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Rush - Exit... Stage Left CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

4.03 | 579 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars This is my favorite Rush album, and yes, I can understand where making that statement about what looks suspiciously like a Greatest Hits Live album could be considered the highest level of obnoxiousness by Rush fans. Rush Live doesn't differ much from Rush Studio, as the band's main goal on stage has been, for most of its history, to recreate its studio work as exactly as possible. Plus, my understanding is that these tracks received a LOT of overdubbing and doctoring of the original performances, so the album's value as a live document is dubious at best. Yet for all that, I generally find myself wanting to listen to the versions presented here more than the original studio versions. I really feel that the takes here are, at worst, equal in quality to the studio takes, and at best significantly better, even if they're still essentially the exact same tracks. Who knows, maybe I'm just a total sucker for echo.

A big help is in the strong song selection. Only two of the songs irritate me at all, and for 70+ minutes of Rush, that's a good accomplishment. The sole offenders are "YYZ" (which matches the original in the "regular" portions, but which also receives an extended "multi- cultural" drum solo), and "Closer to the Heart" (which takes a song I already disliked and makes it into an audience singalong), both of which would have been swapped out for "Limelight" if I'd had my way. Other than that, though, the song selection is virtually perfect, and as already stated, many of the performances here are better than the originals.

Indeed, it's hard not to be thrilled with "The Spirit of Radio" when the initial rolling guitar line sounds to me like it's exploding from Alex's hands. It's hard for me not to prefer this version of "Red Barchetta" when I actually feel some excitement in this one, whereas I felt that was largely lacking from the original. I also far prefer this version of the closing "La Villa Strangiato," all because of the breathtaking energy level. Gosh, they even improve "Jacob's Ladder," upping the intensity even further and making the storm seem that much more, well, stormy. And so on and so on.

And, of course, there's "Xanadu." I was skeptical when I originally read the gushing adulation given to this specific version in a comment on Mark Prindle's Rush page, but this track absolutely amazes me, possibly even more than the studio verson. If it's possible to create a perfect musical painting of a fictional place, Rush pulled it off in a big way here. This is clearly, to me, the best officially released live Rush performance ever, and that has to mean something.

As for the rest, you can check the track listing and refer back to the original studio album reviews (I'll also say that "A Passage to Bangkok" sounds better here than in the original, and it's a LOT of fun to hear "Beneath, Behind, Between" here). They're all good, and overall I prefer to hear them here. Plus, even if you disagree, you have to agree that the album cover (front and back) rules. I mean, YOU try to pull off a reference to each of your first 8 studio albums on one front-and-back cover!

tarkus1980 | 4/5 |


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