Even with the silence between tracks, it holds together as a solid piece, crashing open with “Spirit Of Radio”, jumping on “Red Barchetta” and extending “YYZ” with a three-minute drum solo. The middle of the album provides context for those who came in at either Permanent Waves or Moving Pictures, tossing in the stadium-friendly “Closer To The Heart” and “The Trees”, the latter preceded by an instrumental prelude called “Broon’s Bane”, which got kids working on their fingerpicking. At twelve minutes, “Xanadu” may try patience, or it may send them back to the mall to pick up the earlier albums. It’s back to the hits on side four, with the socko punch of “Freewill” and “Tom Sawyer”, with “La Villa Strangiato” as the grand finale.
Outside of the lengths of some of the tunes, there’s not a lot of difference between the recordings on Exit… Stage Left and the original albums; Rush was never a band that improvised, and the fans didn’t want that anyway. But in the absence of greatest hits, it delivers enough of the experience to keep those kids buying concert tickets, and geared up for the next album.
Rush Exit… Stage Left (1981)—3½