When people discuss the greatest drummer of all time, there’s a strong chance that the first three names out of anyone’s mouth would not include Rush’s percussionist extraordinaire Neil Peart. Of course, failing to do so would be an incredible oversight.
The late, great Neil Peart is arguably the greatest drummer to ever walk the planet and his work with Canada’s prog-rock kings, Rush, proves that he was a maestro of the instrument even if he is too often overlooked as one of the best. A perfect way to see his unstoppable skill is on this isolated drum track from the band’s song ‘2112’.
The title track, which featured on the 1976 album of the same name, is one that remained a staple of their live performance ever since, ranking among the finest Rush compositions around. While the structure of the song is a joyous mix of all three of the band’s expert players, with Geddy Lee on bass and Alex Lifeson on guitar, it is in Peart’s drumming that we see the real power of the track.
The song represented a seminal moment in the band’s career with Peart discussing the track with CBC Music before his death. He recognised the transformative power the song had on their career, “We made three albums in 18 months from the time I joined the band,” he once said. “By the time we did 2112, we had a whole month to write, rehearse and record that album, so it was done under the rawest of circumstances but with such conviction and enthusiasm. We were so angry at that time.”
While the commercial world was apparently demanding a snappier and more stripped back affair, ‘2112’ would prove them all wrong: “The tale happens to be about the individual against oppression, and that was us, it’s how we felt. And it worked, it was our commercial breakthrough with a 20-minute song on one side. It spoke.”
In the clip below, it’s possible to hear not only the anger and frustration of the band but the struggle at the heart of the song’s sentiment. The fact that we can hear these nuances through Peart’s performance on a drum kit is truly magical. While countless bands and drummers have tried to emulate him, it’s damn near impossible to match-up with a true great.
The recording comes via YouTube user Gilbeezy Skit and could well be from a live album as the ‘isolation’ of the drum track is somewhat minimal. It does, however, provide enough room to let Peart do his thing and he does it better than most people ever could hope to.
The sad loss of Peart is one that was felt across the musical world. Although Rush may not be the biggest names in rock music, the individuals in the band more concerned with the group than their own egos, they certainly deserved to be considered one of the most gifted set of all-round musicians North America has ever produced.
If you ever needed proof that Neil Peart deserves to be right up there when considering the greatest drummers of all time, then just listen to his isolated drum track on Rush’s ‘2112’ below.