DVD Review: Rush "Classic Albums: 2112 & Moving Pictures"

DVD Review: Rush - "Classic Albums: 2112 and Moving Pictures"
Eagle Vision
All Access Review: B

Perhaps predictably, Rush took a lot of heat for throwing in their lot with Ayn Rand as they did on 1976’s 2112. Her controversial writings were viewed by many as promoting a selfishly individualistic philosophy that sanctioned greed and scoffed at the notion of a common good.

Drummer/lyricist Neil Peart and the rest of Rush looked at Rand and saw something different in works like “Anthem” and “The Fountainhead.” In Rand, they found something of an intellectual freedom fighter, a warrior of strong mental fortitude in the fight against repressive totalitarianism and mind control. What they had, in essence, was an ally.

Influenced by the writings of Rand and those of science fiction writer Samuel R. Delaney as well, Peart constructed for Side 1 of 2112 an epic futuristic tale of a world where technology reigns supreme and art – music especially – is crushed under the heels of priests who knew, implicitly, what was best for the people. And yet, somehow, as told in this latest installment of Eagle Vision’s Classic Albums series, Rush was demonized for it. Critics went so far as to call them right-wing extremists and even Neo-Nazi sympathizers, when all Rush wanted to do was say a little something about staying true to yourself and your artistic vision.

2112 was the epitome of transitional records. On one side, there’s a conceptual suite, at once angry and piercingly loud, but also contemplative and melodic, pieced together in defiance of record company mandates to be more commercial. Once the rebellion had ended in the crashing chaos of “Oracle: The,” which Peart sees as the cavalry coming to save the day, Rush moves on to the shorter, more compact songs – the ones Mercury Records wanted more of, particularly after the weird and incomprehensible Caress of Steel – that make up Side 2.

Exploring the exotic, drug-fueled nature of “A Passage to Bangkok” and the contrasting lightness and dark shadows of imagination in “The Twilight Zone,” the DVD goes into great detail in telling the story of 2112. Peart, guitarist Alex Lifeson and bassist Geddy Lee all end up sharing fascinating memories of the making of 2112, with producer Terry Brown also revealing much about the studio process. Context and insight provided by esteemed music writer David Fricke and Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins flesh out the history of Rush’s break-though record, while Mercury promotions man Cliff Burnstein explains how tough it was for him to sell a conceptual record, or at least half of one, to a label that wanted no part of that.

What feels ham-fisted is how the film segues into Moving Pictures. In a sense, it tries too hard to find a connection between the two landmark records. History has shown that 2112 and Moving Pictures are clearly the most important works in Rush’s catalog, but, maybe due to time constraints or the lack of supporting material, the filmmakers gloss over how the band evolved between those works. And where they artfully lay the foundation and backdrop for 2112, less attention is given to what led up to Moving Pictures, though passing mention is made of Rush’s interest in New Wave and Punk and how that helped inform the record. The Moving Pictures segment is salvaged, however, by the deep, expansive analysis of “Tom Sawyer,” “Limelight,” “YYZ” and “Red Barchetta.”

While “2112 & Moving Pictures Classic Albums” does much to celebrate Rush’s musicianship and the complexity of their compositions, perhaps the film bit off more than it could chew here. Maybe separating the stories behind both records would have made for fuller, richer and more satisfying storytelling. Still, if you’re a Rush fan and these two records are among your favorites, there is much here to enjoy, especially the interviews. Candid, open and refreshingly defiant, Peart, Lifeson and Lee are engaging subjects, and watching them, up close, work through some of the most interesting parts of these great songs on their instruments is an absolute pleasure.

-Peter Lindblad 


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