The B List: Classic Rock Encore

4. Grateful Dead – Reckoning

Yeah yeah, I know The Dead have released about 12 million live albums through their various series and this one is probably a far afterthought after Live Dead, Europe `72 and many others. But the Dead, obviously known for their long, psychedelic jams and expansive approach to concerts, stripped down wonderfully and showed its acoustic talents on this release featuring songs from the band’s September – October, 1980 performances at San Francisco’s Warfield Theater and New York’s Radio City Music Hall.

Highlights include a beautiful and subtle Birdsong, a playful Cassidy and the heart-wrenching ballads – China Doll and To Lay Me Down where Jerry Garcia’s voice creaks and cracks in all the right places. The album closes with an effervescent Ripple that is so joyful; you can practically feel Garcia smiling. It’s not the most popular Dead live release, but it might be the most poignant.

3. The Who – Live at Leeds

Recorded at the University of Leeds on February 14, 1970, this compilation represents the only official live recording The Who released featuring music from its heyday (AKA: before Keith Moon died). The original release featured a mere six tracks – Young Man Blues, Substitute, Summertime Blues, Shakin’ All Over, My Generation and Magic Bus – but a remastered version emerged in 1995 extending the tracklist to 14 songs, including eventual Who classics and Moon showcases A Quick One While He’s Away and I’m A Boy. In 2003, yet another version appeared on the scene, this time as a two-disc, 33-song marathon. Disc two contains the entire performance of the Tommy rock opera, highlighted by ferocious versions of Amazing Journey > Sparks and We’re Not Gonna Take It.

2. The Rolling Stones – Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out

The Stones recorded this album during a two-night stand at Madison Square Garden in November, 1969 when they were still young and hungry…as opposed to now when they are old and money hungry. The album features stellar versions of Stones hits such as Sympathy for the Devil, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, and Street Fighting Man but also included more blues-oriented numbers such as Stray Cat Blues and the wrenching Love In Vain. This version of Midnight Rambler is legendary for Mick Jagger’s wailing harmonica combining with new-at-the-time Mick Taylor’s bluesy guitar riffs. The album cover, featuring drummer Charlie Watts with guitars and binoculars hanging from the neck of a donkey, was a subtle nod to a line in Bob Dylan’s Visions of Johanna.

1. Talking Heads – Stop Making Sense

The Talking Heads released The Best Fucking Concert Film Ever in 1984. The movie, directed by Jonathan Demme, was shot over three nights in December 1983 at Los Angeles’ Pantages Theater, as the group was touring in support of its Speaking in Tongues album. The release captured the Talking Heads at their most rhythmic and most theatrical. Leaving the wonderful visuals of the video aside, the music itself is pure bliss. Starting with just David Byrne and a beatbox on Psycho Killer, additional musicians, including Bernie Worrell and percussionist Steve Scales, who tears apart Slippery People, fill the stage until the Heads find themselves emerged in an aquarium of sound. In 1999, a restored and remastered version of both the film and the soundtrack were released. If you haven’t seen and heard this film/soundtrack, crawl out of your cave and find it.

What are your favorite live albums?

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23 Responses

  1. Ummm…Dylan’s Live at the Royal Albert Hall is the greatest live album ever. Period. How the West Was Won is a reminder that Led Zeppelin ruled the planet for a reason in the 1970s. Lou Reed’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal is a guitar classic. The Band’s Rock of Ages is choice meat, and Terrible Ted’s Double Live Gonzo still eats the young of any generation.

  2. Good call on Reckoning, definitely underrated in my book as far as live Dead releases. I may have also considered Jerry Garcia Band Almost Acoustic – I wore the album out.

  3. Real Good List, Don’t agree with the stones, but the rest are top of the pops. Oh and the Chanting on Live Rust was Neil using odd loops and inspiration from Woodstock the movie, and his stage set up had a star wars motif with the Jawa Road-Eyes.

  4. Great stuff, and good Santana Lotus mention, liffy… I’ve been thinking back to that one recently. Dylan/Band’s Before the Flood might wanna be on here… also Neil’s Weld is damn killer too! I’ve been lovin’ Thin Lizzy’s Live and Dangerous and Scorpions Tokyo Tapes a lot lately too. And one of my favorite ever… Iron Maiden’s Live After Death! Scream for me, Long Beach!!! Oh yeah, and Kiss Alive and the Dead’s Europe 72 and Wishbone Ash’s Live Dates. OK, I’m done.

  5. Fantastic post. Back in the day I used to take guitar lessons at 8 pm on Thursday nights, and there was this legendary local radio station with no budget that had this show on from 7-8 called “The Basement.” It was aptly named because the signal was so crappy it sounded like it was being transmitted out of a basement. And every night at 8 when it finished, the guy would play that version of “Needle and the Damage Done.” To this day I get chills every time I put on that LP and listen to that track.

    Also, I want to echo the comment about the Allmans at the Fillmore East, Band of Gypsies, and add Frampton Comes Alive and Humble Pie – Performance: Rockin’ the Fillmore. Huge “I Don’t Need No Doctor,” etc. What about The Concert in Central Park by Simon & Garfunkel? Or is that not classic rock I guess…. Honorable mention to James Gang Live in Concert. And I would mention CSNY 4 Way Street but I guess that’s a triple album isn’t it? As is Traffic’s On the Road. Oh isn’t Yesshows a double album? Dangit, I’ll stop my rambles and put my old live LPs back on the shelf.

  6. I second the “Bursting Out” suggestion. Of course 5 album is quite a restrictive list. Makes it pretty tough. Oh, and I would pick “Live/Dead” over “Reckoning” any day of the week.

  7. I confidentially enter Bob Dylan Live at Budokhan. This album caught a lot of flack for the standard shit that Dylans fans whined about, but this is the jam album and it propulgates.

  8. all you Last Waltz (movie soundtrack) fans should be talking up Before the Flood, great live album, and before Manuel became a total zombie (R.I.P.). Allman’s at the Fillmore East. The new Neil Young Massey Hall release is pretty sweet as well. How the West Was Won shows why Zeppelin are the prototypical rock band. FIRE.

  9. Oh shit, I forgot to mention…THE Neil Young live album is Time Fades Away. The thing is amazing! Neil was a wreck during this period (71-72) and won’t authorize it to be released on CD, but it is may be my favorite live album of anyone.

    Go ahead, listen to it…

  10. Good call on “Reckoning.” I’ve always enjoyed its electric companion “DEAD SET” just as much–but no love for SKULLFUCK? Anyway, since someone already checked “Waiting for Columbus,” I’d be remiss if I didn’t give Ozzy’s SPEAK OF THE DEVIL its deserved props. The Tommy Aldridge/Rudy Sarzo rhythm section is simply aflame, and Brad Gillis’ ultra-shreddy updates of Iommi’s riffs are smoldering.

    But while we’re at it–I’m surprised no one’s mentioned King Crimson’s USA and all its progged-out weirdness. Definitely marked the very last time KC played Central Park. I’m sure that’s because their audience became more “selective” over the years.

    And I’d think COL. BRUCE HAMPTON AND THE AQUARIUM RESCUE UNIT is classic by now, since it was released in 1991. A FINE live recording, that one.

    Oh, and YESSHOWS is a double, YESSONGS is a triple.

  11. “I confidentially enter Bob Dylan Live at Budokhan.”

    There was another “… At Budokan” which essentially launched the career of a little-known band from Bloomington, IL

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