By Anthony Kuzminski
- Read the Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage Review HERE
It’s been a banner year for Rush. They’ve released two new songs, ventured on a sold-out tour where Moving Pictures is being performed in its entirety and this all is all occurring against a heightened profile of the band, mostly due to the phenomenal documentary Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage. I find myself writing more about this band in the last three months than I’ve spent in my entire life explicitly because of this film. Capturing the complete history of Rush and putting their distinctive brand of music into view hasn’t just opened some people’s eyes to their magnetism, but more important- their legacy. If you follow my writings at all, I tend to use the word “legacy” often. Many acts of the last few decades have found sensational success and riches and fame beyond their wildest dreams, however, is the moment fleeting or will their music and body of work still be discussed decades from now? It’s an answer no one can really answer; however I’m also a believer that it’s imperative for artists to take steps to assure the legacy.
Rush has an enormous cult following. Despite a series of platinum records and arena tours, they never became a stadium behemoth and this has probably served them and their aforementioned heritage tremendously. Over the last decade, the band has a transformed sense of faith and dedication and through a series of studio and live albums, they’re documenting the experience of Rush in breathtaking fashion. The Classic Albums has now just released a great DVD focusing on not just one, but two of their preeminent albums; 2112 and Moving Pictures. This is a first (I believe) for the Classic Albums series, and while I was worried it would take away from the impact of these albums, it does anything but. What I love most about the Classic Albums series is how they do a low level overview for informal fans and then show mixes and geek out over gear and technical nuances that make these records a actuality. However, throughout all of the albums in this series, never do they stray so far in either direction that it disengages the viewer. This is a fine line to walk and somehow the Classic Albums series does it time and time again doing the impossible; constructing a story that pulls in a indifferent fan and shows the die-hard something they have never seen before.
To understand Rush and their output, you have to start at the beginning which is what the DVD does. They set the story up and their formation, eventual signing Mercury Records and then touring non-stop with a series of albums before a last swoop effort on 2112. After dismal sales on their third record, Caress of Steel, management secured one more album under the condition that it was more commercial. Instead of following the wishes of the label, the band headed down the path least traveled, remained fearless and delivered the intricate and ambitious 2112. For a band who had not broken through to the mainstream in any way, this was an affront and within the walls of the label it sent reverberations until they decided to support it and as a consequence, Rush established their cult audience, or as some would have it, the audience found Rush.
The DVD does justice to 2112 with a significant discussion about the inspiration Peart took from Ayn Rand, the storm behind this influence and how the album holds up today. The themes and stories of 2112 closely resemble the model Rush would go on and take for their entire career. After this record, Rush didn’t have to answer to an A&R man ever again. They merely went on, evolved and continued to make quintessentially Rush albums year after year. There’s a wonderful section about how “Discovery” came to be. This is what differentiates Classic Albums from other album dissections. Most magazines and media outlets focus on the hits only, but in the case of Rush, with only a handful of bona fide hits to their name, it allows a look back to songs that have endeared themselves to the fan base like “Discovery” and as a result, sends me back to the records as well, especially with a song that is part of a larger arc on the album’s first side. One of the matchless aspects of this installment of Classic Albums is how they move onward four albums later, when the band delivered Moving Pictures. Their path was continual and being exposed to the punk and new wave movement, the band was young and open enough to take these electrifying new genres and input them into their brand of progressive rock. This is notable, because it was here where Rush truly defined their sound. They became more than a progressive jam band but one whose sound was defined as “Rush”. Throughout the DVD there are many people who talk about these two records. Besides Rush, their management team and producer Terry Brown, we also get reflections from the members of the Barenaked Ladies, Foo Fighters and former Mercury Records executive Cliff Burnstein (now manager of Metallica) giving the viewer a personal viewpoints as to how these records enthuse and reverberate to this day.
The DVD houses nearly an hour of bonus footage not aired on the VH-1 broadcast. Instead of being throw away interviews, in my opinion the shows shown on television are merely teasers for you to seek out the DVD’s because the material in the bonus features are as integral to the story as the main program. Included are a look at Rush’s influences and how they took cues from the rock and blues of Cream and Jimi Hendrix and forge it into something wholly their own. There’s a conversation of how their parents hard work ethics predisposed their careers and become a success. There’s some first-rate acknowledgement of all three members of Rush with each one discussing how important the other two help characterize the band. We get some insight from Peart’s lyrical themes and closer looks at the songs “Tom Sawyer”, “Red Barchetta” and “YYZ” and every minute of the 52-minutes of bonus features is connected to the band’s history, and these two classic albums.
Great music deserves debate and a deeper look into how it came to be. Although the considerable Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage being released earlier this year, this installment in the Classic Albums series offers a more detailed look into what are arguably the two best records Rush ever created. There is some small overlap but there is too much here to not appreciate. If not for the aforementioned film, this Classic Albums DVD doesn’t just serve as a document of 2112 and Moving Pictures but as a chronicle of the band as well. Even if you’re a minor admirer of Rush, seek this out and you may very well become one of those cult fans.
Anthony Kuzminski is a Chicago based writer and Special Features Editor for the antiMusic Network. His daily writings can be read at The Screen Door. He can be contacted at thescreendoor AT gmail DOT com and can be followed on Twitter