Desert Island Live Albums

What are the five live albums for each music genre that I’d take on a desert island?

It’s an interesting challenge but it’s harder than you’d think in many of the categories. Sometimes the problem is limiting myself to just five albums, other times I have a few absolute favourites that stand clear and I have to pick two or three other albums that contrast and complement those albums.

A few rules:

  1. I’ve tried to limit myself to official, artist approved albums.
  2. Some genres overlap so I’ve only chosen a much loved album in one category, even if it could easily quality for both.

These lists are in alphabetic order by genre and within genre but chronological with artist.


I can admire the professionalism of the AOR groups but I think my desert island may be free of the music. I can’t think of anything that I regard as unmissable.

Art Rock

The Bill Nelson album squeaks in ahead of Be Bop Deluxe’s Live In The Air Age because I like the addition of the saxophone and flute and Air Age irritates me as recorded on the Modern Music tour but missing all the tracks from that album. If it ever receives the deluxe, extended version, it could well make the list.

Roxy Music Live squeezes in ahead of Viva but, once again, if Viva is ever enhanced then it is likely to make the list but it’s too short and missing too many important songs. As it stands, Roxy Music Live provides a very good summary of their entire career.

While two highly regarded albums miss out for what isn’t there, Supertramp have added in the extra songs played at the Paris concert to turn Paris into Live In Paris 79 and with a DVD too. Irresistible.


Luther Allison is my favourite blues singer and guitarist and I regard these two albums – Where Have You Been?  and Live In Chicago as essential parts of my album collection.

Live At The Regal by BB King is terrific but it’s too short while Live In Japan was recorded seven years later and is longer and has more guitar. Are either essential when I’m down to a selection of just five? When I start thinking about John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy Guy, Albert King, Otis Rush, Son Seals and everyone else, it’s clear that I’m going to have to make some hard decisions.

I will want some Muddy Waters and Muddy “Mississippi” Waters Live is selected in preference to the better known At Newport 1960, partly because it is longer. While Muddy helped to create the Chicago blues, his style of blues is very difference to the blazing guitar drenched sounds of his followers. There’s still plenty of guitar but I think his solos are generally subtler.

Blues Rock

Don’t be surprised at how many categories I manage to squeeze Van Morrison into so that I can have as broad a collection of his live albums as possible.

Jess Roden is one of my “greats who should have been famous”. He is a terrific blues singer and at his best with the Jess Roden Band. The Brussels Affair is a famous bootleg that has received an artist approved release through the Stones’ own website but it really deserves a full release.

Something from Hendrix was essential and whilst he was always interesting, he was great in 1967 but Monterey is short. I’m going for Live At Berkeley from the end of his career.

It’s a surprise to me that there is no Eric Clapton and that’s because he has a few albums that were close but there isn’t an automatic first choice. The Bluesbreakers were such an important British blues group and Mick Taylor is already present on the 1973 version of the Stones. Peter Green was an obvious choice and especially as Boston combines all three volumes of the Live In Boston albums.

Classic Rock

I have a narrower definition of classic rock than many because it is separate to the other genres.

Both the Hard Rock and Power Pop genres have helped me in this category because it would have been much harder if I hadn’t been able to park Wings Over America by Wings, Live And Dangerous by Thin Lizzy and Strangers In The Night by UFO elsewhere.

Which Tripping The Live Fantastic? Well that depends on whether I have a CD player of mp3 player. The Highlights album is better pound for pound but, as far as I’m concerned, they didn’t get all the right highlights. If I can pick and choose and delete the mediocre, then the full two CD version gets the choice.

Hard Rock & Heavy Metal

I think it’s very clear that I favour hard rock rather than metal. I’m convinced that I was too old for metal, even when I was a teenager when Sabbath, Motorhead, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest were recording their definitive albums.

The only surprising album there is the second one by The Who and that reflects my irritation that there hasn’t been an album from the Quadrophenia / By Numbers tours in the early to mid 1970s. Stuck on my desert island, I can’t imagine being without the songs from Who’s Next and Quadrophenia. Blues To The Bush captures a 1999 concert with a terrific set list and Ringo Starr’s son, Zak Starkey on drums.

Early R&B and Rock’n’Roll

It’s not pure soul or blues or jazz or rock but a hybrid.