What are the best live blues albums?
I’m not sure whether I’m complicating or simplifying this choice but I’ve created two categories for live albums based on the blues:
- This one, for what I think of as pure blues. The blues artists are people like BB King, Albert King, Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy.
- I’ve created a separate readers poll to find out the best live blues rock albums. The blues rock artists are artists and groups like Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton & Cream, The Allman Brothers Band and Rory Gallagher.
If you love the blues and blues inspired rock, I’d very much like it if you could vote in both best live album polls.
I believe these live recordings capture the intensity of the blues better than the sterile studio recordings. I think the artists tend to be inspired by the enthusiastic response of the audience.
My Favourite Live Blues Albums
Since I ask for the live albums you think represent the best of the blues, I think it’s only fair that I share my personal favourites.
The way I approach my selection is to assume I’m stranded on a desert island but I’m allowed to select five live albums from each genre. This means that some crossover albums can get selected in the easier of the genres.
I was introduced to the blues through the English blues rock bands of the 1960s – Eric Clapton and Cream, Peter Green and Fleetwood Mac and The Rolling Stones. I wanted to understand what influenced them.
An obvious starting point is BB King. For the popular mainstream, he is Mr Blues and probably by far the best known of the great bluesmen.
Live At The Regal is terrific but it’s a bit short. I love it when I play it but I don’t play it very often. Live In Japan is longer is a fine album. Live In Cook County Jail has plenty to recommend it too but I’m not sure a BB King album is going to make the list.
I can’t believe I’ve written that last sentence so don’t be surprised if I come back and change my mind.
Then there are his “brothers”, Albert and Freddie to consider. Yes I know that they are not really his brothers but it’s always struck me as odd that three of the best known (and best) blues guitarists are called King.
Albert King was HOT when he got to the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco in June 1968. These concerts give us Live Wire / Blues Power together with Wednesday Night and Thursday Night In San Francisco. I wish the record company would bundle all three together. Albert has released several other fine live albums. Again I’m not sure that any will make my desert island selection of five.
Someone who will definitely feature is Luther Allison. He is my favourite blues singer and guitarist and it’s a shame he wasn’t better known during his life. Gradually more people are discovering his music.
There are two of his albums I instinctively turn to when I feel like the blues and I haven’t been pointed at another artist – Where Have You Been? Live In Montreux 1976 – 1994 and Live In Chicago from 1995.
I can’t live without either of them so they are the first two to make my desert island selection.
Chicago blues dominate my blues album collection so it’s appropriate to think about the man who links the traditional Mississippi sound to the development of urban blues, Muddy Waters.
An obvious album is Muddy Waters At Newport from 1960. Even though it has been extended in 2001, it’s still too short. This matters to me on my desert island because I can’t afford to get tired of any of the albums, especially as my listening goes in phases. When I listen to the blues, I only want to listen to the blues.
In the late 1970s, Waters found popularity again with the studio album Hard Again and the album I’m selecting is the expanded version of Muddy “Mississippi” Waters Live.
Three down, two to find.
I’m having quite a lot of trouble narrowing them down and I have most of the albums included in the best live blues album poll in my collection along with a few others.
I think one is going to be “guitar intensive” whilst the other is probably going to be one of the more subtle “old fashioned” blues albums. People in contention include Albert Collins, John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf and Son Seals.
To be continued.
What Are The Best Blues Live Albums?
What great live blues albums have I missed? Please let me know by leaving a comment below.
What do you think about the results so far?
The Bluesy Side Of Live Blues Rock Albums
An argument can be made to move some of the live albums I’ve included in the best live blues rock albums poll into the blues poll But I’m not going to do it because I want to encourage more rock fans to investigate authentic blues.
Here are some of the popular bluesy blues rock live albums with votes cast at 25 August 2017.
- Allman Brothers Band Live At Fillmore East (13%, 173 Votes)
- Rory Gallagher Irish Tour (7%, 95 Votes)
- Derek & The Dominos LIve At The Fillmore (4%, 55 Votes)
- Fleetwood Mac Boston 1970 (1%, 16 Votes)
- Stevie Ray Vaughan Live At Montreux 1982 & 1985 (1%, 14 Votes)
- Joe Bonamassa Live From The Royal Albert Hall (1%, 9 Votes)
- Stevie Ray Vaughan Live At Carnegie Hall (1%, 7 Votes)
- Gary Moore – Blues Alive (0%, 5 Votes)
- Walter Trout No More Fish Jokes (0%, 3 Votes)
Above are the albums ranked first, second and seventh in the blues rock poll.
My Thoughts On The Results Of The Poll To Find The Best Live Blues Albums
To casual fans of the blues, their knowledge and experience probably doesn’t extend much past BB King, and then perhaps to other the big names like Albert King, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. However these artists have earned their legendary status through the quality of their work in the studio and on stage.
At #1 is probably the most famous blues album, Live At The Regal by BB King.
Great songs, a top class performance and great atmosphere and rapport with the audience. It’s a terrific introduction to the blues and shows how uplifting music can be. My only quibble is that it’s too short,
At #2 is Muddy Waters with At Newport 1960.
Some blues albums from the 1970s onwards blur the boundaries of blues rock but early albums like this show blues in its authentic form. It’s not as commercial as Live At The Regal but it’s very satisfying. There is a big gap in votes/ recommendations between #1 and #2 and between #2 and #3.
In third place at the time of this update (but the competition is tight) is Live Wire/Blues Power by Albert King.
This is more of a guitar album as you can see the links between the blues and early blues rock like Cream. This album has two sisters with all the tracks coming from a . couple of gigs at Fillmore West in San Francisco – Wednesday Night and Thursday Night. All are worth hearing but I’d have liked them to be grouped together to create one astonishing live album.
I’m hoping that more votes will help to make the order below the two at the top much clearer.A favourite of mine who hasn’t attracted much support yet is Luther Allison.
Other Best Live Album Polls
You may be interested in these readers polls as well:
It’s surprising how many grey areas you find when you start to try to categorise music like this and think about how you can justify it to other people.
There are also readers polls by group but you’ll find those as you explore deeper into the blog.