Saturday, February 12, 2011

Rush's Moving Pictures is 30

 Rush - Moving Pictures
Moving Pictures
Rating: ****

It was 1981. Canadian rock band, Rush, had been together for quite sometime. While they had some success, they still hadn't hit it big just yet. That would change in 1981 with the release of their eighth album Moving Pictures. Today, the album is considered the band's best. While that may sound like nothing, the band did perform the album in its entirety on their last tour. It just comes to show: the band likes it and the fans probably like it even more. 

Rush formed in 1968 with guitarist Alex Lifeson, bassist/singer Jeff Jones, and drummer John Rutsey. Jones quit quickly and was replaced by bassist/singer and a school friend of Lifeson's, Geddy Lee. This line-up went on to record the band's debut album, which was release in 1974. Sales were a tad bit disappointing but the band had a cult following in the US with a minor hit, "Working Man". That was enough to allow the band to tour but Rutsey was forced to quit due to his diabetes and his dislike for touring. Lifeson and Lee were upset with Rutsey's choice but they understood (Rutsey later passed away in 2008). The band found a replacement in a young drummer named Neil Peart. Peart wowed Lifeson and Lee at his audition. Peart was in. Little did the band know but with Peart now in the band, this third incarnation of Rush would go on for over three decades. With Peart in, the band release albums like Fly By Night and Caress Of Steel. Neither of the albums did anything and if this fourth album did nothing, the band were doomed. In 1976, the band released 2112. The entire first side of the record was the epic self-titled track, written by Peart himself. 2112 boosted interest in the band and they were able to continue. For the albums after 2112, the band went more "out there" in terms of being a progressive rock band. By the time 1978's Hemispheres was released, the band decided that the music had gone over their heads. So for 1980's Permanent Waves, the band made the music a little more simple. An early example of things to come was the album's first song, "Spirit of the Radio".  In October 1980, the band were ready to record their next album. Little did they know, this album would turn out to be their biggest...

Moving Pictures opens with "Tom Sawyer", the band's best known song. The song was, of course, named after the Mark Twain character but the song has little to do with the character Twain created. Neil Peart had presented Lifeson and Lee the poem "Louis the Lawyer", written by Pye Dubois. The band decided to take the poem, expand it, and add music to it. The result: a classic rock/prog-rock masterpiece. Lee's vocals get higher by the chorus and Peart delivers an impossible-to-play drum solo in the song. Peart has admitted that  today, he can't play the solo perfectly as he did on the recording (which is was the closest thing to perfect!). "Red Barchetta" is quite a bizarre song about a sports car. Peart wrote most of the song around the short story "A Nice Morning Drive". The song is about a man who secretly drive this sports car on the weekends that his uncle keeps in his farm. This is all because the song is set in a future where most vehicles are banned due to "the Motor Law". Musically, this song is great and Lifeson's guitar work is something to listen closely to. "YYZ" is an instrumental track. YYZ is the identification code for Toronto, where the band lives. The rhythm and beat of the song was actually inspired by the sound those letter make in Morse code. Neil Peart noticed this and had the band make it into a song. Without a doubt, "YYZ" is one of Rush's best instrumentals. "Limelight" is, along with "Tom Sawyer", another radio friendly track. The song was written by Peart about his feelings being famous or in the limelight. The song sounds great is a very catchy. Lee's vocals sound great as well. Lifeson and Lee wrote the music to this song.

"The Camera Eye" starts off side two of the record. It is the longest song off the album, clocking in at almost 11 minutes. "Witch Hunt" is the first of four songs that make up Rush's "Fear series". Actually according to sources, "Witch Hunt" is part three in the series. The other parts ("The Enemy Within" from Grace Under Pressure, "The Weapon" by Signals, and "Freeze" from Vapor Trails). It has been said the all of these songs follow no story line but they all have to do with fear. In "Witch Hunt", the fear is based around manipulators and how they can use it on the ignorant. Much of this song is based from the Salem Witch trails in the late 1600's. The album's closer, "Vital Signs",  ends the album with a reggae feel. 

As of now, Moving Pictures is at #200 on my list of top 200 favorite albums. At first, I didn't what the big fuss over this album was about. For me, 2112 was the first Rush album I purchased. That one currently ranks higher. I think after listening to Moving Pictures and reading and hearing the stories behind the album, I think I'll have to swap this and 2112 around. Moving Pictures is probably the band's strongest effort. While I do like 2112, I think Moving Pictures is a bit more clear. Go ahead and yell at me all you want cause I don't give a crap. After listening to all of the Rush albums I own (four of them), Moving Pictures is the strongest of them. At least for me.

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