Review Summary: One of the best Prog records of all time. To me, the album that sums up Rush in a nutshell.2 of 2 thought this review was well written
There are 4 main kinds of Rush fans. Some prefer their earlier records, especially 2112 up to Hemispheres. Some opt for the transitional years that were marked by Permanent Waves, Moving Pictures and Signals. Still others prefer their poppier 80's output (Grace Under Pressure, Power Windows, Hold Your Fire). Lastly, the final group of Rush fans are more into such 90's records as Presto and Roll the Bones, among others.
I happen to be familiar with all of Rush's eras (though I must admit, it wasn't always so). I can still remember hearing Tom Sawyer and Red Barchetta many times in my life, so when I finally came around, I decided to hear this album. I would eventually hear the others of course, but for special reasons, this remains my all time favourite.
The personnel in the making of the album (for those who don't know):
Geddy Lee: Bass, keyboards, vocals, effects
Alex Lifeson: Guitar
Neil Peart: Drums, percussion
It should be noted that, at the beginning, Alex Lifeson stood out more in the band (heck, HE FOUNDED IT!!!). However, with the departure of John Rutsey, it seemed that fate brought the talents of one Neil Peart to work in the band. He would be the band's primary lyricist ever since, while Lee and Lifeson would carry out the musicmaking.
It wasn't long before people took notice of the band's talents. Album after album, the band had a taste for epic storytelling, which was a constant in many of their records. 2112, A Farewell to Kings and Hemispheres certainly showed this. Rush had become one of the leading progressive rock bands of their time (and arguably the most definitive).
Permanent Waves marked an important change. Rush was gradually abandoning their pretense for large scale half-album songs, focusing instead on simpler objectives. This transition was definitely completed in Moving Pictures. In my humble opinion, I might add that this is the last Rush record that shows clear vestiges of their earlier years (Signals would definitely be the last album by Rush which could be considered a "standard prog" record, being promptly followed by controversial, synth dominated records).
So in light of these facts, and considering that after this Rush would never make another classical prog record (from Presto on, Rush would develop a more experimentalistic and post-modern attitude), this is easily one of their best (the best in my opinion).
The first four songs on the record are all quite famous, and have been concert staples ever since the record was released. Peart does great drumming, and Lee's bass playing is awesome as well. Lifeson does fine guitar playing as well, but I'm a bit more fond of his performance on the lower half of the record.
This half, comprised of just three songs, features the last great longplayer in Rush's career: "The Camera Eye". My personal favourite Rush song, it delivers an astounding performance by all three members of the band. "Witch Hunt" and "Vital Signs", while not to the height of the aforementioned song, finish up the record splendidly. "Witch Hunt", in particular, features great tension inspired by the synths, and is quite an underrated Rush track.
If you are at least remotely interested in prog, you have to hear this album. It is extraordinary. The awesome level of musicianship of these guys is amazing. A classic, perfect magnum opus.