If you search for Alex Lifeson in Spotify, this album would not come up, because even though “Victor” is a solo album by Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson, its released under the name of “Victor” and filed away under V.
Released in January 1996 on Anthem Records and recorded between the Rush albums “Counterparts” and “Test for Echo”, two of my favourite Rush records of the 90’s.
The musicians behind “Victor” are Alex Lifeson on guitars, bass and keyboards, plus spoken vocals on a few songs. Les Claypool makes an appearance on bass for “The Big Dance” while other bass tracks are handled by Peter Cardinali. Bill Bell is a Canadian guitarist who has toured and recorded with Jason Mraz, Tom Cochrane, Alex Lifeson and Danko Jones to name a few, also appears on guitar and Blake Manning is on drums.
For vocalists, Lifeson speaks on a few tracks, and a singer called Edwin (who I found out later is from a Canadian Rock band called “I Mother Earth”) does vocals on “Don’t Care”, “Promise”, “Sending Out a Warning”, “The Big Dance” and “I Am the Spirit”.
Another Canadian singer called Dalbello (otherwise also known as Lisa Dal Bello) appears on “Start Today”
The track is written by Alex Lifeson.
The sound is grungy. But take away the studio sounds of the day and play the riffs through a 5150 amp, you’ll hear how heavy metal they are.
Some of the open string riffs do bring back memories of 70’s Rush.
Lyrically it’s so different from what Peart would write for a RUSH album. Its crude, full of fuck words and it’s basically about sex. The Rush elitists crucified him on the Rush boards back in the day for the lyrics. But Lifeson didn’t care.
Written by Lifeson and Bill Bell, it’s got this REM/Tragically Hip feel in the verses with a bit of “Limelight” in the Chorus.
I like the solo section. It has a riff which keeps repeating, while Lifeson does ambient like guitar noises and various note bends. It’s not technical, but its more abstract and it fits the vibe of the song. Then again it could be Bell on the solo. I don’t know.
Written by Lifeson, check out the intro riff on this. Its huge, simple and yet progressive.
And Dalbello sounds a lot of like Geddy Lee when she hits her highs. A young Geddy Lee.
An Instrumental written by Lifeson. It sounds like a King Crimson cut, very Avant-garde, but the lead breaks are like blues jazz fusion.
“At the End”
Written by Lifeson and his son Adrian Zivojinovich. Adrian actually provides most of the computer programming which gives the songs he’s involved in, that Industrial tone.
Check out the riff at 2.24. I went straight for the guitar.
“Sending Out a Warning”
Another track written by Lifeson and Bell. And the riffs are interesting enough to get me to try and jam along.
The main riff by the way is excellent.
“Shut Up Shuttin’ Up”
Written by Lifeson and Bell, along with Lifeson’s wife Charlene and a person credited as Esther who basically provide the talking voices complaining about their husbands.
Musically, its funky, a bit bluesy and full of soul and every time the female voice overs say “Shut Up And Play The Guitar”, Lifeson begins to wail.
By the end of it, Lifeson is screaming back at em to “SHUUUT UUUP!”
For some reason, “The Audience Is Listening” from Steve Vai comes to mind.
“Strip and Go Naked”
Another Instrumental written by Lifeson and Bell.
The intro riff is one of this “Copperhead Road” riffs. Even Maiden used a similar riff on “Writings On The Wall”. Aerosmith on “Hangman Jury”.
But a Lifeson song moves within different musical pieces and this song is no other.
Check out the bluesy licks from the 2 minute mark over an ascending like bass riff and a strummed acoustic riff. And at 2.48 it goes back to the “Earle/Maiden” like riff.
But from 3.28 to the end, Lifeson takes that simple riff and makes it sound progressive. Listen to it.
“The Big Dance”
Written by Lifeson and Adrian Zivojinovich.
Man, that intro riff, so heavy.
And Les Claypool is on this, so the bass is prominent, syncopated with the kick drum.
Written by Lifeson and W.H Auden as the song is based on a poem written by Auden.
Its more experimental, with programmed drums and synths being prominent throughout while Lifeson recites the poem to us. It does nothing for me.
“I Am the Spirit”
My favourite song on the album and a perfect closer.
Written by Lifeson and Bell, it’s the most Rush sounding song on the album but the heavy rock sounding Rush.
“Tragically Hip” comes to mind here for the Verses with the vocal delivery, but musically, its Rush through and through.
The Chorus shows “The Spirit Of Radio”.
At 2.40, it quietens down and you hear some synth chords being played. Then Lifeson comes in with a clean tone guitar riff and man, what a riff it is. Different variations of it are heard throughout the song, but the way its delivered in this section, really brings it to life. One of his best riffs for the 90’s.
Then he goes into a guitar lead, which is emotive and perfect. But too short.
A great way to close the album.
Overall it’s not a perfect album and the spoken work melodies don’t really do much for me, but it’s that outside the box thinking which also draws me in, plus Lifeson always includes a riff or two in a song which makes me want to pick up the guitar and play along.
Check out this eclectic mix of blues rock, soul, funk, progressive, grunge, hard, industrial and alternative rock.