This was the first Rush album to feature drummer Neil Peart. In addition to drumming duties, Peart also took on the job of lyricist by default, leading the band to adopt a more literary lyrical style that differed significantly from the debut album. The songs "By-Tor and the Snow Dog" and "Rivendell" are examples of the inclusion of fantasy themes into Rush's music.
"By-Tor and the Snow Dog" was inspired by Rush roadie Howard Ungerleider's story of him staying at Anthem records owner Ray Danniels' house, where Danniels' German Shepherd growled at him, and a tiny dog also owned by Danniels tried to jump on him. Ungerleider told Rush about it and they thought it was hilarious.
"Anthem" features lyrics inspired by the philosophy of Ayn Rand, whose influence on Peart's writing would reach its apogee on the band's 1976 album 2112. "Anthem" features a riff like the one in last albums "Finding My Way", but speeded. Alex Lifeson plays a high speed solo in the song. Geddy Lee does 2 screams and Neil Peart does a skilled drum solo. The autobiographical "Fly by Night" is based on Peart's experience of moving from Canada to London as a young musician (before joining Rush). The original hand-penned lyrics for both "Anthem" and "Fly by Night" include different or additional lyrics not sung in the original songs. The original lyrics to "Fly By Night" include a prologue which is not found in the final song.
Fly by Night was recorded at Toronto Sound Studios in Toronto. Rush also recorded parts of their first album at the same studio. However, since the first album sessions the studio was updated from 1 inch 8-track to 2 inch 16-track master tape recorders, allowing the group to have far more flexibility in overdubbing and mixing. Pictures shown on the album artwork indicate that the studio used a Studer 16 track recorder and a Neve mixing console, a combination that was widely considered to be state of the art by audio engineers, and was also used by many other top studios worldwide up through the early 1990s. Fly by Night is the band's first album to be produced by Terry Brown, who had remixed the band's debut album. Brown would maintain this role until 1982's Signals.
The lyrics of "Anthem" are heavily influenced by novelist and objectivist Ayn Rand, whose ideas heavily influenced Rush lyricist Neil Peart at the time. The song's title is the same as Rand's novella Anthem. "Beneath, Between & Behind" is the only song in Rush's catalog that is written by only Peart and Lifeson, without Lee's influence, and is about the discovery of America and the birth of the nation. It refers to the rapid growth, immigration, wars, and the American Dream. According to Geddy Lee on VH1-Classic's "Hangin' With", this was the first Rush song with lyrics contributed by Neil Peart. "Making Memories" is one of the few examples that all three members of Rush contributed to the lyrics, written while they were on tour riding around in a rental car near St. Louis. The song portrays the bands' feelings about touring. "Making Memories" has never been performed live. "Rivendell" is notable for being one of the few Rush songs to feature Geddy Lee on classical guitar, as well as one of the few Rush songs not to feature drums. This song is an example of the inclusion of fantasy themes into Rush's music. It is inspired by the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, and refers to the fictional elven city of the same name featured in the novels The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. It is one of two references to Tolkien's writings in the band's catalog.
The tray has a picture of the star with man painting (mirroring the album cover 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 packaging of the remastered CD reinstates the original back cover and inner sleeve (including Neil Peart's handwritten lyrics and credit sheet) absent from the first CD issue.