A long time ago Rush ceased making albums where everything was good on it. It used to be that you could put on a Rush album and every track was going to be great, but that time has long since passed.
At the risk of too much information, here is my completely biased assessment on the "listenability" for each of the Rush studio albums:
|RUSH, FLY BY NIGHT, and CARESS OF STEEL
There are good tracks, there are bad tracks, and there are weird tracks on each album. I seldom listened to any of these albums in their entirety.
"Lessons" and "Tears" weren't amazing songs, but the rest of the tracks more than made up for them, and I could listen to this entire album over and over.
|A FAREWELL TO KINGS
I would call "Cinderella Man" this album's weakest track, but still... I could listen to this entire album repeatedly, and often did.
There aren't any weak tracks. Period. I listened to this entire album repeatedly.
Rush was firing on all cylinders now, so there are no clunkers on this album, and I listened to it more times than I can remember.
Rush had evolved into prog rock masters. This album is a masterpiece. Every song is a winner. I played this album more than any other album in my lifetime.
There really aren't any exceedingly weak tracks on this album, either. But this marks the beginning of the synth takeover... still, I could listen to the whole album in one sitting.
|GRACE UNDER PRESSURE
I will admit, this album had a couple songs that I liked less than others; for example: Red Lenses was fun to play in a band just to see if we could pull it off, but it wasn't that great to listen to. (Way too much synth.) Nevertheless, I could listen to this entire album, just not as often as others.
Several bright moments, but waaaaaaay too much synth. And the lyrics were nowhere near Neil's best. If MP3s had existed, I probably would have created playlists that left off a song or two.
|HOLD YOUR FIRE
Wow - which band is this? Is this even Rush? The synths have completely taken over. As with POWER WINDOWS, I didn't want to hear every song, and by this point I had a CD player that allowed me to pick and choose what songs to play and what songs to skip.
High points and low points... and Rush continues to sound like a totally different band than a decade earlier. I continued to pick and choose which songs to play. Lyrically pretty weak at times, like Neil was trying too hard to be good or trying too hard to be funny.
|ROLL THE BONES
Strong points and weak points. (Are you seeing a trend yet?) Plus - RAP??? SERIOUSLY??? (Okay - the video of the skeleton is funny in concert, but still...)
This album had a few bright moments, but truth be told - I despised this album so badly that I packed up all my Rush albums and gave them to my brother. (Seriously... all my picture discs, all my bootlegs, all my collectibles... everything went.)
|TEST FOR ECHO
I was done with Rush, so I never listened to this album. The only way that I heard tracks from this album is when I went to see Rush in concert in later years, and I was happy to see that there were a couple good songs on it.
As with TEST FOR ECHO, I didn't listen to VAPOR TRAILS, so the first time I heard tracks from this album was when I saw Rush in concert.
A friend let me listen to this album, but let's be honest - it's all cover songs, so it's not really Rush, is it?
|SNAKES & ARROWS
I heard this album when it came out, although I will admit that I didn't actually buy it. Nevertheless, it was a strong album with very little hint of synths. I was hooked from the first few notes of "Far Cry," which hearkened back to the old Rush we used to love. Still, though - there were several weak points, too.
Wanna know a secret? I still haven't heard this album in its entirety. I heard "Caravan" and "BU2B" when they were released as singles, and I heard a couple more songs when Rush played them in concert, but... for some reason this album just didn't pique my interest, so I still haven't sat down and listened to it.
And there you have it: my completely biased view of the studio albums that were released throughout Rush's career. Please note that the views expressed were entirely my own and are not intended to infer any lack of awesomeness for the Trio from Toronto.
That being said, Clockwork Angels was not the best swan song for a band this awesome. I know that Rush has said that they will never tour again, but hopefully they'll put out another studio album that will make up for Clockwork Angels.