Just wanted to acknowledge the recent passing of guitarist Ed King, the only non-Southerner in the great Lynryd Skynyrd. If you dig these guys, check out the Showtime documentary, If I Leave Here Tomorrow. Is there any irony in the fact that this band that perished in 1977 is still going strong while the founders of “southern rock”, the Allmans are gone?
So a little while ago I did a Desert Island Disc post. Someone suggested we do a follow-up but I thought, well, you know, the DID is a one-shot deal. You grab a bunch of discs, head out to the island and that’s all you get. Beyond that – at least it seems to me – we’re just reciting our favorite albums. Which is a whole different thing.
But someone, I think it might have been GreenPete said, “We should do our favorite live albums.” And it occurred to me that I had never listed those or even much thought about it. So I thought about it and here’s my Top 10 favorite live albums. (Plus two honorable mention.) If you want to play, feel free. One rule – it has to be entirely live, not part studio, part live like, say, Cream’s Wheels of Fire. Just give us a sentence or two on why we should give a shit.
I did a Spotify list at the end. The only thing I didn’t include was Keith Jarrett because it’s an entire album. You can dial that up if you’re so inclined:
- At Fillmore East – The Allman Brothers Band. This will come as no surprise to readers of this blog. But it’s universally hailed as a great live album and was, in fact, selected for preservation in the Library of Congress, deemed to be “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important” by the National Recording Registry. This was from a three-night stand at the Fillmore in 1971 but I also own the entire three-night stand. Some repetition but for the fanatic, certainly worth having.
- Live at Leeds – The Who. You can’t beat this album with a stick. Just a tremendous amount of crunch ‘n roll from one of the greatest bands of all time. I originally got this in vinyl but the CD has more stuff and the 40th anniversary whopper also has Live at Hull plus Tommy.
- Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack. I love this fucking album. And the original vinyl was only a microcosm of the entire event. So much good stuff – Canned Heat, Richie Havens, Ten Years After, Jimi Hendrix, Sly and the Family Stone, Santana. My son and I watched the movie together a little while ago and I pretty much had to tell him who everybody was
- The Koln Concert. Keith Jarrett. I featured this album on these pages a short while back. Jarrett has a ton of recordings but this one knocks me out the most. It’s just Jarrett playing solo and for my money no one does it better. If I had one other instrument to play it would be piano.
- Rock ‘n Roll Animal. Lou Reed. I also featured this album. Great, great versions of Lou’s Velvet Underground songs with the twin guitars of Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner.
- Cheap Thrills. Big Brother and the Holding Company. “Four gentlemen and one great, great broad,” was impresario Bill Graham’s intro. (In retrospect, maybe ‘lady’ would have been more appropriate.) Janis Joplin belts the blues for ya. And then some.
- Get Your Ya-Ya’s Out. Rolling Stones. A document of the Stones’ 1969 US tour, the first one with Mick Taylor. Includes quite possibly their most evil version of “Midnight Rambler.” I’ll stick my knife right down your throat baby and it hurts.
- Live at the Regal. B.B. King. The man himself said this could have been recorded on any night anywhere but this one’s as good as any you’ll hear. B.B. gets the crowd worked up like it’s church. This was recorded in 1964 at the now-defunct Regal Theater in Chicago before most of us knew who B.B. was. He opened some of the shows for the Stones on that ’69 tour.
- Live at the Fillmore East, October 4th and 5th 1968. Sly and the Family Stone. Unbelievably, this thing sat on the shelf until 2015. I happened to catch a review of it in the paper. Terrific. Interestingly, the only artist to appear on this list twice.
- Cream: Live at the Royal Albert Hall, 2005. To the best of my knowledge, the last time the three of them ever played together.
Honorable Mentions: The Last Waltz, The Band; Stop Making Sense, Talking Heads, Johnny Winter And.