The other day I was having my weekly staff meeting and we were talking about the usual staff meeting things: reviewing the sales funnel, updating project status, looking at the new marketing campaign—you know, the stuff that makes you start wondering what you’re going to have for lunch—when someone proffered their opinion on the best live rock and roll album of all time. I’m not sure how it started but suddenly the room was aflame in dissenting opinion—“I’ll tell you what you can do with Frampton Comes Alive”, “I’ve got your “Get Your Ya Ya’s Out” right here”, “Rattle and Hum” this”. You know how quickly these things can get out of hand. Before anarchy broke out, I stepped in to bring some order to the proceedings. You can talk all you want about corporate retreats and team building exercises, but I’ve found that nothing brings a group together like putting aside their natural bias to put together a solid “Top 5” list.
To bring some order out of chaos, the first thing we did was establish some essential ground rules:
– These had to be real rock albums. That meant anything from the 60’s, 70’s and just a smidgen of the 80’s. This is the golden age of the live album, because nothing contributed to a band’s live performance like a mental state one step above a coma and a groupie named Cherry Vanilla waiting backstage. The fact that the audience was largely made up of test pilots for major pharmaceutical companies and connoisseurs of Columbia’s leading exports also served to enhance the ambiance of the event.
– All bands had to feature guitars. This requirement eliminated a number of potential entrants from the 80’s. Sorry, but four dorks with weird haircuts and keyboards is not a rock and roll band.
– Compilation albums could not be included. I love Ten Years After’s live version of I’m Going Home as much as the next guy, but you have to sift through a lot of dreck—Joan Baez, really– on the Woodstock album to get to it.
With these ground rules established, and much intense discussion—we brought in lunch—we finally arrived at a list we could all be proud of. I think our marketing guy is still a little upset that Kiss Alive didn’t make the cut, but the fact that we all agreed that the live version of Cold Gin is one of the best alcohol themed songs we’ve ever heard did placate him a little. With that being said, here is Compass’ list, in descending order, of the five greatest live albums of all time:
Five- The Allman Brothers: Live at the Fillmore East
Twenty minutes of Whipping Post. Enough said.
Four- Cheap Trick: Live at Budokon
Mix together the soaring vocals of Robin Zander, the best of 70’s power pop and 12,000 screaming Japanese teenagers and you’ll have Surrender playing in your head for the rest of the day.
Three- Bob Seger: Live Bullet
Forget all those crappy ballads that came later. This was the album that transformed Seger from a perennial opening act into the pantheon of rock legends. Listen to the plaintive wail of Alto Reed’s saxophone in the closing refrains of Turn the Page combined with the poignant lyrics about the loneliness of life on the road and tell me it’s not one of the greatest songs ever written.
Two- Lynyrd Skynyrd: One More From the Road
Southern rock at its finest. Recorded over three nights in Atlanta, every song is encore worthy and the boys even found a way to work in a cover of the old Jimmie Rogers classic, T for Texas. And yes, this is the album with the quintessential recording of Freebird.
One- Deep Purple: Made in Japan
The classic line-up at its finest. The vocal gymnastics of Ian Gillan, combined with the incendiary guitar of Richie Blackmore and the solid backing of Glover, Pace and Lord have made this album’s versions of Smoke on the Water, Highway Star and Strange Kind of Woman radio standards for over 30 years. These guys were musicians first, and rock stars second. Listen to this one and then explain to me how Heart is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and these boys aren’t.
The best thing about lists like this is that they are thought provoking. Do you agree with us or do you have a list of your own? Somehow I bet you do. Let’s see your list. Send us a tweet @DataCenterFairy or visit our Facebook page.