In the August 2014 edition of Prog magazine, there is a list of the 100 greatest prog albums.
Since I love lists and I go through phases when I’m fascinated by prog, I thought I’d share the top ten with you and discuss how they fit with the best prog rock live albums.
I believe the best live albums are often close ion time to the best studio albums. As well as having an obvious impact on the set lists for the concerts, the bands are usually in the best shape creatively.
Prog magazines 10 greatest prog rock albums
- Close To The Edge by Yes
- In The Court Of The Crimson King by King Crimson
- Selling England By The Pound by Genesis
- The Dark Side Of The Moon by Pink Floyd
- Thick As A Brick by Jethro Tull
- Foxtrot by Genesis
- Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd
- The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway by Genesis
- The Raven That Refused To Sing by Steven Wilson
- Fragile by Yes
The only surprise to me was the high appearance of the Steven Wilson album. If you don’t know the name, he is the main man behind Porcupine Tree.
As for the other #10 albums, there are two from Yes (and Relayer can be found at #19 and Tales From Topographic Oceans is just outside the top 20), one from King Crimson (but Red is #12), three from Genesis (#21 is A Trick Of the Tail), two from Pink Floyd (with Animals at #14 and The Wall #16) and one by Jethro Tull. This shows the dominance of the late 1960s and in particular the early 1970s on prog.
The big 1970s name that is missing is Emerson, Lake and Palmer but their best album, Brain Salad Surgery comes in at #11.
Here is a list of all 100 prog rock albums chosen.
There is a poor representation from modern prog, particularly once you put prog metal to one side as too heavy.
The Prog Live Albums
The live album to buy is Yessongs which has all three tunes from A Close To The Edge and a good proportion of Fragile and the fabulous The Yes Album (which would have made my top 10 prog albums). Yessongs is possibly the greatest prog rock live album ever recorded
If you want more Yes, then Yesshows from the late 1970s has songs from Tales From Topographic Oceans, Relayer and Going For The One.
Crimson are a tough band to follow because of their frequent band changes that had such an impact on their sound. The live album from the Greg Lake era is Epitaph.
We don’t have a comprehensive live album from the Gabriel version of Genesis although I keep hoping that the Foxtrot tour based Genesis Live will be extended with bonuses including Supper’s Ready.
There’s a bootleg of the Selling England By The Pound concert Live At The Rainbow which is largely featured on Archives 1968 – 1975 including Supper’s Ready which can be bought as am mp3 from Amazon.co.uk for 99p at the time of writing. This box set also has a live concert performance of A Lamb Lies Down On Broadway.
Finally, challenging Yessongs for the greatest prog rock live album is the first Phil Collins as vocalist live recording Seconds Out. This has a good selection from. Selling England By The Pound and A Trick Of The Tail.
There’s good and bad news for Pink Floyd. There isn’t a proper live album for the Roger Waters version of Pink Floyd with the big albums featured except for Is There Anybody Out There which is a performance of The Wall.
What we do have is an official release of the 1974 Live At Wembley concert on the Experience versions of Dark Side Of The Moon (a full live version of DSOTM) and Wish You Were Here (with in development versions of Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Pigs and Dogs). The only song missing from the 1974 concert is the encore, Echoes from Meddle.
Tull were late to record a live album and while there are plenty available, prog fans are not well served. The early blues based band has Nothing Is Easy from 1970 but then there is an eight year gap to Bursting Out. That album is good but I’d love to see a live album to appear from a 1972 or 73 concert focused on Thick As A Brick.
I mentioned ELP and of course, the live album to go for there is Welcome Back My Friends with its high proportion of Brain Salad Surgery and Tarkus on it.
The Best Prog Live Album Poll
There are plenty of other good prog groups and live albums. You can use the poll in two ways:
- To share your opinion of the best live albums
- To find hidden gold based on what my other readers rate highly.
You might also be interested in the best art rock live albums. Like prog, some may dismiss this music as too clever for its own good but it’s technically accomplished but a step towards pop rock as the songs are usually shorter and catchier than prog.