Well, I’m a big lover of live albums and I know lots of music lovers that are, as well. If you dig music by bands with a traditional drummer, bass player, guitarist or two and vocalist, then there are lots of great live albums to dig into. Am I into Electronic music? Not so much, as it really doesn’t lend itself well to what live albums have to offer.
That last part about Electronic music is just an opinion, not gospel. I’m sure there are exceptions. Not looking to start a flame war like the dudes who say The Who’s Live at Leeds is the best live album of all time. It’s not, by the way. It’s just an opinion. Lol. Live albums fall into a few categories. Actual albums with minimal-to-no overdubs. Live albums with heavy overdubs and minimal actual live performance (KISS I’m looking at you here. Lol) and live compilations blended together over several dates from a tour usually.
In the first category, Iron Maiden’s Live After Death is a document of the band’s best material up to and including the album they were touring on Powerslave, which was to many and most fans the high point of their career. A 14-year-old me was blown away seeing them on this tour two months before the two shows that comprise this live album supreme. I’ve seen Maiden live three times and this is the real deal live experience. I believe there are no overdubs (or very minimal). Other notable ones in my mind are Motorhead’s No Sleep Till Hammersmith and Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged.
Also in this category, but much more raw, you can find some quintessential Punk and Hardcore albums, recorded live off the soundboard with no overdubs and even minimal amounts of post production (these went straight to two track tape in most cases). If you’re only going to own one album by either D.R.I. or Agnostic Front, make it their Live At CBGB’s albums. Perfection in both cases. I have a later repressing of the D.R.I. one that includes the missing soundboard songs as the tape ran out and they cleaned up the audio from the video recording to complete their set.
I couldn’t write this without including Husker Du’s Land Speed Record. The most gritty, awesome and awe inspiring live album I have ever heard. They burned through 20 some odd songs (including a 6 minute closer) in under 25 minutes. The blistering pace with the songs plowing into each other became a benchmark for me as a musician when planning setlists and trying to capture that special something.
Under the category of live compilations CLUTCH released Full Fathom Five: Audio Field Recordings 2007-2008. Live recordings from five shows spanning a year or so that capture a wide span of songs. Considering they play a different set every night, it only makes sense to pick out songs in this manner for a double live album.
Under the heading of falsified are Cheap Trick’s Live At Budokan. KISS Alive! and ALIVE II. All heavly doctored but fine albums in their own right. Also of note (in the general category of great live albums in my opinion and collection), Bad Brains Live, The Fuzztones Live In Europe and The Misfits Evillive. I could go on, but you get the picture- loads of amazing live albums to explore out there, and seeing as I’m writing this article on my cellphone and texting it to my editor who is sending me eye daggers because he has to retype the whole thing, I will end this before he actually kills me. Happy hunting folks.
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