Monday, June 13, 2011

Review: "Exit... Stage Left"

Touring for what would wind up being their signature album, Rush recorded various live shows from their Moving Pictures tour; different performances from different three different shows would be put together to become one of the all-time classic live rock albums, Exit... Stage Left.

The album is a snapshot of the band at a time when they were reaching heights of popularity that they had never known before.  At this point the group had been touring for several years together, and musically they're much tighter here than they were on All The World's A Stage.  As one might expect, the songs here are weighted toward what was then their more recent releases (three tracks each from Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures, two each from A Farewell To Kings and Hemispheres, and a single track each from Fly By Night and 2112).  Overall, the songs balance the hard rock moments with the slower pieces better than Stage did.

Musically, there's nothing to complain about here; the band is in fine form (one continues to wonder how a trio can sound like they have twice as many members as they actually do), and the production values are excellent (it really benefits if you have an superior sound system, admittedly).  My only complaint is that, not even counting breaks where the original vinyl album sides would have ended, there are occasional breaks between songs as they shift between versions recorded on different nights.  This helps to break the aural illusion of recreating a live concert performance.  That, admittedly, is a rather minor nitpick, and should in no way deter any Rush fans from owning what may be their most famous live effort.  It's also a very good sampling of the best of Rush's first decade, and the uncertain fan could always listen to this album before investing in any of the early studio albums.    

Oh, and if you do decide to pick up a copy of this, be sure to get the remastered version.  The original CD release of Exit... removed the version of "A Passage To Bangkok" that was on the original vinyl release for time purposes.  The remastered CD release re-includes "Bangkok", so that's the version you want to get.  Doing so will make Jerry Stiller happy, and you don't want Jerry to be sad, do you?

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