Rush, ‘Moving Pictures (40th Anniversary Edition)': Album Review
For rabid prog-rock fans, no archival oddity is worth leaving in the dust. The bad news: Rush have always been a tidy bunch, never accumulating much of a scrap pile.
“There’s nothing there. There’s nothing left," Geddy Lee told Rolling Stone in 2021, confirming the trio's lack of leftovers. "There might be half-finished demos somewhere where we got halfway through and went, ‘Oh, this song sucks.’ And it never got made.”
It's an admirable philosophy: If Rush have recorded any junk over 40-plus years, they've deliberately kept it buried. Why waste people's time with five barely different versions of "Tom Sawyer" when the original is right there, still ready to be savored? But we live in an age when no band's archives stay sacrosanct for too long, when every arbitrary year-marker is an excuse for another reissue. Rush's consistency is, in a sense, a double-edged sword.
Moving Pictures is already the most essential Rush album, their most organic blend of '70s-style prog virtuosity (instrumental monster "YYZ") and '80s new wave punch (hooky price-of-fame sing-along "Limelight"). The set's 40th Anniversary Edition doesn't change that verdict: Without an engineering degree, 99 percent of fans won't be able to detect much difference in the new remaster — that is, outside of the occasional detail that may just be a placebo effect. (Is Neil Peart's triangle more pronounced during the intro of "YYZ," swirling around the speakers? You be the judge.) In short: It sounds perfect, just like before.
The Super Deluxe Edition is stacked with the requisite superficial goodies (extensive liner notes, lavish box, multiple audio formats on Blu-ray) aimed at the nerdiest among us. But the crux of this package is a rattling, previously unreleased 1981 live album, captured in Toronto and spread across two discs. It captures an unvarnished, warts-and-all aesthetic, all jagged edges in contrast to the main LP's smooth contours.
It's always fascinating to hear Rush go ragged, with Lee straining to hit the high chorus of "Limelight" or the full band failing to grasp a solid tempo on the soft-to-soaring "Closer to the Heart." And several of these live tracks are almost punishing in their intensity: Peart’s ringing toms during the big-band jazz section of "La Villa Strangiato," the dynamic shift into hard rock on "Natural Science," the heavy reggae switch-up on "Working Man" amid the multi-track medley.
For die-hards starved for swag, this 40th-anniversary set is worth investigating. But some may selfishly wish Rush had been a bit sloppier back in the day — the band's gain in quality was our (future) loss in quantity.