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Moving Pictures

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  • This rightfully deserves its reputation as a top Rush album, if not the best effort in a sizeable catalogue. Moving Pictures falls square in between the hard, progressive rock of their 70s concept albums and their later alternative sound with its embrace of synthesizers. There are synths, but they’re worked in to accent the music here. With Signals, the 1982 followup, Rush would take on a more layered, synth-heavy sound where Alex Lifeson’s guitar would serve more as color work, or even disappear into the mix later in the decade. This album is concise, and the vinyl was programmed perfectly. With only seven tracks, there is no weakness here, and the first side features one famed piece after another. Side one opens with perhaps the band’s most famous single, Tom Sawyer. The synth sound accents the hard riffs in this cynical ode to rebellion and individualism. Red Barchetta is a total fan favorite and live staple about a young man’s weekly tradition of racing his uncle’s old hot rod. YYZ is a funky instrumental that is also a live staple and instantly recognizable with its ride cymbal opening. Then Limelight brings it home with its deep, fat riffs in a song about the concept of fame (hence the title.) The old second side is more cerebral, I think. Camera Eye is an 10+ minute epic, the last of its kind for the band. The music is phenomenol–this doesn’t feel as long as it really is. Part of that is due to the structure of the song–it’s split into two considerations of ‘the city’. First it’s New York, then London, talking about the hustle and bustle and the lives people have in these crowded spaces. The track is contemplative rock, highlighted by warm synths and excellent riffing. Then comes Witch Hunt, a superb track. It opens dark and menacing, the sounds of a colonial witch hunt (locals ranting and raving with imagery of pitchforks and torches) over an eerie synth. The song is monstrous–it opens up with Geddy’s wailing and more synths, and Neil Peart’s ridiculous fills. The whole album comes to a close with the tense but controlled Vital Signs, featuring more effective synth work, more contemplative lyrics. Rush has always been a thinking man’s rock group, going beyond the call of duty of rock to provide something of substance in a mass market field. They don’t churn out tired love songs or whining odes to the misery of life. And how many groups can get away with lines like `faces are twisted and grotesque’? Rush never makes the top of the charts, they don’t make many videos, they don’t live like decadent rock stars (though the guitarist had a particularly rock-star New Year’s Eve incident turn ugly), they don’t create controversy to mask a lack of talent, they don’t resort to tricks or gimmicks. The Rush remasters are very welcome, though the more valuable releases are the earlier ones that were recorded in analog. (Rush actually started going to digital recording pretty early.) It’s interesting to listen to the new and then the old, and compare how the mix has changed. The traditionally crisp sound of the band is enhanced with the remasters and is clearer than ever. You can usually find them a bit cheaper than most new retail discs, though you may want to pick and choose your favorite Rush albums to upgrade.

    Posted on February 24, 2010