Alex Lifeson

Atlantic 7567-82852-2, 1996

1. Don't Care ****
2. Promise ****
3. Start Today ****
4. Mr. X ****
5. At the End ****
6. Sending Out a Warning ****
7. Shut Up Shuttin' Up *****
8. Strip and Go Naked *****
9. The Big Dance ****
10. Victor *****
11. I Am the Spirit *****

music by Lifeson except Lifeson/Bell (2, 6, 7, 8, 11), Lifeson/Zivojinovich (5, 9)
lyrics by Lifeson except Charlene & Esther (7), W. H. Auden (10)

produced and arranged by Alex Lifeson

Alex Lifeson: guitar (1-9, 11), bass (1-3, 6, 8, 11), mandola (8), keyboards (1-7, 9, 11), programming (1, 4-10), vocals (5, 6, 9, 10), yelling (7)
Bill Bell: guitar (6, 8), slide guitar (8, 11), Black Hole guitar (2), twelve string guitar (3), E-bow and Wah guitar (7), Wobble guitar (11), background vocals (5)
Blake Manning: drums (1-7, 9, 11), darbuka (5)
Edwin: vocals (1, 2, 6, 9, 11), background vocals (5)
Peter Cardinali: bass (4, 7, 10)
Adrian Zivojinovich: programming (5, 9)
Dalbello: vocals (3)
Charlene [Lifeson?] & Esther: vocals (7)
Les Claypool: bass (9)
Colleen Allen: horns (10)

recorded Oct 94-Jul 95

Sorry, but being a Rush fan is boring. There are no line up changes (save a different drummer on the first album). No splits and reformations. They solidly and reliably put out album after album, each not too different from the predecessor. Sure, I like most of their albums and reliability can be a great thing, but it makes a nice change to come to Victor with no idea what it will be like. Victor is Alex Lifeson's solo album and, unsurprisingly, is a guitar-led album. What is more surprising is how metallic, aggressive and even foreboding this album is—much more so than Rush have been since maybe their debut album in places.

Some of the riffs and songs are Rush-like, notably "Promise" and "Start Today", but still with an attack missing on recent Rush for me. On the other hand, perhaps because they are so Rush-like, I do miss a certain subtlety from Lifeson and better lyrics from Peart. Elsewhere on the album, however, Lifeson has carved out a distinctive niche with an industrial sound.

Echoes of Led Zeppelin or perhaps, more specifically, recent Page & Plant are also to be heard, most strikingly on "Strip and Go Naked" with its Indian sound; compare the Jaz Coleman/Youth symphonic version of "Kashmir" as well. Yet pieces like "Mr. X" speak of a quirkier side to Lifeson's work, with Mike Keneally a possible reference.

On various pieces, Lifeson uses spoken word accompaniment. "Shut Up Shuttin' Up" echoes Godley & Creme's Ismism album with a tale of the battle of the sexes in suburbia, while "At the End" is an atmospheric piece that (just about) avoids the clichés of its topic. Again with the title track, Lifeson relies on a musical atmosphere which is much more effective than the guitar histrionics he could have tried. Instead, he wisely does not play guitar on the track at all. On "Victor" as throughout, Lifeson demonstrates an exemplary attention to programming and production.

Lifeson also handles the spoken vocals on "Victor". Avoiding the trap of many a solo project, Lifeson wisely does not sing much on the album, passing that duty to Edwin, who puts in some fine work. Lifeson is aware of the limits of his voice and uses it sensibly. He does write most of the lyrics. Although the best come from others, with a W. H. Auden poem for "Victor" and in the humour of "Shut Up Shuttin' Up", Lifeson is a fair lyricist. There is none of Peart's word play, yet the more immediate and personal lyrics suit the music better than Peart's grand philosophising would.

Victor seems to be something of a concept album, with many of the lyrics complementing the story in "Victor". They are ripe with suggestions of mysogynistic violence. With a certain suspension of belief, they can serve as a disturbing character study. Without a certain suspension of disbelief, however, they do tire rather quickly.

I have to admit I know little about the other musicians on the album. Adrian Zivojinovich is Alex's son. Les Claypool is in Primus, who have opened for Rush. The others come mainly from the metal scene. I would be interested if anyone knows anything else about any of them... While Lifeson's work is the focus of the album, the others put in good performances too. In particular, I note that I rate the songs co-written with Bill Bell high.

If it sometimes suffers from the pitfalls of the progressive metal genre, Lifeson usually avoids the obvious and turns in a sound album. I hope he finds some time away from Rush again. Now, I wonder if Geddy has thought about trying this his hand at a solo project...

Henry Potts, 11.4.98; revised 12.4.98

Originally posted to and

Return to Main Page.