Exit...Stage Left (1981)

1.The Spirit of Radio
2.Red Barchetta
4.A Passage to Bangkok
5.Closer to the Heart
6.Beneath, Between & Behind
7.Jacob's Ladder
8.Broon's Bane
9.The Trees
11.Free Will
12.Tom Sawyer
13.La Villa Strangiato


OK. I gotta admit. This is where my opinion strongly differs from most fans. Most people rate this album as one of their very best. Studio albums included. I don't. And, it's probably one of my least favorite of their live albums. First a bit of background:

This was one of my very first Rush albums that I ever owned. I bought this thing shortly after it was released in late 1981. I couldn't believe how awful the production was. I remember thinking I must have a defective album. I remember having to turn the Bass knob on my stereo (anyone remember "knobs"??) allllllll the way down, and the treble knob alllllll the way up just to get a decent sound out of my stereo. I know there were others (I was in high school, so these things were frequently discussed amongst the fans) that felt the same way I did. When Geddy introduces the very first song "This is the Spirit of the Radio…, I don't feel as though I'm actually there. I feel like I'm outside the arena with my ear cupped against the wall, and it sounds like he's in a tunnel. Most of the crowd is like this. True, there are some fans of live albums that like minimum crowd noise, but to me, that's half the fun – being able to enjoy a killer show with a bunch of screaming, rapid fans surrounding you sharing your enthusiasm. None of that is here.

Maybe it's my imagination, but the CD pressing seems to have at least made the overall sound a bit better, so the songs themselves are listenable. And, you couldn't really pick a better package of tunes to fit onto a double album showcasing "phase 2" (1977-1981) of the band's career, that most would argue was the best. Even band members would state afterwards that they felt the record was a bit too "fine" in terms of production. Most of the songs here would be released on future live albums/DVDs, and in every case, I would prefer a later version.

I guess my biggest gripe is that Rush has always been known as an incredible live act, and if you had never seen them in concert (which I had not, at the time), you would never know just how phenomenal and mesmerizing a Rush show would be.

Again, though, most in the fan camp would disagree – so try it for yourself and see.

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