Some albums are monuments because of the influence they had on contemporary and future musicians despite their low commercial success. The Velvet Underground & Nico comes to mind. Just like the early Ramones albums. And then there are albums which had as much influence but which were mega hits, something much rarer.
One of them, surely, is that of Rush Animated picturesa multi-platinum seller with hits that have been looping on select FM radios since the album’s release over 40 years ago. Animated pictures has influenced generations of rock, prog, grunge and even jazz musicians. His pairing of virtuoso musicianship with radio-friendly riffs, edgy yet direct hooks, and clear yet enigmatic lyrics captured the imagination of budding rock fans of the MTV generation. He still holds a special place in many musical hearts, including mine.
After the success of the 1980s permanent waves, Rush toured extensively and planned to release a live album, but new music and lyrics emerged while the band was on the road, and a joint recording session with Canadian band Max Webster (including poet Canadian Pye Dubois) resulted in collaborative lyrics for a song. who became “Tom Sawyer”. The band decided to make a new studio album instead.
They continued to develop the song ideas through the summer of 1980, then went on the road for a short North American tour to further refine the tunes. They started recording in October, at the Studio in Morin Heights, Quebec. At the end of November, the album was finished. It was released the following February.
With big ambitions and a bigger budget, Rush pushed 1980’s state-of-the-art album. The album was recorded by Paul Northfield on 48 tracks – two interlocking 24-track, 2″ Studer A80 tape recorders. The engineer mastering master Bob Ludwig told me that half of these tracks were for Peart’s drum mics, including a Crown pressure zone microphone duct- The album was mixed via Le’s Solid State Logic 4000E console. Studio. The resulting two-track masters were digitally recorded onto a U-matic ¾” videocassette via a Sony 1600 A/D converter. This was a bold, high-tech way to record for 1980. No analog backup tapes has not been made.
Ludwig cut the lacquers from this digital master. The resulting LP sounded punchier, brighter (in a good way), and more detailed than most rock albums of the time. It stood out on home stereos, in cars, and on tabletop radios, not because it was louder. “When I heard the first notes from their master, I thought it sounded amazing,” Ludwig told me in an interview. At least some early CD issues were probably made from the same digital master.
Now there’s a 40th anniversary Super Deluxe reissue: five straight metal mastered 180g LPs, three CDs and one Blu-ray disc. Also, a beautifully illustrated hardcover book and purse of physical artifacts, including inscribed metal picks, drumsticks, and a die-cast metal “Red Barchetta” after one of the hits of the album – which, remarkably, as the text of the libretto tells us, was recorded in one take.
The first LP contains the original album of not quite 40 minutes; the other four contain a full 1981 concert recorded at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, mastered by the album’s co-producer Terry Brown. This pattern is repeated on the three CDs: the first contains the album, the other two the live concert. The audio-only Blu-ray disc features the first-ever Dolby Atmos version of the album, a new 5.1 surround mix, and four music videos, including a new one for “YYZ.”
But it’s a vinyl column, so let’s talk about the LPs. Years after the album was first released, probably in the 1990s, a two-track analog backup was made from the Sony 600 digital master. This backup tape is the likely source for Sean Magee’s 2015 remaster, which was made at Abbey Road Studios. Magee’s remaster, in turn, is the source of this and all other LP reissues since 2015. All of them, including this one, were mastered in direct metal, at GZ Media.
The Magee remaster, like so many other recent rock remasters, pumps up the bass energy and crunches the maximum dynamics to make the album “loud”, like modern rock releases. That’s what I hear on this reissue: the low end is very loud and the balance between bass and drums is very different from the original, especially noticeable when heard on full speakers. magnitude at a room-filling volume. The stereophony is also different from the original, perhaps because some frequency bands have been boosted in volume compared to others. Pressed at GZ Media, the LPs are clean, flat, relatively quiet, and well packaged in protective inner sleeves.
For the most part, it accomplishes what it aims for, what Magee aimed to accomplish with its 2015 remaster. On smaller speakers and through most headphones and car systems, this new reissue will sound modern , just like a rock ‘n’ roll 2022 fan expects it to sound. But it’s less dynamic than the original, and it sounds quite different. The original 1981 LP may sound thin to 2022 ears, but that was Rush’s original statement.
Perhaps the highlight of this set is the live recording. Those who had the privilege of seeing Rush live during this era will likely love it. It’s looser and less polite than Exit… Stage Left, the live album released later in 1981. It sounds exactly like what audiences must have heard when Rush performed on March 24-25, 1981, to hometown audiences after a month of touring the album. . The excitement is akin to a Stanley Cup hockey game.