Live albums that blow the originals away
51 7.71. Band Of Gypsys - Jimi Hendrix
The greatest live album ever.
What can I say about Band of Gypsys that has not already been said a hundred times before?
This was Hendrix's last album before his tragic death, and for my money it's his best album.
First off, you have no songs from the Jimi Hendrix Experience. So if you know him by his studio hits, you probably have no clue what to expect on this album. Instead of full all out Rock album, Hendrix backing band this time is a bit more funky and along with Hendrix's guitar playing, you have a mix of many elements in these songs.
Just listen to Machine Gun, and never doubt a live album ever again. With only 6 songs compared to a 15 track studio album, this one has absolutely no boundaries at all for Hendrix as he gets his point across with his guitar all night long.
Best song - Machine Gun
22 7.62. The Allman Brothers at Fillmore East - Allman Brothers
Here is what is considered the holy grail among Rock and Roll's live albums. The Allman Brothers Band classic Fillmore East shows do not disappoint, and the album is truly a masterpiece. Arguably the best live album of all time and it should always be at least in a top 5.
I'm probably the only person on this site that will admit, but I think the Allman Brothers are the all time greatest rock and roll band ever. Hands down, they owned the early 70's. There has yet to be a guitar duo better than Duane Allman and Dickey Betts, and those double drums that they solo over. There is literally no weakness in the original line up, from Gregg's awesome vocals and hard organ, to the double drums, and then the thumping Bass.
This album totally blows apart the original shorter versions of In Memory of Elizabeth Reed and Whipping Post, with endless jams that go on for nearly 20 minutes a length (2 songs here push the length) should bring back memories of Miles and Coltrane going back and forth improvising their solos over a solid backing band. Other than the few well known songs, the album is dominated by covers we never got on the previous albums from T-Bone Walker's classic Stormy Monday to Junior Wells' You Don't Love Me, and Elmore James' Must Have Done Somebody Wrong.
Best Song - You Don't Love Me/Love Serenade
21 8.43. Live at the Regal - B.B. King
Live at the Regal introduced me to BB King. It goes in the category of those "Must Have" albums like Kind of Blue, and Robert Johnson's Complete Recordings, etc...
What makes this album so special? This is Blues in it's prime. Everything you ever needed to learn about Blues and how it's performed live is in this recording. Eric Clapton once said he used this album as a primer before coming on stage and performing.
This is BB King in his prime of the late 1960's. With Worry Worry, Sweet Little Angel, and It's My Own Fault, you can't go wrong with an early live album from BB King. Everything you need to know about playing Blues guitar is in this album.
Best Song - Worry Worry
5 94. Randy Rhoads Tribute - Ozzy Osbourne
This was one of the first Live albums I ever owned, and I am a bit biased towards it as I am with other Ozzy live albums, for the obvious reasons.
For one, I never was a big Ozzy fan, but I have admired Randy Rhoads and consider him one of the top 10 all time greats in guitar playing for what he accomplished in his young life.
The albums open on fire with a ripping version of I Don't Know. Even Crazy Train and Believer have a lot more guitar fills in them, more aggressively than their studio versions, but the real gold in this album is Mr Crowley, Goodbye to Romance, and Randy's blistering versions of the original Black Sabbath songs Ozzy had to play at the end of his shows.
Honestly, I think Randy Rhoads totally OWNED Black Sabbath with his version of Paranoid and Children of the Grave (No disrespect Sabbath fans, this is my opinion).
Even if you don't like what Ozzy has done since the 80's (which admittedly he has shamed himself in recent years with his reality show garbage) you have to go listen to this live album. This is what a Heavy Metal live album should sound like.
Best song - Mr. Crowley
5 85. In Europe: Live at the Antibes Jazz Festival - Miles Davis
Miles Davis and his boys always put on one hell of a show in performance. What we have here is the Second Great Quintet playing in an uptempo version of classic Jazz standards.
The biggest difference between most live Miles albums and this one is you have possibly the greatest lineup in Jazz history behind the genius on trumpet. Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams, Ron Carter, and George Coleman. There are some great ballads here (I Thought About You and Autumn Leaves) but the real piece of cake in this album is the up tempo version of Milestones, and Joshua before the finale with All of You and Walkin'. The soloing and improvisation seems to go on for extended lengths which is a normal thing for Miles' boys in performance.
In the mid 60's Miles was at his peak as a soloist and this album is proof, along with the other live album from the same year (My Funny Valentine) what don't get talked about much I believe is Tony Williams' drum work. He was only 17 on this album and he brought new life to it doing justice to Philly Joe's work on Milestones.
Best Song - Joshua
28 7.86. Live at the Apollo - James Brown
There is quite some history in this album. It's regarded as James Brown's possible best album, and that's not for no reason at all. His manager didn't want him to release a live album as he didn't see it as a money maker with no new songs, but he'd be proven wrong with the release.
When you hear all those stories about James Brown being the hardest working man in show business or how he was called Mr. Dynamite, or my favorite one, how James Brown would fine his musicians for messing up and missing notes during rehearsals and shows. Buy this album and you'll know why.
Brown and his Famous Flames backing band just pour it all out here. He gives his 101% to give these people a hell of a show here, as he always did. Listen to the version of I'll Go Crazy and Lost Someone. There is so much energy in this album, you could write an essay on how Brown's tremendous vocal abilities work the crowd up.
Best song - Lost Someone
11 8.97. Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out: the Rolling Stones Live... - Rolling Stones
The Stones are one of my favorite bands of all time. I've bought more of their singles and albums than I've ever spent money on anyone else, but I'd be a fool to not admit that of their few live albums, only one of them can rank on a great list.
Here you have the Stones in their prime lineup with Mick Taylor on guitar, to live up to the height of their growing reputation. Taylor rips it up and makes Sympathy for the Devil sound even better than the original album, the 9 minute version of Midnight Rambler is more memorable than the original, and of course, Street Fighting Man and Honky Tonk Women.
The Stones only have a few live albums, and sadly this is their only good one. Love You Live is very disappointing, and their 1982 Still Life live album is absolutely horrendous. If you're going to buy a Stones live record, make it this one, cause this is the Stones in their prime when Mick Taylor was in the band doing all the guitar solos.
Best song - Sympathy for the Devil.
6 108. Live Santa Monica 72 - David Bowie
What do you expect from a live album more than anything? When Bowie was at his peak of Rock success with Ziggy Stardust, this album displays everything you'd wish for of a live album.
First off, Mick Ronson is on FIRE on this show. Bowie goes through most of the entire Ziggy album playing, Hang Onto Yourself, Five Years, Rock and Roll Suicide, the title track, Moonage Daydream, and Suffragette City, and along with a few tracks from Hunky Dory.
For anything, I believe this is David Bowie's best live album ever. You can almost feel the energy as if you were there. There is a few missed lyrics here and there, but Mick Ronson makes you forget all about that with his blistering solo work. Unlike the "Ziggy Stardust Motion Picture" live album, Bowie and company tear this to pieces, and most of all, you get songs like Five Years, and Andy Warhol, which were not on the Motion Picture album. It's really a shame Bowie didn't release this back in '73 or '74 when Ziggy was still very relevant.
Best song - The Width of a Circle (all guitar solos)
9 7.89. Live at Carnegie Hall - Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble,Stevie Ray Vaughan
When Stevie Ray Vaughan released Couldn't Stand the Weather in 1984, he was quickly becoming one of the best guitar players in the world. It was no lie that SRV & DT had brought a new era of the Blues and made it relevant again in the world.
Stevie Ray got his chance to perform at the historic Carnegie Hall October 4th 1985, the night after his 30th birthday. In Stevie's own words "the greatest birthday ever".
This album is special for many reasons. This is not your typical live album you may expect from a man like SRV, and that is what I explain.
The album opens with SRV on fire through instrumentals Scuttle Buttin and Testify, but after a hard and heavy version of Cold Shot, Stevie is joined on stage by the "Roomful of Blues" horn section, and his very own brother Jimmie Vaughan, who go through the next few songs with him. We get a cover of "Letter To My Girlfriend" with all the horns backing up Stevie's guitar as if he was a band leader in a Jazz show, then an epic jazzed up version of Dirty Pool, and The Things That I Used To Do, where the horns nearly replicate the original 1950's single, while he shares the solo with his brother. To end the show, we get just Stevie by himself playing Lenny and Rude Mood.
Hands down, this is the best live SRV album of all time. He is on fire from start to finish, but the coolest part is hearing him with a horn section as a backing band. The horns do not drown out the guitars at all. This is a must have for anyone that loves the man.
The only downside here is this is not the full show. The entire Carnegie Hall show still remains unreleased, however the versions of The Sky Is Crying and Voodoo Child were added to the SRV Box Set. Who ever is in charge of Epic/Legacy, needs to really release the entire show.
Best Song - Dirty Pool
2 9.510. Smokin' at the Half Note - Wes Montgomery_II,Wynton Kelly
A very important album in Jazz music, yet also one of my favorite live albums ever. wes Montgomery changed Jazz forever with his guitar work that carried on what Charlie Christian had started, but here, you get the full power of what it was like to see Wes Montgomery live.
One reasons this album is important in Jazz history is the backing band. Wes' backing band here is Jimmy Cobb on drums, Wynton Kelly on piano, and Paul Chambers on Bass, all were a part of Mies Davis' classic Kind of Blue album.
This album was remastered and released as the entire show back in 2005, but the album itself is a live masterpiece. Unit 7, Four On Six, and the epic opening of No Blues are worth checking out.
Best song - Unit 7
5 9.311. Sex Machine - James Brown
"Clap ya hands now, stomp ya feet, in the jungle brother, in the jungle brother, clap ya hands, stomp ya feet."
James Brown's many live albums, I found it very difficult to make this list without listing one of his other great live albums besides the Apollo.
Other than the Godfather Of Soul himself, this album's backing band is the Original JB's, featuring Bootsy Collins on bass to lead most songs. I love this album mostly for the crowd here. All through the entire album you can hear the crowd reacting at the peak of songs, and can tell that he's got them worked up into the show.
Even more so, James Brown is remembered for his voice and incredible vocal power, and this album is a true testament here. All the wailing, and high notes, yet he don't lose his voice through the songs. Some of the versions on this album are more of "newer" versions he performed of older songs, particularly Give It Up Or Turn It Loose (which a studio remix was released with all the crowd noise edited out of his vocal mixes). With a title like "Sex Machine" you can believe other artists were taking notes on James Brown as a heavy influence, including Prince with all his dirty stuff he was doing in the 80's.
Best Song - Give It Up Or Turn It Loose.
9 9.512. Live in Cook County Jail - B.B. King
One of my favorite BB King albums, let alone one of my favorite live albums too. Other than Live At the Regal, this is the 'other' great live album from one of the Godfather's of blues.
The stand outs here on this album are The Thrill is Gone and the nearly 10 minute version of Worry Worry. While there is many versions of The Thrill is Gone, this one is probably the first official live version and easily the best of all, blowing away the original version. The medley of 3 O' Clock Blues and Darling You Know I Love You is also worth listening to and easily addictive.
Best song - The Thrill is Gone
101 8.513. Live After Death - Iron Maiden
Iron Maiden used to really amaze me when I was a kid. Their album covers were so cool, and once you seen the artwork, it was something you just had to go out and buy even though your parents probably hated it. Other than that, they also were one of the few 80's bands that could have a cool album cover and the music not be disappointing.
Power Slave and Piece of Mind were my first albums I ever had from Maiden (my favorite has to be Killers though) and it had been a long time before I managed to finally get a hold of Live After Death. Those glorious days of when you'd search every record store for a copy of the CD, (yet finally find a used version some 6 years later.)
Live After Death showcases Maiden when they were on top of their game for the Power Slave tour. I know there is other live albums from this band that I've never listened to, but I am quite positive this is the best of their live records. They don't mess around here. They get straight to business with The Trooper, Flight of Icarus, and the solos drawing out encores like Hallowed Be Thy Name. Their is a remaster somewhere that has a bonus cd with Wrathchild and 22 Acacia Avenue. I have not heard it, but am sure it's awesome.
Best song - Hallowed Be Thy Name.
1 714. Full House - Wes Montgomery
In 1962, Wes Montgomery was known as one of the best guitar players around. His work was still very fresh for changing Jazz music and proving what all you can do with a guitar.
However, from listening to his famous album The Incredible Jazz Guitar, it's known that Wes' pretty much replaced the Sax and Trumpet with his guitar and didn't have any horns on that album. But 2 years later, he began to experiment more with horns added to his music.
Most the tracks on Full House were more 'new' as they were not on the studio versions before this release, and it makes it even better as a full experience. Just like Smokin' At The Half Note, Wes' band features those famous features from Miles Davis' famous 1959 line up, but also we have another legend; Johnny Griffin doing all the sax on this album.
This is a must have album for any Jazz fan, but anyone that is a guitar player in general, I highly recommend this album, or Wes' Incredible Jazz Guitar. Both of them are great high notes of what you can do with a guitar.
Best song - Full House
2 1015. Live Nassau Coliseum '76 - David Bowie
This is a more less known live album as it has not been around for years, yet any major bootleg collector or David Bowie fan that looks at Station to Station as him at the peak of his game, will mention something about the Nassau Coliseum New York show from the Thin White Duke tour.
The "Holy Grail" of Bowie bootlegs and possibly his most sought after show, this is worth buying the new recent Collectors Edition of Station to Station alone. Bowie lives up to the height of his famous R&B/'Plastic Soul' Rock by giving R&B influenced versions of older hits like the soul version of Five Years and the layered Jean Genie.
I love this album very much. Bowie is at the top of his game here with his vocals, and I believe his voice is far more powerful here than it was in the early 70's. The piano also I have to give notion too, there is a great number of piano work on this performance that is a major highlight. The guitars basically blend through, just as they did on the Station to Station album. There is a few solo work here and there with great riffs, but this is more of an R&B sound rather than straight up Rock like Ziggy.
Best song - Five Years
2 1016. Muddy Waters at Newport 1960/Muddy Waters Li... - Muddy Waters,Otis Spann
Muddy Waters is classic, and easily goes down as one of the greatest artists in history. But how did he sound live? This album is all you need to know.
Along with Muddy Waters, is legendary piano player Otis Spann here, that spices up the performances. Anyone familiar with Muddy already knows with tracks like Hoochie Coochie Man, Baby Please Don't Go, and Got My Mojo Working, this is going to be a great show.
Best song - Got My Mojo Working
15 8.617. Ellington at Newport - Duke Ellington
I know very little about Duke Ellington, nor have I really looked into much of his music. Admittedly, that's a shame on my part, as he's a legend in music. Ellington At Newport is the only album I have ever really sat down and listened to from the man, and my interest caught when I heard "Take The A Train" one day and was amazed at how cool it sounded.
There is a full concert release of this album and I highly suggest it to anyone. Even if you're just a fan of music alone and don't really care for Jazz, this is an album you just have got to hear just like Miles Davis' Kind Of Blue. Take the A Train, the Star Spangled Banner, Diminuendo In Blue and Crescendo In Blue, Day In And Day Out, check this album out cause it will blow your mind.
Best song - Take The A Train
3 7.518. Live-Evil - Miles Davis,Steve Grossman,Keith Jarrett,Chick Corea,Herbie Hancock,Ron Carter,Jack DeJohnette,Airto Moreira,Hermeto Pascoal
Miles Davis' name is all over music as a whole. Weather it's his ground breaking 'Kind of Blue' or his Jazz/Rock fusion in 'Jack Johnson' or even the things he did on 'Bitches Brew' that would forever change Jazz, the man is one of the greatest things ever for Music as a whole.
What drew me into Live Evil was the album cover. It had just one of the craziest album covers I had ever laid my eyes on, similar to Bitches Brew.
All the songs on this album were recorded at a different date, but that makes no difference. You still hear just how powerful this man could be live, rather on the studio mixes. The insert to this album could read "This is Miles Davis doing it again" cause in 1971, a year after his Jazz/Rock fusion Jack Johnson album, and 2 years after Bitches Brew, Miles was onto something big and was proving that he was never going to limit himself to his old sounds of the past.
I would pick the 2 songs that go over 20 minutes. What I Say, and Funky Tonk. Those are worth the listen alone as you can see just how drawn out and powerful Miles was bringing the house down with. Little Church features Herbie Hancock and can be a hypnotizing song on repeat with it's epic sound.
Best Song - What I Say
10 8.819. Unleashed in the East: Remastered - Judas Priest
The first live album I ever owned. I was about 11 or 12 years old when my father gave me Unleashed In The East, and I became hooked on Judas Priest immediately after.
Being one of the few Metal albums on my list, I hold onto this album with a lot of pride, as it introduced me to live albums, and when I managed to get Sad Wings of Destiny on vinyl some years later, this was the testament of a live album totally blowing away the original, because the versions of Tyrant, Victim of Changes, the Ripper, and Genocide easily own the original album versions (Sad Wings of Destiny is one of my favorite albums though, if not the best Priest album). The Sinner and Green Manalashi also are far better than their original album versions.
For Metal fans, this is one of those live albums you need for your collection, specifically if you have any Judas Priest cds, other than British Steel and Sad Wings Of Destiny, you have got to buy this album. My only complaint is the lack of songs. Only 9 tracks on the original album (yet there is some remaster out there that has bonus tracks). If I pick 3 songs I think belonged on this album, it would be Delivering The Goods, Stained Class, and Dissident Aggressor.
Best song - Victim of Changes
3 920. Living Ornaments '79 - Gary Numan
At one point when I was a teenager, I had this thing for Gary Numan. It was the first time I really heard something so heavily reliant on keyboards, I was absolutely amazed at this man. Songs like Cars and Down In The Park were absolutely amazing to me, even though I'm a bit over that period in my life, I still think this guy deserves respect for what he did in music, and on top of that, he liked to release live albums quite a lot in between his eras.
With so many live albums from Gary Numan, it takes a long time to actually sit down and listen to all of them to make a judgement. Living Ornaments became a trilogy after the success of the first volume '79, and went on with a second, called Living Ornaments '80 which didn't come close to living up to it's counter partner (yet the remaster surely was worth buying for the bonus live show)
Numan puts on one hell of a show here with Living Ornaments. Playing all hits at the time, Down In the Park, Cars, and Are Friends Electric, yet unlike the Pleasure Principle album, he has electric guitars during this live show. But what really makes Living Ornaments '79, worth the money, is the set list. You're not only getting those famous songs from the hit album at the time Pleasure Principle. Numan plays a lot of songs from his former Tubeway Army days and makes them very electric, and also the medley of an electric version of Bombers, Remember I Was Vapour, and a keyboard solo filling a cover of On Broadway.
Best song - Down In The Park (Best version)
3 7.521. White Noise - Gary Numan
When you look at Gary Numan's career, there's always one album that you notice and it sticks out more than anything yet you've probably never even listened to it cause it's so hard to come across. With me, that would be Berserker. Now you can say what you want about the very obvious Bowie influence on the make up, and what not, but surprisingly it's one of his best albums.
Of all the Gary Numan live albums, I probably played White Noise more than anything. For his fans, if you don't own this album, you need to go out and find it.
Numan was changing his style in the mid 80's, and granted the more electronic approach to his keyboards and drums, gave the green light that Berserker would be more "electronic". When you hear all that generic computerized dance music today and how they use drum loops with the keyboards, when you first listen to Berserker, it may sound very familiar. As far as "Electronica" goes, I've always credited Gary Numan for being one of the core creators, because Berserker came before all the House/Electronica/Techno and I am sure those DJ's had this album on a turntable.
White Noise is the live counterpart to Berserker. Numan goes all out electro on the entire set, making all his older tracks sound like a "what if they were recorded for Berserker" and the end result is quite fascinating.
The more keyboarded version of We Take Mystery to Bed, stays true to it's awesome bass counter parts, not butchering it, and then the older songs like I Die: You Die sound more clear with the keyboards. This is a really killer album. Numan's backing band kills it on every track, and the guitars are more in your face with the keyboards.
Best song - Cold Warning
2 622. In Concert 1987: Abigail - King Diamond
I used to be a big, big fan of Mercyful Fate/King Diamond. When you're a young teenager going through your rebellious stage in life and hating everything, some music can move you more angry than others. Even though I've moved on in life and changed and pretty much 'grew up' I'd be a hypocrite to ignore the effect King Diamond's live album had on me as a kid.
Long before I ever heard SRV or Jimi Hendrix, I was playing along to King Diamond's Abigail album as a kid on my guitar. The Black Horseman's acoustic solo was the first guitar solo I ever learned.
Abigail itself is one of the best Metal albums ever. The complex that King's guitar players created, Andy LaRacque and Michael Denner is a testament of dual guitars in heavy metal, but have you ever heard it live?
King and his band flow through the concert as if it were an act or play. They go through the Abigail songs like the album is a book, but with Andy LaRacque having a 3 minute guitar solo just before The Possession, and a drum solo to end the song Abigail. My only complaint in the end was no Mercyful Fate songs.
Best song - 7th Day of July 1977
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