Album by Rush
Released October 29, 1978
Recorded June-August 1978 at Rockfield Studios in South Wales, UK
Genre Prog-Rock
Length 36:14
Label Mercury Records
Producer Rush and Terry Brown
Professional reviews
Rush chronology
A Farewell to Kings
Permanent Waves

Hemispheres is the sixth studio album by the Canadian rock band Rush, released in 1978. The album was recorded at Rockfield Studios in Wales.

This album continues Rush's trend of using the fantasy and science fiction lyrics written by Neil Peart. Similar to their 1976 release, 2112, Hemispheres contains a single, epic song broken into chapters as the first half of the album ("Cygnus X-1, Book II: Hemispheres") while the second half contains two more conventionally-executed tracks ("Circumstances", "The Trees"), then is rounded out by the nine-and-a-half-minute instrumental, "La Villa Strangiato".

The album contains examples of Rush's adherence to progressive rock standards including the use of epic, multi-movement song structures, complex rhythms and time signatures, and flexible guitar solos, like those found in "La Villa Strangiato". The music is a half a semi-tone over Geddy's usual voice pitch. It is unknown if the vocals or music were pitched, or if he actually attempted sing higher than usual. This may account for the separate vocal sessions.[1]

Hemispheres was Rush's fourth consecutive Gold album upon release in 1978 and would subsequently go Platinum in the US.

For a short period of time, the album was released on red vinyl.

Side one: Hemispheres

Though science fiction elements are not as prevalent on this album as some previous Rush releases, it contains many fantasy elements, notably those that relate to Greek mythology. "Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres" is partly a continuation of the last song on Rush's previous album, A Farewell to Kings ("Cygnus X-1, Book I: The Voyage"), in that the theme of Cygnus is revisited both lyrically and musically. However, the lyrical concepts used to continue the story on this album have shifted from that of science fiction to Greek mythology, which is represented in this case by the Apollo/Dionysus dichotomy. This mythology is a vehicle to explore yet another concept, one of pop psychology: more specifically, the differences between "left brain" and "right brain" thinking, hence the title of Hemispheres.

The story of the side-long suite "Cygnus X-1 - Book II" begins with an expository lyric stating the cause of the current situation in the story being the competition of the gods Apollo and Dionysus for the "fate of man." Apollo is first shown wooing the people with "truth and understanding," "wit and wisdom fair" with "precious gifts beyond compare." The people delight in these gifts yet they feel something is missing. Dionysus enters the song at this stage with promises of "love" and suggests the people throw off the "chains of reason." The cities are abandoned with subsequent celebration and living in the wilderness, but the people, having abandoned reason, find themselves at the mercy of the elements. The people began to fight over the solution to their ills. The world becomes divided into hemispheres.

The focus now shifts to the protagonist of "Cygnus X-1" from A Farewell to Kings. Acting on an old legend, he has piloted his ship directly into the black hole within the constellation Cygnus; he now emerges in Olympus, the home of the Greek gods, as a disembodied spirit. From here, he has a god's-eye view of the battle and can see that the people have divided themselves by a false dichotomy. His silent cry of terror is heard by all, even the gods themselves, who recognize the wisdom of his view and christen him Cygnus, the God of Balance. The suite closes with a short, quiet movement in which he relates his vision of how people should live: "With the heart and mind united in a single perfect sphere."

The album's cover depicts the conflict between the two gods, represented as men atop opposite halves (hemispheres) of a large human brain. Apollo is on the left side, wearing a black business suit and bowler hat and holding a cane, while the naked Dionysus beckons to him from the right side.

Side two

The track "Circumstances" is an autobiographical account on Peart's part, with references to the time he spent living in England before moving back to Canada and joining Rush.

"The Trees" is one of Rush's more popular songs. Lyrically, it is a fable recounting how a forest suffers from the competition of tall oak trees and shorter maple trees for sunlight. In the end, no one wins as the "trees are all kept equal by hatchet, axe, and saw." The song's meaning is often debated by fans.

"La Villa Strangiato" is an instrumental exhibiting the musicianship of the band as a whole, as well as each member individually. The song contains a riff based upon "Powerhouse" composed by Raymond Scott in 1936. This song has been used extensively in various cartoons since the 1940s.

Track listing

All songs written by Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart.

  1. "Cygnus X-1 (Book II - Hemispheres)" – 18:05 on CD/18:07 on vinyl
    • I: "Prelude" – 4:27/4:30
    • II: "Apollo" Bringer of Wisdom
    • III: "Dionysus" Bringer of Love – 4:36/4:36
    • IV: "Armageddon" The Battle of Heart and Mind – 2:55/2:52
    • V: "Cygnus" Bringer of Balance – 5:01/5:00
    • VI: "The Sphere" A Kind of Dream – 1:02/1:09
  2. "Circumstances" – 3:41/3:42
  3. "The Trees" – 4:46/4:46
  4. "La Villa Strangiato (An Exercise in Self-Indulgence)" – 9:35/9:36
    • I: "Buenos Nochas, Mein Froinds!" - (0:00)
    • II: "To sleep, perchance to dream..." - (0:27)
    • III: "Strangiato theme" - (2:00)
    • IV: "A Lerxst in Wonderland" - (3:16)
    • V: "Monsters!" - (5:49)
    • VI: "The Ghost of the Aragon" - (6:10)
    • VII: "Danforth and Pape" - (6:45)
    • VIII: "The Waltz of the Shreves" - (7:26)
    • IX: "Never turn your back on a Monster!" - (7:52)
    • X: "Monsters! (Reprise)" - (8:03)
    • XI: "Strangiato theme (Reprise)" - (8:17)
    • XII: "A Farewell to Things" - (9:20)


  • Geddy Lee - Bass guitar, Mini-moog, Oberheim polyphonic, Taurus pedals, vocals
  • Alex Lifeson - Six and twelve string electric and acoustic guitars, classical guitar, Roland guitar synthesizer, Taurus pedals
  • Neil Peart - Drums, orchestra bells, bell-tree, tympani, gong, cowbells, temple blocks, wind chimes, crotales


  • Rush and Terry Brown - Arrangements
  • Pat Moran - Engineer
  • Declan O'Doherty - Vocals engineer
    • Vocals recorded at Advision Studios, London, England
  • Terry Brown - Mixing engineer
  • John Brand - Assistant mixing engineer
  • Simon Hilliard, Mike Donegoni, and Reno Ruocco - Tape operators
    • Mixed at Trident Studios, Soho, London, England August 1978
  • Ray Staff - Mastering
    • Mastered at Trident Studios, Soho, London, England
  • Bob Ludwig and Brian Lee - Remastering
  • Hugh Syme - Graphics
  • Hugh Syme & Bob King - Art direction
  • Yosh Inouye - Cover photography
  • Fin Costello - Inner sleeve and poster photography
  • Ray Danniels - Management
    • SRO Management, Inc., Toronto, Ontario
  • Howard (Herns) Ungerleider - Roadmaster and lighting director
    • Concert Lighting by See Factor
  • (Major) Ian Grandy - Concert sound engineer and crew coordinator
    • Concert Sound by National Sound and Electrosound
  • Mike (Lurch) Hurch - Stage manager
  • Liam (Leaf) Birt - Stage right technician
  • Skip (Slider) Gildersleeve - Stage left technician
  • Larry (Shrav) Allen - Center stage technician
  • Tony (Jack Secret) Geranios - Guitar and synthesizer maintenance
  • Rush and Nick Prince - Concert visuals producer
  • Harry (keep the change) Dilman - Projectionist
  • Bruce (The Pin) Aldrich (Howdy howdy!), Jwerg (Ah think ah see the problem!) Hoadley, Mike (Say Guy!) Morrison, and Tom (Zig-Zag) Whittaker - Drivers
  • Austen Fagen, Abe Schon, The UFO's, the Max Websters, the Pat Travers Band, the Monks, Bert the driver, Fin Costello, Ruke Bernstein, Joe Bombase, Young Ward, Jerry Mickelson, Arny Granat, Bubble and Squeak, all at SRO and all at Rockfield, Advision, and Trident - Thanks

  • Executive Production by Moon Records
  • This album was processed through the Duffoscope!


Country Chart Position Date
U.S. Top LPs & Tapes (Billboard 200) 47 February 26, 1979
U.K. Albums 14 November 25, 1978
Canada RPM 100 Top Albums 14 January 13, 1979


Country Organization Sales Date
U.S. RIAA Gold (500,000) December 14, 1978
U.S. RIAA Platinum (1,000,000) December 1, 1993
U.K. BPI Silver (100,000) June 7, 1982
Canada CRIA Gold (50,000) November 1, 1978
Canada CRIA Platinum (100,000) November 1, 1978


A remaster was issued in May 6, 1997.

  • The tray has a picture of the star with man painting (mirroring the cover art of Retrospective I) with "The Rush Remasters" printed in all capital letters just to the left. All remasters from Rush through Permanent Waves are like this.
  • The remastered CD has all of the original album cover art, including the back cover and poster of the band which was missing on the original CD issue. When the poster is folded closed, the outside shows "Rush Hemispheres" text printed in red and yellow on a black background. Most copies have this insert placed behind the front cover in the CD case, but apparently some copies have this insert toward the front.

Compact Disc

Country Label Catalog Year
United States Mercury 822 547-2
United States Mercury P2-22547
United States Mercury P2-34629
United States Mercury 314 534 629-2
United States Mercury D-118702
United States Mercury D-102058
Canada Anthem ANMD-1080 1997
Canada Anthem WANK-1014
Canada Anthem ANMD-1014
Canada Anthem ANC-1-1015
Brazil Mercury 822 547-2
Brazil Mercury 534 629-2
Germany Mercury 534 629-2
Germany Mercury 822 547-2
Japan Epic/Sony 25-8P-5168 1988
Japan Atlantic AMCY 320
Japan Atlantic AMCY-2294 1997
Japan Atlantic WPCR-13477 2009
Russia RSHCD-04000404
United Kingdom Mercury 534 629-2 1997


Country Label Catalog Year
United States Mercury SRM-1-3743 1978
United States Mercury SRP-1300
Canada Anthem ANR-1-1014 1978
Canada Anthem SANR-1-1015 1978
Canada Anthem PANR-1-1017 1978
Netherlands Mercury 9111-005 1978
Japan Mercury RJ-7531 1978
Japan Epic/Sony 25-3P-269 1981
United Kingdom Mercury 9100-059 1978

Cassette Tape

Country Label Catalog Year
United States Mercury 822-547-4 1978
United States Mercury MCR4-1-3743 1978
Canada Anthem 4AN-1-1014


"The Trees"
  • Released:
  • Written by: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson & Neil Peart
  • Produced by: Rush and Terry Brown
  • Chart positions: #44 US Hot 100
  • Released: (Europe)
  • Written by: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson & Neil Peart
  • Produced by: Rush and Terry Brown
  • Chart positions:


  1. Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage, blu-ray extras
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