Live recordings oftentimes feel unnecessary, like a contract fulfillment from the artist, leaving one yearning for the original studio versions. That said, there's a clutch of live albums that take songs to the next-level — from stunning reinterpretations to unadulterated live'n'loud raw power — leaving ones mouth agape and equaling, and at times transcending, the original studio takes.
So with no further ado, here is Achilles In The Alleyway's very subjective list of the top-25 greatest live albums of all-time:
1. Sam Cooke - Live At The Harlem Square Club, 1963
2. Bob Dylan - Genuine Live 1966 / Hard Rain / Live 1975 [tie]
3. Frank Sinatra - Sinatra At The Sands
4. John Coltrane - European Impressions*
5. The Who - Live At Leeds
6. Jerry Lee Lewis - Live At The Star Club, Hamburg
7. Grateful Dead - Live/Dead
8. Otis Redding - Live At The Whisky A Go Go
9. Thin Lizzy - Live And Dangerous
10. The Band - Rock Of Ages
11. James Brown - Live At The Apollo
12. Hawkwind - Space Ritual
13. Muddy Waters - At Newport 1960
14. Judas Priest - Unleashed In The East
15. Velvet Underground - The Complete Matrix Tapes
16. The Rolling Stones - Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!
17. Jefferson Airplane - Bless Its Pointed Little Head
18. Yardbirds - Five Live Yardbirds
19. MC5 - Kick Out the Jams
20. The Jam - Dig The New Breed
21. Motörhead - No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith
22. Georgie Fame – Rhythm And Blues At The Flamingo
23. Spacemen 3 - Live In Europe 1989
24. The Ramones - It's Alive
25. Black Flag - Live '84
* This entire list could easily be made up of jazz releases, so I limited
it to just one, which happens to be one of my all-time favorite live recordings.
"A lonely, quiet person has observations and experiences that are at once both more indistinct and more penetrating than those of one more gregarious; his thoughts are weightier, stranger, and never without a tinge of sadness... Loneliness fosters that which is original, daringly and bewilderingly beautiful, poetic. But loneliness also fosters that which is perverse, incongruous, absurd, forbidden."
I cut myself upon the thought of you
And yet I come back to it again and again,
A kind of fury makes me want to draw you out
From the dimness of the present
And set you sharply above me in a wheel of roses.
Then, going obviously to inhale their fragrance,
I touch the blade of you and cling upon it,
And only when the blood runs out across my fingers
Am I at all satisfied.
Dawn breaks, and the streets flood with the rush of winter solstice's annual sorrow. I stand back, straining with thoughts of him through my blurred memory. He may as well have been magical; his history glorified and partially invented via family, friend, and even enemy.
When did it all begin?
Age eight: laying, kicking my feet into the fluff of dirty blankets, watching the pain on their faces as they struck blow after blow for glory. Age nine: wreckless car-rides through the old city, paved with macabre ornaments of criminality. Age ten: wondering how long the joy of awe and blind respect could possibly last.
After that, it's all awash in lies and exaggeration, pettiness and a circular gallop towards a damaged fate. Faded photos hold not a trace of fact — the stance and glance tell little of what once lay behind those stoic, ocean-blue eyes.
Fare thee well to the legendary frontman of British Oi!/street-punk band The Business. I count myself as lucky that I got to see The Business the very first time they made it to New York City, and the last time (plus a few times in between). Thanks for all the splendid music, good times, and for the name of a certain short-lived fanzine.
A simple observation, her good-natured ribbing did it: all about the black socks. It was more than just the black socks, but it was a reminder; the ends were very far from the surface. Black socks. Bridges. That curl of the lip... That night. "We all shouted 'ammonia man' as he clawed at his eyes." "You think that's funny?," he asked. Then he stood right in front of me wearing a weather-beaten leather vest, and big black mc-boots; hair all slicked back and a deep olive complexion. He leaned in and asked me his name. I said it, and he hit me. Standing there in front of the candy store shivering from the cold, the shame I felt was nearly unbearable. I did nothing wrong yet I felt lost. I often felt lost back then. I put myself in the position to get hit, perhaps that's why I felt so wretched. The reverberations of that punch would shake right through the neighborhood, and I'd live with it for a while in the spotlight, and for years to come in my own dark corners. There were many times to come after that snowy day that I'd get hit in one way or another. Many more days and nights of shame. He asked me his name, I answered and got hit so hard it took my wind away and left me shaking. Paralyzed. Why then did I spend the next day with him, blurring the edges and acting the fool?
Her hand reaching out across a scarred, stained, beer-soaked table, wrapping itself in my fingers. That curl of the lip. It all turned into everything I desperately needed, and was gone before the processing could even begin... Black socks. How could that ever sum it up?
I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground. So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind: Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned. Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you. Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust. A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew, A formula, a phrase remains,—but the best is lost. The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,— They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve. More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world. Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind; Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave. I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.
Thank you for your unbridled love of music and a good story (and man did you have the best stories!); your generosity and your big heart. I will truly miss talking with you about music and our beloved Mets. You were one of a kind and the rock'n'roll world weeps at your loss.
"The American political system is not the democratic model of which its glorifiers speak. In actuality it frustrates democracy by confusing the individual citizen, paralyzing policy discussion, and consolidating the irresponsible power of military and business interests."
Quote excerpted from The Port Huron Statement, 1962
"Humanity, in its desire for comfort, had over-reached itself. It had exploited the riches of nature too far. Quietly and complacently, it was sinking into decadence, and progress had come to mean the progress of the Machine."
"Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing."
"Under the seeming disorder of the old city, wherever the old city is working successfully, is a marvelous order for maintaining the safety of the streets and the freedom of the city. It is a complex order. Its essence is intricacy of sidewalk use, bringing with it a constant succession of eyes. This order is all composed of movement and change, and although it is life, not art, we may fancifully call it the art form of the city and liken it to the dance — not to a simple-minded precision dance with everyone kicking up at the same time, twirling in unison and bowing off en masse, but to an intricate ballet in which the individual dancers and ensembles all have distinctive parts which miraculously reinforce each other and compose an orderly whole. The ballet of the good city sidewalk never repeats itself from place to place, and in any once place is always replete with new improvisations."
Excerpt from The Death and Life of Great American Cities, 1961
"We are living in the era of premeditation and the perfect crime. Our criminals are no longer helpless children who could plead love as their excuse. On the contrary, they are adults and they have the perfect alibi: philosophy, which can be used for any purpose — even for transforming murderers into judges."
Sunny, my friend, my hero, the person who made Brooklyn first feel like home. A supporter, a love, a great deal of laughter. A beauty. A charmer. A light that shines brighter than any other. Sunny. Sunshine... I will miss you forever and always.
"I think we are well-advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind's door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were."
"The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see Nature all ridicule and deformity, and some scarce see Nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself."
"Look, you can't stop the years from passing by. There comes a time when changes have to be made. Someone younger and stronger comes along to fill your shoes and a person has to gracefully step aside. Well, I'm not willing to do that."
"I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered."
"When I was very young, I admired hardened criminals locked behind prison doors; I visited inns and taverns they frequented; with their eyes, I saw the blue sky and the blossoming work of the fields; I tracked their scent through cities. They were more powerful than saints, more prudent than explorers — and they, they alone, were witnesses to glory and reason!"