Vapor Trails, the seventeenth album by Canadian prog-rockers Rush, was released in May 2002, nearly six years after the band’s previous studio album, Test For Echo. A welcome sight for Rush fans, Vapor Trails signaled the band’s return to recording and touring following a long period of uncertainty about the band’s future. A little over a month after the band finished its Test for Echo tour in 1997, drummer Neil Peart’s 19 year-old daughter was killed in a car accident. Ten months later, in August 1998, Neil’s common law wife of 22 years died of cancer. Peart went into a self-imposed exile until 2000.
I remember the day that I bought Vapor Trails. It was a great day, because I had tangible proof that my favorite rock band wasn’t done yet. I also remember being a more than bit disappointed by the album. It wasn’t the quality of the songs that disappointed me; it was the way the album sounded – very dense and distorted. It was missing the intricacy, depth, and complexity that I had become accustomed to. Because of the poor sound quality, Vapor Trails was among my least-played Rush albums, along with Roll The Bones and Presto.
When Retrospective III was released in 2009, it contained two songs from Vapor Trails: “One Little Victory” and “Earthshine,” both of which were remixed for the compilation. When I listened to these two songs, I was blown away. Both remixed versions sounded much better than the originals. This got me thinking how great it would be if the entire album was remixed. Finally, four years later, Rush fans get Vapor Trails Remixed.
The first time I listened to Vapor Trails Remixed, I was afraid that I would be disappointed, that the album wouldn’t live up to its billing. Boy was I wrong. The sound quality of Vapor Trails Remixed is vastly improved. Gone is the muddy, distorted bottom end, which rendered the original album almost unlistenable. It has been replaced with a crisp, clean-sounding album full of really good songs – songs with lots of layers and depth, songs worthy of being on a Rush album. The remix brought out musical nuances unheard on the previous version.
Alex Lifeson’s guitar work benefited the most from the remix. His guitar shines through, sometimes clean and bright, sometimes crunchy and dirty. On the original album, the guitar was buried under a thick layer of distorted bass. And speaking of bass, Geddy Lee’s bass guitar work is second to none. His use of bass chords and right-handed finger strumming really adds thickness to the songs. Neil Peart’s drumming is powerful and clean, brought to the forefront in the remix.
Bottom line: Amazon currently has Vapor Trails Remixed for $9.00. That’s a small price to pay for great music that was liberated from the morass of a bad mix. Listeners familiar with the original album will be pleased with this “new” Rush album.