REVIEW: Rush – Moving Pictures (CD/blu-ray deluxe edition)

 

Everybody got to evelate from the norm…

RUSH FRONT

RUSH – Moving Pictures (2011 Anthem remaster with 5.1 blu-ray)

The great musical academic, Tom Morwood, once called Moving Pictures “the greatest album of the 1980’s”. I think he has an arguable position. Besides the obvious “Tom Sawyer”, you get such classics as “Red Barchetta”, “YYZ”, “Limelight”, and of course “Vital Signs”. This is back in the day when 7 or 8 songs made an album, and Moving Pictures’ 7 songs are a hell of a concoction.

Although the Rush catalogue was last remastered back in ’97 (or there ’bouts), this was the first Rush deluxe edition to hit the shelves. Unlike most deluxe editions, this one contains no “bonus tracks” per se, at least none in CD form. Disc one is Moving Pictures, in stereo, and disc two is the entire album in hi-def 5.1, plus three music videos. Disc one has been remastered (yet again!), but don’t fret — unless you’re an audiophile, you don’t need to worry about that. The 1997 CD edition sounded fine, as does this. You’re buying this for the 5.1, and if you can’t play 5.1 just stick with the original CD which sounds pretty much the same to the average Joe Listener.   (There’s also a “96k PCM stereo” with “256 times more resolution than a CD” on the blu-ray disc.)

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If you don’t own this album yet, then what are you waiting for?  You couldn’t find a better CD to start with.  Although Geddy had brought the keyboards out, this album still represents the perfect mix of Alex’s guitar and Ged’s keys — not fighting for space in the mix, but sharing it equally and powerfully.

RUSH CD

Do I really need to talk about “Tom Sawyer”?  It’s Rush’s most recognizable riff.  I can think of few other songs where the drum part carries just as many hooks as the other instruments.  But that’s Rush, that’s the Professor.  That’s part of their genius.

“Red Barchetta” is a futuristic tale.  The Motor Law has been passed, banning cars.  Romance for the old vehicles still exists in some, who seek the thrills.  I always felt the subject matter was similar to the movie The Last Chase, which didn’t come out until the following year.  Musically, the song twists and turns like the roads it’s about.

“YYZ” is perhaps Rush’s best known instrumental, a slammin’ piece of polyrhythmic madness.  It’s stuff like this that Rush is best known for, and “YYZ” is one of the best examples of it.  Alex’s guitar work is nothing short of stunning, meanwhile Geddy’s bass licks are perfect.

Meanwhile, “Limelight” represents the simpler pop side of Rush that the band were interested in exploring at the time.  It is still anchored by a solid riff, but with Geddy’s vocal melody enduring.  A song like this is an appropriate lead-in to “The Camera Eye”, a more complex piece featuring Geddy’s synth.  It’s over 10 minutes long, and perhaps the kind of thing people expect from Rush.

“Witch Hunt” is a shorter one, but ominous and dramatic.  Alex’s riff is the main focus, although Neil certainly throws in plenty of interesting accents.  The final track, “Vital Signs”, is my favourite.  Finding words to describe it is difficult.  It’s perfect — an amalgam of incredible playing with interesting influences and complex arrangements.  There is a clear reggae vibe, as they had been listening to a lot of The Police.  It’s also extremely memorable.  Neil’s drum work on this is stunning.

And that’s the album!  Seven songs done and dusted.

RUSH BLU RAY

The 5.1 mix, done by Toronto’s own Richard Chycki (he’s been doing Rush and Triumph remixes for years now) is pretty damn good. It’s different. Listen to “Vital Signs” for example. It’s different, the balance of instruments and vocals. Considering the original stereo mix was perfect, and you can’t fairly compare to perfection, I will just say the mix is different. It’s definitely a great listen on a good system, I liked what Chycki did. Again, listen to “Vital Signs”. What he did there just creates this amazing field of sound. There’s a great separation of instruments. Moving Pictures was a great choice to mix in 5.1, you can really hear the individual playing.

The music videos are old, and don’t look so hot, even on blu. I have always loved watching the “Tom Sawyer” video, Neil bashing his kit in Le Studio with that big glass window behind him in the dead of winter. Geddy with those big glasses.  My best friend Peter, he loves Geddy’s glasses!  There’s also “Limelight”, which is seen less frequently.  The “Vital Signs” video, from the same taping, is previously unreleased.

The liner notes are by David Fricke, and are quite different from the who-played-what-when notes in previous deluxe editions. Fricke’s don’t go into great detail regarding the making of the album nor the 5.1 mix, as previous deluxe editions do. However, it’s David Fricke, and therefore a good read. Enjoy while immersed within this album, in sublime hi-def 5.1.

5(.1)/5 stars

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14 comments

  1. I love your 5.1/5 stars rating. Well done, Mike. I think I’ve already made clear my disappointment in the Rush 5.1 mixes, but perhaps I’m just being too picky. Most of them are very good, but for me a good 5.1 mix creates an immersive sonic experience and most of the Rush surround sound mixes simply separate the instruments into different channels. It’s cool to hear certain sounds that weren’t easily identifiable in the stereo mix, but often they come across as gimmicky and not a true alternative to the original stereo version. Everything you wrote about the packaging & liner notes is spot-on. I’m glad I own this (I have the DVD version, not the Blu-Ray), and the remastered CD…which I believe is the same version as the one included in the Sector box set…is the best I’ve heard the album sound.

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    1. I’d assume the remastering is the same as in the Sector box as well. Can’t imagine a reason to re-remaster it twice in a year!

      I’ve decided, as far as 5.1 experiences go, not to think too hard about it and just see how enjoyable the music is for me. If I’m distracted and surprised frequently, that doesn’t make for a great experience. I found this 5.1 to be a good listening experience for me, just enough “newness” to keep it interesting.

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  2. Cool album. I always though it was cool how the last song pointed the way to their future direction a bit. And I have to mention the guitar solo in Limelight, it’s just one of the best guitar solos of all time. Total bliss in guitar form!

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    1. Alex was really an under appreciated guitarist in the 80’s. Thank for the reminder!

      As for the last song, I think you were right but I also think it is one of the greatest album closers ever.

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  3. I have a few of these songs on Chronicles, the only record of theirs I have, and they are indeed great. I’d love to hear the album proper, to get the whole thing in context. You’ve told me before that this would be a great place to start.

    I also enjoyed the clever 5(.1) rating – kudos to Rich for pointing that out.

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