Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson remembers one
overriding feeling that came with the making of "Moving Pictures," the 1981
album that became the band’s most popular release — fun.

"It
was a very positive experience," Lifeson says in a recent phone interview.
"Sometimes records can be quite difficult. [The 1984 album] ‘Grace Under
Pressure,’ for example, was a very hard record to make. It seemed to take
forever. Again, we were at Le Studio [in Quebec] and it was very cold. We just
really struggled with that one. But ‘Moving Pictures’ was quite the opposite. We
had a lot of fun and we had great direction. We did some writing in the studio.
All the sounds came together. There was a great buoyant feeling to the whole
experience."

The
flashback to "Moving Pictures" is relevant now, nearly 30 years after it was
release, for a couple of reasons.

First
of all, Rush is playing that album, which sold more than 4 million copies and
included the hit singles "Tom Sawyer" and "Limelight," in its entirety on its
current ‘Time Machine’ tour, which arrives at the Allentown
Fair
 grandstand Tuesday. Rush
also played the fair 30 years ago when it released the album.

Second,
there seems to be a parallel between the "Moving Pictures" project and the
experience Rush — which also includes singer/bassist Geddy Lee and drummer Neil Peart — has had so far
in working on a new studio CD, tentatively called "Clockwork Angels."

"We’ve
got this great feeling of promise for this album and some of the material on
it," Lifeson says. "I think it’s all going to work out really great."

For
now though, the focus is on the live show, which figures to be a typically epic
evening of Rush. As on recent tours, the band is playing two sets of about three
hours. But there are some new twists to the show, one of which, of course, is
playing "Moving Pictures" in its entirety during the second set.

Peart
proposed the idea of doing an entire album after he saw Steely Dan on a recent
tour.

"He
was really impressed with the fact that they were doing different albums night
to night," Lifeson says. "That’s perhaps a little ambitious for us."

So
Rush decided to do just one of its albums on the tour. The band had already
decided to perform "The Camera Eye," the longest song on "Moving Pictures," for
its current tour, so it was an easy leap to choose the album.

"We
thought it would be a nice way to incorporate doing that song, a little more of
a special presentation," Lifeson says. "The other stuff from that album, we’ve
been doing for a while on and off, but it was nice to condense it all into the
album and present it that way."

Lifeson
feels "Moving Pictures" still holds up well.

"I
guess it’s the wide-eyed nature of the album," he says. "The songs are all quite
cinematic lyrically and musically. It’s kind of a very up record, sonically it’s
up. ‘Limelight’ has that big, bold kind of sound, as does ‘Red Barchetta’ and it
has those typical kind of dynamics that we’re known for, [as on] ‘Tom Sawyer’ of
course. I guess it has all those elements that were in the right balance. Yeah,
you can try as hard as you want and you can’t always do that."

There
are other new twists to the set list as well.

"There
are two new songs we’re doing [‘Caravan’ and ‘BU2B’], plus a bunch of stuff we
haven’t done in a while, like ‘Presto’ [the title track of Rush’s 1989 CD],
Lifeson says. "I’m not sure we’ve ever played ‘Presto’ live. So yeah, [there
are] a couple of treats. ‘Times Stand Still’ (from the 1987 CD ‘Hold Your Fire’)
is back after taking a long rest. And the sets are very differently paced from
each other, so I think there’s quite a different feel between the two sets."

There
will be a new video presentation, with plenty of new footage, and a
high-definition screen at the back of the stage to put it all in sharp focus.
Then there’s the light show.

"There’s
a large what we call spider over the stage that kind of spreads across the stage
from above with articulating arms or legs, and it moves around and it’s really
quite dramatic," Lifeson says. "So there are really lots of great lighting
effects. You know, it’s a whole presentation with us. It’s not just about the
music."

The
timing for Rush’s tour is a bit unusual for the band. Traditionally, it has only
toured after a CD has been released or between album projects. This tour comes
in the middle of writing and recording "Clockwork Angels."

"The
idea was to get back on the road, tour, and then come right back into continued
writing and then recording in tour shape," Lifeson says. "There’s nothing that
compares to the kind of shape you get into playing-wise when you’re on
tour."

As
it was, work on the album was going along so well that the band decided to make
the two new songs it is playing on the tour available through digital
retailers.

"So
we went to Nashville and recorded the two tracks, ‘Caravan’ and ‘Brought Up 2
Believe’ ("BU2B")," Lifeson says. "That happened so quickly and effortlessly and
really was a lot of fun. The whole thing is different for us. I think change is
always a good thing. It keeps things fresher."

Lifeson
says the band has six songs pretty much ready to go and three others almost
done. The group plans to write at least a couple of additional songs after the
tour. At this point, the CD is shaping up to be a musically varied work.

"There
is the epic song, ‘Clockwork Angels,’ which is really taking shape. It’s a
multi-parted piece, very dynamic," Lifeson says. "Then there’s some stuff that’s
very melodic and on the softer side, on acoustic, with a strong melody. So
there’s great diversity there. Honestly, I can’t wait until we start really
working on these songs. We’ve sort of got them to the stage where Geddy and I
were happy with the arrangements and then Neil kind of comes in and starts
working on his drum arrangements, and they go from there. So they’re sort of in
that pre-drum stage right now, and it’s great to see them come to life."

Lifeson,
of course, would be happy if the rest of the "Clockwork Angels" project were to
go as well as things went in making "Moving Pictures."

The
project went well despite being recorded in the middle of one of the colder
winters in Quebec. The weather meant arriving at Le Studio was a welcome daily
ritual.

"You’re
undressing 13 layers of clothes you had on, and you just wandered into the
control room with a cup of coffee or a cup or tea and listened to what you were
doing and it was so great for us," Lifeson says. "We were so happy with the
direction and the sound of what we were getting. In that respect, our work was a
very positive influence on our day-to-day existence up there, which is what it’s
all about when you’re in a studio, especially in a residential studio. So we
always had that to keep us going."

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