There are few superlatives left to describe the expert drumming of Neil Peart. As Rush continue to be discovered and rediscovered by countless generations, again and again, the power of Peart’s dynamic drumming style continues to shine bright among a galaxy of reasons to love the prog-rock maestros. There’s an excellent reason Peart was known as The Professor, to put it simply.
The sad passing of Neil Peart this year will forever leave a hole in the heart of those die-hard Rush fans who have followed the band from the very beginning. We have something special for those fans, Peart’s isolated drumming on the band’s song ‘La Villa Strangiato’. It’s magnificent, mesmerising and the perfect way to show off Peart’s significance.
The track, as much of Rush’s back catalogue, is a nine-minute instrumental piece designed to engage the brain’s imagination and allow the audience to make their own poetry. It’s archetypal Rush and, perhaps more pertinently, it’s the ultimate showing of Peart’s unbelievable patterns.
To be a rock drummer, one must have a certain sense of panache, an aggressive power only ever a moment’s deliberation away and the ultimate metronomic timing. Peart manages to encapsulate all three on this piece and create vivid sonic landscapes while he’s doing it.
The song features on the band’s 1978 album Hemispheres and has the revealing subtitle of ‘An Exercise in Self-Indulgence’. The track was recorded in around 40 takes and saw Peart and Geddy Lee work tirelessly to capture the perfect sound. The pair often joked that the song’s recording took longer than Fly By Night in its entirety.
When one thinks of Rush and their style you’d be hard-pressed to find a song more in-tune than this spiralling track. “This is Alex’s brain, and every section of that song is different dreams that Alex [Lifeson, Rush guitarist] would tell us about and we’d be, ‘stop, stop’,” said Peart to CBC. But it did offer the drummer the chance to experience the big band dream he had always wanted. “There’s also a big band section in there, which was absolutely for me because I always wanted to play that approach.”
Stripping away all those other elements, however, does allow us to hear Peart’s interpretation of the song more clearly and marvel at not only his impeccable timing but his precision and keen power. During every performance, Peart was able to flourish as easily as he was able to floor everyone in the room.
As more and more people start to catch on about Rush and the inspirational music they created, make sure they remember that without Neil Peart the band would be nowhere.