A song in the key of Life­son

Total Guitar - - BLACK PEAKS -

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 Song­mas­ 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

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