To quote Neil Young from his Hawks & Doves album, “Live music is better, bumper stickers should be issued.” I love music and, more often than not, I love live music even better. While nothing compares to actually being at a live music performance, there are some great live recordings that will work as the next best thing.
Here’s a short list of my favorite live albums.
The Fillmore Concerts is taken from a handful of performances at the Fillmore East in New York in the spring of 1971. The sound is stellar, recorded on a “portable” 16 track machine by Tom Dowd and the two-hour-plus running time captures the imagination, improvisation and genius of The Allman Brothers Band at their peak.
Close on the tail of the release of their fourth studio album The Band recorded a series of shows at the Academy of Music in New York City at the end of 1971. The added horn section turns the set list into a warm, loose, big-hearted party. The highlight for me is a cover of the 1964 Motown hit single “Baby Don’t You Do It” by Marvin Gaye.
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young came out of Woodstock (only their second live performance together) as one of the hottest new musical acts on the planet. Several factors make 4 Way Street one of the great live recordings; each artist (accomplished musicians and composers in their own right) steps into the spotlight and showcases their talent with the others supporting, separate acoustic sets and finally, capturing the sum of the parts in extended, high energy, electric jams.
Originally a triple album on vinyl, Europe ’72 was later reissued as a two-disc CD in 1990. This set captures a handful of performances from the 22 shows recorded during their tour of Western Europe in early 1972 with the band at or very near its peak. Overdubbed vocals aside, it showcases the Dead’s ability to improvise, dialog with each other through their music and demonstrates their proficiency as a live band. Additionally, it’s a chance to hear the influences American Roots music (e.g., Blues, Bluegrass, Country & Western and Folk) had on their on their compositions and arrangements.
According to a 1975 Rolling Stone interview, Little Feat was Jimmy Page’s favorite American band. And Jimmy wasn’t alone. Little Feat was a favorite of musicians the world over. It’s no wonder, given that their music remains a solid amalgam of Rock n’ Roll, Blues, R&B, Soul, Funk, Country & Western, Folk, Bluegrass, Gospel and Jazz. Waiting for Columbus was recorded in August of 1977 at a series of shows on both sides of the Atlantic. It is a snapshot in time of one of the legendary live bands of the ’70s featuring the Tower of Power horn section catapulting their best songs into the next level.