A song in the key of Lifeson
Player Alex Lifeson Album Moving Pictures (1981)
It just happens that Rush’s biggest album contains their guitarist’s finest moment. There are many, many great Lifeson tones but his unique approach and sound on the solo to Limelight is probably his quintessential; otherwordly and highly expressive – or ‘elastic and emotional’ as Lifeson described it to Songmaster.com in 2007. The song is also led by one of the great Lifeson riffs with a humbucker dirt tone through a Marshall 4140 combo, but his parts through the verse and chorus feature some classic tonal Lifesonisms so we’re looking at them here too.
In the chorus the mix of strumming chords and ringing arpeggios require chorus and reverb to recreate the expansive girth of the double-tracked recording. Lifeson had Advanced Audio and Roland digital delay units in the studio for Moving Pictures with a LOFT chorus unit (good luck finding one) but most chorus pedals will get you close.
Although the ES-355 semihollows Lifeson favours are great for the ringing / rhythm hybrid work, the solo demands a tremolo arm – Lifeson reportedly used a modded Bill Lawrence humbucker-loaded Strat with Floyd Rose he called the ‘Hentor Sportscaster’ to track it – there’s a lot of feel work going on, moving in and out of the song’s tempo, and it’s a massive part of the ‘elastic’ sound Lifeson describes. There’s also delay to consider. “Normally, live I have a few delays set up,” Lifeson told Songmaster. com, “one that is a fairly medium length delay of around 480ms and then I have a second delay that’s set up for 680ms with more repeats so that you can get all these cascading notes tripping over each other over the main part of what the solo is.”
That shorter delay seems to act as a reverb effect, the longer as the solo fades out.
towingthelime Lifeson likes his semi-hollows and single cuts but he was a super-strat man for this song