Rush- Moving Pictures

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Rush- Moving Pictures

Post by Mr007 on Sun 30 Oct 2011 - 9:39

Rush Moving Pictures- 1981
RMR Album Rating- 10

For me, “Moving Pictures” is the absolute pinnacle of Rush music. It is one of the greatest album releases of all time, and it is without question— my favorite album of all time.

First, let’s take a look at the billboard charts— an area that Rush has never completely dominated. When “Moving Pictures” was released in 1981, it peaked at number-3 on the Billboard album charts, and by 1995 it had gone quadruple platinum (that’s over 4-million albums sold and counting, not bad for a so called “cult band”). However, what might be more impressive is that in 2011 (30-years after its release), Rush re-released the album in a remastered 5.1 audiophile stereo version, and it re-entered the Billboard charts at number-137 (eventually peaking at #51 during the week of April 23rd). Granted, that’s significantly lower than its original position, but this is 30-years after its original release. There were no additional songs added to the new release— just improved sound. An album re-entering the billboard charts after 30-years just doesn’t typically happen; it’s just not normal, unless your Rush, and your fans are rabid audiophiles that are willing to jump at the chance to hear their favorite album of all time with better sound quality.

The 30th anniversary of “Moving Pictures” also motivated Rush to embark on tour to support the release of the album, and they played “Moving Pictures” in its entirety as the second set of the 3+ hour show. The tour was a massive success, and they sold out stadiums in every major city in the US. I saw the sold out show at The Boston Garden, Madison Square Garden, and a few other venues, and I can personally say that the atmosphere around Rush during those shows was amazing and much of the excitement from the fans came from the opportunity to hear all of “Moving Pictures” live.

But, it’s not just album sales, chart positions, and tour successes that make “Moving Pictures cool website designs” Rush’s greatest triumph. The key to the album is its sound. “Moving Pictures” absolutely defines Rush’s signature sound.

So, how does “Moving Pictures” sound?

It sounds completely unique, and the texture of the instrumentation, lyrics, and vocals are woven so tightly throughout the fabric of every song that it’s just mind blowing. Every note, lyric, and vocal is simply perfect. “Moving Pictures” is an album where the songs make the album, and the album makes the songs; therefore, each song is enjoyable as a stand-alone track, but the album also flows so well together that it is hard to stop listening after just one song. Lastly, “Moving Pictures” is a very timeless and label-less album. Is it Progressive? Is it new-wave? Is it straight forward rock? Is it metal? Is it all of the above, some of the above, or none of the above? All in all, it doesn’t really matter, and it doesn’t need a label— it is just hypnotizing great.

All the songs, as mentioned, are incredible, but “Tom Sawyer,” “Red Barchetta,” and “The Camera Eye” rise above the rest for me.

Let’s start with “Tom Sawyer,” which is arguable Rush’s most Iconic song. It’s not my favorite Rush song, but I do consider it their most iconic song. As evidence of this, you have the unmistakable iconic synth opening. Then, Geddy’s vocals are sung in his iconicly high-pitched vocal style that is sure to polarize listeners with a love/ hate opinion of the song. Alex’s main guitar riff is so inventive and heavy that it set the stage for copycat rockers in all types of bands, most notably thrash-metal rockers Metallica, who used the same riff and paid homage to “Tom Sawyer” in their song “Sanitarium” on their 1986 release- “Master of Puppets” (more on that later). Then you have the drumming, which is incredibly complex, and Neil has said on many occasions that every time he plays the song live, he feels a sense of accomplishment because it is so difficult to execute. Lastly, you have some of Rush’s most iconic lyrics, which are completely timeless and are just as relevant today as they were in 1981.The song is really about rebellion and standing up against authority, so Tom Sawyer is a fitting central character— in that he was one of the most iconic rebels in all of literature. Lyrically, the verse that resonates with me the most is the character’s stance on authority, and Rush’s anti-authority lyrics are epitomized in the verse stating that “though his mind is not for rent/ to any god or government/ always hopeful, but discontent/ and no changes are permanent/ but, change is.” Tom Sawyer is Rush’s most well known song for good reason, and it is certainly iconic in every way.

I also mentioned “Red Barchetta” as a stand out. It was inspired by an early 1970’s article in “Road and Track” magazine. The article was about a futuristic time where certain cars were outlawed, and “Red Barchetta” depicts this plot. I read somewhere that “Red Barchetta” was originally intended to be a 20-minute (side-long) epic piece, but it was distilled down to a shorter format for the album. The song really climaxes in its final lyrical verses, which depict the chase and escape sequence of the outlaw driver. Here are the lyrics:

[INDENT]“Suddenly ahead of me/ across the mountainside/ a gleaming alloy air-car/ shoots towards me, two lanes wide/ I spin around with shrieking tires/ to run the deadly race/
go screaming through the valley/ as another joins the chase/ Drive like the wind/ straining the limits of machine and man/ laughing out loud/ with fear and hope, I’ve got a desperate plan/ at the one-lane bridge/ I leave the giants stranded at the riverside/ race back to the farm, to dream with my uncle at the fireside”[/INDENT]

These lyrics paired with the music make the section of the song one of the most exciting sections of the album, and I’ve always been able to clearly visualize the whole chase scene unfolding in my mind.

The other track that really stands out above all else is “The Camera Eye,” which is Rush’s last true epic piece, and the last track in their catalog to clock in over the 10-minute mark. Although it is often criminally overlooked by fans, it ranks as one of Rush’s all-time best pieces of music, and it is also one of my favorites. It represents the best of their past and future music all in one package: it has enough classical instrumentation (especially Alex’s guitar) to reflect their earlier albums and epic songs, but it also incorporates great synth sections, which look forward to their new style of music. The theme of the song gives observation to how awe inspiring big cities are, while also pointing out how the people that live in these cities become “oblivious” to their surroundings and ultimately take them for granted. The two cities represented are in the song are NYC and London. In terms of sound, the song starts with a synth intro, and then Alex’s main guitar theme kicks in, which has a rising and falling tone to it, and it is absolutely my favorite Rush guitar sequence of the entire Rush catalog. Geddy’s vocal delivery of the lyrics is the other major hook of the song. My favorite lyrical passage, which I think categorically epitomizes Rush’s signature sound, is the section where Geddy describes London through the photographer’s perspective as a “Wide-angle watcher/ On life’s ancient tales/ Steeped in the history of London/ Green and grey washes/ In a wispy white veil/ Mist in the streets of Westminster/ Wistful and weathered/ The pride still prevails/ Alive in the streets of the city.” All the words and sounds of that verse just flow together seamlessly, and the result gives me chills every time I hear the song. All in all, a fantastic song that far exceeds perfection.

In addition to “Tom Sawyer,” “Red Barchetta,” and “The Camera Eye,” you have four other tracks that are also easily 10-star songs. The instrumental “YYZ,” was nominated for a Grammy and has been covered by many bands such as Primus, Foo Fighters, and Muse. “Limelight” closes side-one, and along with “Tom Sawyer,” it was the other big single from the album. Its theme portrays the band (especially Neil Peart) coming to terms with their new found fame. “Witch Hunt,” the penultimate track on the album, is unique in that it is based around a very haunting theme. The song was composed by Alex, and it is rooted in one of his most powerful guitar tones on the album. It also climaxes with one of Rush’s most telling lyrical verses, stating that we are often “quick to judge/ quick to anger/ slow to understand/ ignorance and prejudice/ and we walk hand and hand.” Then, on the closing track, Rush delivers the synth driven “Vital Signs,” which makes for a support live conclusion to the album, in that it foreshadows the sound that would dominate their next few albums.

It is well known that Rush’s music absolutely polarizes listeners, meaning that you either love them or hate them. I understand, accept, and even like this fact about Rush. The fact that I hear things in their music that other people don’t hear draws me into their music even more; it is like belonging to a secret society of discerning listeners, and our society doesn’t let everyone in. At least, that’s the way I see it, and if Rush fans are in a society of discerning listeners, then “Moving Pictures” is the society’s sacred doctrine.

Post Script:
I recently found myself in a music conversation at a wedding. The guy I was chatting with was knocking Rush, and his wife commented that she wasn’t even familiar with Rush. He cited “Tom Sawyer” as an example, which he described negatively as typical 80’s rock. Trying to keep a tone of politeness, I asked him what bands he liked, to which he responded Metallica, and he cited his favorite album as “Master of Puppets” (a great album by the way).

Bringing the conversation back to Rush and “Tom Sawyer,” I asked him what he thought of the guitar parts in “Tom Sawyer,” and he responded that he had never noticed them. I then asked him what he thought of the song “Sanitarium” off “Master of Puppets.” Of course he responded that he loved the song. I then had to break the news to him that the main guitar riff from “Sanitarium” is the same riff made famous by Rush on “Tom Sawyer”. It got a chuckle from his wife, but I don’t think he believed me, and that was about it for the conversation. Most Rush fans already know that piece of trivia, but if you didn’t, check it out. Metallica even thanks Rush for the riff in the liner notes of “Puppets”. The riff starts at 11- seconds in Tom Sawyer, and at 4:06 in “Sanitarium,” and it’s awesome to hear Hammett put his thrash touch on the already amazing riff.


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