Picking the best of a catalog as extensive as Rush's (20 studio releases, nine live albums) isn't easy, especially since you'd be hard pressed to find a bad one in the bunch. No doubt, many a seriously devoted Rush fan would list all of them, but for the purposes of this exercise, we've picked ten that have found highest favor among fans and critics.
With All the World's a Stage Rush began using a formula that lasted for the next two decades: releasing a live album after every four studio albums. This was their first live release, recorded during a series of performances in Toronto on their 2112 tour. It was the first Rush album to chart in the Top 40 in the US.
Permanent Waves was the first Rush release to reach the Top 5 on the US album chart. By design, the band moved away from its signature prog/hard rock into shorter, simpler, more "radio-friendly" songs. Two of them from this album, "The Spirit of Radio" and "Freewill" became bona fide radio hits, and helped propel the album to sales topping a million.
Up until the release of Moving Pictures, 2112 had been considered to be the definitive Rush album. After this one reached #3 on the Billboard album chart, and became a 4x-platinum (4-million) seller, it took over that distinction. It is still the band's most popular and most successful album. The popular singles "Tom Sawyer" and "Limelight" came from this album, which continued the Permanent Waves formula of shorter, more radio-friendly songs.
Rush's second live release included songs from their Moving Pictures and Permanent Waves tours. They also had a little subtle fun with the album cover, which included images from each of their previous eight album covers. Classic Rock magazine readers voted the album the 9th best live album of all time in a 2004 poll.
Grace Under Pressure drew on themes ranging from current events to the The Holocaust to the death of a loved one to depict how people react under the pressure of life-changing events. Rush began shaping the album even as they toured in support of their most recent album Signals, an album they weren't especially pleased with. The result of their desire to move away from that sound was further exploration on this album with reggae and ska styles.
Roll the Bones was Rush's first Top 5 album since Moving Pictures, ten years earlier. The title song and "Dreamline" were hit singles, and the instrumental "Where's My Thing?" got a Grammy nomination. (Interestingly they lost to "Cliffs of Dover" by Eric Johnson, who performed with them on the Roll the Bones tour.)
It seemed the only way for Rush to go was still up, even 19 years after their first album was released. 1993's Counterparts took over honors as their biggest selling album in the US, reaching #2 on the Billboard 200. Three Top 10 singles ("Stick it Out," "Nobody's Hero" and "Cold Fire") and another Grammy nomination ("Leave That Thing Alone") came from this album.
Rush in Rio broke the pattern first established in 1976 of releasing a live album for every four studio releases. It was also the band's first live album that consisted of a single performance, in its entirety. The album was certified Gold and received yet another Grammy nomination for the instrumental, "O Baterista."