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Rush

Moving Pictures

Review by Greg Olma

This is where Rush became a household (albeit a rock household) name. At this point, the band were also leaving their prog fan base scratching their heads wondering if Rush had finally sold out to the American dollar. Well, if Permanent Waves was a step away from their progressive leanings, then Moving Pictures was even a few more steps away. Although the musicianship of Lee, Lifeson, and Peart was never in question, this record was more about the song and not how well they could play their instruments. Moving Pictures has the feeling of being effortless. It doesn’t require as much thought as 2112 or Hemispheres. Those were “deep” albums that made you think or took you to another place and time whereas Moving Pictures was just a collection of great tunes that made you sit back, relax, and enjoy. Each cut is just the right length and there does not seem to be a note out of place. Peart’s lyrics again follow in the footsteps of Permanent Waves by focusing more on the human being and not sci-fi imagery. Even the mix and production has held up well through the years without really sounding dated. Although this may not be everyone’s favorite Rush release, it does stand as the apex of the popularity. You can’t argue that fact when half the album still gets played during their live shows.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Tom Sawyer
The CD opens with kind of a slow paced rock tune and is very keyboard heavy. Even though it rocks at times, the overall effect of this track is “radio friendly”. They even enlist the help of Pye Dubois (of Max Webster fame) to help on the lyrics. Many people regard this as the “quintessential Rush tune” but I don’t think this is what I would base their whole catalogue on. It’s a good song and the years have been kind to it but I think this is the weakest song on the record. Now before you start sending me hate emails, I use the word “weak” as a comparison to the rest of their material, not in general.
Red Barchetta
A slow build-up starts this cut about a boy remembering a “red barchetta” and taking it for a cruise in the countryside. Peart paints a very vivid picture of the story to lie on top of the music which then enhances the lyrics by sounding like the words. Lifeson makes squealing tire sounds with his guitar and you can imagine driving down a country road with the wind whipping your hair.
YYZ
On Permanent Waves, Rush did not include an instrumental so here they make up for it by coming up with one that is so good that it has been in their live set list since they released it. It is not as long as “La Villa Strangiato” but it is just as good if not even a bit more accessible. By this point, the band members were not only exceptional musicians but they were also experts at writing songs.
Limelight
This is the second single off the album and it is probably the most commercial also. Even though it is a basic rock cut, there is a charm to it. Most of the credit has to be given to Lifeson. He has always been an underrated guitar player in my book and “Limelight” is a great example of his emotional playing.
The Camera Eye
For those fans that thought Rush forgot how to be progressive, the band strikes back with this little tune that is the sister song to “Natural Science” off of Permanent Waves. As with all of their longer pieces, this one also has a number of parts but it all comes back to the opening chords to wrap things up nicely. Rush are one of the few bands that can make 11 minutes seem like 5. This is the best track on the record.
Witch Hunt
I’m sure Peart didn’t foresee the future but this song’s lyrics fit into today’s political climate perfectly. Lyrics like “quick to judge, quick to anger, slow to understand / Ignorance and prejudice and fear walk hand in hand…” sum up the world today. And that is not picking sides; both sides have a lot to learn. Anyway, this is part 3 of the “Fear” trilogy that was started here (don’t know why they started on part 3) and it is the best part. It starts off with Salem witch trial sound effects but slowly builds into a moody (and quirky) rock tune. I give this my vote for second best song on Moving Pictures.
Vital Signs
When I saw this tour (yes I am that old), I was disappointed this cut was not played live. It eventually did get the “stage” treatment but it was not until the following tour. I believe that this is the first instance of Rush delving into some reggae sounds. They of course did not jump in head first and give us a Bob Marley track but they dipped their toes in the water and mixed in some new wave to come up with a very interesting sound. Peart is in typical metaphorical form with the lyrics and the band play this “choppy” track in an almost clinical fashion. I remember when this LP came out and during my first run through thinking that “Vital Signs” was a great way to end things. My opinion has not changed all these years later.
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