Rush - Moving Pictures

Year of Release: 1990
Label: Mercury
Catalog Number: 800 048-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 38:24:00

Moving Pictures is one of my favorite Rush albums. It is a solid release from the muscular, pounding drums that open the album with "Tom Sawyer" to the complex instrumental interplay that closes "Vital Signs." There isn't a moment of filler here at all, making Moving Pictures a tight album. And that might seem like "enough said." And in a way, it is. This is Rush's classic album that I don't think anything since has quite matched. This is the one Rush album every prog and rock fan should have in their collection. In fact, it is nearly a greatest hits package - "Tom Sawyer" and "Limelight" have certainly received a lot of airplay in the 22 years since the album was released, "Red Barchetta" has long been a favorite, and if you look at any post-1981 live Rush release you're sure to find "Yyz." And there is much to appreciate in the remaining three tracks.

Moving Pictures is a clever title for this album. Working outward in, start with the album's artwork. Men are moving pictures (paintings) containing images that might be called moving pictures -- certainly the Joan Of Arc like image in the foreground painting could be said to be moving to some (and ties in with the track "Witch Hunt," which itself is quite moving, given Lee's measured and often emotive delivery and the patient arrangement). And, if you flip the booklet over, there you see that what were seeing was a moving picture (motion picture) being shot. But, even inside we get moving pictures, because with each track on the album, there is a strong sense of both the cinematic and of movement. Sure, it's literal with "Red Barchetta," where the grinding interplay of guitar and bass after the first verse echoes the sense of driving at high speed that the story evokes. And though it would be Signals a year later that would really speak to the "restless dreams of youth," this theme is present here as well - certainly in "Tom Sawyer" (perhaps the signature restless youth... or would that be Huck Finn?), but also in the protagonist here in "Red Barchetta," where the underlying theme there is freedom. The setting is a sci-fi future (based on a story by Richard S Foster called "A Nice Morning Drive") where cars (at least conventional ones) have been regulated - the protagonist steals out in his uncle's preserved classic. One interesting note, there is a passage during this track, at the point in the story where the protagonist is speeding down the road, that mimics the shifting of gears - and I've always thought that sounds quite a bit like a passage in Journey's "Escape" from Escape, which was released in 1980.

As mentioned, the album opens with what is surely Rush's most widely known hit, "Tom Sawyer." How can you not be hooked from the brutal opening of this track. Talk about power chords! It's very dangerous for me to drive while I have this album playing -- it struck me how much the rhythm of this album seems to have been influenced by the rhythm of the road - but it gets back to that sense of movement. "Tom Sawyer" sets the tone for what is for the most part a very ballsy sound - Neil Peart's drums and Geddy Lee's bass especially. Whereas later on Signals synths were an integral part of the sound, with Moving Pictures, they are an accent instrument, mainly creating swaths or arcs of sound, cutting across the main instrumentation. Lifeson's guitar and Lee's bass tones are throaty throughout, though there are some lyrical guitar passages here an there.

There is a sense of freedom in "Yyz" as well, a show case for guitarist Alex Lifeson. It begins with Peart and Lee attacking their respective instruments, each generating a big, thick and heavy sound - talk about establishing your presence - which gives way to Lifeson's guitar. In the bridge section, things throttle back a bit while Lifeson plays an especially sinewy phrase. This bravura performance continues with "Limelight" another heavy and ballsy track instrumentally, this one about the trials and tribulations of being a celebrity - in this case, a rock star. The loss of freedom in a sense - suddenly everybody thinks they know you because so much of your life is now on display.

Things are scaled back, are little more textured and subtle with the instrumental intro section to "The Camera Eye," which begins with some squelchy sounding synths and synth effects with a hint of guitar... drums ease themselves into the mix, as does bass. We then get an explosion of sound, though still much mellower than what has come before. By the second movement (scene two?), the energy of the first four tracks is picked up, including some searing guitar work from Lifeson. At 10:56 this is the longest track on the album, and if prog is defined by meter changes and extended passages, then this certainly qualifies. The moods contrast between heavy intensity and measured lyricism.

And you can hear the villagers on the march in "Witch Hunt" (certainly the song referred to with the painting mentioned above) - there is an almost cinematic quality to it, as it evokes mental images of not only of witch hunts (and witch trials), but of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, too. And, if you listen to the lyrics of this track, and we find some relevance today - "They say there are strangers, who threaten us / In our immigrants and infidels..." Some today (at least in the US) liken our assuming folks of a certain nationality are a threat because of their nationality to a "witch hunt"...

Moving Pictures is simply the best overall album Rush has produced to date - and you must know that they have put out some pretty damn good albums (and a few that some think are clunkers, though I'm not in entire agreement there...). I don't know when the term "power trio" was coined, but it very likely could have been with Rush in 1981; Moving Pictures shows this power trio at their best.

[Originally released 1981 by Mercury (SRM 1-4013) and by Anthem (ANR 1-1030) in Canada. Re-reissued in 1997 by Mercury (534631), in 2008 by Island/Mercury (001178402) and in 2009 by Warner Bros. (13479)

Tom Sawyer (4:33) / Red Barchetta (6:06) / Yyz (4:24) / Limelight (4:19) / The Camera Eye (10:56) / Witch Hunt (4:43) / Vital Signs (4:43)

Geddy Lee - bass, Oberheim polyphonic, OB-X, mini-Moog, Taurus pedals, synthesizers, and vocals
Alex Lifeson - six and twelve string electric and acoustic guitars, Taurus pedals
Neil Peart - drums, timbales, gong, bass drum, orchestra bells, glockenspiel, wind chimes, bell tree, crotales, cowbells, plywood

Rush (1974)
Fly By Night (1975)
Caress Of Steel (1975)
2112 (1976)
All The World's A Stage (1976)
A Farewell To Kings (1977)
Hemispheres (1978)
Archives (1978)
Permanent Waves (1980)
Moving Pictures (1981)
Exit ... Stage Left (1981)
Signals (1982)
Grace Under Pressure (1984)
Power Windows (1985)
Hold Your Fire (1987)
A Show Of Hands (1989)
Presto (1989)
Chronicles (1990)
Roll The Bones (1991)
Counterparts (1993)
Test For Echo (1996)
Different Stages (1998)
Vapor Trails (2003)
Rush In Rio (2003)
Feedback (2004)
R30 (2005)
Gold (2006)
Snakes And Arrows (2007)
Snakes And Arrows Live (2008)
Retrospective III (2009)
Working Men (2009)
Grace Under Pressure: 1984 Tour (2009)
Icon (2010)
Time Stand Still: The Collection (2010)
Icon 2 (2011)
Rush ABC 1974: The First American Broadcast (2011)
Sector 1 (2011)
Sector 2 (2011)
Sector 3 (2011)
Moving Pictures: Live 2011 (2011)
Time Machine 2011: Live In Cleveland (2011)
Clockwork Angels (2012)
The Studio Albums 1989-2007 (2013) (boxset) Clockwork Angels Tour (2013)

Exit-Stage Left (VHS) (1982)
Through The Camera Eye (VHS) (1984)
Grace Under Pressure Tour 1984 (VHS) (1986)
A Show Of Hands (VHS) (1988)
Chronicles (VHS/DVD) (1990/2001)
Rush In Rio (DVD/VID) (2003)
R30 (DVD) (2005)
Music In Review 1974-1981 (2006)
Replay X3 (DVD) (2006)
Snakes And Arrows Live (DVD) (2008)
Working Men (DVD) (2009)
Beyond The Lighted Stage (DVD) (2010)
Classic Albums: 2012 - Moving Pictures (2010)
Time Machine 2011: Live In Cleveland (2011)
Clockwork Angels Tour (2013)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin CA

Added: October 19th 2003
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 571
Language: english


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