On February 12, 1981, "Rush" released their eighth studio album - "Moving Pictures".
Without tearing down from the greatness of Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee, this album is probably Neil Peart's album. The album where he just shone, the album where he surpassed all imagination and rose to the rank of a wizard, even a God!
It's not that Peart's drumming or writing was lacking before, he received the nickname Professor by right and not by grace! But on this album, he was simply touched by the hand of God. The choice of words and writing topics that became more personal, the planning three albums ahead with the "fear trilogy" arranged in reverse chronology, the unconventional time signatures that became even more insane, the simple frantic rhythm change, the enlightenment that fell on him when he chose to establish a musical piece on a Morse code and the crazy drum rolls that made us raise our hands in the air with the "Air Drumming". All of these and others constituted Peart's added value to the geniuses of the other two and so in a sense, this album would not have sounded as it is without it.
So for those who have not yet read the words we wrote about Neil after his death, we ask (not recommend) that you click on the link and read before you continue reading the review. It will help you understand how great this man was and what he symbolized for us. A Farewell To A King….
It's the biggest masterpiece of the Canadian trio, yes there are a few more. A perfect album that does not have one extra note or one extra second, from beginning to end. A work of thought, composed by three geniuses and will be remembered forever as one of the greatest works in Rock.
This is the band's best-selling album, which has sold over four million copies in the United States alone.
This album reached the third place in the list of the 50 greatest progressive albums of all time by "Rolling Stone" magazine. Before it on the list are only "The Dark Side Of The Moon" and King Crimson's debut - "In The Court Of The Crimson King". Do you perceive the magnitude of the achievement?
Now, there will be those of you who will say it's not a serious rating, it's the "Rolling Stone" and what do they understand about Prog. but no! The very fact that nine different music critics put together this glorious list and came to the conclusion that this album deserves third place, proves that this achievement cannot be swept under the rug. This is not "the Voice" vote using an app or SMS, these are valued critics of one of the great music magazines.
The story of the creation of this masterpiece album, begins where the story of the previous album "Permanent Waves", released in January 1980, ended.
The 1980s opened up with a storm for "Rush." The band's style changed on "Permanent Waves" and this drew positive reactions from both critics and audiences. And so, the band embarked on a successful tour that ended in June 1980.
During the sound checks on the tour, the band began working on new material. The band had plans to take a break for a few months until the second leg of the tour, which was supposed to start in September, but Neil Peart urged Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson to get into the studio and work on the material that was written during the sound checks.
In July 1980, the band was featured in the recording of the song "Battle Scar" by "Max Webster", their Canadian friends, and colleagues. While in the studio, Pye Dubois - the lyricist of "Max Webster" approaches Neil Peart and offered him lyrics for a song he thought will suit "Rush". Now think about the situation, an external lyricist offers the "Professor", the witty and honed lyricist who wrote epic works like "2112" and "Hemispheres", lyrics to a new song. Between us, anyone else would reject it politely. But the humble Neil Peart agrees to get the lyrics for the song then called "Louis the Lawyer". he renovates, updates, and adds his input to the lyrics that will become the band's biggest song "Tom Sawyer".
Immediately after the tribute to "Max Webster", the band moves to a summer house on "Stony Lake" - a lake northeast of Toronto, to complete the work of writing the songs for the album. The rehearsals were fruitful, during which the members finished writing five of the seven songs on the album. The first song the band finished writing was "The Camera Eye", followed by "Tom Sawyer", "Red Barchetta", "YYZ", and "Limelight".
In September, "Rush" returned to complete the pre-arranged show dates, with the band already playing the songs "Tom Sawyer" and "Limelight" live, before these were even recorded.
In October 1980, the band entered its home studio "Le Studio", located at Morin-Heights, Quebec, and in less than two months, records the album that would change everything for them.
A time of fewer than two months seems like nothing for a masterpiece like "Moving Pictures", but you'd be surprised to find out that the band would probably have managed to do it even faster, if not all the equipment they were familiar with been replaced. The band wastes precious studio time learning and getting acquainted with the new instrumentation placed there, including the 48-channel digital tape.
As part of the experiment with the new instrumentation, the band uses, among other things, a special condenser microphone that was installed on Neil Peart's chest during the recordings and picked up the sounds reflected from the walls and the atmosphere in the studio. The microphone can be seen mounted on Peart's chest in the video of the song "Vital Signs":
Luckily, today we can recreate some of the electrifying atmospheres that prevailed in "Le Studio" during the recording of the album, since apart from the song "Vital Signs" the band shot two more video clips for the songs, "Tom Sawyer" and "Limelight". The three videos were shot in the studio during the recordings and you can learn from them, even partially, about what happened in the studio.
This album is the band's first to feature synthesizers in each of the songs. It is also the band's last album to include a song that lasted over 10 minutes.
If "Permanent Waves" was an album that was the bridge between the Prog and the New Wave era, then in this album the band crossed the bridge and stood at the center of a crossroads, being exposed and absorbing the bustling traffic coming from all directions. In other words, it's the band's most diverse album in terms of musical styles and overall sound, but at the same time, and despite the diversity, it still manages to be the band's most perfect album and that's its beauty as well.
The album opens up with an explosion and the hit "Tom Sawyer" with the synthesizer sound of Geddy Lee perfectly synchronized with Neil Peart's bass drum, which takes us with a 4/4 time signature, to the verse of the song. Seemingly a simple song to play, but do not get excited because no band has yet been born that managed to make a worthy cover of it, and believe us many greats tried. Already in the first instrumental section, we move to the exceptional 7/8 time signature, which changes again in the second instrumental part to another exceptional time signature 7/4. This song evolved from a musical part that Geddy Lee used to play on the synthesizer during the band's sound checks. This musical part which starts at 1:33, is played on the synthesizer cyclically along 8 bars, when at the ninth bar Alex Lifeson is joining and playing the same musical part on the guitar along with the synthesizer for 2 more bars, before taking off for his crazy solo. And notice what happens during those 2 bars of overlap between the guitar and synthesizer. After a bar and a half the synthesizer leaves and the guitar is left to play another half box alone, until Geddy Lee enters with his bass playing exactly the same melody as the guitar and synthesizer before him. We have already said that while writing the materials, the band has always thought ahead about the way the songs will be performed live, without the help of guest musicians. So this half box is meant to allow Geddy Lee to leave the synthesizer and start playing the bass during the shows. And what's happening with Neil Peart's drums starting at 2:30 can simply not be explained in words. Just remember, if someone asks you when and where the concept of "Air Drumming" was born, you will direct him to this point exactly, starting at 2:30 of the song.
The second track "Red Barchetta" was recorded in one take, do you get it ???
This song opens with the harmonies produced by Alex Lifeson's palm-muted strings followed by Geddy Lee's amazing bass solo, which takes us after a short instrumental section to the first verse. This song is based on a story called "A Nice Morning Drive" which was published in 1973. Neil Peart manages to compress in six minutes, a dystopian science fiction story that corresponds in one way or another with the epic "2112", only here the restriction law is not related to music but to driving a motorized car. The protagonist in this story finds an old car or rather a Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta on his uncle's farm, and decides to take it for a ride despite the "engine law" that forbids it. The protagonist is of course caught up in a chase when the law enforcement officers follow him. Geddy and Alex manage to illustrate the fast sports car chase amazingly through the music, especially starting from the 2:26 minute of the song. Geddy Lee's bass playing in this song is perfect, and listen to Alex Lifeson's solo starting at 3:20, listen carefully because what you hear is not one solo but two, since Gaddy Lee goes with his own solo overlapping Alex's one, leaving Neil Peart to keep the rhythm by his own.
The third track on the album is the instrumental track "YYZ". This track demonstrates the virtuosity and musical diversity of all the band members and of Neil Peart in particular. "YYZ" is the code for Pearson Airport in Toronto. Neil Peart said he was always happy to see this code hanging on his suitcase because it symbolized his return home. The rhythm of the instrumental section consists of the Morse code of the letters YYZ, where the dashes (-) are played using eighth notes and the dots (.) using sixteenth notes. Interestingly, the crash sound in the middle of Alex Lifeson's solo was created using wind chimes slammed on a wooden table.
The song that seals the first side of vinyl "Limelight", is led by Alex Lifeson's amazing and catchy riff. The song is a kind of autobiography of Neil Peart who tells about dealing with publicity and success. As you know Peart was shy, introverted, and humble and did not get along really well with the success and everything that came with it. It is interesting to note that the song includes the words "camera eye" which is the next song on the album. The lyrics also have a reference to the band's first debut album mentioned in the sentence: "all the world's indeed a stage, and we are merely players". It may sound relatively simple to you, but it's one of the most complex songs on the album in terms of rhythm changes. During the verses, the rhythm is changed no less than 8 times (3/4, 4/4, 2/4, 4/4, 2/4, 3/4, 4/4, 2/4) with the change of rhythms also continuing to the chorus. The chords that Alex uses are also completely uncommon in the hard rock genre, including: Asus2, E5, G#m11, and more. Alex's solo is also one of the most beautiful on the album and in general.
The other side of the vinyl opens up with "The Camera Eye", the longest song on the album, which is a mini-work in two parts lasting almost 11 minutes. The song addresses the cultural differences between the cities of London and New York that Neil Peart visited, while conveying his impression of both through the lyrics of the song. The title of the song is based on the "USA trilogy" by the writer John Dos Passos, which Peart admired, and also based the song "The Big Money" from the album "Power Windows", on the same trilogy. Although the title of the song indicates only Roman numerals I and II, as mentioned, the first part of the song refers to New York City, while the second part which starts at 6:00 refers to the city of London, while in terms of the music the song seems to start from the beginning. Beyond the mighty amazing sound that sounds fresh even four decades later, some passages in this song just break us to pieces. Alex Lifeson's minimalist guitar work at the intro. The tremendous entry at 1:33 (mandatory at high volume). The keyboard segment starts at 2:20 and what happens next with Lifeson's guitar and Peart's crazy rollers - just an orgasm... Geddy Lee's bass playing starting from Alex Lifeson's solo at 9:17, which is one of the most beautiful on the album. While Alex goes solo Geddy Lee just leaves the rhythm section on Neil Peart's broad shoulders and goes out on his own bass solo. And try to listen to what's going on at 8:56 in the song, after Peart's short roll, Geddy Lee is heard giggling here and saying something like "Oh God" or something similar.
The next song is "Witch Hunt" which opens with the band members' voices and the studio staff shouting at each other. This was recorded using microphones placed in the freezing cold outside the studio. How amazingly Neil Peart keeps up the pace here with a cowbell during the verses and such beautiful rolls he hands out to us starting at 2:18, a delight to our ears. Interestingly, the special drum sound in certain parts of the song was achieved by 2 different recordings of Peart being put together. This song is also called "Part III Of Fear" and is part of the "fear trilogy" conceived by Peart, which initially consisted of 3 parts that appeared in reverse chronology across 3 consecutive albums. The first is "Witch Hunt" also called Part III Of Fear and deals with the way fear can be used to control people. The second is "The Weapon" from the 1982 album "Signals" and deals with external fears such as weapons And the third is "The Enemy Within" also called "Part I Of Fear", from "Grace Under Pressure", which came out in 1984 and deals with the inner fears of people. 18 years later the band decided to add a fourth part to what started as the "fear trilogy", as part of the comeback album "Vapor Trails". This track deals with paranoia and fear of the unknown and is called "Freeze - Part IV of Fear". Peart's genius is also expressed here as a writer who pre-planned the trilogy that will be spread over three consecutive albums in a reverse chronology. This song features Hugh Syme - the band's regular cover designer playing synthesizers alongside Geddy Lee.
It is interesting to note that while working on the song, the band was informed of the murder of John Lennon. The timing was chilling and Geddy referred to it in an interview he gave as follows:
"I was at Morin Heights, a recording studio an hour north of Montreal, working on the song "Witch Hunt" for the "Moving Pictures" album the night he was shot. It was a very heavy moment, I recall.
I think we were all just stunned. I remember constantly going back and forth, from working to the TV, to try to get some news. If I remember the environment, looking around the room, my memory just shows me a lot of pale faces staring at the tube."
The album ends with "Vital Signs", which marks the musical connection with the next album - "Signals". A beautiful reggae song. A style that the band had a taste of in the song "Spirit Of The Radio" from the previous album, and here has already become more dominant. This style will go and take over larger parts of the next album and will lead to inevitable friction with regular producer Terry Brown, ending in an explosion and his departure. It is hard to believe, but this song was written within 5 minutes in the studio, according to Geddy Lee. It is a song that the band really liked but the audience had a very hard time with it so the band used to play it a lot in live shows in the years after the album's release, in an attempt to get the audience to love it. This song has a very special structure. Alex Lifeson is the one who keeps the rhythm with the beating of the chords, while Geddy Lee takes the lead. Just Listen to his bass playing in this song, especially the melodic and short solo starting from the 3rd minute. And if you thought Alex Lifeson's role in this song was easy, listen to his chords beat at the opening of the song and try to sync with their rhythm. Tell us if you succeed. Not simple, right? There are a lot of breaks in rhythm, and syncopations that make it difficult to synchronize exactly with Alex Lifeson's chord beat.
Like most "Rush" albums, this cover was designed by Hugh Syme, who estimated that the design would cost $ 9,500. "Anthem Records" refused to cover the entire bill, leaving the band to pay for the rest. Hugh Syme gave the cover a triple meaning to the words "Moving Pictures": First, the cover shows "Movers" carrying the pictures (Moving). On the side of the picture, people are seen crying because the pictures that pass by them "move" them. On the back cover, a camera crew is filming a movie of the entire scene (Movie).
The filming took place outside the Legislature building in Ontario, Queens Park, Toronto. The picture being moved by the movers is Rush's star logo displayed on the back cover of the album "2112", one of the Dogs Playing Poker drawings titled "A Friend in Need" and a painting by Joan of Arc burning on the stake.
The camera crew seen on the back cover actually filmed the scene.
"Moving Pictures" is without a shadow of a doubt one of the pinnacles of "Rush"'s work. This is a masterpiece that has received a perfect score from many music critics, including "AllMusic". Beyond the fact that it reached number three on "Rolling Stone's 50 greatest prog albums list, it is also on the magazine's "500 greatest albums of all time" list and on the "1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die" list. "Kerrang!" Included it in the list of the 100 greatest Heavy Metal albums of all time and readers of "Rhythm" magazine determined that it was the greatest drum album in the history of Progressive Rock.
In 2011, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of its release, the band played the entire album, from beginning to end, as part of the "Time Machine Tour" - recorded for "Time Machine 2011: Live in Cleveland".