I'm not a fan of live albums. The sound is never quite balanced, drums or guitars many times upstage the vocals, the noise from the crowd shines through where it shouldn't or thunderous applause shows you how much of a good time you actually missed.
The production of a live album, almost as a rule, is very raw, a characteristic you may like or dislike. Fans will expect duplication of studio sound, cynics will hunt for mistakes.
True, many groups are better live, but a band has got to be pretty cocky to venture out of a controlled studio environment to a hockey rink full of screamers, expecting to play to perfection. The only second chance given them is to go into the studio and repair the obvious errors.
Exit...Stage Left is an exception to the rule. The balance is near perfect, and the crowd kept to minimal disturbance, a far cry from All The World's A Stage, Rush's first effort in live recording back in 1976.
Following 2112, All The World's A Stage put an end to the 'let the good times roll' attitude the trio had carried throughout their first four discs. 2112 was the real turning point. A theme album, the band displayed both unified sound and songwriting.
All of a sudden the group considered themselves intelligent. Drummer/lyricist Neil Peart let his brain wander into another dimension, exploring outer space and who knows what else. Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson started playing around with synthesizers. Now they had substance, or so they claimed. They really had a good case of boring.
Rush is a people's band. A hardcore listener will defend his or her idols, eating up their vinyl, packing their concerts and expanding their wallets - the type of band critics love to hate.
Fans and cynics will love this one. Containing works since 2112, Rush displays the closest studio duplication I have heard live.
Lee and Lifeson have incorporated synthesizers into their act and, by the use of foot pedals, expand the sound to far more than you would expect from a three-piece unit.
While Neil Peart may be Canada's most innovative drummer, his three-minute solo comes up short. In concert, a drum solo serves no other purpose than to give the guitarists a break, and the drummer a reason for one. They become a waste of petroleum when recorded.
Certainly an album for the fans, this one should win them a few more. A good addition to any collection, the production makes it the best live album I've heard.