Rush, the prog-rock juggernauts from Canada, were one of the most well-appointed bands in recent memory. On the guitar, they have one of the most scintillating performers in Alex Lifeson. Likewise, on bass Geddy Lee is arguably the frontrunner for melodic bass players and, on the drums, they had ‘The Professor’, Neil Peart. Sadly passing away last year, the impression of Neil Peart will live long in the memory, thanks to his impressive role behind the kit.
The late, great Peart is arguably the greatest drummer ever to walk the planet — certainly the most precise — and his work with Canada’s prog-rock kings proves that he was a maestro of the instrument even if he is too often overlooked as one of the best, usually losing out to the heavy rock stylings of Keith Moon, John Bonham and Ginger Baker. A perfect way to see his unstoppable skill is on this isolated drum track for ‘Witch Hunt’.
Released on the band’s seminal 1981 album Moving Pictures, the song ‘Witch Hunt’ shows the band in bombastic form. The song is one of their stranger intros as Alex Lifeson remembers the recording session: “We went outside of Le Studio, and it was so cold, it was really cold; we were well into December by then, I think. We were all out there. We put a couple of mics outside. We started ranting and raving. We did a couple of tracks of that. I think we had a bottle of Scotch or something with us to keep us warm.
“So as the contents of the bottle became less and less,” continued Lifeson, “the ranting and raving took on a different flavour. We were in the control room after we had laid down about twelve tracks of mob — in hysterics. Every once in a while you’d hear somebody say something really stupid.”
The song’s message is one that, according to Geddy Lee in 2011, is even more prevalent today: “It’s one of those songs that means as much today, if not more, considering what’s gone on in the world with racial profiling and all these different issues. The sentiment of that song is as appropriate as ever.” But the real joy is when you listen to Peart’s isolated drums, which really show his powerful and precise performance.
After Peart passed away, a host of drummers came out to share their admiration of the percussionist, Foo Fighters man Dave Grohl led tributes saying: “An inspiration to millions with an unmistakable sound who spawned generations of musicians (like myself) to pick up two sticks and chase a dream. A kind, thoughtful, brilliant man who ruled our radios and turntables not only with his drumming but also his beautiful words.
“I still vividly remember my first listen of ‘2112′ when I was young. It was the first time I really listened to a drummer. And since that day, music has never been the same. His power, precision, and composition was incomparable. He was called ‘The Professor’ for a reason: we all learned from him.”
In 2015, rumours were abound that Grohl was being lined up to take Peart’
s spot behind the kit after announcing his retirement. When asked by Rolling Stone what he would say if such an offer to replace Peart for a show did come his way, he replied: “I’d say ‘I’m not physically or musically capable, but thanks for the offer.’ Neil Peart, that’s a whole other animal, another species of drummer.”
Check out that species of drummer, the acclaimed Neil Peart, below and witness his isolated drums for Rush song ‘Witch Hunt’.