How I Evaluate Live Albums

What makes a great live album?

Give my passion for live albums, it’s something that I’ve thought about a lot.

Some are superb. making you wish you had a time machine and you could go back and watch/experience the spectacular show.

Others are terrible.

My Rating System For Live Albums

I’m planning to spread my rating across three categories

  1. The set list – the songs played and the completeness of the set
  2. The performance – how well the songs are played and whether something is added to the performance to make it distinct from the studio recording.
  3. The atmosphere – how live it feels. As I’m not an audiophile, this will also include thoughts on the sound quality. A muddy sound spoils a live album but I don’t expect the pristine but sanitised sound of studio recordings.

Each will be rated out of 10 giving a maximum total score of 30.

The Set Lists Of Great Live Albums

The most controversial element of the ratings will be the set list assessment. Many artists haven’t released live albums from my favourite tours or periods of their careers.

I want the following:

  • The Who after Quadrophenia
  • The Rolling Stones after Exile On Main Street
  • Prince after Lovesexy (probably the greatest concert I’ve ever seen)
  • U2 after Achtung Baby
  • Led Zeppelin after Physical Graffiti
  • Bruce Springsteen after Darkness On The Edge Of Town
  • Queen after A Night At The Opera

No matter how good the live albums released by these artists, I can’t help believing that there’s something even better locked away in the vaults of the artists or record companies.

And I want it.

The other thing is that generally I like my live albums to be double or triple albums (I grew up with LPs and that’s how I still think.) I want them to approximate to a concert although I have to admit that sometimes less is better.

In particular less drum solo is better. Some people may love The Mule (Deep Purple) or Moby Dick (Led Zeppelin) but I don’t.

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