longest gap between two Rush albums. After the Test For Echo tour finished in July 1997, drummer and lyricist Neil Peart suffered the loss of his daughter and then his wife in separate tragedies. As a result, the group entered an extended hiatus during which it was not certain they would continue. They eventually reunited in January 2001 to rehearse material for a new album, recording for which lasted until November.[3] For the first and only time since Caress of Steel (1975), the group did not use any keyboards or synthesizers in their music, incorporating many layers of guitar, bass and drums instead.

Vapor Trails reached No. 3 in Canada and No. 6 in the United States. "One Little Victory" was released as the album's lead single in March 2002 and went to No. 10 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart in the United States. The next single was "Secret Touch". The album went gold in Canada in August 2002.[4] The Vapor Trails Tour lasted from June to December 2002, which saw the band play to the largest crowds of its career in Brazil. Following the band's dissatisfaction with the album's overall production, two tracks were remixed for the Retrospective III: 1989–2008 compilation album. The positive feedback from this resulted in the entire Vapor Trails album being remixed by David Bottrill and released on October 1, 2013, as Vapor Trails Remixed,[5] both as a separate release and as part of The Studio Albums 1989–2007.[6]


After Rush finished their Test for Echo Tour in July 1997, the group entered a five-year hiatus following the personal tragedies in drummer Neil Peart's life, losing his daughter Selena in August 1997 and wife Jackie in June 1998. Peart took a hiatus and rode around North America on a motorcycle, covering 88,000 km (55,000 mi). At some point in his journey, Peart decided to return to the band. In his book Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road, Peart writes of how he had told his bandmates at Selena's funeral, "consider me retired."[7] However, in October 2000, after a period of recuperation, Lee announced during promotional interviews for his solo album My Favourite Headache that Rush were to get together in the following January with the intention to write and rehearse material for a new studio album.[8] Lee said that the album was not made for simply new music, but for "the psychological health and welfare of all the people who have gone through a very difficult time."[9]

Writing and recording[edit]

The trio gathered at Reaction Studios in Toronto on January 9, 2001, but did not play anything for three weeks. They discussed what they wanted to achieve and how the album should take shape. Lifeson said it was to get "a feel for each other's frame of mind. We needed to see if everybody was really up for it.".[10] Lee and Lifeson said that they chose the studio based on its "artist friendly environment, that was very comfortable and accommodating".[11] Among the topics discussed was the album's musical direction which became a source of difficulty as initially, there was little agreement on what it should be. Upon reaching a consensus, Lifeson said the three found common ground "on every aspect of the recording."[10]

The band started working, adopting a three-week-on, one-week-off schedule with no one present apart from a technical assistant.[9][11] The group was hopeful there was still chemistry amongst them to make an album. They adopted their usual method of writing with Lee and Lifeson working together on musical ideas in the studio control room while Peart worked elsewhere on the lyrics, this time using a pen, paper and a computer. Peart wrote about their attitude towards the sessions: "We laid out no parameters, no goals, no limitations, only that we would take a relaxed, civilized approach."[8] Peart looked through his scrapbook of notes and phrases he'd collected and explored ways of connecting them together to form a complete lyrical idea. Lee and Lifeson developed ideas largely through jam sessions typically kicked off by setting a pattern on a drum machine and playing along, recording every session using Logic Pro.[8] This was to avoid making a demo tape of a collection of songs and re-record them at a later point. This way early takes became the basis of the songs which kept the music fresh using as many original takes where possible.[11]

After several weeks Peart presented the ideas he'd formed, but Lee and Lifeson had not put down any concrete pieces of music. Peart recalled they were not yet "serious" and still wanted to play and explore ideas as sifting through what they had put to tape was a tedious process and disrupted their creative flow.[8] Peart had completed six sets of lyrics at this point but was not getting feedback from his bandmates as he had before, so he paused on lyrics and focused on his book Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road.[8][12] The three became dissatisfied with what they'd come up with and thought it was too forced, which led to their decision to take some weeks off. They felt refreshed and more focused upon resuming and were able to work out complete songs and not just sections.[10] The songs that emerged from these early jams were "Peaceable Kingdom," "Ceiling Unlimited" and "Nocturne," and they contain some parts put down from the original takes.[10] According to Lifeson, no tracks were completely re-recorded.[10]

Vapor Trails is the first album since Caress of Steel (1975) not to feature a keyboard instrument. This was an important factor for Lifeson, who often worried about their presence on previous Rush albums, but Lee agreed not to use them. Instead, Lifeson spent a greater amount of time devising guitar parts that were "richer on tonality and harmonic quality" that were adequate enough for the background tracks.[11] Lifeson avoided sound effects on his guitar to achieve a more raw sound.[11] At certain points in recording his drum parts, Peart had been influenced by Who drummer Keith Moon and played in his style.[12]

After taking a break in June 2001,[11] Rush began to record their new songs in mid-August.[13] Initially they decided to write 13 tracks for the album and pick the best 10 or 11 for the final selection, but when the time arrived they agreed to include all of them.[14] They were joined by English producer Paul Northfield, who had worked on several previous Rush albums and assisted in the arrangement to some tracks when the group felt stuck.[13][14] The band are credited as co-producers. In December 2001, the group left the Reaction Studios and started mixing the album at Metalworks Studios with David Leonard.[11][15] The mixing was complete in March 2002, after which it was sent to Masterdisk in New York City for mastering by Howie Weinberg. Rush chose him having liked the sound of the other albums that Weinberg had worked on.[11]


Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Review scores
AllMusic3/5 stars[17]
The Austin Chronicle3/5 stars[18]
Blender3/5 stars[16]
E! OnlineB+[16]
Entertainment WeeklyB+[2]
Q3/5 stars[16]
Rolling Stone3/5 stars[21]

The production of Vapor Trails has been criticized by the band themselves, critics and fans alike because of the album's "loud" sound quality. It has overly compressed (clipped) audio levels during mastering, which generates additional digital distortion during the CD production. The trend, known as the loudness war, was very common on modern CD production at the time.[22][23] Alex Lifeson stated:

It was a contest, and it was mastered too high, and it crackles, and it spits, and it just crushes everything. All the dynamics get lost, especially anything that had an acoustic guitar in it.[24]

Vapor Trails Remixed[edit]

Vapor Trails Remixed is a remixed version of Vapor Trails mixed by David Bottrill. The album was released by Atlantic Records and Rhino Entertainment on September 27, 2013, and entered at No. 35 on the Billboard 200 chart.[25] The band had been unhappy with the original album's overall sonic production. Influenced by the positive reaction to the remixes of "One Little Victory" and "Earthshine" featured on Retrospective III by Richard Chycki, Rush and Bottrill remixed the entire album. In an interview with Modern Guitars, Lifeson remarked that, since the remixes were so good, there had been talk of doing an entire remix of the album.[24]

Vapor Trails Remixed is also included in the box-set of Atlantic Studio Albums called The Studio Albums 1989–2007,[26] indicating that this album is considered canon to Rush's discography.

Track listing[edit]

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

1."One Little Victory"5:08
2."Ceiling Unlimited"5:28
3."Ghost Rider"5:41
4."Peaceable Kingdom"5:23
5."The Stars Look Down"4:28
6."How It Is"4:05
7."Vapor Trail"4:57
8."Secret Touch"6:34
10."Sweet Miracle"3:40
12."Freeze" (Part IV of "Fear")6:21
13."Out of the Cradle"5:03


Credits taken from the 2002 liner notes.[27]



  • Rush – production, recording
  • Paul Northfield – production, recording
  • Chris Stringer – recording assistance
  • David Leonard – mixing
  • David Bottrill - mixing: 2013 version
  • Joel Kazmi – mixing assistance
  • Howie Weinberg – mastering
  • Roger Lian – additional mastering and sequencing
  • Andy VanDette - mastering: 2013 version
  • Lorne "Gump" Wheaton – equipment care
  • Hugh Syme – art direction, paintings, and portraits


Chart (2002) Peak
Canadian Albums (Billboard)[28] 3
Dutch Albums (Album Top 100)[29] 47
Finnish Albums (Suomen virallinen lista)[30] 11
French Albums (SNEP)[31] 150
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[32] 20
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[33] 18
UK Albums (OCC)[34] 38
US Billboard 200[35] 6


  1. ^ Titus, Christa (May 4, 2002). "Atlantic's Rush Blazes A 'Vapor Trail'". Billboard. 114 (18): 12. ISSN 0006-2510.
  2. ^ a b Farber, Jim (2002-05-17). "Vapor Trails Review". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on 2013-06-10. Retrieved 2013-02-23.
  3. ^ Vapor Trails news archive Power Windows website Archived 2008-06-16 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 16 March 2006.
  4. ^ "Gold & Platinum Certification". Canadian Recording Industry Association. Archived from the original on 2014-10-09. Retrieved 2009-08-20.
  5. ^ "Vapor Trails Remixed". October 1, 2013. Archived from the original on November 12, 2020. Retrieved May 24, 2020.
  6. ^ "Rush Remix Their Polarizing Album 'Vapor Trails' – Premiere". Rolling Stone. 27 September 2013. Archived from the original on 30 September 2013. Retrieved 1 October 2013.
  7. ^ Peart, Neil. Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road. Toronto: ECW Press. 2002. ISBN 1-55022-546-4
  8. ^ a b c d e Peart, Neil (2002). "Behind the Fire: The Making of Vapor Trails". Archived from the original on 6 November 2018. Retrieved 6 November 2018.
  9. ^ a b Cantin, Paul (12 January 2001). "Geddy Lee on the Rush Reunion". Jam! Showbiz. Archived from the original on 6 November 2018. Retrieved 6 November 2018.
  10. ^ a b c d e Hammond, Shawn (August 2002). "Back in the Limelight: Alex Lifeson and Rush Reignite After a Five-Year Hiatus". Guitar Player. Archived from the original on January 26, 2020. Retrieved November 7, 2018.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h Priske, Rich (May 2002). "Hiatus Evaporates into Vapor Trails". Canadian Musician. Archived from the original on 6 November 2018. Retrieved 6 November 2018.
  12. ^ a b Miller, William F. (September 2002). "Neil Peart: The Fire Returns". Modern Drummer. Archived from the original on November 8, 2018. Retrieved November 7, 2018.
  13. ^ a b Saldman, Sorelle (September 16, 2001). "Rush Back in the Studio". Vancouver Province. Archived from the original on November 6, 2018. Retrieved November 6, 2018.
  14. ^ a b Simmons, Peggy (April 10, 2002). "KLBJ Interviews Alex Lifeson [Transcript]". KLBJ Austin, Texas (Interview). Archived from the original on November 7, 2018. Retrieved November 6, 2018.
  15. ^ Cohen, Jonathan (January 9, 2002). "Rush Wraps New Album". Billboard. Archived from the original on November 7, 2018. Retrieved November 6, 2018.
  16. ^ a b c d e "Critic Reviews for Vapor Trails". Metacritic. Archived from the original on 2013-06-10. Retrieved 2012-03-23.
  17. ^ Prato, Greg (2002-05-14). "Vapor Trails – Rush". AllMusic. Archived from the original on 2013-06-10. Retrieved 2011-08-13.
  18. ^ Hernandez, Raoul (2002-08-16). "Rush: Vapor Trails". The Austin Chronicle. Archived from the original on 2013-06-10. Retrieved 2011-08-13.
  19. ^ "Rush: Vapor Trails". Billboard. May 18, 2002. Archived from the original on 2002-06-08. Retrieved 2013-02-23.
  20. ^ Moffat, Kael (2002-08-08). "Rush: Vapor Trails". PopMatters. Archived from the original on 2013-06-10. Retrieved 2011-08-13.
  21. ^ Richard Abowitz (2002-04-24). "Vapor Trails". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 2013-06-10. Retrieved 2011-08-13.
  22. ^ "The Loudness Wars: Why Music Sounds Worse". NPR. 31 December 2009. Archived from the original on 2010-06-12. Retrieved 2010-09-02.
  23. ^ Anderson, Tim (18 January 2007). "How CDs are remastering the art of noise." Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 12 March 2012.
  24. ^ a b "Rush Blog – Rush is a Band Blog: Alex Lifeson Modern Guitars interview now online". Archived from the original on 2011-07-19. Retrieved 2010-03-17.
  25. ^ "Billboard 200 chart". Archived from the original on 2013-09-30. Retrieved 2013-10-02.
  26. ^ "Vapor Trails Remixed". 2013-08-01. Archived from the original on 2015-12-08. Retrieved 2015-12-01.
  27. ^ Vapor Trails (Media notes). Rush. Anthem Records. 2002. 6682510962. Archived from the original on 2018-11-08. Retrieved 2018-11-07.CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  28. ^ "Rush Chart History (Canadian Albums)". Billboard. Retrieved July 3, 2020.
  29. ^ " – Rush – Vapor Trails" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved July 3, 2020.
  30. ^ "Rush: Vapor Trails" (in Finnish). Musiikkituottajat – IFPI Finland. Retrieved July 3, 2020.
  31. ^ " – Rush – Vapor Trails". Hung Medien. Retrieved July 3, 2020.
  32. ^ " – Rush – Vapor Trails" (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved July 3, 2020.
  33. ^ " – Rush – Vapor Trails". Hung Medien. Retrieved July 3, 2020.
  34. ^ "Official Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved July 3, 2020.
  35. ^ "Rush Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved July 3, 2020.

External links[edit]