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It’s hard to talk about one of the most iconic bands to have ever existed, forget prog or not. I mean these guys have been around longer than even Maiden or Priest and are still kicking ass today! If that’s not saying enough, then I don’t know what is. Even if you find them overrated, there’s no way you can deny their momentous contribution to progressive music as a whole as well as evolving beyond their prog roots, but still keeping parts of their signature sound intact, that too over a span of several decades. This, along with A Farewell To Kings is without a doubt their best album. Of course, others will have their own favourites, which is exactly the beauty of the music of Rush. Each of their albums shine a different light, that’s all.
For me at least, the verdict is still out on 2112 being the ultimate prog rock classic (while being musically impeccable as the band has always been, the music itself was a bit too sprawling and convoluted for my tastes), but if there is one album to completely deserve that title, it’s this one. Of course along with many other albums, but that’s a story for another time. No super-fast solos or leads to leave your jaw dropping, but you will just be in silent awe of how well arranged the music is as a whole. It’s almost like a symphonic tale unfolding itself piece by piece. Simply grand. Geddy Lee’s voice is as powerful as ever and his bass lines in songs like “Red Barchetta” and “Limelight” will make you just sit back in amazement at this guys skills. I absolutely adore the slow keyboard build up in “The Camera Eye” with the lead guitar fill-ins painting a fantastic landscape in my mind. The longest song on the album without a single minute of excessive wankery or pointless transitions anywhere to be seen. This is true sonic architecture, and I mean the entire album. Also listen to “Witch Hunt” for another great example of how to build atmosphere with the keys.
Also I don’t know if anyone else noticed but “Vital Signs” has an infectious reggae feel to it that I can’t help but love. Don’t be remotely fooled by the previous sentence, the influence definitely works and how! Remember folks, diversity is the key. This album has none of the grandiose displays of virtuosity that would be plastered all over the albums of most of the 90s prog rock/metal bands. Not that that was a bad thing, mind you, but you get the drift. Listen to the stunning technicality of “YYZ” (which many technical and prog bands would undoubtedly take an influence from, a good decade later) and the meticulous melodic crafting on “Red Barchetta” and “Limelight” and you can bet your ass, Dream Theater and Fates Warning were definitely taking down notes. The seeds of the advent of prog metal as we know it today can be seen shining in all their glory on this album. If you’re a pervert, then you’ve probably taken that sentence the wrong way. Not that I’d blame you. And of course everyone knows the iconic opener “Tom Sawyer” and I have to say, in spite of having heard that song millions of times over the years, it still hasn’t lost any of its charm or catchiness. Beat that.
This is one of Rush's most famous albums and contains their most famous and popular single track. This is also part of the transition to synthesizers that became dominant on their succeeding albums. This still has some great guitar moments by Lifeson, some great instrumental work in general, and several other classic Rush songs.
Tom Sawyer is one of those tracks. It is instantly recognizable to anyone over the age of 15, I even recommended it for my senior class song. It comes in with the synths and keys, then Geddy's vocals begin, and it is a great ride. It contains some great playing by all involved. Alex has a very nice solo, it's a little weird, but fun. Geddy has a more emotive delivery than usual, and it works brilliantly. This is also the only song on the album where Peart's lyrics feel a little more philosophical. It is about a man who will do things his way in the face of a world that may not like that. This functions as a sort of brief nod to the late 70's albums.
The playing is as superb as always. I read an interview from the 80's recently where Geddy mentions his shock at receiving an award for his keys, when he can barely play a chord. In terms of technique, his keyboard work is probably the weakest aspect of the album, and he uses it rather frequently, not for atmospheric purposes. I would have rather Geddy was more skillful at the keys before he went Emerson on Alex's Lake. Alex himself has some good lead work, but he gets shoved out of the rhythms from time to time. He doesn't really function as a metal or hard-rock guitarist on here, in that he's not really riffing away. I enjoy his solo on Tom Sawyer, and I believe he regards his solo on Limelight as his very best. As for Peart and how the band gels, one need look no further than YYZ. This was a very popular song, for an instrumental, and it is amongst the most enjoyable that I've heard. This may seem odd, but one of the melodies from this song is very similar to one used on Pink's "So What."
I don't really like the cover on this album. In general, I'm not too keen on Rush's covers. I have a shirt of theirs, but it's not from an album. This is easily the weakest they'd had in a while. From Fly By Night on, they'd generally had solid artwork. This really announces their change in style. I don't dislike that they changed styles in of itself, but it seems like Rush achieved more in sales terms, than in actually great music. I enjoy most of what Rush has done, but the later style just isn't as much to my taste, and this cover reminds me of that. It also reminds me of something Marillion might have. The music still has some prog elements; Camera Eye is an epic track that works pretty well. For all it's hype, Witch Hunt is more unsettling than heavy, but maybe that's similar to many people. I mention these to note the particular spot Rush was at at this time. They weren't really metal/hard-rock anymore, they weren't as progressive as they had been, and they didn't have enough of the Police influence to put them in the post-punk category. This album is fairly distinct in terms of looking around at what surrounded them in 1981.
I enjoy every song on this album, Tom Sawyer might be their best song and is fifth at worst, and they even managed to avoid a crappy ballad. Why is this not their greatest? If just doesn't consistently rock hard enough. Red Barchetta, Limelight, and Camera Eye are all mostly subdued, and there are no faster songs to balance things out. Another problem is, as I mentioned, Geddy's keys are starting to push Alex out. The issue I have with that is that Geddy's keys never hit the level of Alex's guitar. This trade swindled us all. I still enjoy this album tremendously, but I can't help but feel like I'm staring over a cliff. These problems are small on here, but it's disappointing to think of where said problems led them to. In any case, this is still something most bands never came close to. I would recommend this to prog fans of any kind, hard-rock fans, post-punk fans, and heavy metal fans.
There's little point in adding praise to an overly-reviewed album such as this, other than to point out how quickly Rush matured from the juvenile 2112 to Moving Pictures. Whereas Permanent Waves was a big jump in structure, Moving Pictures was a big jump in quality. A great example is YYZ, which fuses their talented musicianship with some creative songwriting that did not exist a few years prior. Most of their fans gush over the "progressive" elements of 2112, but it's actually a pretty mediocre album, with a whole lot of nothing happening within the notes. To hear them deliver YYZ just a few years later, you'd swear someone else wrote the material- these guys were nowhere near that level of compositional creativity in 1976.
The album represents the breaking point between Rush's rock-n-roll roots and the more studio-noodling stuff they've been doing since. Given the quality of their work before and after this period, it's clear that the combination of youthful vigor and mature experience was a magical cloud that lasted a very short while. Side 1 is pretty perfect all the way through, while Side 2 stumbles a little with Witch Hunt, but ends strong with the we've-been-overdosing-on-the-Police Vital Signs (people claim they were doing reggae, but this is more like reggae twice-removed by way of Andy Summers.) If Rush's aesthetic turns you off, this album won't do much for you either. Geddy's high-pitched nasal singing (or "singing" if you're not a fan) is in full effect, as is the complete whitebread lack of soul that the band will forever be plagued by- but somehow, the trio manages to make it work for them in grand style here. They are what they are, and Moving Pictures is about as good as they ever were or would be.
A coda: when I was in high school, I was dragged to a church "rock talk" led by a crazy dude named Joe Viera, who claimed to be a Rock Music Industry Insider due to his being a Grateful Dead roadie for many years (back then, that sounded really impressive!) His slide show deconstructed plenty of heavy metal album covers in Christian terms, pointing out the secret hidden messages these satanic bands were trying to sneak past an unsuspecting public. A side effect of his presentation was to introduce me to plenty of cool bands I didn't know about, including Rush- for in his eyes, these socialist satanists were all about ushering in a one-world state primed for the antichrist's arrival. Remember the 2112 naked guy walking into that pentagram? You can only imagine the theories that one evoked.
The most fascinating story he spun was about the cover to Moving Pictures, which, in Joe's view, was all about how the state was going to assume control of our lives. The paintings represent the new government's agenda; while the first group of movers are removing religion, the other guys are ushering in a state-controlled economy (dogs playing poker) and, of course, the satanic-spirit (represented by the naked man submitting himself to the pentagram.)
To the side, a woman, dressed in typical Russian Babushka garb, has dropped her groceries as she laments the takeover of this new government. Next to her, a Russian official (representing the new, communist state) is comforting her, because, you see, this new-world government is now in charge of everything, from the groceries our Babushka dropped to raising our children- as is evidenced by the guy standing next to him, taking charge of the two innocent kids. In the near-future (probably the year 2112) the government will assume total control of our food supply, our education, our spiritual life, our economy.
While this is a perfectly paranoid interpretation of the album cover, it's also pretty damn convincing. Even now, I can't come up with a better explanation as to why the hell there's a bunch of russians watching the movers, nor can I find an answer anywhere on the interweb. Whether or not Rush meant this concept as a warning against socialism or a celebration of socialism (I would guess the former), we'll never know. Or, more likely, they never intended it as anything and the guy they hired to do the cover threw a bunch of shit together that he thought would be cool... but I will always love this album cover for it's creepy, powerful, probably-imaginary political subtext.
It starts bathed in swirling synthesizers. A sharp and angular hi-hat pattern is punctuated by a deep bass drum and taut snare, and we are introduced to (perhaps) the quintessential Rush song; Tom Sawyer. The black and red colours of the album artwork fits the mood of the music perfectly, dark yet pulsing with life. We are then introduced to Red Barchetta with its quiet, gentle guitar harmonics and deep, warm bass line while the mesmerizing lyric is sung, "My uncle has a country place, that no one knows about...", and the listener is taken on an unforgettable journey into what remains as possibly the finest album Rush ever recorded. YYZ, with its chiming Morse code introduction, is musical nirvana, a showcase for each musician's developing virtuoso talents, yet the whole track works as an emotional construct that evokes such a broad range of excitement, feeling, and imagery that you simply never tire of listening to its unfolding power. Limelight features one of Alex Lifeson's most evocative guitar solos and whilst sounding hyper-commercial, it is one of the most complex compositions Rush has ever written.
The Camera Eye is an epic, vibrant, and pulsating track that positively brims with energy and has some spectacular drum fills from Neil Peart. Indeed the drum sound on Moving Pictures really captures each spirited performance on every track with the tightness and fluidity of the drum flourishes helping to illustrate just how precise and powerful a drummer Neil Peart is. Witch Hunt (Part III of Fear) and Vital Signs close the album, each track completely different from the other and displaying just how experimental the band were at that time. The brilliantly dark and brooding Witch Hunt starts with the beautifully eerie, scene-setting line, "The night is black without a moon..." and explores the sinister wilderness of ignorance and prejudice. The song also explodes in places with some gigantic drum fills from Peart that are stunning on a good sound system. Vital Signs, which was quite shocking to many people upon the album's initial release with its strong reggae influences and electronic percussion, is the perfect end to the album and is a subtle sample of what was to arrive with the bold experimentation of Signals. The slick, polished production suits the tightness and sophistication of the music perfectly. Moving Pictures is arguably the definitive Rush album and is, in my opinion, one of the greatest rock albums ever recorded.
I could never convey all of the emotion and memory invested in this record from the first time I heard it to sharing it with friends to listening to it walking in the snow beneath the moonlight and feeling so very alive.
A perfect score is definitely a worthy grade for Rush's most commercially successful album in their career. Moving Pictures is an album that continues in the direction that was started in what is Rush's masterpiece (in my humble opinion), Permanent Waves. Where their late 1970's albums focused on long compositions, this album continues their new trend to make songs in a more controlled and shortened format.
Let's start with the overall performance. One thing I've always enjoyed about Rush is the fact that every member has his moment to shine in the same moment (if you listen carefully). An example of this would be in the band's most famous song, Tom Sawyer; during Alex's guitar solo you can clearly hear Neil blasting away at his drum kit and Geddy ripping his bass relentlessly where in most cases a guitar solo means all other band members should shut the hell up while the guitar reigns supreme, but in Rush they believe that everyone deserves to be heard, which is a philosophy we should all live by.
Neil Peart in my opinion is the greatest lyricist in the history of music. This man's lyrics touch on everything from modern day life to philosophy to the strangest sci-fi stories one could imagine, and on this album you will get nothing different from the standard Neil Peart. As well as being a great writer, he is also an excellent drummer and definitely displays that fact on this album.
The songs on this album are all top notch. Of course, Tom Sawyer and Limelight are radio favorites, but the other five songs are just as great. A personal favorite of mine is definitely the love song towards the automobile, Red Barchetta. YYZ... what more could be said, it's their second best instrumental song (under La Villa Strangiato), and also the multi-part suite The Camera Eye discussing the over-bustling of city life. Witch Hunt, being the first song released in the Fear series (third chronologically), is a great track and the final track, Vital Signs, is a good reggae-influenced track.
Concluding the review, I will say that if you enjoy progressive rock music, you should definitely get this album and then get ready to be blown away by advanced proficient instrumentation. And if you're new to the band Rush, this is a perfect place to start.
And finally, we reach the climax in Rush's development. After this, the eighties would take toll and ravage away most of the finest achievements by our favourite canadian power trio.
The thing is that, far from being a heavy metal album in it's own sense, it has that metallic touch and instinct with which we can all enjoy and expect some powerful formulas of joy and music. It's that way how it is here, despite the narrowing sounds, which fell apart from 2112 and A Farewell to Kings.
First of all, here, we get a little bit of all what made the mythical reputation that was gained by Geddy Lee, Neil Peart and Alex Lifeson in the mid-seventies but in a more simplistic and straightforward shape. Directed to major audiences, getting away from the spectacular performances and entering into the playground of AOR greeting. Of course, far from criticizing Rush, one of the top-bands of their genre, we can only say that they did it perfectly great in here. See the example of "Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow": despite being a band with the most gifted player in neoclassical and traditional metal ever and a couple of the most talented guys (Dio, Powell, Airey...), they managed to shift their initial heavy metal style to a more AOR sound and, well, there we got that ugly time in the 80's Rainbow. This thing didn't happened (at least in Moving Pictures) with Rush.
A couple of "national anthems" in terms of mainstream success are part of this record, name 'Tom Sawyer', 'Red Barchetta', 'YYZ' or 'Limelight'. And, in all, as stated above, they manage to reach popular agreement without leaving, at least entirely, their traditional style of composition. We are not in the territories when Magical Mystery Tour-kind of songs like the majestic 'Xanadu' or fans-favourite '2112' lighted and lifted us into a new world of the finest music of its genre. This is different. The sound is another. But, fortunately, it has the same feeling and that's what we most appreciate, for the sake of Rush's name.
'Tom Sawyer' gets it right. It has a characteristic sounding, spacey/airey keyboarding opening with a bunch of heavy beating blasts by the drumming section and maybe the catchiest lyrics in the band's history. A powerful way to start the thing, with powerful resemblances of Permanent Waves. It has the Rush Touch (stupid rime, but yes, that thing actually exists) and it's enjoyable for both metalheads and AOR listeners. Almost the same happens with 'Red Barchetta' and 'YYZ'. The former is a song with lots of feeling, a nice guitar playing and an hypnotic harmony. Again, must be said, the lyrics are different, more for the suits of common listeners instead of philosophical themes or romantic poetry. The latter has a legendary reputaion, specially for being an instrumental rock piece without the presence of the drums and even so, reached kinda mainstream popularity. So, experimental shapes are on the mood here, as usual, but in a more AOR way, and the thing works perfectly for the issue, at least until this point; then, a little but non-escapable mistake appear in the final songs of the album: 'Limelight', 'The Camera Eye', 'Witch Hunt' and 'Vital Signs'.
Essentially (and for avoiding a long a song-per-song review, I'll go straight to the point) the failure in those four tracks, despite their total enjoyability and some magic tricks made available by our gifted friends in the band, is that they contain lot of hybrid-ness. They are uncertain of their DNA, they don't know if they are progressive rock/metal flirting pieces or audience oriented songs. That's why, even if they are almost filled with usual subtleties by the band, completely digestible for any hard rock/heavy metal fan, in a strict sense, they are incomplete. Warm and powerful but fading stars. The weak spot among them songs is 'Limelight', by far. Sounds like a vaulted track resurrected from Permanent Waves but 25% lighter, and that can't be good at all, because that album has the exact ammount of "heaviness", considering Rush's style, and making this composition even lighter can't help very much. The song lingers as a weakling and that's unworthy for the band, no matter how popular the piece can be among Rush's fans (that would be me).
At the very end and after several times of listen, we figure out that this is a masterpiece album by Rush. The last addition in what I like to call the "Rush's Holy Trinity" (with A Farewell to Kings and Permanent Waves). It has some of the most straightforward and known songs by the band with some tasty touches of their classic creativity and inspiration in the rest of the tracks, maybe with a little bit of hybrid sounds and weakness, but a great album on its own by a legendary band.
An excellent refinement and polishing of the approach taken on Permanent Waves, Moving Pictures is a strong candidate for the best album Rush ever made. Rush had begun to incorporate an increasing amount of synthesisers into their music on the preceding album, and this tendency continues this time around. The sole extended track on the album, the ten minute The Camera Eye, makes good use of this by having Geddy Lee primarily play synthesisers for the first part of the song, which is about the ambience of New York, and then switch to bass for the second half, which concerns the ambience of London; just as the modernity of New York and the history of London are contrasted in the song, so too are the future direction of Rush and their recent musical history brilliantly contrasted in the piece.
In terms of structure, the first side consists of catchy and accessible numbers which showcase the band's hard rock and metal chops whilst continuing their project of condensing progressive rock song structures into short, bite-sized chunks. This is perfectly captured on what I consider to be their best song, the haunting Red Barchetta, whose movements capture nostalgia, exhilaration, action, and escapism in an emotional trip that perfectly parallels the narrative of the song; the opening chords of the piece never fail to make hairs rise on the back of my neck. The side also includes YYZ, an instrumental in the tradition of the excellent La Villa Strangiato - the best track from Hemispheres by a long way - which again condenses the sorts of twists and turns and technical musicianship found into the earlier piece into a shorter and very accessible format.
The second side of the song is devoted to more experimental and murkier material, and has taken a while to grow on me - but grow on me it has. As well as the aforementioned The Camera Eye, it includes the spooky Witch Hunt - a rare Rush excursion into horror - and Vital Signs, in which Rush's increasing New Wave influences are manifested in a very Police-like incorporation of reggae rhythms into the song (though I have to say I think Rush succeed rather better than the Police did).
On the whole, this is an album where Rush hit a perfect balance between progging out and rocking out, in which experimentation and accessibility and cool synthesiser pieces and heavy guitar solos all work in perfect harmony. In other words, it attains the balance which Hemispheres spoke of but didn't actually attain itself, and in that sense it can be seen as the culmination all the work Rush had done up to that point. The band would take a radical new direction with their next album, but their early progressive metal period ended on the best possible note.
For many fans of progressive rock, the genre is the absolute pinnacle of sheer musical prowess, at least in the confines of rock music. This is a fact that not many will argue against. Progressive rock pushes the limits of rock to extremes that were not even imaginable before its establishment and bar a few exceptions, still haven’t been achieved in other rock sub-genres. Taking this into account, shouldn’t the greatest creations in progressive rock be the most revolutionary pieces in rock itself? To a large extent, this fact holds. Be it Jethro Tull’s Aqualung with its rustic, folk feel or ELP’s Tarkus which is every keyboard player’s ‘dream-come-true’ album or even Pink Floyd’s The Wall, the big daddy of all concept albums; progressive rock beasts tend to go down as genre shaking pieces of music. In this regard, Moving Pictures is the odd one out from the pack. There is no denying its influence on future progressive rock and metal groups but revolutionary it was not. In fact, it isn’t even the most progressive in Rush’s discography, yet there aren’t many who argue its greatness. The reason for that is the general creative intelligence of the songs present on it and more importantly, the fact that this album marks the one occasion when Rush got the formula of technical genius and accessibility just right.
The album preceding it, Permanent Waves, was Rush’s first attempt at simplifying their sound for the masses. The end result was a good album which nonetheless didn’t sound like typical Rush. Now, Rush had never been the most complex songwriters; their music always retained a certain commercial feel which was in part responsible for them being so popular in the first place. But Permanent Waves was a bit simple when seen in context with the albums preceding it and although they pulled it off quite well, I always found that album a bit weak relative to albums like ‘Hemispheres’ or ‘2112’. The album was more like a heterogeneous mix of ‘progressiveness’ and commercial simplicity, with large bits of both which the band failed to powder and assimilate properly. Moving Pictures also has a heavy commercial touch to it but this time it has been blended wonderfully with the technicality and ‘progressiveness’ that made Rush so special in the first place. When you listen to it for the first time it doesn’t challenge you, it’s easy to follow and enjoy. But as you delve deeper and give the album more plays, you realize that things aren’t as straightforward as they seem. What seems like a simple melody at first turns out to be a complex interplay between the bass, guitar and drums with the keyboards thrown in at times. Certain songs will threaten to break into the simple verse-chorus-verse formula and then may proceed to awe you with a what-the-fuck-just-happened styled bass line or a drum breakdown or even a keyboard solo emerging out of nowhere. Imagine it like a painting you’ll see in the Louvre, simple and not extraordinary for the usual visitor but the art connoisseur will see the sensibility hidden in the simplicity. Similarly, this album also unveils itself to you, as it is given more and more plays. Yet, it is quite a simple album to ‘get into’ even if you don’t like progressive rock.
Now, this album is universally considered the perfect Rush album to start with, a fact that I will not try to refute. It captures the basic Rush sound perfectly, although in a much simpler than usual form. So, I think a description of the aforementioned sound will not look out of place for a review of this album. Since, their sophomore album, which saw Neil Peart’s addition to the band, Rush have based their song structures around Peart’s tight drumming. The drumwork featured on Rush albums is some of the best I have heard in prog rock and there aren’t many drummers who can touch the mastery shown by Neil and he does all this without eating up the other instruments’ parts. The bass and guitar both take the lead and seem to go in totally different directions. You’ll rarely find the bass ‘following’ the guitar and vice-versa, yet all of this stays completely coherent. Lifeson rotates between pulling out clear cut riffs and creating a melodic wall of guitar, each put to ample use depending on the song and moment. The best part about Rush is the fact that none of the three instruments seem to be stealing the other’s thunder. On the longer songs, you can observe bass solos and even drum solos, in addition to the guitar solos which Lifeson is pretty good at conjuring up.
The above formula has been slightly simplified on this album. Well the first change is the presence of keyboards. Older Rush albums didn’t feature a lot of keyboard work other than the odd addition now and then, which was also done merely to enhance the mood of the song. On this album, the keyboards play an important as seen on the Rush classic Tom Sawyer. Neil Peart’s drumming here is still incredibly tight. The word virtuoso will not be a wrong description for his skills as a drummer. The most important thing is that he knows how to restrain himself, so his drumming never becomes overbearing. You will not see him miss a beat and the rhythm changes following the time signatures are quite smooth. Not that there are a lot of time signatures on this album but the odd feel that is usually accompanies them is a bit subdued here. Depending on how you perceive your prog rock, it can either be great or disappointing for you. Of course, you can belong to the third category like me who enjoys both in equal degree. The guitar retains the rich, melodic feel unique to Rush and there are some great guitar solos here. That typical wall of guitar sound is still there but with the addition of more riff based parts. Unlike older Rush albums, there is no use of the acoustic guitar in any of the songs (if there is, then at least it is not obvious to untrained ears like mine).
The importance of bass as the lead instrument has been greatly curtailed on this album. No bass solos or bass only intros for you; I think this can be attributed to the fact that Lee takes on the keyboard duties as well. The keyboard parts eat up the few moments which would have instead seen the bass taking the leads from the guitars but that isn’t really a huge problem because the keyboard work is great and not excessively technical unlike what you’ll expect in an ELP or DT song. The vocal style unique to Lee is a yet another factor that sets Rush apart from other bands, progressive or otherwise. His voice has an incredibly warm feel to it, which is amplified by fact that he is a bit nasal. Lee’s range is quite wide, although he sometimes grates a bit when suddenly shifting from the lower to the higher notes. Now, the vocals are one Rush aspect which is an acquired taste, a lot of my friends don’t seem to warm up to Geddy’s vocals. Although considering the fact this review is most probably being read by a metalhead, the odd vocals should not be a problem. A lot of metal singers have really weird vocals, compared to them; Geddy is as accessible as a pop singer. His approach here is considerably softer than the one on 'Hemispheres' or 'A Farewell to the Kings' with no screaming parts to be heard. I personally consider this album to be his best work on the microphone.
Moving Pictures speak a million words. This title for the review has not been given without thought. Eyes are considered the most vital of the 5 senses. A lot of times, you have to see a thing to truly appreciate or hate it. More explanatory than words, a mere picture can convey what a thousand words can’t. In this regard, the sense of sound is not far behind. Good music has the ability to please not only the ears but the eye as well. Maybe it’s the mind’s eye that I am talking about but a lot of songs have the ability to invoke images in our minds that not even our actual eyes can perceive. Be it dark ambient that can create both an oppressive atmosphere as well as a calm surrounding around you or power metal that can make even a silent introvert feel like a broad sword wielding medieval warrior, music has the ability to stimulate the senses like no other medium. This album takes that idea and builds on it. Every tiny detail has a meaning, the keyboard intro to Tom Sawyer, the chorus to Limelight and the sound of shattering glass in YYZ all fill in the general scheme and unless you are musically impaired this album will make you see things. Remember that if a mere picture can speak a thousand words than Moving Pictures can SCREAM a million.
The song Tom Sawyer features a futuristic keyboard intro and has an overall cold feel that builds the images of today’s world gone astray, a world where man is mean and thinks only of himself. The song is quite possibly the most popular Rush song and is one of my personal favorites as well. Red Barchetta, the second longest song on the album has a very simple structure for a prog rock song of its length and is one of the inferior tracks of the album but fortunately, it still gets the job done. YYZ is a super technical instrumental that strives to destroy any other instrumentals known to metalheadkind. The calm intro lulls the listener and once you drop your guard, all the instruments jump at you together. The thundering drum work and the heavy riffs on this song make this song a prime candidate for distinction as the first true prog metal song. The song is also the most technically as well as structurally complex one on the album, even more so than the 10 min epic which appears later. The song Limelight talks about the pains and pleasures of being in the ‘limelight’. Another one of my favorites, this song has a warm feel to it, which contrasts the cool elusiveness of Tom Sawyer. The Camera Eye is the last one of the Rush epics as the band did not put such long tracks on future albums. The song has some great guitar solos and after the 2 min prelude, song has a compact structure. The movements of tracks like 2112 and Xanadu are nowhere to be seen. Witch Hunt paints a grim image of the past, which is colored deeper by Geddy Lee’s vocals. Although I personally consider this song slightly weaker than the rest but it still achieves the purpose of creating a rich atmosphere I mentioned in the previous paragraph, quite well. Vital Signs is a surprisingly catchy song and ends the album on a high note. It also features the best bass lines of the album; the keyboard couldn’t eat up all of them.
A lot of bands falter and some fall face first when they try to change their sound. Some do it efficiently but kill themselves later (Enter essential Metallica comparison here). Rush are not like that, as I said before this album portrays a band undergoing change. The song Red Barchetta is 6 min long yet has a simple structure, even more so than Tom Sawyer. Vital Signs is another song which belongs more to the hard rock genre than prog rock. This still shouldn’t be much of a surprise because the aforementioned changes weren’t abrupt; Rush had made it clear with Permanent Waves that they are simplifying their sound and this album is the logical continuation of the idea. Keep this in mind that for all its simplicity the album is still a prog rock album and a very good one at that. YYZ alone bangs this fact home for those who think otherwise. I deducted a bit from the overall score because the track Witch Hunt didn’t appeal to me as much as the other reviewers. Maybe, I just don’t like the grim side of Rush. Also, Red Barchetta was a bit underwhelming. If you are a newbie to both prog rock and Rush, this album is the perfect starting point for you. If you are an old timer refusing to give this a chance, well stop being a brickhead and buy this as soon as you can. If you are just a metalhead who stumbled on this page by mistake, then you have made a great mistake. Moving Pictures is without much doubt the best heavy prog album I have heard and is recommended to anyone who just likes music, even if he has no interest in even trying prog rock.
Highlights : Tom Sawyer, YYZ, Limelight, Vital Signs
When someone tells you that they hear this album played everywhere, they are correct in the sense that they probably mean it, which is that most of these songs are radio mainstays despite the objections of throngs of cynical, asinine critics. However, the permeation of this album is twice so for those who followed the progressive metal album that was ushered in during the late 80s by the likes of Queensryche, Fates Warning and Dream Theater. Although each chose to emulate the sound of this album in different ways, the character of these songs can be readily extracted from such important releases as “When Dream and Day Unite”, “Rage for Order” and “Perfect Symmetry”.
Rush has always exhibited a duality of complexity and accessibility, and here the band achieves the most balanced combination of the two. Ordinarily it would be unheard of for a song such as “Tom Sawyer” with its complex rhythmic or “Red Barchetta” with its quirky harmonic passages to enjoy such notoriety and regular radio play, but with the right combination of hooks and the needed symmetry in the song’s structure the band seems to scoff at the notion that all of the best songs contain a cliché melody and a repetitive background. Even would be simple songs like the riff happy rocker “Limelight” and the quasi-reggae “Vital Signs” make use of relevant lyrics and meshing of styles to disprove the notion that mainstream acceptance comes with the acceptance of musical shallowness.
The overall production and the mixing of the album is the very definition of sonic tightness. Although most would ordinarily question the concept of having a guitar tone that meshes together so well with the synthesizers employed to bolster the arrangement, Alex Lifeson’s tone during his solos sometimes accomplish this, particularly the seemingly improvised “Limelight” solo and the more methodical lead break on “Tom Sawyer”. The most aggressive tone is found on YYZ, which is probably the most musical sounding technical display instrumental I’ve heard out of a band in either the rock or prog. metal umbrellas. Geddy Lee and Neil Peart continue to showcase the impressive feats of skill without taking away from the continuity of the arrangement, a trap that many progressive bands fall into.
Often known for their longwinded rock epics, Rush has also included a break from the accessibility tendencies of the rest of the album in the 10 minutes plus “The Camera Eye”. It goes through the usual contrasting sections of easy going keyboard ambiences and harder edged guitar driven ones, while maintaining the same synchronicity of the arrangement. The only real flaw in this rather impressive opus is that it takes too long to get going and doesn’t present any instrumental feats until a guitar solo just a minute short of the end of the entire song. Part of the problem lies in that the band set such a large precedent for itself with the ambitious and towering “2112” epic and the unavoidable comparisons between it and the band’s subsequent epics will rear its head for any listener familiar with that album.
But speaking from a personal standpoint, the most relevant song on here also proves to be one of the band’s most underrated songs. “Witch Hunt” provides a simple subject matter in the lyrics, delving into the darkness of the witch trials of Salem, a favorite subject for many NWOBHM acts as well. However, the music contained within is probably one of the greatest yet likely unintentional displays of traditional doom metal I’ve heard. The atmosphere at the beginning is so spooky it rivals the dark pictures put forth on the Black Sabbath self-titled song, while the low end chords that build the body of the song carry a slight similarity to the Dio-era classic “Sign of the Southern Cross”, and might have had a somewhat indirect influence on the latter as well given the 10 month split between the release dates of the two albums. Geddy Lee’s vocal delivery is also in top form, avoiding any extremes in high and low and simply giving a somber and narrator-like approach to the word delivery.
Although the addiction that many classic rock stations have to playing most of the songs on here, this would be a worthwhile purchase for the fact that the two on here that don’t enjoy as much play are more than adequate for the value of the album. Likewise, you get to experience the full scale of the work put into this towering work without some hack disk jockey trying to put his own thoughts on one of the songs into words before spinning some overplayed Zepplin or Lynard Skynard song. I would put this one in a very close second behind “2112” in terms of albums to get by the band if you’re new to them. But for those of you who quake about how amazing “Images and Words” is, this is the album that likely made that one possible.
Hell of an album. The first song, Tom Sawyer, well... We've all heard it. We're all familiar with the synthesized bass note opening it's way into a pretty hard rocking commercial tune.
Then comes Red Barchetta. By God, this song is a ballad of sorts, in the floaty, light way it begins, and the song itself is a love song about a car, and a song about enjoying time with ones uncle, in a futuristic setting where driving is outlawed. Great riffs, great, audible bass, and great, subtle drumwork. The vocals are just what one is to expect from Geddy Lee.
YYZ is a godlike instrumental, pacing it's way quickly through near impossible riffage, scaling, and crunching. Quite fun to hear, and definitely fun to see live.
Limelight is an amazing tune, not only because of the 7/8 time signature dominant in most of the song, but because of the solo, and the general feeling of the song as a whole.
The Camera Eye begins with a synthesized intro that reminds me of the soundtrack to Dawn of the Dead. The song reaches its true beginning at about 1:31. It's a pretty good song, utilizing that special synthesizer in a way that makes this very track unique. Much is touched on throughout the song, as far as tempo, signature, and sound is concerned. Amazing changes.
Witch Hunt is BY FAR, my favorite Rush song. This song is amazingly creepy, yet beautiful. The haunting synthesizers, the chimes in the beginning, the sound of wind fading into the sounds of a mob (it's actually just the band drinking outside the studio layered on top of each other), and the drums that sound like a march, all segue into the most grim riff imaginable from such a band. The time signatures are impressive, as it is almost impossible to discern what time signature they are in at any given time. The lyrics are amazing, and delivered well by Geddy Lee.
Vital Signs sounds quite poppy. A shock that it was not one of them played on the radio.
All around, an amazing album.
In a catalog of great releases, and a dynasty of innovative and epic moments, Moving Pictures enters the unsuspecting musical marketplace of the 80’s and goes off like a shrapnel grenade, destroying the status quo, ripping apart perceptions, and shaking the foundation of rock. Only the blistering attack of 2112 operates at the same level, competing with this on its own terms. It’s the kind of release that fires up fans, turns the heads of casual listeners, and earns the grumbled recognition of critics. Timeless and yet here in the now, this is the Rush album. Rush’s discography is home to many a fine song, a number of which are better than what is found on this album, but no one album succeeds in being the complete package that isMoving Pictures.
The music is the most heavily guitar driven sound from the band, past or present. Not that this is heavy metal, for it is not, it is hard rock, but still distinct for its weighty axe work. The keyboards are still on there inevitable march towards dominance, but still a background player on this release. The percussion is the technical attack that only Peart can deliver, evolving herein to be so much more than and integral to the structure of the songs, yet never more than what is needed. Lee’s bass work is officially the poster child of how to make the instrument relevant, being more than a member of the rhythm section. These two alone underscore the weakness of many others in this department, who think rhythm is nothing more than a necessary if formulaic participant in making a well crafted catchy tune; then failing to do with 100 percent effort what Peart and Lee do as an after thought. And Lifeson is all over this thing like a brilliant mad axe-man, chops cleaving a path for the ages. In a catalog of great guitar moments, past and present, here he sets the bar. The man is on fire with countless great solos, all works of art in their own right, his sound ranging from light to heavy but always passionate and intense.
“Tom Sawyer” is the inevitable focal point, the single that put the guys on the map, Rush’s most recognized song amongst casual listeners. It’s a great song, and a showcase of enough progressive elements in four minuets and thirty-seven seconds to send even the most hardened technical critic into progasms. It is also the most overplayed song in the group’s discography, which is a shame. Second most overplayed song would be “Limelight”, with its introspection on the intrusion of success being cast over great driving guitar work (And one of the catchiest riffs from the band). Hopefully you haven’t been oversaturated with these two to the point of tuning them out, for they are both excellent. And if you have been killed on these two, then at least check out “Limelight” again for Lifeson’s solo (2:37). It is certainly one of his best.
The rest of the album is a roll call of great musical moments: “Red Barchetta” is an outright classic song, the story of a Sunday afternoon drive in a world were the automobile has been banned (Actually based on a story by author Richard S. Foster). The lyrics flow smoothly, the music rising and falling to portray the story with cinematic grace. This is how progressive music works on the highest order, when music and lyrics combine to give all the technical excellence a purpose. “Witch Hunt” explores the darker side of mob mentalities and musically represents the dark subject matter perfectly. Lifeson wields his guitar in evil strokes not seen elsewhere in the group’s entire discography, his guitar melting into Peart’s lyrics to the point of chills. “YYZ” competes with “La Villa Strangiato” as best instrumental by the band, this one being more concise and driving than “La Villa” but lacking the others gravitas at times. Notable fun fact for you guitar players, the riff pattern at the beginning is Morse code for those same letters.
Final song note, fans of epic songs will need to take in the “Camera Eye”, for it is the last of the longer Rush “Epics”. An eleven minute suite in two parts, the first representing New York, the other London, it is a flowing piece of cinematic musical magic. Much like this album it is a lush fusion of sounds, polished smooth into a purposeful whole, while still edgy enough to be driven by guitars. Lifeson brings home another great solo to end the piece as well.
Don’t let actual radio play and counter sales get in the way of giving this a spin, for this is a success despite such bravado. One of the few times that critics and platinum sales get it right, for once doing the job they were intended, for even a broken clock is still right twice a day after all. Simply put, this is one of the greatest hard rock albums to be etched into vinyl. For once, you can believe the hype.
Easily one of the highlights of Rush's three decade career, the quite successful Moving Pictures album displays the most cohesive fusion of their progressive rock roots and the atmospheric synthesizer layerings that would begin dominating the band's sound immediately after this album. Say what you will of their career afterwards, this album is a staple in the collections of progressive rock fans and contains some of the band's finest work to date.
The band themselves are at their prime here. Getty Lee generally refrains from utilizing his soaring falsetto, but his voice still sparkles with that timeless energy that hasn't faded since the first album. His bass sounds magnificent and his playing is as fluid as ever. Neal Peart always aims to please and he almost outdoes himself on this record. His drumwork is ever-changing and technically impressive, but his lyrics outshine his playing. Expressive poetry in motion that even the most intellectual of progressive acts today cannot top. This is the last album before Alex Lifeson would take a backseat in the mix, and listening to this album really makes you wonder why. His solos are fiery and his rhythm work is perfect, possibly his best performance on a Rush album up to date. But what is performance if the songwriting suffers? That's not even a point of consideration here, as the songwriting is just as outstanding as the musicianship.
The magic of "Tom Sawyer" rocks out as strong as it ever has, despite some wear from rock radio overplaying it. One of the first hit Rush tracks to be primarily synth and vocally driven, it sets a precedent for opening tracks on their next few albums. "Red Barchetta" still stands as one of their most moving numbers, with classic lyrics and incredible melody lines. "Yyz" is often used as a basis for comparison with modern prog instrumentals, simply because it's technical, it effectively showcases all aspects of the band's sound without showboating, and it's damned catchy. The only thing I can hold against this album is that it falters as it nears the end. The songs on the first half are so awesome that the second half pales in comparison. Not that these are bad songs; "The Camera Eye" is a great epic track. It's just that the album loses just enough momentum to render its ending far less memorable than its start.
Regardless, this is essential as far as Rush albums go and a reasonable argument could be made to declare it the best. That'll likely be contested until the sun burns out, but you won't hear anybody calling this mediocre. Easily accesible to any progressive fan.
Rush's MOVING PICTURES is a brief trip but an amazing one. The band for the most part broke free of the big epic pieces with this album's prequel PERMANENT WAVES and this one, but songcraft is king on the album. Synthesizers work their way in, but not as many as on the band's other 80s albums like SIGNALS. The overall sound is one of pure musicianship and technical skill, but one that still captures the ear with catchiness. This album also spawned three hit radio singles, which is incredible, since there are only seven total songs.
1. Tom Sawyer- The band's biggest hit starts off the album. Drum god Neil Peart steps it back a notch to give Geddy Lee's bass, keyboard, and vocals the spotlight, while Lifeson plays a convincingly enough classic rock guitar, even when he isn't programmed for such a categorization. The lyric is the tale of a character who is every bit a rebel as the true Tom Sawyer, hence the title.
2. Red Barchetta- This song is quite the interesting one. The soundtrack is light, airy, Blind Guardian-inspiring, and downright poppy, but the lyrics are a surreal, government-stabbing horror story of how in the future we will be so programmed by the powers that be that the car will be outlawed, and simply driving one will be a terrible crime. There may be no monsters, ghouls, or witches, but make no mistake: this is modern-day horror. Neil proves how he can explore the human mind and discover what worries us most, and this is some of his best work this side of 2112.
3. YYZ- The band's quintessential instrumental takes its spot as a daring track three. It starts as a bit of a scale exercise aided by the precision drumming of Peart, but we see that the twisted minds behind Rush have made is something so much more. The guitarwork is insane, and the miniature bass solos throughout are enough to send Steve Harris and Geezer Butler into the fetal position. The listener soon discovers that the overall purpose of this bustling four-and-a-half minuter is Rush proving that they are the most tight-knit and technically skilled unit ever to grace our headphones, speakers, and music collections.
4. Limelight- This hit song takes its place as my favorite on the album (though it is just about impossible to truly choose just one). The intro guitar riff is Alex in full-on rock star mode, legs spread into a power stance and eyes intent on his destiny. What makes this song so cool is that all this rock starriness is abandoned come solo time, which combines elements of progressive rock, classic rock, metal, progressive metal (his forte), reggae, and jazz. This sort of uncategorizability is what truly categorizes Rush, not just Lifeson. The lyric is Neil being artsy again, suggesting that all the world is a stage and we are merely each another's audience. He also writes a classic rock staple: the tale of a band who just has it too damn good. So good, in fact, that living in the limelight becomes a burden. All these things melt together to create the greatest hit the band has recorded, and certainly this album's best song.
5. The Camera Eye- While the band may have sworn off epics, this ten minute song begs to differ. The synthesizers that would appear more throughout the first half of the 80s Rush records appear in the most abundance here of anywhere on the album. The band also reuse an element from the great big conceptual pieces of their 70s work, that being dividing a long song into parts. The song may be long, but it has purpose. It won't go down as one of their great epics, but don't write it off as bad. That would be wrong of you.
6. Witch Hunt- Alex Lifeson again displays his versatility and variety by playing some of the most doomy and sinister guitar ever to fall from a 1981 guitar, and pretty damn convincing too. This song is the first in a reverse order series called "Fear". The lyrics showcase political and humane horror as does track two, this time in a more understandable, mainstream, and less deep way: the witch hunts of Salem in the colonial times. The lyrics point out just how horrible mankind can be if he puts his mind to it. 'Tis a theme that ne'er fails, and helps us all feel a little better about ourselves, if not giving us a long hard look in the mirror.
7. Vital Signs- This was the band's "last minute" song for this album, something they had on every album, said they in Martin Popoff's CONTENTS UNDER PRESSURE: 30 YEARS OF RUSH AT HOME AND AWAY, a book that I would strongly recommend to absolutely any Rush fan. But as with most all of these last-minute Rush songs, it sounds anything but rushed. The lyrical artfulness of Neil is too high for even me to decode, save for the fairly universal line: "Everybody got to elevate from the norm.", one that Geddy repeats extremely well throughout the song's winding down. Keyboards reappear in nearly the abundance of The Camera Eye, but never are turned away due to Geddy's masterful and modest use of them. No one should complain about this as a closer, either. It fits where they put it.
Ahh, yes, this was the album that got me seriously listening to the loveable Canuckleheads known as Rush. Every aspect of this album is perfect, and critics be damned for calling them pretentious, less discriminating fans can blow me for calling them humorless and boring.
Terry Brown's production was sterling for the time, every instrument laid out nice and clean for all to hear, yet rich, full, and possessed of the depth that analog recording can give best. And it shows that Rush had really hit their stride as musicians and songwriters, streamlining their approach from the sometimes unwieldy epics of their beginnings to more accessible songs that still maintained their superior musicianship. While the songs here are more radio-friendly, the playing still is as good as it gets in rock or metal without becoming self-indulgent masturbation (are you listening, Dream Theater, etc.?). The songs are perfect in their construction too, always catchy, always involving, always mesmerizing.
Neil Peart's brilliant wordsmithing and death defying drum work are top notch as always, and it bears mentioning that Alex Lifeson is a criminally underrated guitarist too. He shreds, crunches, and lays down all manner of textures all over this album, complimenting always the other players while he's at it. Geddy Lee is one of the all time rock bass gods, and it always amazes me how me manages to pull off sometimes doing three things at once onstage (singing, bass guitar or bass pedals, and keyboards!). His tone is thick, gritty and growling, a constant punchy undercurrent beneath the guitars and riffing right along with delicious complexity--no droning pedal tones for Mr. Lee, never. Those eldritch wails of his are unique, to say the least, too. "Moving Pictures" delivers the goods and how.
My favorite songs on here...well, OK, I do like "Tom Sawyer", great album opener, but I really dig "The Camera Eye" for its relentless driving feel and its slow buildup to that uptempo verse. I also really like "Witch Hunt" for its eerie intro and timely lyrics that remain true today, and chalk up another brilliant instrumental victory for "YYZ"--that main riff after the intro is bloody impossible! "Limelight" is a great song with intelligent (of course) lyrics about fame and its price, and the drumming is superhuman from start to finish. And "Red Barchetta" really shines too. Aw, hell, I love the whole album, but those are my personal picks, the best of a beautiful lot.
They grew steadily more ambient and textural, not to mention more accessible after this album, during the 80s, but I'm glad that they seem to have gone back more to the sound they had on albums like this in their current direction. And can it be ever said that Rush have ever released a crappy album? I think not, myself. "Moving Pictures" is a meisterwerk, a product of a band confident and assured in and of their writing and playing.
Sure, critics may have panned Rush during their three decades of output, but what do critics know? "Moving Pictures" is definitely ranked in my top three Rush albums, and for a good reason. A perfect balance is struck between the hard rock tendencies of earlier albums and the more electronic influenced experimentalism that they would eventually come to be known for.
With Rush you get three proficient musicians that aren't afraid to push the limits of what this genre has to offer. Geddy Lee's bass playing is top notch, while his high pitched vocals are an acquired taste at best. Alex Lifeson is one of the finest guitarists to emerge from the 70s/80s, and this album is a definite indicator of that. Last but not least, every modern drummer can kiss Neil Peart's ass for all I care. A great lyricist and an astounding drummer? Count me in.
Standout tracks on this album include "Limelight", "Tom Sawyer", and the concert favorite "YYZ". Dream Theater should be ashamed of showing their Rush fanboyism with the song "YTSE Jam", but I'll save that for another time.
In closing, you could easily find this album for less than ten dollars, and you should get it if you consider yourself a fan of Prog Rock, or any form of rock for that matter.