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Rush - Moving Pictures CD (album) cover




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4.39 | 2934 ratings

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5 stars The distinguished genre of progressive rock may, with good reason, lay claim to having more pivotal, game-changing albums than any other in music. For example, Yes was a relatively small-time entity until the splendor of "Fragile" caused the world at large to turn and take notice of them. Jethro Tull was relegated to cult status until the arresting "Aqualung" made them a household name. Genesis was just an odd, eclectic art band until the grandeur of "Selling England by the Pound" commanded widespread attention. And Metallica was deemed nothing more than a noisy bunch of longhaired ruffians until their eponymous black LP thrust them into the cultural mainstream. I could present more evidence to bolster my theory but you get the point, I'm sure. In the case of Rush, "Moving Pictures" was the disc that established them once and for all as a force to be reckoned with on an international scale and, for that reason alone, it deserves to be revered and considered every bit as special as the aforementioned landmark records. I realize that there are purists who might harbor the opinion that the runaway popularity of said discs only indicates capitulation by the bands involved to the corrosive power of the almighty dollar; "selling out" if you will. I beg to differ. Rarely does a breakout album become a success due to the group trying to be more accessible or trendy. 9 times out of 10 it's the public who've finally caught up with the artists' uniqueness and that's certainly the case with "Moving Pictures."

The fact that it took eight studio albums to gain massive recognition is a testimony to this stubborn trio's determination to do it their way without kowtowing to the suits. They knew they were good, they knew they were unlike any other band and they knew that eventually their belief in each other and what they were creating collectively would pay huge dividends and this record is the culmination of that mindset. Every step they'd taken led them to this moment when all of their lucky stars and planets slipped into alignment and their destiny was not going to be denied this time. In an era when prog was on the skids and its most famous of propagators were being labeled irrelevant dinosaurs (the horrid MTV virus was striving to render them extinct), this hardy triad of Canadians flew their prog flag proudly. The opening of the inimitable "Tom Sawyer" cut through the chaff of tinny New Wave fare (that was saturating the FM airwaves) like a scythe and one couldn't avoid the hard-hitting song if one tried. Rarely has a solitary tune so illuminated a group that's been sneaking around in the shadows for years as this stirring number did. Every aspect of this prog standard is near perfection so I won't attempt to describe its undeniable allure. It has no faults. "Red Barchetta" follows and it doesn't allow the momentum to sag one iota. The song's memorable melody draws even the toughest critic in without a fight, then the band puts on full display their exemplary musicianship and keen sense of dynamics, creating a progressive rock classic. Their sometimes lean years of persistently honing their craft were now bearing sweet, irresistible fruit.

Rock instrumentals were not in vogue circa 1981 but that didn't deter Rush from presenting a superb one, anyway. "YYZ" opens with a Yes-worthy staccato pattern, then they settle into a fortified riff which they proceed to exploit with uncanny tightness. Members Alex Lifeson, Geddy Lee and Neil Peart all get an opportunity to show off their individual prowess and the listener can't help but be duly impressed. These guys take a back seat to no one. "Limelight" is next, sporting another incredibly catchy melody line that further separated Rush from the herd of spandex-clad wannabes while keeping their prog integrity intact. Infectious tunes like this made folks who claimed to not like progressive rock eat their words. A mysterious intro for "The Camera Eye" leads to a monstrous guitar effect from Alex that drenches your senses. Soon the tempo escalates into a driving rock beat for the next movement wherein Geddy's shrill voice resounds, stamping it with their unmistakable personality. They then revisit several of the number's themes and bundle them up in a well-designed package. They construct an ominous, growing malevolence to characterize the onset of "Witch Hunt." I especially like the cavernous depth of field provided by Lifeson's always-astounding guitar enhancements complimented here by tactful, unobtrusive synths. The album ends with "Vital Signs," a surprising change-of-pace piece during which they back away from their usual arena-filling motif and delve into unexpected aural textures and feels. While I consider it to be the nadir of the record, it does demonstrate clearly their admirable fearlessness in taking chances.

"Moving Pictures" steadily climbed in the charts for months, topping out at the #3 position. The single of "Tom Sawyer" hit #44 while "Limelight" rose to #55. Not bad for a trio that nobody in the record biz thought would ever be a viable commodity. From then on Rush didn't have to worry about selling tickets to their concerts and three decades later they're not only still intact but as popular as ever. Prog rock owes a debt to Lee, Lifeson and Peart for keeping the flame lit during the dark days of the 80s decade when cute videos and pouty-puss poses were all the rage. "Moving Pictures" had a lot to do with them being able to do that. Face it, this album has everything required to be dubbed a masterpiece whether you're a fan or not.

Chicapah | 5/5 |


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