'Roll the Bones'; Rush; Atlantic Records. A smattering of recent releases gives a taste of styles ranging from blues, folk, musical theater, classical, rap, and rock. The writers share 11 compact discs they find noteworthy.
The raw, creative roughness of Rush's previous albums has given way to a more refined, slicker style of music."Roll the Bones" doesn't reach out and grab you right away, as their other releases did. The music has to grow on you. It bounces around in your head before settling into your being. Longtime Rush fans are in for a surprise. After 17 years of turning out albums and influencing countless bands, Rush may be looking to broaden its audience or change the direction of rock-and-roll by producing an album with a pop sound that retains the band's individuality and style. Rush's new style on "Roll the Bones" may attract new fans: It has a top-40 sound and tempo, but the single "Dreamline" is unmistakably Rush from the first time you hear the notes come over the radio. The album's lyrics touch on familiar Rush themes such as fate, youth, exploration, change, and questing after dreams. Rush suggests that anyone can control their destiny if they are willing to take a chance. Unlike the bass vocals of "Subdivisions" from the "Signals" album or the drums and guitar riffs of "Tom Sawyer" from "Moving Pictures," two of their biggest hits, none of the individual elements stand out in a single song on "Roll the Bones." The words and music are blended and compliment each other instead of existing as separate pieces. The result is an album which is a giant jam session with added lyrics. Although this refined mixture has evened Rush's tone, the complexity of this fusion of vocals and instruments isn't hurled at the listener from the first note, as it has been before. This album is a challenge to listen more deeply. "Roll the Bones" is the third album in the evolution of this more polished style, and is another new step for an old band. Early fans will have to be patient as the band slowly moves bits of its old style into the new one. Previous releases have sounded richer in concert. Perhaps Rush's tour, kicking off in early November, will give the music a chance to reverberate in a stadium setup, and bring out what the band does best. Arena rock.