(All Album Reviews by Rickenbacker)
No, his mind is not for rent to any god or government..
What rock radio listener over the age of 25 has not heard those lyrics before? You show me one & I'll show you a person who'd been in a coma for the last 22 years! If ever there was a watershed moment for a band, 1981's Moving Pictures is "The One" for Rush. A hard rock masterpiece that Geddy Lee called the culminaton of what they'd learned from the 70s to then. Though it may not be every Rush fan's favorite, it's arguably the most well-known of their albums.
Resuming the path they'd begun on Permanent Waves, shorter, more concise songs make up most of MP as well. Slickly produced by Terry Brown & flawlessly executed by all three band members, this album is perfectly balanced instrumentally. There's a good amount of grinding guitar power to keep to headbangers happy & there's the backwash of keyboards to prick the ears of the new wave.
We begin with the Rush song even non-Rush fans know- "Tom Sawyer". The familiar, mean sounding synths back Neil up on this view of the modern day outcast. It was probably a bit tough for Neil to drop sci-fi writing altogether at that point since he'd been doing it so often the previous decade- "Red Barchetta" takes us on a seemingly innocent drive in the country until we're accosted by robot aircars!
The band's second go at an instrumental earned them a Grammy nomination with the rocking "YYZ" ('zed") It was yet another opportunity for the guys to shine in all their virtuosic glory. The other 'big' song off MP is the melodic "Limelight". Lyrically, Neil confronts the band's almost sudden shoot from cult band to major rock stars & the pitfalls it entails.
"The Camera Eye" remains Rush's final delve into the "epic" length song. Clocking in at nearly 11 minutes, it's a sweeping, broad-chorded camera eye's view of 2 cities & the aimless people who inhabit them.
Fear of the unknown is what "Witch Hunt" warns of. The ominous drums & slowed tubular bells open like a plodding demon in the night & makes part three of Neil's Fear trilogy of this slower tempoed song. Taking cues from the ska & reggae-influenced new wavers of the time, "Vital Signs" rhythmically bounces into the end of the album.
It's all here- the concert & radio classics, one last epic, the instrumental etc..What more can be said about this quintessential recording that hasn't already been said except- if you don't own this one or you've wanted to try Rush for the 1st time- buy it. It's an excellent starting point for the listener & any budding rock band could learn loads from it.
The Lone Groover
I've always loved Moving Pictures. But I listened to it for the first time in years before writing this review and really gained a new appreciation for it, saw it in a whole new light. Perhaps sometimes, it's only with the passing of a decade or two that we can see a work of art in its true place, with the perspective to see the wood for the trees, but here I felt almost like I was listening to it for the first time.
And what a terrific recording, with a thoroughly modern, accessible sound and some lovely, memorable songs. I love the approach to making a record evident here - (mostly) simple songs, brisk drumming, punchy bass, crunchy guitar with a bit of chorus - and away we go. A fairly light production, with no progressive rock dramatics or atmospherics (with the exception of gWitch Hunth perhaps), and consequently even after twenty years, it still sounds very fresh.
We get off to a slightly shaky start though, with gTom Sawyerh, a somewhat jerky piece with a slightly pretentious lyric (but blame Pye Dubois). I've never been able to understand why it became a classic - sure, it's not bad exactly, but a bit stop/start, a bit of a plodder, with a really geeky, indulgent guitar solo played over a particularly dorky bass pattern.
Things improve very quickly with the wonderful gRed Barchettah, a track which in many ways embodies what this album is all about - compact, stylish, beautifully performed and elegant, it is a sheer joy to listen to. Ditto gLimelighth, another piece in the same vein, like gRed Barchettah featuring a beautifully musical guitar break from Lifeson and some gorgeous arpeggio chord work. Limelight however is marred by some of the most high-handed and precious lyrics I've ever come across. Your fans irritate you and make you feel uncomfortable, so why not spell it out for them? Who cares if they look up to you and admire you, get them to pay to hear it. Nice!
Sandwiched between these two ditties is one of the absolute highpoints of Rush's career - the delightful gYYZh. A quirky, almost funky instrumental, full of twists and turns and packed full of tongue-in-cheek character. The guitar is all over the place, swerving from hither to thither like a very swervy thing indeed - and the bit where Alex's orgasmic, spiraling, descending guitar pattern gives way to a breaking wave of synthesizer splendour gives me goosebumps every time. Just brilliant, and absolutely cracking live as well - I remember nearly wetting myself with excitement when they played this during the Signals tour.
Side Two, as we persons of an older persuasion are wont to refer to the remaining part of this record, kicks off with the splendid gThe Camera Eyeh, and it doesn't get much better than this, readers. The most 3-dimensional Rush song of them all, featuring some tremendously lush, articulate, dynamic guitar. The subtle sound effects give a real sense of being there - you can almost smell the English rain referred to in the lyrics. Quite an ambitious, cinematic piece this, but one which enjoys the same bright, elegant, open-hearted production values of the album as a whole.
I wish I could say the same for gWitch Hunth, the album's only dud. Leaden and tedious, it is the antithesis of what this album is all about for me, and crawls along with all the elegance of a wide load on the slow lane of the M1.
Happily we finish off on an uptempo note with gVital Signsh - a perky, original little number with some lovely punchy guitar riffery and nice skanky chord work - a presage of things to come with Signals, perhaps. Even if it did alienate a few Rush fans at the time, I've always liked gVital Signsh. It's an odd little tune in some ways and it took me a long time to grow to love it, but it has some gorgeous chord changes (I just adore the theme that resolves to a poignant trailing major seventh chord at the end of 'by internal coherence ..' and elsewhere). Oddly, I think I detect a hint of a gStairway To Heavenh influence in the Am-G-F outro (or whatever - I can't remember what key it's in), which is somewhat at odds with the ska-flavoured sensibilities evident elsewhere in this track.
Overall, a lovely, vital, modern-sounding record with five (count 'em) stunning compositions and an elegant production. It's not perfect, but it has withstood the ravages of time beautifully. Top-notch.