Two weeks ago, we took a look at some Classic Rock albums that don’t get enough love. This week, we’ll take a peak at five of the best Live Classic Rock albums. A few disclaimers before we get started: Only official, live releases are included. Nothing more than a double album was considered. In other words, no box sets. Now that you know the rules, grab your lighter and muzzle the chants for Freebird for our Classic Rock Encore:
5. Neil Young – Live Rust
You get the best of both Neils on this collection pulled from a San Francisco performance in late 1978. Young’s calming voice and mellow mind is showcased in the opening tracks, including Sugar Mountain, I am a Child, Comes a Time and After the Gold Rush. Then his fractured-chord, straight ahead rock and roll takes over. When You Dance I Can Really Love kicks off the party as Young slowly builds to a trifecta of powerhouses – Powderfinger, Cortez the Killer and Cinnamon Girl.
Prior to the classic The Needle and the Damage Done, you can clearly hear a serious storm move in. Stagehands worry about guitars and Young leads the crowd in a chant of “No Rain!” I recall hearing a legend about that chant serving as inspiration to Blind Melon’s bumble bee friendly single of the same name. True or not, this album is certainly inspiring enough to make it believable.
Read on for more of Luke’s list…
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?