Forty years old, yet still yesterday-fresh. When it was first released in 1981, Rush fans knew eighth album Moving Pictures was special. The previous year’s Permanent Waves took a bold step forward, but its follow-up marked a sea change.
Hindsight suggests the perceived epoch-ending Exit… Stage Left double live album came one studio work too late. Fourth record 2112 will always be the cult favourite, but Moving Pictures is Rush’s masterwork – and their biggest seller.
Its seven tracks are so perfectly rendered and sequenced that it plays as a suite. Each track is so good, it’s easier to suggest a weakest than a strongest. But even that’s like deciding which eye to blind. Is it Witch Hunt, or the equally stunning Vital Signs? It certainly isn’t Camera Eye, the epic travelogue of London and New York; the brilliant instrumental YYZ (the code for their home city Toronto’s airport, remember); or the timeless genius of either Tom Sawyer, Red Barchetta or Limelight.
The £270 Super Deluxe Edition of Moving Pictures (it’s reissued in multiple formats) includes three CDs, one Blu-ray audio disc, and five 180g black vinyl LPs – featuring the 2015 Abbey Road remasters (for the first time on CD) – plus a 44-page hardcover book with sleeve notes by Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil, Primus’s Les Claypool and late Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins.
Or you might just want it for the model red Barchetta mounted on a plinth… The irresistible bonus, though, is the two-CD/six sides of vinyl Live In YYZ 1981 (included in more affordable ‘basic’ editions) – the complete two-hour set from the Toronto Maple Leaf Gardens show on March 25. At that point, Moving Pictures had only been in the shops for six weeks, but Rush sound supremely proficient playing all of it except Witch Hunt (saved for later tours).
Camera Eye directly follows Beneath Between Behind from their second album to serve as a working definition of ‘progression’. YYZ doubles in length thanks to Neil Peart’s high-energy drum solo. And the whole band demonstrate the strength of the new material by confidently saving Red Barchetta, Tom Sawyer and Vital Signs until late in the set.
The very occasional mix glitch might explain why the band plumped for tapes from Montreal (two days later) instead to fill most of Exit Stage Left, but today, the third-night-in-our-home-city atmosphere easily surmounts any perceived shortcomings. The world isn’t short of Rush live recordings, but it can certainly stand one more called Live In YYZ. In all, this reissue is a genuine treasure.