Rush has created some of the best classics of heavy prog; here is a prime example "Moving Pictures" album by Canada's darlings, the power trio Rush, is a masterpeice. Every track, every instrumental, every vocal is pure Rush; making this a definitive masterpiece in the treasury of heavy prog classics. Rush created a triumphant progressive master work with some of their most popular songs; all killer and no filler. It receives quadruple-platinum status and, along with "2112" ended up in the bizarre collection of "1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die".
It begins with an incredible opening track, the number 1 US chartbuster 'Tom Sawyer' that all Rush fans adore, and it is great when Rush open their concerts with this and the crowd are able to sing along; "A modern day warrior, Mean, mean stride, Today's Tom Sawyer, Mean, mean pride." The guitars crank out a mean, mean riff after this and there is a persistent synth drone that works well in the musical framework. The heavy dissonance or discord of time sigs and vocals is impressive, played in 7/8 for the most part. The chorus is one of the best especially lyrically, it is perhaps one of the more memorable Rush moments; "What you say about his company, Is what you say about society, Catch the mist, catch the myth, Catch the mystery, catch the drift, The world is, the world is, Love and life are deep, Maybe as his skies are wide." The ensuing lead break is incredible full of fret melting shredding, huge drum fills and power synth motifs. The Rickenbacker bass guitar is also wondrous that compliments the bright crisp guitar splashes. When the band were at their best they were totally irresistible.
'Red Barchetta' is longer at 6 minutes, and is another solid track. A mid tempo that is captivating locks in and quieter verses are sung until the chorus with new time sig locks in with captivating lyrics; "Jump to the ground, As the Turbo slows to cross the borderline, Run like the wind As excitement shivers up and down my spine, Down in his barn, My uncle preserved for me an old machine, For fifty odd years To keep it as new has been his dearest dream..." The instrumental break features echo on guitar chord crashes. The lead solo is subdued but effective.
Rush have some amazing instrumentals and one of them is 'YYZ', which gives each member a chance to really shine. The title is taken from the morse code used at Toronto Pearson International Airport. The main riff is memorable and heard in many concert performances. It has a progressive feel with unusual time sig and layered instrumentation. The riff is killer and well known in prog circles. On the "Live in Rio" DVD the audience know it so well they actually sing notes along to it. Lifeson is great on this as is Peart with his drumming metrical patterns that keep a consistent rhythm. Lee's bass is wonderful also playing fractured mini bass solos. The band really take off on this complete with glass shattering effects and all manner of solos form each member. It settles at 3 minutes in with a half time feel and an ambience is created before the main riff returns again. There is fire and ice; the explosive fire of Peart's flaming drums , the chilling ice of Lifeson's pickaxe, making this a bonafide classic on this album.
'Limelight' hit number 4 on the US mainstream charts. It has a prog time sig that is unusual and captivating. The structure of the track is spellbinding with beautiful verse sections, tension and release, shades of light and dark textures and one of the most spine chilling melodies that hooks into your system. I have never forgotten this and often the melody comes back to me without even wanting it to. The lyrics are dynamic and unforgettable once it grips your conscious; "Living in the limelight, The universal dream, For those who wish to seem, Those who wish to be, Must put aside the alienation, Get on with the fascination, The real relation, The underlying theme ..." The theme is simple, fame and fortune is not all it is cracked up to be and there is a need to keep a wall between the performer and the audience and this comes across beautifully with sparkling vocals and emotional riffing elegance. It is based on the real life dissatisfaction Peart felt about the intrusion into his private life. The lead solo is sensational with huge upsweeping picking and glorious string bends. This is my all time favourite Rush track and it sends chills through me every time; I don't know exactly why but there is a powerful element that refuses to let go when I hear it. I love the verse; "All the world's indeed a stage, And we are merely players, Performers and portrayers, Each another's audience, Outside the gilded cage." It seems to reference the live 1976 album "All The World's A Stage", and prophecy the release of their next album, that year "Exit Stage Left" which features 4 tracks from this album. The melodies are so full of life and vibrant energy, it truly uplifts my spirit every time. So ends side 1 of the vinyl, surely one of the greatest side 1's in rock history.
Side 1 begins with 'The camera eye' an 11 minute mini epic, the last for Rush, with a ton of synth at the opening section. There is a lengthy instrumental section and then at 3:40 Lee's high falsetto vocals chime in; "Grim faced and forbidding, Their faces closed tight, An angular mass of New Yorkers, Pacing in rhythm, Race the oncoming night, They chase through the streets of Manhattan, Head first humanity, Pause at a light, Then flow through the streets of the city...." The riffs on this are killer and at 6:06 the time sig slows and the track changes into some very proggy passages of music. The time sig is very intricate in the section at 7:50. The main motif returns after this showcasing Lifeson's inimitable style. The track is unusual on the album for its length and plethora of time changes, but this is what makes it such an endearing addition.
'Witch hunt (Part III of Fear)' follows; another section of the 'Fear' tracks and a great addition at that. It begins with an off kilter ethereal sound made with synthesizers and bells. This builds slowly to pitch, and sounds rather creepy in a sense, but the melody drowns out the Gothic gloom. The guitar crunches in and Lee tells the story of the hunt; "The night is black, Without a moon, The air is thick and still, The vigilantes gather on, The lonely torch lit hill..." the dark lyrics are accompanied by a dark riff and very strong synthesizers, effective and enchanting. This track is highly unusual as the whole atmosphere is intensely grim and has startling dark textures. Also Hugh Syme features on keyboards, the artist responsible for a plethora of Rush album covers. The theme reflects the Salem hunts where paranoia set in about a nonexistent threat, the uprising of so called witches, the Spectral evidence that was manufactured to accuse those who were different than others; a theme that has still an impact for modern society.
'Vital signs' is the closing track with a riff created by a sequencer made by Lee's OB-X synthesizer and well executed guitar flourishes. This is a slow paced track with a mediocre instrumental break but the vocal performance really drives this along with such enigmatic lyrics as; "A tired mind become a shape-shifter, Everybody need a soft filter, Everybody need reverse polarity, Everybody got mixed feelings, About the function and the form, Everybody got to elevate from the norm..." This is the weaker track on the album but still not a bad track after a few listens. The sequencer adds a nuance of 80s techno pop but there is still a proggy feel to this, especially the stylish bassline.
So overall this album is a dynamic flawed masterpiece. Side 2 does not measure up to the first side there is no doubt, but the mini epic more than makes up for this. Three tracks on this have become unsurpassed Rush classics, 'Tom Sawyer', 'YYZ' and 'Limelight'. The other tracks are still great but this album as a whole is a very pleasant listening experience. I have no hesitation but to count this as yet another masterpiece for my favourite heavy prog band. Rush never returned to masterpiece status after this. "Moving Pictures" was the last time the magic was captured and it ushered in a new approach in progressive rock music that works on every level. The album is the biggest seller for Rush and hit number 3 on US mainstream charts at the time of release, and it still makes an impact as one of the most influential, innovative albums of rock history.