Rush - Chronicles: The DVD Collection Review
Hot on the heels of the controversial and widely debated Rush in Rio concert DVD last year, UK fans finally get the band’s promo videos transferred to DVD. Released in the run-up the first UK shows in 12 years (information here), Chronicles gathers Rush promo-videos from the period 1977 to 1987, which is only 10 years of the band’s 30 year history, but it covers what many would consider the band’s essential and most popular recordings.
Closer To The Heart. Showing in chronological order, the oldest video included here is old videotaped footage of Rush performing the song in front of an audience. It is not a live recording, but the band miming to a playback, so the sound quality is reasonably good.
The Trees. This is a live performance, with a faint buzz in the background, but generally good sound quality – sharp treble, strong mid-range, the sound a bit flattened-out on the lower register, but every instrument is perfectly clear. Neither this nor the previous video is much to look at, but it is good footage of the band from this period.
Limelight. Very soft and hazy picture quality here of the band in the recording studio, with one or two cutaways to a live concert performance. A fabulous song from one of my favourite albums, this comes across well in the video, it simply being a joy to watch Rush play the song.
Tom Sawyer. As above, performed sitting on chairs in Le Studio with lots of singing meaningfully into the microphone, hands clasping headphones to the ears. There are one or two more adventurous image inserts and fades, but otherwise this is a fairly standard in-studio video of a great song.
Red Barchetta. The video here is a live recording of the song from the Exit… Stage Left tour. Like any Rush live recording, it is a note perfect rendition, performed with vigour and the sound quality is reasonably good. The video is straight concert footage, with a few obvious images of a yellow(?) Barchetta car, headlights and a road.
Subdivisions. First video proper from the band sees Rush showing Flock of Seagulls influences both musically and in style (I’m not kidding). The video is perhaps a bit over-literal, filmed “in the high school halls, in the shopping malls”. The song, a typically Rush theme (best put in Vital Signs - “everybody got to deviate from the norm”) of the pressures on the individual to submit to the conformity of surburban America, still sounds magnificent – possibly the only song from Signals that really holds up well today.
Distant Early Warning. A very funny Dr Strangelove homage, sees Rush (looking like Duran Duran) performing from a mock-up of the war-room. Absolutely wonderful, but the sound quality on this video is only really average. One or two minor jumps in the sound are quite audible here.
Red Sector A. A straightforward live recording, good performance and good sound.
The Big Money. The band continues to try to master the art of the mainstream pop promo-video. The Big Money bearing an uncanny resemblance to Dire Straits’ ‘Money for Nothing’ with garish fluorescent colours and, by today’s standards, primitive CGI effects as Rush perform from a giant Monopoly board. The music is a damn sight better though, the sound quality however a little too bright, but powerful, with a faint hint of background hiss.
Mystic Rhythms. Never a favourite song of mine, Mystic Rhythms hasn’t aged well with its overpowering 80’s synthesisers, but the video, possibly the most abstract and inventive one here, stands up well. Sound is again very bright with jumps and skips again evident throughout this video.
Time Stand Still. Oh dear. The director clearly wanted to try out all the special effects on his new VT editing suite, so we are treated to the sight of Rush floating around and multiplied ad infinitum. The video features a guest appearance from Aimee Mann, who provides the backing vocals for a strong song that survives the ravages of the video.
Lock And Key. The final video on the DVD sees a perfect blend of video and sound, playing to the advantages of the band performing and abandoning any attempts at cleverness or concept. The final track also features the best picture and sound quality of the tracks included.
Two extra videos can be found on the DVD, although I can’t see what the point was in ‘hiding’ them. Simply click ‘up’ and ‘enter’ from the main menu to access videos for The Enemy Within - steeped in 80’s music influences it looks like a low budget ‘Wild Boys’ performed by The Police, Geddy failing however to cut a convincing Sting impersonation, although he does rather better in Afterimage. Some poorly matched lip-sync at the start of the second video.
The DVD is region-free and in PAL format. The lack of information or accompanying booklet is disappointing as there is no band history, discography, chronology or even credits for the songs and videos.
You have to take into account the age of much of the material presented here, the limitations of videotape and the undoubted NTSC to PAL conversion that has been applied here, but in spite of the unavoidable shortcomings of the source material, the videos have been faithfully digitally remastered to DVD with no real faults, artefacts or compression problems.
Generally the quality of the two audio mixes is quite good. The Dolby Digital 2.0 is adequate and perhaps more sympathetic and appropriate to the softness of the image, but the PCM track is clearly the stronger soundtrack. Allowing for the limitations of the source in some tracks, particularly the live tracks, the audio is excellent, one or two songs almost equal in quality to their CD counterparts. There are however some problems with songs jumping for a fraction of a second, two or three times on some tracks which will be quite noticeable to anyone who is familiar with the songs. I would have put this down to NTSC to PAL conversion or an attempt at pitch correction, but it is also present on the US release. Certainly, there don’t seem to be any pitch problems on the DVD and I think you would notice if Geddy Lee was speeded up by 4% and his voice raised two-thirds of a semi-tone. The sound problem is not serious, but you ought to be aware of this.
There are no extra features on the DVD if you don’t count the hidden tracks (and I don’t). The ‘Special Features’ listed on the menu allow you to select between PCM and DD2.0 and give you the ability to play in continuous mode. Nothing terribly special there. There is also a song selection option.
Rush will win no awards for innovative promo-videos, but Chronicles is a good collection of the band’s greatest hits, bearing in mind that the early and latter years are not represented here, nor unfortunately is anything from Permanent Waves, not even the legendary Legs & Co. dance-routine for Spirit of Radio on Top of the Pops (such a bizarre routine that I am almost convinced it was a fantasy concoction of my teenage mind). Looking back on this footage it is surprising to note how big an influence British 80's pop music was on the band's look and sound post-Moving Pictures. The videos are very much 'of their time', so my marking for film therefore would reflect the content of the songs and the tracklisting rather than any assessment of the merits of the videos. An essential purchase for any Rush fan (if you haven’t already had the US release for a number of years), this is also a good cross-section of their work for anyone looking for an introduction or primer for their forthcoming UK tour.
Last updated: 13/05/2018 00:13:21