Enjoying the success of their previous album, Fly By Night, the band went back into the studio to record their third album; it was to be a more ambitious recording, but unfortunately Caress Of Steel would fall short in places.
The first three songs are fairly straightforward rock songs, and these are the ones that work pretty well. 'Bastille Day' is a Zeppelin-esque rocker about the French Revolution, and probably the best track on the album. 'I Think I'm Going Bald' showcases an element of the band that sometimes gets missed by non-fans, their sense of humor (the song was written as a piss-take in response to the KISS song 'Goin' Blind'). 'Lakeside Park' is a slower piece, with Neil reflecting on his youth.
The rest of the album includes two longer pieces, 'The Necromancer' and 'The Fountain of Lamneth'. 'The Necromancer' runs 12 and a half minutes long, and has once again Neil looking to Tolkien for inspiration. The latter part of the song includes an appearance by Prince By-Tor from 'By-Tor and the Snow Dog', but here By-Tor is a hero, not a villain (presumably this takes place before By-Tor's fall from grace... or perhaps Neil just really liked the name). 'The Fountain of Lamneth' runs around 20 minutes, the first of three Rush songs that would span the length of an entire album side (back in the days of vinyl, when albums had sides one and two). 'Lamneth' concerns the span of a man's life, from birth to death.
Compared to 'By-Tor and the Snow Dog' and the group's longer pieces that would show up on following albums, these two tracks are somewhat disappointing. The individual parts of the two songs are uneven in quality, and don't gel together into a cohesive whole (Neil's drum solo in 'Lamneth' is especially out-of-place and jarring). Of the two, 'Necromancer' is probably the better piece; being shorter in length, it has less room to meander around. Lyrically, they're not as immediately compelling as one would hope, and musically, they're more indulgent than inspiring. Also, Terry Brown's production of the album, for whatever reason, isn't as strong as Fly By Night, or the later Rush albums he would work on.
The album was a commercial disappointment; the tour that followed to support the album was referred to privately by the band as the "Down The Tubes" tour, fearful that the album's low sales might spell the end of the band. This was meant to be their breakout album, but for the moment the group's reach had exceed their grasp. As a result, Rush had one last chance to prove themselves; the follow-up album would either make, or break, the group.