If you look at Amazon or iTunes, you’ll see a lot of live recordings by bands and it’s now hard to distinguish between:
Official live albums approved and released by the artist and their record company.
Third party recordings where royalties are paid to the artists for performance and songwriting. (I’m thinking of the BBC and Rockpalast recordings here).
Grey market live recordings which are legal in Europe because of the copyright laws only protect music for 25 years unless it’s been officially released. (I’m not a legal expert but this is my understanding).
I thought it would be interesting to produce a post that summarises what I recommend as the best ONE live album per group or artist.
This covers rock, pop, blues, soul & funk, reggae, folk, country and jazz.
This is going to be controversial in places and will involve some hard choices. Other times, the answer is pretty obvious because a group has released an absolute classic that stands head and shoulders above anything else they’ve done.
Sometimes I’ve gone with my personal opinion when I have strong views on the merits of albums, other times, I’ve bowed to the wisdom shown in my readers polls.
In nearly all occasions, the band or artist will have more than one live album to consider but occasionally, there is just one that I think is much to important to ignore. For example, if I take two personal favourites of mine The Cate Brothers Live isn’t included but Wings Over America will be. I’ll do my best to explain why.
I’ve numbered the albums so that I can keep changing the title of the article but the albums are listed in alphabetical order of the artist or band. To save confusion over whether Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band should be under S for Springsteen or B for Bruce, or the Steve Miller Band should be under S or M, I’ve opted to go with the first name featured, unless it is The… so The Who are under W.
I don’t think it’s spoiling the surprise if I say that many of the choices come from the 1970s, the decade where live albums became an essential part of the catalogue.
I was adding the albums too slowly so I’ve started listing them and will come back later to add in explanations for the choice and album covers. Please bear with me.
Another video from Pete Pardo of the Sea Of Tranquility website, this time looking at Paul McCartney and Wings and his ten favourite songs.
This band has a terrific live album in Wings Over America as it chronicled the tour to promote Wings At The Speed Of Sound in 1976.
My Ten Favourite Wings Songs
These aren’t in order of preference but the order they appear on Wings Over America. Unlike Pete, I don’t seem to want to rank these great songs.
Venus & Mars/Rock Show
Maybe I’m Amazed
Live And Let Die
Magneto And Titanium Man
Silly Love Songs
Beware My Love
Band on the Run
I you haven’t heard the album and you like classic rock, I urge you to give it a listen. Unlike Pete, I haven’t made a distinction between Paul McCartney’s solo albums after The Beatles split and the Wings albums so I am including Maybe I’m Amazed
Pete Pardo Top Ten Songs By Paul McCartney and Wings
I’ve been sharing videos by Pete Pardo from the Sea of Tranquility website. Here is what he has to say about The Rolling Stones.
Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out is often considered to be one of the very best blues rock live albums. Even better as far as I’m concerned is The Brussels Affair. The Stones really should have released this majestic slice of Mick Taylor inspired rock back in the early 1970s.
I’ve been featuring the videos from Pete Pardo from the Sea of Tranquility website and here are his thoughts about Bachman Turner Overdive.
BTO never released a classic live album in the 1970s, which I think is a shame. They are an under-rated band, especially in the UK where the success of their single You Ain’t Seen Nuthin’ Yet overshadows everything else they’ve done.
I will point to the 2012 Bachman & Turner live album, Live At The Roseland Ballroom which is excellent in terms of songs selected, performance and sound quality.
More videos from Pete Parlo from the Sea of Tranquility website, this time his love of Deep Purple is carried over into Whitesnake.
I’ve blown hot and cold on Whitesnake ever since they were formed. I like Deep Purple Mark 3 and 4 a lot but by the time Coverdale formed his new band in 1978, bluesy hard rock was unfashionable and, whilst they had a few catchy hits over the years, the did go very “hair metal” at one stage.
Pete Pardo (from the Sea of Tranquility website) loves Deep Purple. They are his all-time favourite band and the Mark 2 version of the band are responsible for possibly the greatest hard rock live album ever recorded in Made in Japan.
If you ever think that live albums have not-so-good versions of the studio songs, think again. There is no comparison between the four songs on this album from Machine Head to how they sounded live in the era of Mark 2 Deep Purple. Better? “Not ‘arf!”
Don’t think all you need to hear from Deep Purple happened between 1970 and 1973 either. Deep Purple marks 3 and 4 also had plenty to offer fans of hard rock and the revival band is also highly skilled, even if they don’t have the same flair to go away from the studio albums.