Just this morning I read yet another article going on about the greatest or most essential live albums.
This list again got me thinking about my favourite live albums. As is usually my taste, most of what critics say are the greatest albums of all time are not ones that I particularly rate. The Allman Brothers' "Live at the Fillmore East" is always touted as a classic, but I find it overlong and bloated. Ditto "Kiss Alive!". I love Kiss, but the poor recording quality and thin production always puts me off.
Putting on my thinking cap, I've come up with six live albums that, in my view, should be regarded as must have albums but generally don't rate a mention.
The only double live album from New Zealand-via-Melbourne hard rock band Shihad (aka Pacifier, post 9/11). This is an album that runs through key album tracks and radio hits with fierce-some power panache, and the pace rarely drops across the entire two LPs. The live version of "My Mind's Sedate" is worth the price of the album alone. Also issued on double vinyl in a limited run of 500 with an amazing looking gatefold sleeve.
Bruce Springsteen - Live 1975/85
Bruce is renowned for his epic live shows, sometimes lasting up to four hours in duration. About the only way to emulate that on a record is to release a multi-disc boxed set. While pretty much every record on this list is at least two discs long (on vinyl at least), "Live 1975-85" is a whopping five LPs long (three CDs and three cassettes back in the day) and over three and a half hours long. It includes songs that he never released on a record himself, as well as a few covers of other people's songs, band versions of tracks from his solo album "Nebraska" and a stunning piano-led version of "Thunder Road" that is one of the greatest things he ever committed to vinyl. Absolutely Essential.
Wings - Wings Over America
In 1976 Paul McCartney and his first post-Beatles band Wings traipsed across the States on an epic tour that broke records for ticket sales. It was years before he toured so widely again. This album is a beautifully recorded triple vinyl souvenir of that tour with any highlights including the opening medley, a gorgeous version of Paul Simon's "Richard Cory", and great song previously unreleased called "Soily".
The Tea Party - Live in Australia
The Tea Party are an amazing live band, and one that care deeply for their fans, by travelling off the beaten track to play small shows in regional clubs and pubs as well as larger venues in capital cities. A Canadian band, they combine middle eastern influences with a few sub-continental influences, with a hard rock punch. A live CD is never going to replicate the experience perfectly, but this is as close as we'll ever get. The music is superb and well worth a listen. This crowd-funded album was also pressed in a limited edition on double vinyl.
Paco de Lucia, John McLaughlin and Al DiMiola - Friday Night In San Francisco
Jazz fans are spoilt for choice when it comes to great live albums, so choosing one was a hard choice. This one is a guitar players' dream come true. Flamenco master Paco De Lucia meets fusion greats John McLaughlin and Al DiMiola for a fun album full of tight playing and camaraderie. At only five tracks long and just over 40 minutes, it was not originally issued as a double vinyl in 1981. It has recently been reissued on a double audiophile-grade vinyl LP cut at 45 RPM.
Ramones - It's Alive!
Take it Dee Dee...
1! 2! 3! 4!
...so goes pretty much every song on this record - all 28 of 'em. They all rip through in under an hour (54 minutes to be precise. Do the math - it's less than 2 minutes per song on average). It's a full-throttle rip through the highlights of the first four Ramones albums. When taken in one sitting it is utterly exhausting listening, but it's definitely worthwhile.
So what are your favourites? Let us know in the comments below. Cheers.