This is the album that begins with “Tom Sawyer”, another one of their most recognizable songs, and based mostly on a single drone. Then we have a song about a car, in this case a mispronounced “Red Barchetta”, given an extremely picturesque arrangement that changes gears just like all the best (and worst) songs about cars do. Every teenage guitarist worth his salt just had to master that harmonics riff, being one of the few Alex Lifeson parts that doesn’t require speed to impress. Trainspotters love to explain the significance of “YYZ”, its Morse code tempo giving each of the band members room to show off. A Zeppelinesque hook introduces “Limelight”, practically a pop song and one of Neil Peart’s most personal, ironic, and often misinterpreted lyrics.
It’s such a perfect album side that many spotty youths we know played it way more than the flip, often skipping right to “Witch Hunt” in the middle of side two. It was their loss, which they would all realize once the charms of “The Camera Eye” were allowed to be heard. A two-verse song contrasting and comparing two iconic cities isn’t any literary leap, particularly when the cities in question are Manhattan and London, but they can be a pretty big deal to anyone seeing them for the first time. The verses are almost secondary to the main thrust of the song, with its grandiose swoop and cinematic breadth. Still, at eleven minutes most D&D players would have been more impressed by the sinister undertones and gothic overtones of “Witch Hunt”, and since “Vital Signs” even got airplay on MTV, most of the kids were able to keep up with the backwards reggae beat and tricky stop-time.
Even the band themselves know how large Moving Pictures looms in their legend, going so far as to spotlight it on tour some 30 years after its initial release. There’s nothing silly or embarrassing here, but there is some well-placed humor, both in the music and on the cover. Again, of all their catalog, this is the one album every Rush fan can agree on, and the best entry point.
Rush Moving Pictures (1981)—4