A topic of conversation that often rears it's head at White Rabbit Towers is "what (in your opinion) is the best live album ?".
Ahh the dangers of sticking your head above the parapet to make the case for a particular selection. Many people make a case for "The Allman Brothers Band At Fillmore East" other for The 'orrible 'Oo and "Live AT Leeds". Some claim the pinnacle of live recordings is "James Brown Live AT The Apollo" while I have at least one friend who I'm sure would mount an impassioned defence of Neil Diamond's "Hot August Night".
As always when talking of your favourite music it's a personal thing. Even so, at the risk of ridicule, I present the White Rabbit Records list of our favourite Live albums.
1. Slade Alive!
I've written here on this blog before about "Slade Alive!" and how it is quite simply the greatest live album ever recorded. Have a look here to see what I think of it. My mind hasn't changed and I will hear no argument. Have another track and then go out and buy your own copy.
2. Ramones - It's Alive
"Hey! We're the Ramaones and this one's called Rockawaaay Beach...take it Dee Dee"
"One - Two - T'ree - Four" Rama-lama-lama...
Recorded in front of a rabid crowd at the Rainbow in London on New Years Eve 1977 "It's Alive" has the greatest opening to any live album (see above) and in the following 28 songs thrashed out over 54 minutes and 38 seconds it barely stops to draw breath. One song finishes, Dee Dee hollers "One - Two - T'ree - Four" and we're in to the next one, it's relentless. The longest song on the album is 2 minutes and 54 seconds, a lesson in brevity that many live albums could learn a thing or two from.
And don't tell me the Punks, and particularly the Ramones, couldn't play. Most bands just couldn't keep up with Da Brudders punishing pace. Johnny Ramone only ever played downstrokes, his hand must have been ready to fall off after this. Not one of them misses a beat in almost an hour.
Last but not least the Ramones had the songs. Yes they were simple, stripped back rock 'n' roll (I didn't see anyone complaining when Elvis, Little Richard, Jerry Lee et al did much the same thing) but great songs. "Rockaway Beach", "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker", "Blitzkreig Bop", "Cretin Hop"...you wanna lose your shit, bounce around and go nuts ? Here's your soundtrack...
3. Hanoi Rocks - All Those Wasted Years
A friend invited me to go see Hanoi Rocks at the Tower Ballroom in Birmingham. The Tower was and old fashioned dancehall, it had plastic palm trees around the dance floor...classy !
I had nothing better to do that night so I went. Now Hanoi Rocks should have been just the sort of band who would not appeal to me at all. All I knew was they looked like the bastard offspring of Aerosmith and Motley Crue and they played "Rock" music. Oh how wrong was I...
They hit the stage clad in a bizarre combination of (various coloured) leather, studs, chiffon and hats. The singer couldn't really (he was very pretty tho'), the two guitar players looked like they were in a competition to see who looked the coolest while smoking a fag, the bass player looked like he would rather be somewhere else and I swear they had Animal from the Muppets on drums. They started to play and it suddenly dawned on me that they were far more Iggy & The Stooges/MC5 than my previously feared "Rock" (for "Rock" read Metal) band...they were as Punk Rock as hell.
"All Those Wasted Years" was recorded around the time I first saw them and captures them perfectly. Have a little taste in the video below, listen to it, it's FUN...
4. David Bowie - Stage
Not one that many people would put up there but I have my reasons. Firstly the copy I own is on yellow vinyl, some of you might know I'm a sucker for coloured vinyl.
But mostly for this reason...the early Bowie songs on here aren't great, too many synthesizers trying to play Ronno's riffs for my liking, BUT, and it's a big BUT, the performances of the "Station To Station" and Berlin material on here are stunning. I'd had many people tell me what a great album "Station To Station" was and how great the song in particular was but I never got it, until I heard the version on here.
It's taken at a slightly quicker pace than the record and it sounds mysterious and broody and slightly dangerous as the band take up that plodding opening riff and then Bowie arrives...and he is totally on it, in control and leads us through what is a slightly mystical lyric, repeats the "return of the Thin White Duke" part and then the band takes off and I can't get enough of this version...and for helping me understand "Station To Station" "Stage" deserves it's place here...it's never "too late" Dave
5. The Jam - Dig the New Breed/Live Jam
Two for the price of one. The Jam cheated when it came to live albums. Both of these official live albums are compilations of performances from various gigs, neither are just one show. If you want to hear a whole show it's worth seeking out the "Live At The Rainbow" CD that was part of the BBC's "The Jam at The BBC" release a few years back.
So why do I include these two live compilations ? Well purely because it reminds me how great they were live, the wonder you felt at how 3 guys could make this huuuuge noise. It reminds me how lucky I was to see what I regard as the greatest live band I've ever seen 6 times and it also reminds me that I will be lucky to see anyone as good as this ever again.
It was a golden time to be going to see live music...