Rush- Moving Pictures (1981): 20 May 2019

Rush – Moving Pictures (1981)

Welcome back to Your Dad’s Car Stereo where we’re returning to one of my favorite bands this week, Rush. Before we get into the review, stay tuned for Led Zeppelin Month in June where I’m covering Led Zeppelin I-IV back-to-back-to-back-to-back. Listen along and let me know what you think as we cover a legendary series of albums. I’m also working on a couple of specials and longform albums right now, so if you’re interested in lists of favorite and least favorite albums, tracks, then stay tuned!

Moving Pictures is the eighth album from the Canadian trio and, to this day, is the band’s best-selling album. The record solidifies a shift in the band’s sound that was first heard on their previous album, Permanent Waves, towards a more radio-friendly sound with shorter songs and fewer abstract lyrics and instruments. Along with a radio-friendly sound, the instrumentation the band used started changing on this album too; increasing their reliance on the trendy synthesizers and moving away from the three-piece they were known for before this. This marked change would continue for the next decade until the band got back to their roots on 1993’s Counterparts. With all of this, Moving Pictures is often my go-to album when introducing people to Rush before bombarding them with long-form concept albums like 2112 or the Hemispheres series. Moving Pictures features some of Rush’s most popular songs like “Tom Sawyer,” “YYZ” (Pronounced why-why-zed), and “Limelight.” This is a top-notch album from a top-notch band, and I hope you enjoy it!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Tom Sawyer: When someone mentions Rush, this is probably the first song that comes to mind because of its commercial success. “Tom Sawyer” really brings together everything that the band has been up to this album, a hard rocking trio, and melds it with what they’re going to become for the next decade, a more synth-driven band influenced by the New Wave movement out of England. The trio is so in-sync on this track and the instrumentation is flawless. Highlights are Neil Peart’s mega-colossal drum fill during the bridge that gets the whole crowd air drumming in concerts and Lifeson’s shredding guitar solo about halfway through the song. Dad’s Rating 10/10

Red Barchetta: A song about a sports car, yeah you might have heard it before, but have you ever heard it done this well before? “Red Barchetta” is a perfect example of how the lyrics and the music can combine to create a true experience for the listener. The idea is that the song is a story about a time where someone can only drive certain types of cars, the Red Barchetta not being one of them, and the main character racing cars that are trying to chase him. The song builds up to that race from the beginning that starts as a ballad before ending with that same soft beginning. Dad’s Rating 8/10

YYZ: “YYZ” is one of the best instrumental rock pieces ever written. I could end this track there but I’ll continue. Taken from the airport code for Rush’s hometown of Toronto, the first thing you notice is that the intro doesn’t sound normal, and that’s because it’s in an unusual time signature, 10/8. We don’t talk much about music theory on this blog, but the idea is that the top number represents how many beats are in a measure of music and the bottom number represents what type of note receives a full beat (in this case an eighth note is worth one beat, so 10 eighth notes can fill a measure, as can 5 quarter notes, 20 sixteenth notes, etc.). For reference, most songs you hear on the radio are written in 4/4 time. The reason the intro was written was like that was actually so that the notes repeat “Y-Y-Z” in Morse Code! Now for the rest of the song, it’s an absolute masterpiece of guitars, drum work, and appropriate melding of synthesizers to give the track an otherworldly feeling. Dad’s Rating 9/10

Limelight: Who would have thought that a song about the tribulations of fame would end up becoming a massive hit? The band really should have expected that considering their luck with statement pieces. For reference, “The Spirit of Radio” on their previous album was a critique of radio culture and was their biggest hit up to that point. Peart was the primary author on this song and it speaks mostly to his troubles coping with newfound fame. This track embodies everything that makes Rush, Rush. There are classic literary references in the lyrics, what I think is some of Geddy’s best vocal work, and masterful mélange between the instruments. The band is incredibly in sync on this song and I think it shines through. Dad’s Rating 8/10

The Camera Eye: Remember what I said about this album being more radio friendly and shortening the average track length? Well the band couldn’t give it up entirely and we end up with this 10:59 long piece. Much of the song is instrumental and we don’t get any lyrics until almost four minutes into the song. “The Camera Eye” isn’t my favorite Rush song and my biggest issue with it is the organization. I love the music and the instrumentation is dynamic, shifting sounds seamlessly between the verses and the solos, but I feel like this song wants to be one of the big stories in their repertoire and just never got there. If you look at a 2112”or a “Hemispheres”, those tracks tell definable stories that are enhanced by the music. “The Camera Eye” relies too much on the music to make an impact and not on its story, and I think that’s a detriment to the song. Dad’s Rating 5/10

Witch Hunt: I really like “Witch Hunt!” This is one of the songs in the back catalog that gets forgotten about a lot, mostly because it’s sandwiched between “Limelight” and “Vital Signs” on an album with more fantastic songs. This is a great deep cut though, that has an interesting mix between the old rock sound of the band and the emerging New Wave sound, starting with the former and shifting to the latter. The guitar stands out to me on this track, particularly because it sounds a lot like what the band ended up evolving into after the New Wave sound, kind of as a little teaser of what’s coming. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Vital Signs: “Vital Signs” is just a fantastic all-round rock track. The song has a poppier sound to it, not in a Top 40 way, but in a staccato way. Although it’s not the case, it almost sounds like Lee’s vocals are the cause for this during the chorus, but if you listen closely, his vocals are smooth. Credit really goes to Lifeson and Peart for altering the way we perceive the vocals. This is another one of those back-catalog songs that gets pulled out and is really good, it just never got the traction of some of the other songs on the album. Despite that, give it a listen and see what you think! Dad’s Rating 7/10

The opinion above is protected under the Fair Use provision of United States Copyright Law, 17 U.S.C §107 which allows for the fair use of a copyrighted work for criticism without infringement on the copyright.

Rush- Rush (1974): 25 February 2019

Rush – Rush (1974)

Rush over to whatever you use to play your music, because this week we’re going to take a look at the first entry in my favorite band’s discography, the self-titled debut, Rush. Formed in Toronto in the early 1970s, Rush was one of the leaders of the progressive rock genre and became well known for their epic, extended length songs, lyrics rooted in classic literature, and musicianship. Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart have all been recognized many times over for their mastery of their respective instruments; bass, lead guitar, and drums. The lineup of the band has only changed once, and it was after this album. John Rutsey was the first drummer for the band and was replaced with Peart due to his inability to sustain the grueling tour schedule that Lee and Lifeson wanted to continue with.

This first entry is arguably Rush trying to find their sound. Listening to the album you’ll hear strong influences from Led Zeppelin in the sound and fewer esoteric literary references in the lyrics. On their second album, Fly By Night, the band really finds their own sound and starts exploring story telling in their lyrics. By the time they reached their fourth album (and one of the most important albums in rock history), 2112, they had become leaders in the progressive rock genre, incorporating unusual time signatures and borrowing heavily from science fiction, dystopian, and collectivist literature to critique in their music. This first album is very similar to a Led Zeppelin I or more recently Anthem of the Peaceful Army by Greta Van Fleet. Both of those albums are from young bands that are borrowing heavily from their source material, and in the case of Greta Van Fleet, I believe that in time that they will take their source material and create their own path from it. This album is a rocker full of shredding guitar solos from Lifeson that were never as numerous as they were here, and it produced a hit single for the band, Working Man. Enjoy the album!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Finding My Way: What a way to open the album! Rush wanted to make an impactful start and they accomplished that. This is just pure early 1970s rock. The swell in the beginning towards the first verse is really impactful. The guitar riff that carries the song gets stuck in my head every time I listen to this song and solo before the final verse definitely rocks hard. This only gets a 9 because there’s other songs that hold up better than this song. Finding My Way never had the staying power of Working Man, but it definitely rocked! Let this help you find your way through Rush’s discography! Dad’s Rating 9/10

Need Some Love: Need Some Love is the shortest track on the album, but that doesn’t diminish its excellence at all. Dynamically, this song is less impressive than Finding My Way, and the instrumentals are less complex than on the former track too. This song actually reminds me of some of AC/DC’s work at the time, both were producing similar styles of hard rock before Rush moved in a different direction to produce more experimental music. Not much more to be said other than this is another rocking Rush track! Dad’s Rating 8/10

Take A Friend: This is what would become the “Rush sound” all the way through their album Caress of Steel. Because this is what I would describe as the origin “Rush sound,” it’s not as polished as some of their later work and doesn’t hold up when you look at it in that light. The crescendo at the beginning of the song is where it all starts, that particular mix with an even amount of Geddy’s bass and Alex’s lead guitar working together with support from John on drums can be heard on albums for the next 15 years of Rush releases. On the rest of the song, Alex’s guitar is too turned up and it sounds like they’re just playing their own instruments and not a cohesive act like we hear later. Now, having said all of that, this is still a fantastic song, and it’s one of those deep cuts that never gets played on classic rock radio. Share this with a friend and give it a listen! Dad’s Rating 8/10

Here Again: I would call this a power ballad before power ballads had a name. After speeding through the first three tracks, this song is a welcome break. The slowed tempo actually allows the band’s musicianship to shine through. Geddy sounds much more restrained and passionate in his singing here than on any other track on the album. This is also the longest track on the album, which to make a slow song the longest song is a bold move. Fortunately, the song doesn’t drag at all; it’s dynamic in the way it develops from a soft start towards the emotional, two-minute long guitar solo at around the halfway mark. This is one of the longest Alex Lifeson solos in Rush’s discography and he made sure to not waste it. Its passion and musical complexity make it worth more than one listen. Dad’s Rating 9/10

What You’re Doing: Led Zeppelin’s influence on Rush comes through strongly on What You’re Doing. It’s probably the least interesting song on the album. There’s nothing to make it stand out from the earlier songs that are more musically complex and rock harder. There’s also no hint of the developing “Rush sound,” which places this song as one of the ones lost in the early discography. One of the saving graces is John Rutsey’s drum rolls during Alex’s solo. Neil Peart was more restrained on their later albums and I can’t recall a song where he did anything similar. That uniqueness of Rutsey gives the song a little more sticking power. Dad’s Rating 7/10

In The Mood: This song shows another hint of the developing “Rush sound.” Compare this song to, what is arguably one of the worst Rush songs, I’m Going Bald from the band’s third album and you’;ll hear how the band shifted towards a more vocal forward sound and guitar to support the vocals. That’s a stark difference to what we hear on most of this album where many songs are guitar forward. This song put me in the mood to give it a 7/10, not because it’s a great song, but because we can hear the band’s potential.  Dad’s Rating 7/10

Before and After: “This is only the second slower tempo song on the album and it’s a welcome break from the frenetic energy that we’ve experienced up until now,” is what I’m sure you’re thinking. Just wait. Rush is always full of surprises and this song is the earliest example of the band experimenting with their music. The transition between the down-tempo and up-tempo parts of the song is really smooth and it builds into a song with great energy and fantastic instrumentation from all the members. Rutsey’s drum work on this song is particularly good and Lifeson’s dual solos are both memorable. Don’t let this one fool you, there’s definitely a before and after part of this song. I think you’ll find them pretty quickly too! Dad’s Rating 8/10

Working Man: When you hear the opening chords to Working Man there’s no mistaking what song it is. This was Rush’s first hit single and the one that let the band grow. Initially the song was played on the radio in Cleveland, Ohio, and every time it played, the radio station received calls asking where people can buy the new Led Zeppelin album. The song resonated strongly in Cleveland at the time because the city was still a mostly working class, factory city. Now to the song itself, the instrumentation is par none. Lifeson shreds in his solo on this album and the band is one complete unit throughout the song. We even hear hints of the “Rush sound” after the guitar solos where the lead and bass guitars are supporting each other by playing the same riffs. We’ll hear the on more Rush track like Tom Sawyer and YYZ. I can’t say enough good things about this legendary classic rock track. This is the perfect way to closeout a debut album and leave people wanting more. This song is one of the few thus far to receive a “They Don’t Make Songs Like This Anymore Award” for a 10/10 rating. Well played lads. Dad’s Rating 10/10

The opinion above is protected under the Fair Use provision of United States Copyright Law, 17 U.S.C §107 which allows for the fair use of a copyrighted work for criticism without infringement on the copyright.