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Tuesday, October 26, 2004

THE LIVE RECORD

In the early days of recording, all music was live. A band would set up and play, and somebody would record it. Sometimes this would take place at an actual public performance, sometimes in a studio, but in essence it was live. During the late fifties, engineers and artists (including but not limited to Les Paul and Buddy Holly) began to experiment with multi track recording. Enter the sixties, the Beatles, and multi track tape machines. During this period, the live record became a sort of easy answer for record companies and musicians. Cheap novelty product for the record companies, and an escape route for musicians looking to fulfill unwanted recording contracts with said companies. The first truly great live Rock record was one of the latter. In 1969 the Stones had one record left on their contract with London/Decca. The financial terms of the existing contract were undesireable, they wanted more money for the next record they would write, so they gave the company a live record. In '69 the Stones were touring again for the first time in three years, during that time improvements to live sound production had been made, and the Stones, being trailblazers, brought a state of the art mixing console on tour with them, they recorded some shows, most notably their two night stint at Madison Square Garden, culled from these shows came 'Get Yer Ya Ya's Out'. Concieved as an album of convienience, it became a legendary classic album because it showcases what their records did not, a truly great live band doing what it does best, play. Forget the hits, check out 'Carol', one of two Chuck Berry numbers included on the record, 'Midnight Rambler' and 'Love In Vain' their Robert Johnson cover. By the early seventies a number of bands took the lesson to heart and released live albums to showcase their live act. Grand Funk Railroad's 'Live Album' certainly delivers the message, you can feel the power of a full tilt rock band caught in the act so to speak. The Grateful Dead's 'Europe 72' is not only a great live record, it's the best thing they ever did. In 1975, Kiss, not satisfied by their efforts to capture their esscence in the studio, released 'Alive', the record that put them in the charts on the wings of 'Rock and Roll All Night'. In 1976, Peter Frampton released his megagazillion selling 'Frampton Comes Alive', and although he is credited for making the record companies realise the potential windfall in live records, it was Kiss 'Alive' that was the first live record to spawn a hit single. Never one to be schooled in his own school, Ted Nugent gave us 'Double Live Gonzo' in 1978. Culled from two years of incessant touring, 'Gonzo' features an alarmingly wide range of tunes from the Motor City Madman. From the feeback laced 'Hibernation' to the cascade of 'Great White Buffalo' Ted burns through his catalog with the intensity for which he has been known ever since. I always loved his foul mouthed raps as my mother can attest. 'Anybody wants to get mellow can turn around and get the fuck out of here' Damn skippy. That same year saw the release of 'At Budokan' by Cheap Trick. Much the same as Kiss and Peter Frampton, Cheap Trick's first three records didn't sell as well as desired, in a last ditch effort 'At Budokan' was thrown together from tapes never intended for release. It's a good thing they did release them, because 'At Budokan' was the album that saved Cheap Trick. It has recently been re-released with all the songs from the show, and it's just so smoking. 'Downed', 'Southern Girls, 'Big Eyes' 'Can't Hold On', hell every song that got cut from the original deserves it's day in the sun. Also in 1978 Thin Lizzy put out their infamous 'Live And Dangerous' LP. Unable to capitalize on the success of 1976's 'Jailbreak' album due to bad luck, bad habits, and bad bar room behavior, this live record reasserted their prescence on the Rock scene. Tony Visconti, who produced the album, is on record as saying that the only thing live about that record are the drum tracks, and that everything else was retracked in the studio. I think he's exaggerating some, but not much. The next year came my own personal favorite live record, UFO's 'Stranger In The Night'. It doesn't get any better kids. This is the real deal. Nobody has ever topped that record. If all I could ever listen to for the rest of my life was the live version of 'Rock Bottom', I'd get by. 'One For The Road' documents the Kinks during the peak of their Arista years. Recorded in '79 on their 'Low Budget' tour, 'One For The Road' contains amped up versions of their Brittish Invasion era hits (You Really Got Me, All Day And All Of The Night), a smattering of notable hits from the seventies (Lola, Celluloid Heroes) and almost all of the 'Low Budget' record. There is an attending video to this record, and though I've tried, I can't seem to find a copy. The only other exceptional live record that I can think of is Tom Petty's 'Pack Up The Plantation'. Recorded in 1986 on his 'Southern Accents' tour, 'Pack Up The Plantation' is also a great movie as well. I have never seen or heard a better recorded document to a live band experience. The song 'Southern Accents' stands out as well as 'Rebels' and the audience sing a long version of 'Breakdown'. I know I've forgotten something, and I hope somebody fills me in, but I want to make clear that in no way does The Who's 'Live At Leeds' belong in the same company with the formentioned albums. It's almost as poorly recorded as the Stones 'Got Live If You Want It', which is abysmally recorded.

UPDATE:
Okay, already I've thought of an omission, Lynyrd Skynyrd's 'One More From The Road' from 1976 definately deserves notable mention of merit. 'Freebird' anyone?

Comments:
Ted you are right on with your pick of albums, but Live Dead came out Nov 10, 1969 and 'Get Yer Ya Ya's Out'came out Sept 4, 1970. Not to take anything away from 'Get Yer Ya Ya's Out', Live Dead sort of set the standards for modern live albums and showed what a band that couldn't quite make it in the studio could do live.
 
Well done sir... You hit them all. UFO's Stranger's is by far the best live record ever. Skynyrd's was great also. The Jimmy Reed tune "T For Texas" and "Mr. Saturday Night Special" are huge standouts in my mind.
 
I seem to remember, though I don't own the reocrd, that 'Live Dead' wasn't the best of recordings, I may be wrong, and I'm certainly no expert on Dead issues. Is that the one with the really long 'Dark Star'?
 
The first truly great live Rock record could be 'Get Yer Ya Ya's Out',but Five live yardbirds,Blues Project: Live At The Cafe` Au Go Go,Live at leeds and Live Dead all came out first. So you need to listen to all these albums and then tell me what you think.
 
I think I've made my position clear on 'Live At Leeds", I think it stinks, and I own it. 'Young Man's Blues' is the best thing on there, it's powerful alright, but the band was sloppy on the that night (and many others), and the production value is very poor. I don't think it was possible to get a good live Rock record until late 69.
 
Alchemy. Dire Straits.
 
As McEnroe says - "YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS!!!"

No list of top live albums of all time can be taken seriously if it does not include what most rock critics consider the single greatest live rock album of all time - Allman Brothers - Live at the Fillmore East.

Nuff said
 
Filmore East is probaly the best Allman's LP. Sorry for the lapse. No argument here.
 
"Live at Leeds" was released in 1970. I'm not sure which release you've listened to, but any of the latter-era CD releases should dispel any notions that it's poorly recorded. And I've listened to a lot of live Who sets, and Leeds is about the tightest you'll find; if you think it's sloppy, you just don't like The Who. (And there we'll have to agree to disagree.)
 
The release date is not the date it was recorded. And, yes, we'll have to agree to disagree, the Who was often very sloppy. I'd say, for that era, the set they did for the Rolling Stones Rock n Roll Circus was about as tight as the Who ever got live, and the production is very good. Compare the two, and you'll see what I mean.
 
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