Best Singer Songwriter Live Albums

Please vote in my readers poll to find out what popular opinion believes to be the best singer-songwriter live albums.

Who Are The Singer Songwriters?

Putting together these readers polls by music genre has forced me to confront various grey areas where one type of music merges into another.

My first thought is that a singer-songwriter is a man or woman with an acoustic guitar who performs songs he or she has written themselves.

You can then start adding a small backing group, especially if the emphasis is still on acoustic instruments.

Some singer songwriters use electric guitars and turn up the volume and start rocking.

At some stage you need to confront the issue of how a singer songwriter with a backing band differs from a band with one main singer songwriter who isn’t billed separately. For example John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival is the lead vocalist, lead guitarist and primary songwriter. I don’t think many would expect to see CCR in this poll. It’s a similar case with Paul McCartney and Wings.

There are therefore singer songwriter live albums by artists like Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band and Bob Dylan & The Band that I believe belong more in classic rock than in this poll e.g. Live 1975/85 and Before The Flood.

Neil Young has released a number of excellent live albums. The acoustic Massey Hall obviously qualifies, Live Rust squeezes in but Weld is much more suitable to the best hard rock category.

I want to hear what you think about the albums I’ve selected and excluded. You could convince me that I’m wrong.

My Choice Of My Five Favourite Singer Songwriter Live Albums

Further down the page, you’ll find a poll to vote for your favourites. In fact, there is a second division poll as well of less well known albums that also deserve your attention.

In my choice, I will only put an album in one category while some albums feature in two or even three polls. There will be some overlap between this category and the best folk live albums and the best country live albums.

This is one of my favourite genres of music and it is tough to narrow the choice down to just five albums.

I’m treating Johnny Cash, Townes Van Zandt and Waylon Jennings as country and any one else with country tinges which helps to eliminate a few from consideration here.

I can’t imagine not picking albums by Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Van Morrison. There are core elements in my music collection.

I’ve already included It’s Too Late To Stop Now by Van Morrison in my selection of the best blues rock live albums so let helps to restrict the choice between Astral Weeks Live and A Night In San Francisco. Since I’m imagining that this is a desert island style selection and I’m not allowed studio albums, my choice is Astral Weeks Live At The Hollywood Bowl but it would have been made more straightforward if that album had boasted more of the other songs performance live at those two concerts. I hope it’s re-released soon with the missing songs.

The choice for Neil Young is simpler. Live At Massey Hall in 1971 is excellent but I can’t live without Live Rust. It’s the era when I’d have most liked to have seen Young in concert.

Bob Dylan is a fascinating artist as he adjusts the style of his performances. My favourite studio albums are Highway 61 Revisited, Blood On The Tracks and Desire. With this bias towards the mid 1970s, it’s not a surprise that I favour Live 1975 The Rolling Thunder Revue along with At Budokan. If I was picking my top ten, I think I’d be able to justify both. If I had a time machine, the tour I’d want to return to would be 1975 so that means the Rolling Thunder Revue makes it into the top 5.

I didn’t split the polls between men and women but I want an album by a female singer songwriter on my desert island. Joni Mitchell is an obvious candidate and it’s hard to overlook Carole King, Lucinda Williams and Laura Nyro. However the album I find myself playing more than any other is Live At The Albert Hall by Joan Armatrading. She’s been a favourite for many years that connects with me.

One more album to go and I’m in trouble. Can I overlook the charms of Paul Simon, Leonard Cohen, Jackson Browne, Tom Waits, Lou Reed, Al Stewart and Nils Lofgren?

It’s hard but I must.

My final choice boils down to Tour De Force by Gil Scott-Heron and Live In London by Randy Newman. If I don’t have a category for jazzy rock, then I need one and that lets me look past the Scott-Heron album to my final choice, Randy Newman live in London in 2008.

My choice for my favourite five singer songwriter live albums are:

  • Van Morrison Astral Weeks: Live At The Hollywood Bowl
  • Neil Young Live Rust
  • Bob Dylan Live 1975 The Rolling Thunder Revue
  • Joan Armatrading Live At The Royal Albert Hall
  • Randy Newman Live In London

It’s your choice now so please vote in the two polls for albums you recommend highly and, if you feel like it, leave a comment at the bottom to tell the world about your favourite singer songwriter live albums,especially if one of more of your selections don’t appear in my polls.

What Are The Best Live Albums By Singer-Songwriters?

The poll was getting too big for all the artists and albums that I wanted to include so I’ve split it into two – a first division and a second division where albums can be promoted and relegated depending on the number of votes cast.

If the live album is shown in blue, you can click to get more details about it.

What Are The FIVE Best Singer Songwriter LIve Albums? (Click on the links to go to the reviews)

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SECOND DIVISION What Are The FIVE Best Singer Songwriter LIve Albums? (Click on the links to go to the reviews)

View Results

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Please let me know if you can’t vote for the promised number of live albums. Sometimes the number set in the poll slips back to one.

My Thoughts On The Results So Far – October 2014

The top five are:

  1. Live Rust by Neil Young
  2. At Folsom Prison by Johnny Cash
  3. Live At Massey Hall by Neil Young
  4. It’s Too Late To Stop Now by Van Morrison
  5. The Concert In Central Park by Simon & Garfunkel
  6. Live 1966 The Royal Albert Hall Concert by Bob Dylan

5 & 6 were tied on the same number of votes.

Neil Young Live Rust

Do You Agree With The Results So Far?

Let me know if you think my readers are getting it right. If not, why not?

What Great Singer Songwriter Live Albums Have I Missed?

There are plenty of less well known singer songwriters who may have recorded great live albums so who have I missed?

Write a comment and explain why you think a particular live album should be included. If you’re persuasive or other people support your nomination, I’ll add it into the singer songwriter live album poll.

I have best album polls for a number of singer songwriters:

My Other Best Live Albums By Genre

I’d appreciate your opinion on the best live albums outside of the singer songwriter area so please click on the links below and vote for the albums you think are the best.

Thanks for your help in finding the best live albums.


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