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Rush - Moving Pictures CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

4.39 | 2933 ratings

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4 stars My original impression of this album was that this was the inferior younger brother of Permanent Waves, with fewer interesting songs and a more synth-based, less interesting sound. I'd have given it the same low **** I gave PeW, but would have done so grudgingly, and a high *** would have been more in line with my true feelings. Now, though, I'd give it a solid ****, and this grade is one I actually believe in for the album. Furthermore, I now better understand the album's place in Rush's evolution; where I had once considered it a step back in quality (done in the name of sounding "modern"), I consider this another strong step forward for the band, and the best album the band had done yet. I'm not overwhelmed by most of the songs, but now I can understand how somebody could be overwhelmed with them, and that makes a big difference.

The giants of the album are "Tom Sawyer" and "Limelight," two tracks that I've always loved and are certainly among the band's best work. I once used to consider the synths in "Tom Sawyer" to be a little overdone, but I wouldn't dream of that now; this is one of the most effective examples of "power synths" I can think of from any band, and it blends in well with the strong work from the other three (I'm really fond of Lifeson's mid-song screwy guitar solo, which kinda reminds me of the atonality from his solo in "A Farewell to Kings," only done a million times better). Plus, I like the vocal melodies a lot, too. As for "Limelight," my enjoyment of the track has just grown and grown over the years, until it's easily become my favorite second Rush song. Lyrically, it's a treatise on alienation from others as one's stardom grows, but while some of the lyrics are quite nice (albeit stiff and pedantic in the standard Peart way), the lyrics aren't the main draw for me. This is just a fantastic rock song, with an amazing bass line, phenomenally tight playing, a great guitar sound, and a terrific vocal melody that does a perfect job of working in and around the instrumental parts. If there's a reason to consider MP an all-time classic, "Limelight"'s gotta be that reason.

So those are the tracks I've always loved, but what about the rest? Well, truth be told, I still don't love any of the other five tracks, but I do at least like most of them without hesitation, and that's an improvement. The tracks bookended by "Tom Sawyer" and "Limelight" on the first side, "Red Barchetta" and "YYZ," are better than I used to think. "Red Barchetta" is an up-tempo rock song about a guy having to play "chicken" in his automobile with a couple of futuristic "air cars," and while it's kinda silly lyrically, it has some nice riffs and a good vocal melody. My problem with this version is that I don't feel the sense of excitement and energy that I think Rush meant to convey (and that I'm sure many fans feel when listening to the song); I can't really shake the feeling that it's a song about excitement more than it's one with excitement. It's still nice, though. "YYZ," then, is a much beloved instrumental, and on paper it should be the greatest instrumental Rush ever did and one of their best tracks. I mean, it has quite a few different riffs, it incorporates a number of styles, it has a ton of power (the ensemble playing is insanely tight), and it has no Peart lyrics! So, um ... why is my ending reaction to the song always along the lines of a mild "Hey, that's kinda neat" and a shoulder shrug? I really don't know; it's not lack of memorability (like I once thought), so I'm gonna have to say it's more that the piece doesn't once evoke a noticable physical or emotional response in me. Still, despite that flaw, there's something to be said for a piece that I think is this neat.

Starting up the second half is an 11-minute epic in "The Camera Eye," which marks the last time Rush would do a piece of this length. I do think it's a pretty good extended number, but, well, pretty good extended numbers aren't that hard to find in the world. It's mildly impressive when it's on, and Lifeson has some cool echo effects in his guitar, but 11 minutes is a bit much for a piece that's basically built around two decent musical themes. I get the feeling the band put a lot of effort into the small details of the song, and it does have a decent build as the piece goes on, but again; how many times can I use the word "decent" to describe this song before I just have to accept that it's not much more than that?

Up next is "Witch Hunt," which is probably my third favorite of the album, behind the two giants. It's rather silly lyrically, but it has a convincing dark atmosphere, and the combination of the grumbling metallic riffage and the slow synthesizer chord sequences makes it totally worthwhile musically. And finally, "Vital Signs" is a mildly disappointing closer, with a decent vocal hook in parts of the chorus, and an amusing tinge of reggae in the verses, but not much in the way of a memorable vocal melody in the verses.

As usually happens with Rush albums, I find this one very inconsistent, but at least it's inconsistent at a higher level than what had come before. I will never find this even close to an all-time classic, but I do think it belongs in any decent rock collection, and that means something.

tarkus1980 | 4/5 |


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