Friday, July 25, 2008

Weekend Listomania (Special Got Live If You Want It! Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental manservant Hop-Sing and I are off to Paris, France, home of the Ignoble Frog, for the first annual Jerry Lewis Pro-Am Percodan Tasting Tournament. Sounds very existential, so just in case I'm having my beret re-blocked. In any case, posting by moi will necessarily be sporadic for a few days.

But in my absence, here's a fun project for you all to contemplate:


Briefly -- The Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review (a/k/a Sound and Vision) turns fifty this year, and to celebrate they've asked their contributors to list the greatest albums of all time in various categories. Since nobody's individual list is going to be published, I was free to nominate all sorts of things I might not be inclined to share here, but I figured I'd make an exception with this live album roster. Feel free to make as much fun of it and me as you like.

Oh, one brief and not at all arbitrary rule: It has to be a live album by a single artist. Thus, "The Last Waltz," which features other performers besides its nominal stars The Band, is ineligible. Ditto something like the Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary Tribute Concert album.

Also: If I could have added one more album to the list, it would have been Television's "Live at the Old Waldorf."

Okay, that said, here's my totally carefully considered Top Ten:

10. Ritchie Valens -- In Concert at Pacoima Jr. High

At his Alma Mater, not long before the plane crash. Primitive, but a heart as big as all outdoors (actual track from the record).

9. MC5 -- Kick Out the Jams

The only American band of the 60s that could compete with the Yardbirds, the Kinks, and the Who on a sonic level (actual uncensored track from the record).

8. The Who -- Live at Leeds

The hard rock live album template that launched a zillion garage bands (actual track from the record)

7. Bob Dylan -- "The Royal Albert Hall Concert"

I still find it hard to believe that Mickey Jones, the guy playing the drums on this, went on to have a recurring role on Home Improvement (actual blah blah blah).

6. The Beatles -- Live at the Hollywood Bowl

Originally released on vinyl in 1977, and not yet on an official American CD. What kind of sick sadistic world do we live in where this is possible? (actual yadda yadda yadda).

5. The Remains -- A Session With the Remains

Unlike this Hullabloo lip-synch job, the album was recorded live in the studio at ten in the morning as an audition for Capitol Records, right before their gig opening for the Beatles at Shea Stadium. If you haven't heard it, get it immediately. Trust me -- Led Zeppelin only wished they had a sense of dynamics like these guys.

4. The Monks -- Let's Start a Beat

Recorded at two NYC shows in 1999 -- not only their first performances in 32 years, but their first ever in their native country, and yet they sounded exactly like they do in the vintage clip above. The most primal and powerful garage rock imaginable; nobody has ever made noises quite like these guys.

3. James Brown -- Live at the Apollo 1962

A number two album on the Billboard Charts in 1963, which is pretty astonishing when you consider that he didn't get a crossover single hit until '65 (when this was filmed). In any case, it's the Hardest Working Man in Show Business at his performing peak.

2. The Yardbirds -- Five Live Yardbirds

The Clapton edition of the band at their most blues-wailing; the entire concept of the rave-up begins there (and sounding not unlike this contemporary TV clip).

Okay, and the all-time best in concert rock album, it's not even close so don't you dare even think of contradicting me, is ---

1. The Rolling Stones -- Get Yer Ya-Yas Out

This is a slightly different take from the album, but it and the official version were both recorded on a night when the Stones really were the greatest rock-and-roll band in the world. I was there, jack, and this is EXACTLY what they sounded like.

Awrighty now -- what would your choices be?

[Shameless blogwhore: My weekend Cinema Listomania (special stoner idiot edition) is now up at Box Office. As always, if you could see your way to leaving a comment over there, an angel gets its wings.]


Sinfonian said...

Frampton Comes Alive?

Brooklyn Girl said...

Talking Heads: "Stop Making Sense"

I know there are others, but I'm tired.

peter spencer said...

Love the Stones, love "Please, Please, Please," LOVE the Remains. I gave away their Epic album to pay off an $8 phone bill in 1975, a few years later I saw it on the wall at Bleeker Bob's, with my address sticker still on it, for 60 bucks.

But the greatest live album of them all, it says here, has to be Rock of Ages by the Band. It was the real Last Waltz, their absolute peak, and the peak of a certain kind of NYC rock and roll that would not survive the drug plague. After loading out that night they didn't do a thing for 18 months, and never sounded the same afterwards. They knew they were saying goodbye to each other that night. It's terribly moving, beautifully played and sung, beautifully engineered. These are definitive versions of songs like The Weight, The Night They Drove old Dixie Down (with Richard's heartbreaking segue into Across the Great Divide), King Harvest, I Shall be Released (available on the 2-disc remaster no collection should be without), Don't Do It. If it weren't for "Tears of Rage" on Music From Big Pink this would be the one Band album you would ever need.

Mike said...

The Stop Making Sense concert film is absolutely grand, but I thought the earlier The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads was such a great album. The current CD release is filled out with extra stuff, but the original 2 LP set was just perfect as it was.

If you bought Elvis Costello's 2 1/2 Years box set in the early 90s, you got the much-bootlegged El Mocambo show from 1977, a blistering set only marred by some "yee-hoo!" guy in the audience. In fact, any boot of EC's first tour of the US is guaranteed to set something of yours on fire.

Speaking of boots, how about any Springsteen live boot from 1978 or 1980?

TJWood said...

Springsteen did release an official live set covering 1975-1985, which is worth having. I have not heard the London live show that came with the Born to Run reissue, but I suspect many fans would take that set over it. Otherwise, I don't albums to me are pretty much a dime or dozen, with most of the great ones already getting mentioned. Steve did rave many years back in Stereo Review about a 1977 live Hollies set, which I think might be available as an album called Live Hits. I might be wrong on this one. Then, there is the Fillmore East live album by the Allman Brothers Band and a 1973 live album by the Beach Boys which I did quite like.

NYMary said...

In fact, any boot of EC's first tour of the US is guaranteed to set something of yours on fire.

A show my mother would not let my 12 year old self attend because, as she noted, "You don't have to do drugs at those concerts. All you have to do is breathe the air." Crushed then, and crushed now.

But I'm shocked, shocked, that steve missed what he and I have agreed is a phenomenal live album, Shoes' Fret Buzz. It's got some nifty traditionally instrumented retakes of some unfortunately oversynthed pieces, some tracks that never made albums, and is just a tremendous piece of work.

steve simels said...

Fret Buzz would definitely be in my top twenty, for the version of "Your Devotion" alone. As brilliant a meld of winsome and lethal as it gets.

And that Springsteen London show that TJWood mentions is near cosmic, but since it's a video, I couldn't in good conscience include it.

MBowen said...

Graham Parker & The Rumour, "Live at the Marble Arch" - Back in the day, record companies would do promo live albums for radio stations only. I remember one by Nils Lofgren (which is almost good enough for this list) and another by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers; I'm sure there were others. This one, though, is the best live rock album ever. Despite being a lunchtime show played for a bunch of record company types, Parker and the band play like their immortal souls depend on it. They blowtorch their way through a batch of great Parker songs mixed with classic soul and R&B numbers. An absolutely amazing set, I think it's only available on the import compilation "Vertigo".

Other notable live sets: Neil Young & Crazy Horse, "Live Rust"; Richard Thompson, "Celtschmerz" (mostly acoustic) and "More Guitar" (electric).

If they ever officially released a Springsteen set from 1978 or a Clash set from 1980, those would probably head to the top of list.

megisi said...

You hit prety much what mine would have included, Steve ... ya-yas, leeds, etc.

I'd add Emmylou Harris's "Spyboy," Claton's "Unplugged" (Chuck Leavell!!!!) and Roxy's "Heart Still Beating," recorded in Paris.

I'm greatly digging Govt. Mule's 4-disc live set, but it has too many technical problems to make it a "great."

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

High on any one's list from the Great Lakes region would be Bob Seger's Live Bullet.


steve simels said...

mbowen said...
Graham Parker & The Rumour, "Live at the Marble Arch" - Back in the day, record companies would do promo live albums for radio stations only. I remember one by Nils Lofgren (which is almost good enough for this list) and another by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers;

All three of those are absolutely great. I think the Lofgren is commercially available; not sure about the others. I have a couple of cuts from the Petty that I got off Napster back in the astounding version of "route 66"....

There's also an official Graham Parker live version of "Squeezing Out Sparks" that's on the CD reissue of the studio album, which is stunning....

Anonymous said...

Cream - Live Cream

Simon & Garfunkel - Live In Central Park

TMc said...

Richard Thompson Live!(more or less)
Mr. Simels review prompted me to buy this album, which served as my introduction to Richard Thompson. Many, many hours of listening pleasure later I am very grateful for that glowing review

J. Geils Band - Full House

The Clash - From Here To Eternity

and my favorite live album ever

Lou Reed - Rock & Roll Animal

TMink said...

Waiting For Columbus, Little Feat. I am so happy this one slipped by and I could bag it.

Damn that "yee hoo!" guy on the live Elvis. He has caused me a lot of distraction and frustration over the years.


FeralLiberal said...

May I add:

Neil Young - Unplugged
CSN&Y - 4 Way Street (the remastered version with additional tracks)
Little Feat - Waiting for Columbus
Thin Lizzy - Live and Dangerous
Warren Zevon - Stand Next to the Fire

And not exactly rock or pop but can I give an honerable mention to Johnny Cash - Live at Folsum Prison.

Mike said...

With a little more time to think about it...

Live At The Star Club, Hamburg - Jerry Lee Lewis
Jerry's on fire, and the Nashville Teens have a hard time keeping up with him. Mean Woman Blues opens up and runs like a train almost-but-not-quite going off the rails.

It's Too Late To Stop Now - Van Morrison

It's Alive - The Ramones
A model of efficiency: 28 songs in 54 minutes.

Nighthawks At The Diner - Tom Waits

Who Am Us Anyway? said...

Everything i'd say on a normal day has already been said, & better than I could've ever said it, but I won't let that stop me. So here are two bigger than usual stretches:

The Basement Tapes: essentially sorta-kinda a live album, albeit with only a basement-sized audience and some belated overdubbing. What??

Let It Be: Approximately half this album actually is live (i think) (i might be making up that statistic but I don't think so). I'm seriously ducking for cover here but I've always thought this record was underrated from the get-go. I know the band itself & Lennon in partiuclar hated it but what do they know. I say: if this was the record of any other band but the Beatles most everyone would have been happy to get it.

ms. rosa said...

the remains are one of the first bands i introduce folks to who are new to rock and roll. you can't have an r&r library without barsamian!

mc5 is in my top 5 bands ever and kick out the jams IS a classic live album but my least favorite of the three. i will say it got me into the biggest trouble with the station manager (if you didn't know "motherfucker" is absolutely, positively a no-no even if you are playing it past midnight).

i'd love to hear some of the live graham parker mentioned here. i spun "endless night" just last night (off of not-live 'the up escalator'.) i wondered on mic what connection this song had to springsteen. i just looked it up and now see that the boss does backing vocals.

and speaking of, i got the springsteen 5 vinyl record box set in exchange for a #2 combo plate. talk about feeding the habit! highly highly recommended - i see it all the time in the used record section of my local shops.

TMink said...

Ms Rosa typed "i'd love to hear some of the live graham parker mentioned here."

On a recent release of Squeezing Out Sparks there is a second cd with each of the songs live. Check that out as well.


Uncle Smokes said...

Live Cream Volume II

Compare this rendtion of "Deserted Cities Of The Heart" with the album version.

They were so much better live.

Uncle Smokes said...

I cut my young rock teeth on KISS Alive! from 1975.

My brother bought it, and of course at the time anything my brother liked I didn't. He moved on to Ted Nugent and Rush, and then I got into this stuff--used red food coloring to practice spitting up blood. What fun!

My first concert was these guys on their Alive II tour. However, once you've seen them, well, there's not much more. I moved on to much better things, like The Who's Live At Leeds.

A TREAT: A singularly fantastic performance by The Who can be found in the The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, "A Quick One While He's Away". In fact, it was too good. They upstaged The Stones, and the film stayed in the vaults for long time.

I get chills during the "you are forgiven" climax.


Anonymous said...

I've got many *cough* "underground recordings *cough* that probably aren't eligible here, so:

I second whomever on "Live at The Star Club" (Jerry Lee), "Rock of Ages" ('The Genetic Method!'), and "Stand In The Fire."
Of more recent vintage, I remain fond of The Blasters' "Trouble Bound," Marshall Crenshaw's "My Truck Is My Home," X's "Live In Los Angeles," Husker Du's "The Living End," and that live Bottle Rockets thing (best cover of "Cortez The Killer" evah!).
And The Jam at the BBC. And Fleetwood Mac at the Boston Tea Party. And "Live at Folsom Prison" is one of the greatest albums ever made.
Have I mentioned that I like live stuff? :)
- bill buckner

Anonymous said...

Hey Steve,

The all time best live album ever? Easy. Jerry Lee Lewis Live At The Star Club backed by the Nashville Teens. I don't know which type of methamphetamines the killer is ingesting but his performance is insane. Favorite moment - "play that thing right boy" to the drummer who just muffed a 160 bpm fill,


Bobby Sutliff

Padre Mickey said...

801 Live

Danny Guam said...

I'm glad someone mentioned "Waiting for Columbus". Captured them at the absolute peak right before Lowell left the band and the world.

Also, checked out the Remains - WOW.
And then I dig a bit further and discover that the lead singer is Barry Tashian who did time in Emmy Lou Harris' Hot Band and does amazing folk and bluegrass/country stuff with his wife Holly.

Thanks steve.

NYC said...

Frampton Cums On Stage

or, more seriously

Elvis Costello - Live at Hollywood High
and I'll second the GP "Live Sparks", I was working at a radio station at the time and was able to snag an extra copy of it

Dave said...

All of the suggestions just impress on me how awful most live albums are. And for major artists, they rarely nearly as good as their average studio albums. Would you really rather listen to Ya Yas than Between the Buttons or Aftermath? Not me.