Sunday, September 11, 2011

In No Particular Order.

Twenty-one great live albums that I love - and yes, I know there are plenty of others that could have been included in this list. Who knows? Like many of the other lists I make, this could all change by next week. Several had to be dropped from the list due to space, I only allowed one per band, and some simply didn't qualify as 'live' albums. For example, I desperately wanted to include Mountain's Flowers of Evil - but half the album is studio recordings.

On Tour (Delaney and Bonnie & Friends) - As a teenager I spent months trying to find this on vinyl, simply because L'Angelo Misterioso played guitar on it. Nobody local stocked this in 1978, so it took years for me to finally get to hear this band.  The friends, by the way, are Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Jim Gordon, Carl Radle, Bobby Whitlock, Leon Russell, Dave Mason, Bobby Keyes and Jim Price. Need I say more?

Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out (The Rolling Stones) - My introduction  to the Stones, along with Let It Bleed. Every track is incredible. Mick Taylor's guitar weeps during Love in Vain. The first guitar solo I ever tried to teach myself.  Sounded pretty good too. It was only much later I realised he'd been playing slide and I'd been emulating the whole things with bends.

Eighty Eight (The 77s) - This is the band that should have been. Signed to Island at the same time as U2, one of the bands became a household name and The 77s didn't. There are some live albums that transcend - a great recording on a special night - and this is one of those discs. Not a slack track on the album. Wish I'd been there. They're still playing, so I wish I could even just see them live!

Hendrix in the West (Jimi Hendrix) - The first Hendrix I ever owned. He seemed like someone I should listen to, and so I bought it over in Croydon. While the other kids were listening to Abba and the like, my mother was suffering through Voodoo ChileRedhouse and Little Wing are still two of my favourites from this disc. "A bit more volume on this one, Charlie. He's gonna need it."

Slade Alive! (Slade) - What do you do when you feel the technology won't record at a live venue as well as you'd like? You bring the audience to the studio and record there. (Couldn't they afford the Rolling Truck Stones Thing?) A wonderfully vibrant live recording with a great selection of mostly cover tunes. The band are relaxed and in fine form.

Recorded Live (Ten Years After) - I first heard this when I was 13 or so, and hated it. Within a couple of years, however, I came to recognise Alvin Lee for the gun that he was. Ranging from extended jams to 30 second ditties, this album has everything. I'm Going Home is superior to the version on Woodstock, and the whole of side four is worthy of multiple plays.

Under a Blood Red Sky (U2) - Ostensibly recorded at Red Rocks, a natural amphitheatre in Colorado, (but mostly recorded in Germany) this shows the band at their best in a period I consider to be their best. Moody and atmospheric (the video seems to be filmed at dusk on a rainy day - I believe the show was almost cancelled) the playing is tight, the selection of songs is great and the disc is far too short. I must get the newer upgraded version.

Live At The Apollo (James Brown) - The good Doctor introduced this disc to me, back when we were Tokyo brothers-in-musical-arms. And what can I say, except it's exceedingly short and leaves you wanting more. Brown is on fire here. It's 1962, in front of a Harlem crowd that's been waiting hours for the show. Listen to this. You won't be disappointed.

 Made in Japan (Deep Purple) - The classic Mark 2 lineup, touring on the back of the classic Machine Head album. This seminal live album loses nothing from being almost forty years old. And no, it's not over-rated. Even the drum solo is worth listening to. From Highway Star to Space Trucking, this album rocks. "Could we have everything louder than everything else?"

Alive, She Cried (The Doors) - Pretty much a mini-album, this is now out-of print. The tracks are available on other live discs, but this collection, in this order is the one that works for me. A fine selection of tracks played by a band in fine form. Texas Radio and the Big Beat, Love Me Two Times - even Little Red Rooster works well. "You can pick your teeth with a New York joint."

Modern Lover Live (Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers) - Not the Pablo Picasso era Modern Lovers, but the kitschy Modern Lovers of the late 70s. How could you not love Ice Cream Man, Little Dinosaur and I'm a Little Airplane. Recorded in London, it's a shame there hasn't been an expanded, remastered version of this released. I'd love to hear more from this show.

Rust Never Sleeps (Neil Young) - Recorded live, but released as though a studio album, for me this has always been superior to Live Rust. With one side acoustic and one side electric, opening and closing with variations of the same song, this is a complete cyclical album. It was, in fact, my first foray into Neil - apart from a teacher who used to play Harvest over and over again. (And no, I didn't 'get' that album when I was 13 years old)

If You Want Blood (AC/DC) - The only AC/DC album you MUST have. In Japan it's known as Guitar Murder, Guns 'N' Roses fans referenced it on their live mini-album, it has Bon Scott and Angus Young, as well as a killer rhythm section in complete control of what they're doing. I don't need to say anything else except, "Angus! Angus! Angus! Angus!"

Stop Making Sense (Talking Heads) - The album of the film. I had this for years before I finally saw the movie. The album builds beautifully, from lone Byrne playing Psycho Killer along to a recorded drum machine, to the full band and guests playing Al Green's Take Me To The River. Again, I bought this because Talking Heads was a band I'd heard of, but hadn't actually heard.

At The Hollywood Bowl (The Beatles) - Until recently, I hadn't played this for a long time, and I was pleasantly surprised at how good this album is. I thought I might be remembering it through rose-coloured teenage glasses. Actually taken from a couple of shows, it's the only official recording we have of a live Beatles show (not counting Star Club and the mish-mash of live tracks that made it onto Anthology.) Dear Apple Records, it's time to release this on CD, or another live Beatles show - please!

Briefcase Full of Blues (The Blues Brothers) - Yeah, they were a 'created' band, but Dan and John really loved the blues, and when you work on SNL and have a house band that is basically the MGs, you have to grab that opportunity. It was a tough call between this and Made in America, Both great recordings, this one just has the edge - it's a little less 'show' than the other.

Live in Concert (XTC) - Unfortunately this is the only live album we have from this under-rated band. Even though it's a great show and a much better recording, it's still not a patch on the Fab Foursome in Philly disc (Bootlegs will be left till another time). But don't let that put you off. Worthy of a spot in this list. Check out the double-barrelled powerhouse of Living Through Another Cuba and Majors and Generals.

Live Bootleg '82 (Daniel Amos) - Another band that should have been bigger than they are. It's frustrating that this is the only live recording they've released (from their post Horrendous Disc period). The recording is pretty much a raw soundboard recording, which is a shame, as a sonically crisp recording of this show would be amazing. Perhaps they'll record an album on their current tour. Check your archives, boys - release more live 80s DA. Fingers crossed.

Live at Last (Steeleye Span) - The band's first live release, and featuring new members John Kirkpatrick and Martin Carthy. They brought a new energy to the group, making this one of my favourite Steeleye discs. The accordion sits nicely amongst the other instruments and the band is in fine form. Check out Montrose, a 15 minute masterpiece.

Live 1966 (Bob Dylan) - The legendary "Royal Albert Hall" show, actually recorded in Manchester. "Judas!" yells an audience member, before Dylan calls him a liar and exhorts the band to "Play ***ing Loud!" The tension on the disc works in favour of the musicians. Another show that transcends. I had this in various bootleg forms until Zimmy decided to finally release it. A must have!

 Live (Johnny Winter And) - What an amazing album - featuring superb covers of Jumping Jack Flash, Johnny B. Goode and Great Balls of Fire. I first heard this when I was about 13, and I was completely blown away by the power of the guitars, the energy of the performance and the rawness of the music.  And the voice. Especially the voice. "I feel rock 'n' roll!"

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