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.
"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!"