Rush, Moving Pictures

Quite possibly one of the finest progressive rock albums ever recorded, and certainly the best work by the Toronto trio of their discography. Part of it is the level of restraint: compared to their prior output Neil Peart didn't go too crazy with the lyrics or nuts with the themes, Geddy Lee didn't shriek too loud and Alex Lifeson just kept on doing what he does. But most of it is the level of skill: from the very first note of the dazzling synthesizers on "Tom Sawyer" all the way to the reggae-esque "Vital Signs," the recording is flawless, the music is fascinating and the depth of production is enthralling. I rank "Tom Sawyer" highest because of its unmistakable mix of pounding synth and crashing guitars, and the band thoughtfully picked that highest of high points to lead off with, but "Red Barchetta" positively wraps you up in the lyrics with its breathless storybook denouement, and the amazing long instrumental intro of "The Camera Eye" sets you right in the middle of the thematic action. There are relative low points — "Witch Hunt" gets a little tedious, even if its political overtones are a timeless warning to any generation, and both "Limelight" and "Vital Signs" are technically accomplished but noticeably more ordinary than the rest — but they are indeed just relative and don't really drag the album down any. Combine that with an amazing triple visual pun from the art department and you have something Canada can be rightfully prouder of than Kraft Dinner. And I really like Kraft Dinner. Probably Tom Sawyer would too. (Content: no concerns.)