Considering that the "Classic Albums" DVD that looked at BLACK SABBATH's "Paranoid" was so well done, it was with a great deal of disappointment that I began my journey into the heart of RUSH's "2112" (1976) and "Moving Pictures" (1981). The discussions with guitarist Alex Lifeson, bassist/vocalist/keyboardist Geddy Lee, and drummer/lyricist Neil Peart about songs from both albums and witnessing them dazzling the viewer with their instruments was insightful and inspiring, respectively. Yet it seemed disjointed; jumping back and forth between albums released in two distinctly different time periods and seeming to just "stop" at less than hour with no kind of wrap-up, much less discourse on the importance of each album for both RUSH's career and the history of progressive rock. I just didn't get it. How could this be? And then it hit me. In my — if you'll pardon the pun — rush to get busy watching the DVD I had somehow selected "Bonus Material" instead of the main feature, yet thought I was viewing the latter, thereby explaining my perplexity at the content, duration, and the disconnectedness of the segmentation. Heed my warning, friends; don't let the challenge of age interfere with your hand/eye coordination.
Having said all of that, you can now rest assured that the 54 minutes of bonus material is most worthy of your attention and a value-adding component of "Classic Albums: 2112 & Moving Pictures". As for the main feature, it is a historically relevant, awe-inspiring examination of not one, but two career-defining albums for RUSH and two hugely influential musical statements to a legion of fans and musicians. Following on the heels of the commercially disappointing and "weird as hell" (as Peart put it) "Caress of Steel", RUSH's management left the Mercury Records office assuring them that the follow-up would in some way meet the label's expectations for shorter, more accessible songs.
Never ones to blindly take direction or compromise their artistic vision, RUSH instead composed "2112", the multi-part title track taking up one whole side. It was to be RUSH's last hurrah; the choice one of integrity over commerciality, even if it resulted in their being dropped from Mercury. Instead, it was a huge smash, an album that essentially "bought" them their artistic freedom and allowed them free reign to write and record as they saw fit. The DVD makes the point loud and clear, not only from a musical aspect, but also from a lyrical one. Peart's lyrics pertain to a dystopian society that had erased any notion of "I" and a struggle to regain control and allow artistic expression through music; and to hell with the Priests of the Temples of Syrinx! What really comes through is just how pissed off the members of RUSH were in making this album, in the process setting records for furthest middle finger extension in the history of rock music. You know who had the last laugh.
The gates now thrown open, RUSH would go on to release albums that would contain complex and expansionist composition, yet also accessible songwriting, the latter two elements captured brilliantly on "Moving Pictures". It would be the band's true commercial breakthrough and one that rock fans most often identify with the RUSH "sound", regardless of the fact that the sound has continually evolved with each release, even the one immediately following, "Signals". Side A gets the lion's share of attention, since it included not only RUSH's signature song, "Tom Sawyer", but also rock radio staple "Limelight", instrumental staple "YYZ" (which you'll find was based on the radio transmitter code for Toronto's Lester B. Pearson International Airport), and yet another classic called "Red Barchetta". True to "Classic Albums" form, songs are analyzed from a mixing board standpoint with producer Terry Brown, in this cased joined by Lifeson and Lee.
It can be difficult to separate the viewer's awe at the RUSH musical cannon and the fascinating personalities of the members from objective quality measurements of the DVD itself. With "2112 & Moving Pictures" you can appreciate equally the music, the personalities, and production values. The intellectual worth of the musical discussions alone is worth the purchase price. Mandatory viewing for rock historians and RUSH fan, at least.