Rush's first live album, "All The World's A Stage", was probably the most important factor in breaking them outside of Canada. A masterly collection, it combined the excitement of a live concert with the band's superlative precision in production and performance.
Obviously any follow-up live album has a lot to live up to. As yet I'm not sure whether "Exit" is as strong as its predecessor: it'll take a lot more living with to establish that. But even on the strength of a week or two I'm convinced it's a very good try.
A double album set, "Exit" consists of three sides recorded in Canada and one in the UK. The tapes were then taken to the solitude of Le Studio in Quebec's Morin Heights where producer Terry Brown spent several months cleaning them up.
And that's possibly where my reservations might lie: the album seems a little too clean. I'm told by the band that they did a little overdubbing, but I reckon Brown went a bit too far in his search for the best performance of each individual track from the mounds of tape he had.
However, that's a minor criticism - and more importantly a highly subjective one. From a completely positive point of view I would suggest that "Exit" marks the end of a second phase in Rush's career as "All The World" marked the first.
There are some classic tracks in here - "Spirit Of Radio", "Xanadu", "Closer To The Heart" and "La Villa Strangiato".
They are performed precisely and superbly, and collectively all of the cuts represent just what a good band Rush are. Lifeson is a gifted guitarist, as amply demonstrated on "La Villa", Peart a brilliant and inventive percussionist and Geddy Lee a very singular singer. This version of "Closer To The Heart" is the best I've heard yet - live or on record.
"Exit" is a fine achievement - a little less "live" than it should be, perhaps, but powerful and cohesive nonetheless. Personally I can't wait to see what Rush have in store for us in phase three of their career.