Rush – Exit Stage Left

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  • Outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This pressing boasts surprisingly clean, undistorted sound for a live album, yet it’s every bit as big and lively as a Hard Rockin’ Concert Album (especially from these guys) should be
  • “… the nearly note-perfect performances, combined with exemplary song-selection essentially make Exit…Stage Left a ‘greatest hits’ package from Rush’s best, most-remembered peak, 1977-1981, when they recorded four studio albums culminating in Moving Pictures. The Moving Pictures tour was the right time to capture Rush. Their sound was still hard rock but with a hearty side-dish of prog – a satisfying combination of styles that no other band ever did as well as Rush.”

This vintage Mercury pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What Amazing Sides Such as These Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1981
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Size

One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.

Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.

And most of the time those very special pressings just plain rock harder. When you hear a copy that does all that, it’s an entirely different listening experience.

What We’re Listening For on Exit Stage Left

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

The Spirit Of Radio
Red Barchetta
YYZ

Side Two

A Passage To Bangkok
Closer To The Heart
Beneath, Between & Behind
Jacob’s Ladder

Side Three

Broon’s Bane
The Trees
Xanadu

Side Four

Freewill
Tom Sawyer
La Villa Strangiato

Allmusic User Rave Review

… the nearly note-perfect performances, combined with exemplary song-selection essentially make Exit…Stage Left a ‘greatest hits’ package from Rush’s best, most-remembered peak, 1977-1981, when they recorded four studio albums culminating in their paragon album, Moving Pictures. The Moving Pictures tour was the right time to capture Rush. Their sound was still hard rock but with a hearty side-dish of prog – a satisfying combination of styles that no other band ever did as well as Rush. Beginning with the next album, Subdivisions, Rush would change their sound to rely more heavily on synthesizers. But at this point the synths were still more of a complementary instrument, and Exit…Stage Left is the sound of Rush as a uniquely-virtuoso 3-piece rock band, and every single song sounds great. ‘Red Barchetta’ in particular is as fantastic in the live document as it is on the studio album.

Also, there are a handful of moments on Exit…Stage Left that make it essential for Rush fans and a treat for listeners being introduced to Rush. Primarily the drum solo in ‘YYZ’, likely the #1 reason Neal Peart is considered by many to be rock’s all-time greatest drummer. Rather than being repetitive, boring, or something that may be nice to listen to once or twice, it ends up being a very fun, 3-minute solo that cements his legacy on rock drumming’s Mt. Rushmore. It is just the right length, well-paced and inventive. Also essential is Alex Lifeson’s gorgeous, classical guitar intro to ‘The Trees’, ‘Broon’s Bane’, a song never recorded for any of their studio albums. This beautiful and memorable intro elevates ‘The Trees’ from a very good song to a highlight of Exit…Stage Left. Another highlight is the crowd singing along with the first verse of ‘Closer to the Heart’ – its just enough reminder that these tight performances are indeed live in concert.

It’s the precision of the performances that makes transitioning from this live album to studio albums easy, and increases its ability to be a fine substitute for a ‘greatest hits’ package. These performances, combined with ideal song selection, and the peak era in which it was recorded, make Exit…Stage Left arguably the best introductory spot for a new listener to Rush who might otherwise be intimidated by the band’s huge output over their 40-year career.

‘Exit…Stage Left’ is the highly-recommended starting point for anyone interested in the music of Rush.

— Rick Star, 5 Star Allmusic User Review

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