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Rush - Moving Pictures CD (album) cover




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4.39 | 2934 ratings

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TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Review 32, Moving Pictures, Rush


Everybody got to deviate from the norm...

Even me. Whenever I put on this album, it's for one reason: I want to listen to Vital Signs, and I feel I should endure the pilgrimage to see my painfully metaphorical Mecca. The lyrics and music feel rather separated, which is fine for the more rocking songs (Tom Sawyer, Limelight) but leaves Red Barchetta and The Camera eye feeling horrifically pretentious and half-hearted. The playing throughout is fine, even if we get a few rather unnecessary-feeling sections (with the pop convention of 'repeat a bar before adding vocals because the audience don't have a big attention span'). The exception to this is some of Lifeson's solos, which feel rather sterile and nonthreatening to me. Geddy Lee's voice has lost a lot of its drama, and is more suited to the rock or quieter numbers than to more narrative or darker things on Red Barchetta and Witch Hunt. Not an incredibly fun or enjoyable Rush album, but a fair effort.

From its first Oberheim synth and accompanying blunt drum sound from Peart, Tom Sawyer gives us a very song start to the album. The song moves through a couple of variations on one song part, with comfortably enough variety in the music, vocals and lyrics [which, though not stunning, have a welcome dark resonance and mystique] to survive. We get a very potent gritty bass-driven chorus with a dark vocal from Lee. The instrumental section begins with an excellent combination of synths which are followed with a rather rockless solo from Lifeson. The return to the vocal sections, however, has Peart on top form, with a crashing array of drums and cymbals. A great rock song, with an individual atmosphere and an impressive complexity and mobility for such a successful hit. Memorable as an opener, and an excellent use of the synths.

Red Barchetta is a prime example of the problems with the album as a whole. The music holds no relation to the lyrics. The lyrics are poorly phrased, the idea illogical (anything with 'I've got a desperate plan' can't be that great, and I can't understand the exact rationality of the slightly sci-fi concept, which seems another rather weak attempt to revive the freedom against control themes of 2112). The story, desperation and emotions included, bears no relation to the music, which is just repeats of earlier sections with some mostly insignificant variation.

On the plus side, a pretty good performance from Lee on vocals, and a decent, grainy solo from Lifeson. A rather wallowing bass-driven section with disastrously blunt guitar is repeated a few times, as are a couple of much improved rocking ones led by Lifeson's guitar. The repeats seem a little blunt, and, especially towards the end, have very little relation to the story or development other than Peart adding a couple more sounds ('I've got a desperate plan' does not even feel remotely desperate'). The concluding part is pretty good with some good bass soloing from Lee, and a gradually descending mix. Basically, it would have been nice to have a song where the lyrics genuinely related to the music, rather than simply telling a story at the same time as the music is playing, with the words tortured to fit the metre.

YYZ is a fair instrumental with an excellent bass part from Lee (solos included), even if it drags a little. Peart throws out all sorts of drum parts into the mix, and Lifeson's guitar is used calmly as a controlled rocking factor the background, even if it doesn't impress much when contributing a more solid riff. A good idea, but it goes on longer than it had to to get the point across and I'm not particularly keen on the ending, for some reason.

Limelight is another solid rocker, unfortunately dragged down by an occasionally irritating set of lyrics (I've seen it called a full song of lyrical hooks, but I could really have done without the cheap Shakespeare reference). Great Lifeson guitar throughout, with an interesting Peart performance as well, which manages to emphasise the vocals by its absence. Great chorus (especially with regards to the vocals and a rock power not often achieved on the album). The return to a verse is unconvincing, but the song remains powerful and excellent, and manages to decelerate to provide a background for an effective quiet Lifeson solo.

The Camera Eye begins with some city sounds, because it can, and then gradually builds up from a synth background, which I like, and a lead synth, which I don't, to a massively overdone element of pompous development with boring drumming, before moving to an almost-completely unrelated rolling drums and guitars to a bit of more conventional, if rather less interesting musically section. Geddy Lee's vocal highlights the extension of musical meh, with some repeats of earlier sections and some plainly bland, rather drum-dominated sections with very tiny variations. The first part of the lyrics ends with little ado and gives way to a desirable instrumental break, even if the repeats of themes from the earlier music simply seem to be repeats rather than proper developments.

The second part also features the terrible drumming choices, but has a redeeming bass part from Lee, who manages to stir things up a little. The trio's hideous attempt to add an English feel with an 'alright guv' quietly added is hilarious for all the wrong reasons. Lifeson and Lee give us a suitably impressive example of bass and guitar interplay before the song fades out on a synth rhythm and a Big Ben clanging. I really don't like Peart's drumming on this song, and the piece as a whole feels a bit forced and almost a chore to listen to.

Witch Hunt is where the album begins to pick up a gain. A rather blunt example of chimes, inquisitorial voices and rather cliché witch-hunt feel with a couple of wonderfully grainy synths lead us into the superbly rocking main guitar riff. Geddy contributes a dark vocal, which doesn't quite click with me, and confident synths. Peart makes some slightly amusing use of the tin bucket that he's apparently hidden under his orphan-shelter drumkit. Geddy (I swear he's the only musician I think of my the first name. Who knows why?) provides some clever bass additions, including some high playing that rather escapes the mould. Maybe the boys were trying a bit too hard to bring in the atmosphere, but I appreciate the effort, and it's overall a good song.

Vital Signs is, in my mind, completely transcendental over the rest of the album. Wonderful atmosphere-developing synths without the effort of The Camera Eye, a quirkiness, constantly-shifting, and a mechanical, yet organic feel. Peart provides some wonderfully bizarre percussion choices, and Lee manages the vocals without feeling strained or drowned out by any of the instruments. Absolutely classic effort, with a perfectly handled atmosphere, great rock moments, an uplifting message, superb playing on all fronts, interesting and effective lyrical choices more reminiscent of Natural Science than The Camera Eye. Finally, a great fade, ending the album on the highest note it has. This is one of my favourite Rush songs, certainly, from those I've heard.

For me, this album wasn't a must-have. It doesn't rock as hard as 2112, the lyrics are mixed in quality, and the atmospheres are often forgotten. I think it is, overall, a good album, even if The Camera Eye doesn't convince me and tempts the evil next button. Worth getting for Vital Signs alone, but I think that A Farewell To Kings is a better Rush introduction, by and large.

Rating: Three Stars Favourite Track: Vital Signs

TGM: Orb | 3/5 |


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