Continuing the tradition of this celebrated series, 2112 & Moving Pictures Classic Albums carries us through the creation of these musical masterpieces via brand new interviews, demonstrations, archive videos, and use of the original multi-track tapes. The titan trio of bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson, and drummer Neil Peart, joined by original producer Terry Brown, weigh in on the mammoth melodies, resounding riffs, and dynamic drum fills behind these immense aural soundscapes. Many others contribute to the commentary, such as Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins and acclaimed Rolling Stone journalist David Fricke.
These legendary albums mark pivotal points in Rush’s career. 2112, released in 1976, broke the band into major music chart domination, going #1 in their native Canada and in the Top 75 in the USA, where it was certified triple platinum. Moving Pictures added fuel to their rising stardom, opening them up to a mass audience with heavy-hitting hits like “Tom Sawyer.” Going #1 and quadruple platinum in Canada, as well as hitting #3 in the USA and the UK, this 1981 release remains their biggest selling album to date. Rush is currently performing this album in its entirely on their “Time Machine” tour. Rush: 2112 & Moving Pictures Classic Albums is a perfect encapsulation of what made these albums successful, and why they are revered to this day.
'Classic Albums' is an outstanding television series that airs on VH1 and VH1 Classic in the United States. Each nearly hour-long episode examines the creation of a classic album, usually through interviews with the participants. What makes the series unique is getting to watch and listen as the originals artists and engineers deconstruct the songs at the soundboard.
Canadian rock legends Rush get their time in the limelight with an episode that deals with both 1976's 2112 and 1981's Moving Pictures, two of the most important albums of their careers. The trio of bassist/keyboardist/lead singer Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson, and drummer Neil Peart are interviewed separately for the most part. Manager Ray Danniels, producer Terry Brown, a few label executives, and fans/musicians Taylor Hawkins of Foo Fighters and Ed Robertson of Bare Naked Ladies also take part, offering their thoughts and insights.
Covering material familiar to fans of the band and those who watched the recent documentary 'Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage,' the episode opens with the band talking about their early days as Peart joined the band after their debut album to replace John Rutsey, whose health kept him from the rigorous touring they were about to undertake. Peart's addition was instrumental to the band's growth and direction because not only is he considered one of rock's greatest drummers, but he also became the band's lyricist.
After their third album Caress of Steel performed poorly, Danniels was called in for a meeting with record label who wanted radio-friendly songs as opposed to Steel's prog-rock epics, the 12-minute-plus "The Necromancer" and the 20-minute "The Fountain of Lamneth". Realizing this might be their last album, the band ignored their manager's assurances and decided they would rather go out on their own terms.
2112 opens with a seven-part song of the same name that takes up an entire album side. Influenced by Any Rand's Anthem and Samuel R. Delany’s Babel-17, Peart wrote a science fiction story about a world where the priests of the Temples of Syrinx control everything, including art, and the young man who finds a guitar and attempts to make his own music.
Although the label wasn't happy and they received some backlash in the press because of the association to Rand, the autobiographical themes of individualism and nonconformity combined with the musical accompaniment spoke to many fans. Along with "A Passage to Bangkok", which they joke inspires many in the audience to light up, and their tribute to Rod Serling's TV series "The Twilight Zone," the album went gold and the executives backed off giving direction.
Moving Pictures was their eighth studio release and remains their most successful, so it's hard to believe only 22 minutes of the program are devoted to it because they could have been done an entire episode around it. With the time remaining they cover what is arguably one of the greatest album sides in rock. The band's style has changed since 2112. Synthesizers and influences from reggae and new wave can be heard in the arrangements. The songs are shorter and more suitable for radio where they go on to become classic rock staples.
"Tom Sawyer" might be their most popular song. It features Lifeson's brilliant solo and a strong performance from Peart. The lyrics return to the theme of individualism with lines like "his mind is not for rent/ to any god or government" just as they do on the futuristic tale "Red Barchetta" that tells the story of a young man driving car that has been outlawed. "YYZ" is an outstanding instrumental that allows all three to shine. "Limelight" is Neil's reaction to fame, which is interesting because he wrote it before the band reached their peak of popularity. He would not have enjoyed Beatlemania.
Fans have a lot to enjoy here. The band provides insight into how they work together and it's apparent they still have great love and respect for each other. The soundboard scenes provide a unique opportunity to hear and better appreciate elements that make up the songs. Best of all, it is outstanding to see the individual, close-up performances as they play along, a better view than any concert would offer.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Eagle Rock Entertainment brings 'Classic Albums: Rush - 2112 & Moving Pictures' to high-definition on a BD-50 Blu-ray disc housed inside a standard blue keepcase. The disc boots up directly to the menu screen without any promotional advertisements. The Blu-ray does not appear to be region locked. There are no liner notes.
The video is presented with 1080i/60 AVC MPEG4 encode at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. As with other entries in the series, the concern by the producers is in providing an array of archival footage as opposed to an outstanding visual experience.
The modern interviews are the most appealing. Lifeson's interviews feature warm, amber colors along the walls. Lee's scenes have less brightness in the color mixed with unlit walls. Peart's scenes use black as the primary color in the shot with some color coming off his t-shirt and his drums in the background. Their skin tones stay consistent and depth is evident. Details are sharp, particularly in the close-ups of the fingers playing the instruments. The video is very clean, free from physical and digital defects.
The archival footage, some of which occurs after Moving Pictures as Lee's ponytail gives away, definitely shows its age. Sources include film and early video in color and black and white and all are almost everything not desired in high-def. Images are soft, colors are dull, and edges almost non-existent. I could keep going but no need to belabor the point. If the context can be appreciated, they aren't troubling.
The audio is only available as LPCM Stereo. The interviews, the guys demonstrating how they play, and the tracks through the soundboard are heard only out the front channel. The dialogue is always clear and never overwhelmed by the music. The other fronts augment with a little room ambiance. When complete songs are used, including when the guys play along live, they fill the surround system and need to be played loud.
The wide dynamic range is evident with the highs of the cymbals, the guitar, and Lee's early vocals meshing well with the lows of Peart's thunderous drums and Lee's heavy bass grooves making their way strongly through subwoofer.
Some of the early audio is understandably not up to the same quality standards, resulting in flat fidelity.
'Classic Albums: Rush - 2112 & Moving Pictures' is a great document about the creation of two classic albums. It's a must-own for Rush fans, and I recommend it to anyone curious about what goes into the making of an album. The A/V is uneven due to the condition of some of the archival footage but viewers of the TV series will already be aware of that.