Moving Pictures


Mercury Records, 1981

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Moving Pictures, the 1981 release from Canadian hard-rockers Rush, marked a series of changes for the group - many of which had actually been in place for some time, and simply came to fruition with this release. Like their previous release Permanent Waves, this disc featured many songs which would be viewed as radio-friendly, signaling a further move toward further commercial acceptance. It marked the songwriting being tighter than it had ever been - and unfairly led people to label the band as one for the intellegentsia due to Neil Peart's thoughtful lyrics. (Again, this was nothing new; the band had been challenging people to think for several albums now.)

More importantly, it signaled a duality in the world of prog-rock. While Rush produced what would be seen as their final epic song with "The Camera Eye," their overall sound veered farther away from the hard rock which they based their career upon in the mid-'70s and closer to progressive. No doubt about it, Moving Pictures was a gateway that Rush had to pass through.

Thank God for us all that they did. Undoubtedly their most recognized album (thanks to rock radio playing almost the entire first side to death), Geddy Lee and crew took the foundation they laid with my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Permanent Waves, improved the overall sound, and created what was, to that point, Rush's strongest album. Even today, 20 years after its release, it hardly sounds like it's aged a day.

It would be easy to fawn over such cuts as "Tom Sawyer," "Red Barchetta" and "Limelight" - as well as to strike out against rock radio for putting these songs on so often that they're quickly becoming tired - so I'll keep comments on these brief. Relying more heavily on the synthesizer (something Rush would do until just recently, when they declared they wanted to get back to their roots), the band - bassist/keyboardist Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart - are given the flexibility to expand their sound, all the while showing their absolute mastery of their respective instruments. Peart is, without a doubt, the greatest living drummer in rock, and defends his title often (especially on "Tom Sawyer") throughout Moving Pictures.

Of the first four songs, the one which gets the least play (and, not surprisingly, shows the mastery of these musicians the best) is the instrumental "YYZ". A four-minute tour-de-force, Lifeson peppers the tracks with solid rhythm and lead guitar performances, while Peart and Lee astound the listener with their performances. The addition of keyboard shows that not only does Rush's sound allow for it, but if you were to take the keyboards away (at least from their '80s and '90s material), the sound would suffer.

But Moving Pictures isn't an album of just four songs; three others unfairly get shafted. "The Camera Eye," nearly 11 minutes in length, shows that Rush had most definitely mastered the epic song - to the point that I'm guessing they simply got bored with writing long songs just for the sake of it. Fortunately for us, they leave this particular genre on a high note; the track is so tight, it's hard to believe so much time simply flies by.

The two remaining songs, "Witch Hunt" and "Vital Signs," are tracks which should be dusted off by both rock radio and casual listener alike, if only to discover what we've all been missing for many years. Hinting at what was to come for Rush (and having more than a few arrows pointed in the direction of what would become Grace Under Pressure), Lee and crew melt several different rhythm and musical styles into one cohesive unit. That it works isn't a surprise from these guys; that it works so well isn't even a major surprise, since Rush has made a career of throwing some curveballs at their fans.

Moving Pictures took Rush and placed them in the bright lights of superstardom - and this album proved they deserved every moment in the glare.

Rating: A

User Rating: A-


While YYZ, The Camera Eye and Witch Hunt rank among my favorite Rush songs, I've never liked songs like Limelight and Red Barchetta, which to make it worse still get a lot of airplay-

© 2002 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Mercury Records, and is used for informational purposes only.