originally posted Wednesday, June 25, 2008
As you will see, this is heavily weighed to the 1970s … what can I say? I grew up in the 70s.In chronological order:
Live at Newport 1956 – Duke Ellington Orchestra (1956) When Duke Ellington took his orchestra to the Newport Jazz Festival in 1956, the band was in need of an uplift, looking for a way to revitalize its image in the wake of bebop, hard bop, and so many more jazz currents. Ellington got the lift he needed when he called "Diminuendo in Blue" with set-closer "Crescendo in Blue" tacked on the end. Tenor saxophonist Paul Gonsalves got the nod from Ellington to segue from "Diminuendo" to "Crescendo," and he created the most famous sax solo in jazz history. With one rousing 27-chorus solo, Gonsalves blew a fever into the crowd and jump-started Ellingtonia for another generation. Capping off Gonsalves solo is an equally over-the-top trumpet solo by Cat Anderson, former member of the Jenkins' Orphanage band in the 1920s.
Live at the Apollo – James Brown (1962) The hardest-working-man-in-show- business proves he deserves the title. Brown was born in the hometown in which I graduated high school, Barnwell, SC. Barnwell's other claims to fame are being home of Cliff Hollingsworth, who wrote the screenplay for the movie Cinderella Man starring Russell Crowe, and the birthplace of Henry Wallace, convicted serial killer of nine women in Charlotte, NC in 1993.
Live at Folsom Prison – Johnny Cash (1968) One of the seminal events in country (and popular) music. By turns funny, maudlin, rocking but always with attitude. This LP helped pave the way for Waylon, Willie and the Outlaw music of the 1970s. Rolicking versions of "Folsom Prison Blues", "Cocaine Blues" and "Twenty-four Minutes to Go," one of the greatest execution songs ever written.
Live at Leeds - The Who (1970) Four guys, three instruments and a wall of noise. Loud, loud and louder! Heavy metal bands are still trying match this. You can almost visualize Townsend's trademark pinwheel guitar playing and Roger Daltrey swinging the mic like a lariat.
Mad Dogs & Englishmen – Joe Cocker (1970) Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs & Englishmen revue showed the world how a rock and roll road show should be done. Recorded live at New York's Fillmore East in the spring of 1970, this CD documents a slapdash extravaganza (the whole thing was conceived, organized, and abandoned over the course of two months) that overflows with big, brassy, rockin' soul. Front and center is Joe Cocker, a spastically charismatic Brit soul shouter. The bandleader is Leon Russell, playing some of the best rock piano ever waxed. And the crack company (boasting 21 singers and players) includes the rhythm section of a band which become known as Derek & the Dominoes' .
Live at the Fillmore East – Frank Zappa and the Mothers (1971)This was a live concept-like album. It was a quick peek behind the curtain of the life of a rock band on the road as narrated by Frank Zappa. Frank and the Mothers portray stereotypically egotistical members of a rock band "negotiating" with a groupie and her girlfriends for a quick roll in the hay. The girls are insulted that the band thinks they are groupies and that they would sleep with the band just because they are musicians. They have standards; they will only have sex with a guy in a group with a "big, hit single in the charts – with a bullet!" and a "dick that’s a monster." One of the funniest LPs ever!
Made In Japan – Deep Purple (1973) This is often in the top five in "Greatest Live Album" lists. One listen you will understand why. Definitive heavy metal with master musicians. The band even indulges in some great long-form jams, reaching into the 10-minute range for most of the main set and closing with the now-famed live read of "Space Truckin'." Ritchie Blackmore earns his "guitar god" status on this release. Ian Gillian releases one of rock and roll's all time great screams in "Strange Kind of Woman."
On Your Feet or On Your Knees – Blue Oyster Cult (1975)As non-mainstream (for the 70s) as this music was, "On Your Feet Or On Your Knees" was Blue Oyster Cult's first album to break into the Top 30, a stunning document of the innovations to come. Sonic bombast on par with their obvious model, the aforementioned "Made In Japan." Bands like Judas Priest and Dokken built a career copying this model.
Frampton Comes Alive – Peter Frampton (1976)What else do you need to know? The album became the biggest selling live album at the time of its release and sold over 6 million copies in the US, and 16 million worldwide. As of 2008, it is the fourth best selling live album of all time.Released in early January 1976, it debuted on the charts at 191. It stayed at the top of the charts, at number one, for 10 weeks, stayed in the Billboard's Top 40 album chart for 55 weeks, and stayed on the Billboard charts in total for 97 weeks. It was the top selling album of 1976. It was so successful it took Frampton almost 20 years to recover professionally.
Live Bullet – Bob Seger (1976) Frampton got most of the sales records and press, but Live Bullet stands the test as one of the all time great live recordings. Bob Seger is one of the best songwriters in rock and roll, and one of the greatest vocalists also ... with a prime-to-the-pump back-up band ... how can you go wrong? This was the LP that put Seger over the top. His next release was called Night Moves.
One More From For the Road – Lynyrd Skynyrd (1976) Again, one of the greatest live recordings of one of the all time great bands. Those of who that have only seen the current version of Skynyrd have NO IDEA how great the original line-up was on stage. Happy that I got to see them twice. In 1976, and the next year, in their next-to-the-las performance before the fatal plane crash.
Seconds Out – Genesis (1977) The last great Genesis LP before they became nothing more than Phil Collins' back-up band. Peter Gabriel had left the group the year before and after auditioning hundreds of vocalists as replacements, the band just decided to let drummer Phil Collins take over the lead vocal duties. Genesis had such a reputation as a live act, it was imperative that the new line-up (sans Gabriel) prove it's mettle on stage - and they did. If you can only own one Genesis release ... this is the one. It includes an amazing version of the 29 minute end-of-the-world opus "Supper's Ready". After this Genesis was well on it's way to becoming the 80s superstars they became. Great for the bank, but lacking in musical creativity.
The Last Waltz – the Band (1978) How amazing can live performances get? The Band's last performance with guest stars galore - my personal favorite being Dr. John. This is also one of the great concert movies.
Waiting For Columbus – Little Feat (1978) The funkiest bunch of west coast (mostly) white guys. Smoking hot versions of Little Feat classics like 'Fat Man In The Bathtub", "Dixie Chicken" and "Oh Atlanta." Lowell George's last great performance.
Live and Dangerous – Thin Lizzy (1978) These guys may qualify as the greatest rock and roll band that ALMOST made it. Sure, everybody has heard "The Boys Are Back In Town", but Lizzy is so much more. Phil Lynott was the Irish Springsteen / Seger. Guitarist Brian Roberson later provided guitar fireworks for Motorhead. One of my regrets is that I never got to see these guys live.
Full House / Aces High – Amazing Rhythm Aces (1981)I may have listened to this LP more than any other live recording! I initially ordered through an ad in Rolling Stone magazine. This LP has been responsible for kicking more parties into gear, and provided the greatest soundtrack for cruising. If you've never heard of them ... think of a Memphis version of Little Feat with more country twang and a wicked sense of humor. God bless the Aces.