Rush Song Of The Day: La Villa Strangiato
Mike Portnoy on Rush's "ultimate musical challenge"
Rush, who recently released the R40 box set, grace the cover of the latest issue of Prog and in that issue we called upon 40 famous Rush fans to reveal their favourite Rush songs.
Over the next few weeks we'll be bringing you some of those choices. Today it's the choice of prog drummer extraordinaire Mike Portnoy, who opts for what he calls "Rush's ultimate musical challenge...". La Villa Strangiato from Hemispheres...
"If I had to pick the quintessential Rush song, for me it would have to be La Villa Strangiato. When I was a teenager in the early 80s and in the heat of my deepest Rush influence, that was THE benchmark for instrumental prowess. Not only for us drummers, but also for fellow bass players (that quick bass and drum breakdown) and guitarists (perhaps still Alex Lifeson's greatest recorded solo).
“As I also stated in the Beyond The Lighted Stage film, to us blossoming musicians at the time, La Villa… was the ultimate musical challenge to learn, as no other instrumental song in rock history had that level of technical precision."
La Villa Strangiato proved equally popular with It Bites/Arena guitarist John Mitchell, who says, "The version I particularly like is the one off Exit… Stage Left.
The second half of the song where Alex Lifeson starts playing the atmospheric guitar solo on the front pickup of the Les Paul in A minor is both beautiful and evocative. I remember learning to play the whole thing with my school friends Phil and James Hearley in their parents’ attic when I was 16 years old. Of course the intro deserves special mention as well with the spooky guitar swells followed by what can only be described as a Spanish assault on the senses, and the complex instrumental breakdown at the end displays the bands technical virtuosity and particularly why Geddy always won best bassist year in year out in the rock mag polls. I sort of had Rush foisted on me as a youth by the brothers but while a lot of their catalogue passed me by, this track stuck for all the right reasons
Equally, Matt Halpern of Periphery is a fan, saying, "I remember hearing La Villa Strangiato by Rush, and it was the longest song I had ever heard at the time. I didn't even know bands were allowed to write songs that long at the time! I'd like to think it has inspired me to be open minded about letting songs grow, and breathe when writing songs with Periphery.”
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