What do you think is the best hard rock or heavy metal live album ever?
I’m not sure where you draw the line between hard rock and heavy metal so I thought I’d have a catch all category for those of you who like your music hard and heavy.
I’ve tried to follow the definitions from respectable sources but I have eliminated some popular live albums I believe aren’t hard and heavy like Frampton Comes Alive. That’s included in my search for the best classic rock live album.
My Five Favourite Hard Rock Live Albums
I have a wide ranging taste in music but this is a difficult category for me. I’m never sure where the dividing line is between hard rock and heavy metal but I’m sure I’m safely on the hard rock side. I find bands like Black Sabbath, Metallica, Iron Maiden and Motorhead too heavy for me and it’s not an age thing because I thought exactly the same as a teenager.
I’ve approached this exercise as if I’m selecting desert island discs for each of the genres which means two things:
- I have some leeway on crossover albums between different genres since, if they are not included in one, I can include them in another. I’m treating The Rolling Stones as a blues rock band.
- I’m going with my heart rather than my head and choosing the albums that I can’t live without.
There are two automatic choices that I’ve loved for more than 40 years:
- Made In Japan by Deep Purple.
- Live At Leeds by The Who.
The one problem with Live At Leeds is that it doesn’t have many of the songs that I really need because it’s so early in their career. I have to make do a little as there isn’t a live album from the mid 1970s with Keith Moon and plenty from Who’s Next and Quadrophenia.
- The Blues To The Bush by The Who from 1999 with Zak Starkey on drums.
I might have been tempted by a Rainbow live album but Blackmore didn’t select good set-lists for the Rainbow Rising tour and too many important songs are missing. I thought carefully about Zeppelin but it’s BBC Sessions second CD (the live concert) that I play most often but I never touch the first which is too repetitive with the studio sessions. How The West Was Won and The Song Remains The Same are too bloated for my tastes.
I can’t take the singing with Rush in large doses. I have similar issues with AC/DC. I’m very tempted by On Your Feet Or On Your Knees by Blue Oyster Cult which is terrific musically but I’m uncomfortable with the occult/horror themes. I nearly went to see Kiss in the mid 1970s but I didn’t so I don’t have any emotional attachment to Alive! or Alive II.
I do feel connected to my two final choices:
- Strangers In The Night by UFO.
- Live & Dangerous by Thin Lizzy.
I’m very much in the mainstream in this genre and stuck very much with the music of my teenage years in the 1970s.
What Are the Best Hard Rock & Heavy Metal Live Albums?
I’ve set up the poll below so that you can vote for up to five of your favourite hard rock live albums. So far at least 260 people have voted.
To Keep the number of albums down to a manageable level, I have decided to introduce a second division chart where albums can be relegated up and down based on their votes.
If your favourite isn’t in the first listing, then it might be here in the second division.
If an album gets enough votes I’ll transfer it into the main listing but I don’t want more than 50 albums in any one poll.
An album can also be promoted if it does really well in the polls that focus on the best albums for a single group. Where an act is popular and has recorded a lot of live albums, my intention is to create an individual group poll.
This is what we have so far.
AC/DC – Aerosmith – Alice Cooper – Bad Company – Black Sabbath & Ozzy – Blue Oyster Cult – Deep Purple – Deep Purple Members – Dream Theater – Iron Maiden – Judas Priest – Kiss – Led Zeppelin – Mott The Hoople – Ted Nugent – The Rolling Stones – Rush – Thin Lizzy – The Who
What Other People Say Are the Greatest Heavy Metal And Hard Rock Live Albums
This website has broadly similar thoughts to my voters except they ignore Led Zeppelin (site accessed 27 June 2016):
- Live At Leeds by The Who
- Alive by Kiss
- At Budokan by Cheap Trick
- Double Live Gonzo by Ted Nugent
- Live After Death by Iron Maiden
- Unleashed In The East by Judas Priest
- Exit… Stage Left by Rush
- Live And Dangerous by Thin Lizzy
- Made In Japan by Deep Purple
- No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith by Motorhead
MetalStorm.net – Top 100 live albums (site accessed 27 June 2016)
This specialist steps away from the mainstream and has the following albums in their top ten:
- Alive In Athens by Iced Earth
- Into The Pantheon by Empyrium
- Live After Death by Iron Maiden
- Vivus! by Death
- Lichtjahre by Lacrimosa
- Strangers In The Night by UFO
- Reality Dream by Riverside
- Live Inferno by Emperor
- One Cold Winter’s Night by Kamelot
- The Anatomy Of Melancholy by Paradise Lost
Given that this is an extreme website, I’m surprised to see the UFO classic so high up. I’m also surprised that newer bands like Iced Earth haven’t done better in my poll.
NoiseCreep.com – 10 All-Time Greatest Metal Live Albums (site accessed 26 June 2016)
I don’t think these are listed in order:
- Alive! by KISS
- Unleashed in the East by Judas Priest
- Live After Death by Iron Maiden
- All the World’s a Stage by Rush
- No Sleep ’til Hammersmith by Motörhead
- Decade of Aggression by Slayer
- Live Without Sense by Destruction
- The Origin of the Feces by Type O Negative
- Saints Will Conquer by Armored Saint
- Speak of the Devil by Ozzy Osbourne
RollingStone.com – Readers’ Poll: The 10 Best Metal/Hard Rock Albums of the 1970s (site accessed 27 June 2016)
This is mainly focused on studio albums but at #8 is Alive! by Kiss.
NME.com – The 50 Greatest Live Albums Ever (site accessed 27 June 2016)
This covers many different music genres but the top ten of hard rock/heavy metal albums it features are:
- #3 Live At Leeds by The Who
- #6 Live And Dangerous by Thin Lizzy
- #8 Kick Out The Jams by MC5
- #10 Alive! by Kiss
- #11 Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out by The Rolling Stones
- #12 The Song Remains The Same by Led Zeppelin
- #13 Made In Japan by Deep Purple
- #18 Live After Death by Iron Maiden
- #35 If You want Blood, You’ve Got It by AC/DC
- #43 Metallic K.O. by Iggy And The Stooges
What Great Hard Rock & Heavy Metal Live Albums Have I Missed?
I’m sure I’ve missed some hard rock and heavy metal live albums that should be included but aren’t, especially from groups that have come to prominence in the last twenty years.
Let me know please by leaving a comment and I’ll check them out to see if they should be included in the poll.
Why Are Those Heavy Metal Live Albums Your Favourites?
I’d also like to know why your favourite heavy metal albums are your favourites. What makes your choices so great? Leave me a comment please.
My Reflections On The Results Of the Best Hard Rock And Heavy Metal Live Albums Poll So Far (October 2014)
My voters poll to find the best heavy metal live album has received plenty of interest with 260 people voting for up to five of their favourite hard rock and heavy metal live albums.
I thought it was about time that I gave you my thoughts on the results so far.
The British Legends from the late 1960s and 1970s
At the time of writing, the clear leader as the best heavy rock album is Deep Purple’s masterpiece Made In Japan with 108 votes.
Zeppelin have two albums in the top 7 with both How The West Was Won and The Song Remains The Same getting 47 votes each. Since these albums were both recorded on the Houses Of The Holy tour, I wonder if they split the vote. Only diehard Zeppelin fans would vote for both of them so if you add the votes together, you get a combined total of 94. That puts Led Zep on second place ahead of The Who Live At Leeds with 65 votes.
The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal
The album that ranks third in the poll ignoring my Led Zeppelin combined score is Live After Death by Iron Maiden with 59 votes.
Judas Priest may have started a little early for this category but it’s where they had most success and their album Unleashed In The East is ninth with 41 votes.
I’m a bit surprised at how little support Motorhead have received with their No Sleep Til Hammersmith album. 18 votes put it in joint 15th place. Like Iron Maiden’s masterpiece, it’s a bit too much for an old man like me.
Saxon are further down the list with The Eagle Has Landed.
Melodic Hard Rock
Fourth on the list is Strangers In The Night by UFO and Thin Lizzy squeeze into the top 10 with Live And Dangerous. Both of these albums are more to my personal tastes and avoid the excesses of long drum solos and excess guitar histrionics that feature on the Zeppelin and Purple live albums.
In a similar but tougher vein is the album that is ranked fifth so far as in the best heavy metal live albums listing, AC/DC with the excellent If You Want Blood You’ve Got It. This is an album that has plenty of attitude and energy.
All three of these albums are very highly recommended to anyone who likes to rock.
The American Influence
The British bands dominate the top of the heavy metal live album list but we’re reminded that there are some great hard rock albums produced by American bands too before the hair metal bands almost ruined the heavy metal reputation.
Kiss Alive! is ranked as the 8th best heavy metal album, Rush with All The World’s A Stage is 13th, Blue Oyster Cult’s On Your Feet Or On Your Knees is 14th and Rush are back in again at 15th with Exit Stage Left along with Metallica’s Live Shit.
Where Are Black Sabbath?
The first six Black Sabbath studio albums (all the way up to 1975’s Sabotage) are considered heavy metal classics so it’s strange that Black Sabbath make such a poor impression on the best heavy metal live album listings.
I’m delighted with the way the heavy metal live albums poll is identifying the best hard rock and heavy metal live recordings.
The poll at the time of writing stands at:
- Made In Japan
- Live At Leeds
- Live After Death
- Strangers In The Night
- If You Want Blood, You’ve Got It
- The Song Remains The Same
- How The West Was Won
- Kiss Alive!
- Unleashed In The East
- Live And Dangerous
I may not like them all but that’s exactly the point. In fact there is only one, Live After Death that I haven’t bought. This is letting everyone who is interested have a chance to express their opinions and there’s no way that I’m planning to close the poll.
If you don’t agree with the list, you need to vote.
I think it’s an excellent place for someone who likes live albums to explore the high placed albums. You should look at those lower down the list from less well known groups because these may be hidden jewels. The album charts don’t always find the best music.
It will have even better results after 500 people have voted and then 1,000.
It is however stuck in the 1970s and 1980s. If you know of later live albums that deserve to be included and you think they will get votes from the people who appreciate their music hard and heavy, please leave a comment. Based on what you say and any feedback on Amazon, I’ll decide whether to add it to the list.
The Other Categorises Of Best Live Albums
I think you will also be interested in these other categories:
- Best blues rock live albums
- Best boogie rock live albums
- Best classic rock live albums
- Best psychedelic & San Francisco live albums
- Best Southern rock live albums
You can see the complete list of readers polls at Live Album Polls.