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This is my favorite RUSH album as well :-) I have an original and a new 180 gram copy, They both sound very good. IMO. I have been listening to this record since its inception, I am amazed how many times Ive purchased it over the years. This was also the soundtrack in high school for me, among many others :-)
Permanent Waves was the beginning of Commercialism...and the end. I have not puchased a new Rush Album since Permanent Waves (yes, saw the show). Went to see the Vapor show but compared to 2112, Fly By NIght and the older shows, it pretty much SUCKED the BIG ONE. All I remember were 3 washing machines on stage. As much as the younger crowd tout Rush, unless you saw them (and heard them) in the beginning, you can't really see how incredible they were.
Honestly 2112 & Waves are dull, bad production. To be exact, they lost their creativity after superb Moving Pictures, one of their very finest. Tom Sawyer reaches Limelight. The pinnacle is right there. Kings, Hemispheres & Pictures defines Rush at finest. All other albums inferior in everything. Period.
Rush is my all time favorite band. I have several albums still from high school that are in my possession. Unfortunately, I found that my 2112 was somehow cracked almost in half. Since then I have picked up an older copy and the new 180 gram release. My copy of Exit State Left is sonically horrible. In fact after I cleaned it, I put it on and removed it prior to the first side completed. Hemispheres has always been a favorite of mine, with La Villa Strangiato probably my favorite Rush song. I was very fortunate to take my 11 year old daughter to R40 last year (her first concert, and unfortunately probably the last time she or I will ever see them.) Rock on Rush!!!
My Rush vinyl collection has required me to do some serious explaining to my wife as to why I would possibly need 2-4 (or sometimes more) pressings of every album! But they are also some of my most spun records, particularly 2112, Hemispheres, Permanent Waves, Moving Pictures, All the World's a Stage and Exit Stage Left.
I agree with a lot of what has been said already, and will add just a few thoughts (although I have many!). All the World's a Stage is a better live album than Exit Stage Left from a raw energy and performance standard, in my opinion. They were just on fire and pounding it out that night and we're lucky to be able to hear it (for example, that version of By Tor is just killer). But the sonics are not great on ATWAS, and it's a little bright and thin to my ears. The sonics are actually not great on most of my pressings of Exit Stage Left, but I have a Japanese pressing that's just unbelievable. I love that album too. More polished and better sonics, and still great tunes. Xanadu, La Villa and Passage to Bangkok are great on that record.
For the most part, the Gilbert Kong vinyl pressings sound the best to my ears, although the new releases of Hemispheres, 2112 and Caress of Steel are fantastic. I wasn't as happy with the new Fly by Night or Permanent Waves. My old Anthem pressing of Permanent Waves and my Mofi version both sound better to me, and my Gilbert Kong Fly By Night is better than the new one too.
Glad to see other Rush fans in the forums!
Great review. Dazz ! Exit ... Stage Left really crushes their 1976 live album by much better music because they have made huge progression musically & artistically from their hard rock format (simpler music with raw energy indeed). And Permanent Waves is just dull due to bad production (sounds really lame in my system), also contains much weaker songs. They descended into Permanent Waves hence the title indeed (first digital recording defines its dullness ?). However, 1982´s Signals with true digital recording (JVC) is way better than Waves both in musically & in sound quality. Additionally, Signals has a very positive mood, however it´s their last great album. Dullness came back in 1984 with Grace Under Pressure. Period.
I will try that Japanese version of Exit... Stage Left. Thanks for advice :)