Friday, September 21, 2012

The Greatest Live Albums Of All Time

Here's a question for you:  in your opinion, what are the greatest (or THE greatest if you prefer) live albums of all time?  Any era, any genre, any artist - leave your thoughts in the comments section below.


  1. Frampton. Sorry, couldn't resist. Now seriously... These may seem a little obvious or cliche, but I would have to go with James Brown Live at the Apollo and Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison. I will have to think on some more original choices.

  2. Brown, Cash, and the Who Live at Leeds have the distinction of being career defining records, not just a live greatest hits sort of thing, or even a live show. The way rock/pop record execs define live albums relegates them to also-rans most of the time.

    Jazz is completely different. The only reason jazz players (non-crossover jazz players) record in the studio at all is so that they have better control over the sound. If you get a live recording that sounds the way you want, you release it, and don't bother re-doing the material in the studio. There are several great albums recorded live, and not all of them are necessarily known as "live" albums. When they are prominently designated as live albums, it's usually to add the extra layer of proximity to the records (not only is it a snapshot of the artist and his music, but the artist and his music at a particular place and a particular time). My favorite "live" jazz albums are the three Eric Dolphy at the Five Spot records.

    There is also the idea that you release live albums to show how strong you are as a live band, which usually backfired, in my opinion. Jazz live bootleg recordings, on the other hand, can be really incendiary (but flawed, usually, else they would have been released). I have heard at least three different live *Love Supreme* recordings where at least one section is superior to the studio recording, and one version where the whole thing is better, even though the sound is tinny.

    Uh, rock and pop? I always had a soft spot for Rush's first live album, *All the World's a Stage*, because it was so much bigger, brawnier, and nastier than they were on their studio albums. That's back when Rush really put the POWER into power trio. Unfortunately, they went all sci-fi and prog very soon after that (actually, a little bit before, on *2112*, which was big on sci-fi and prog, but still very power trio sounding). I have recently been listening a lot to *Get Yer Ya Ya's Out", the first Rolling Stones recordings with Mick Taylor. It is some of the most powerful guitar work on any Stones record, live or studio, and it really gives you a feel for why the Stones are great.