Moving Pictures is the eighth studio album by Canadian rock band Rush, released on February 12, 1981, through Anthem Records. After touring to support their previous album, Permanent Waves (1980), the band started to write and record new material in August 1980 with co-producer Terry Brown. They continued to write songs with a more radio-friendly format, featuring tighter song structures and songs of shorter length compared to their early albums.
Moving Pictures received a positive reception from current and retrospective music critics and became an instant commercial success, reaching number one in Canada and number 3 in the United States and the United Kingdom. It remains Rush's highest-selling album in the United States after it was certified quadruple-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for over 4 million copies sold. "Limelight", "Tom Sawyer" and "Vital Signs" were released as singles across 1981, and the instrumental "YYZ" was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. Rush auditioned some of the songs on a tour before recording the album (September 11 to October 1, 1980), and supported the album on tour from February to July 1981.
In June 1980, the band ended their ten-month tour of the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom in support of their seventh studio album, Permanent Waves (1980). During the tour's stop in New York City, the band agreed to start work on a new studio album, rather than prepare a second live album from several recordings they made during the tour, partly because the ideas they were developing at sound checks were sufficiently interesting to them to put them on tape. Peart was instrumental in doing a new album, and Lee and Lifeson found themselves catching onto his enthusiasm. The trio pitched the idea to their manager and producer who had mapped out a two-year plan for them but agreed to the sudden change and cancelled the schedule.
After a short break, they regrouped at Phase One Studios in Toronto in July 1980 with members of rock band Max Webster, to record "Battlescar" for that group's album Universal Juveniles. During the sessions Max Webster's lyricist Pye Dubois suggested a song that he thought was suitable for Rush to record; this was developed into "Tom Sawyer". Rush then moved to Stony Lake, Ontario to write and prepare material for their new album. The sessions were productive, with "The Camera Eye" the first song to be worked on, followed by "Tom Sawyer", "Red Barchetta", "YYZ" and "Limelight". Following the initial writing sessions, Rush returned to Phase One Studios with their co-producer Terry Brown and prepared demos of the songs. The band worked on them further during rehearsals of their 1980–1981 tour which began in September and included "Tom Sawyer" and "Limelight" in their live set prior to recording.
With the material fully prepared, Rush recorded Moving Pictures in October and November 1980 at Le Studio in Morin-Heights, Quebec] The studio had been recently fitted out with a digital 48-track machine, which was unfamiliar to the band and necessitated them spending time familiarizing themselves with the equipment. Moving Pictures is Brown's first digitally-produced album. The band made a conscious effort to preserve the quality of their recordings as much as possible by transferring finished sections onto a fresh piece of tape and placing the original copy in storage, thereby reducing the damage to it from frequent playback.During the sessions, they experimented with a pressure zone microphone, a type of boundary microphone that picks up direct sound and no reverberated signals, that was taped onto Peart's chest as he played. The audio captured from it was used to pick up the ambience in the studio room in the final mix. Peart wore the microphone for the filming of the music video to "Vital Signs"] "Red Barchetta" was recorded in one take. There were problems with equipment failures and they finished the album three days behind schedule.
All lyrics are written by Neil Peart except "Tom Sawyer", by Peart and Pye Dubois; all music is composed by Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee, except "YYZ", by Lee and Peart.
1. "Tom Sawyer"
2. "Red Barchetta"
3. "YYZ" (instrumental)
5 "The Camera Eye
6. "Witch Hunt"
7. "Vital Signs"