Best Live Albums of the 70's part 3.
I would argue that the concept of a live album peaked in the 70's. Long before computers, rock bands had to deliver in a live setting. They often added a couple of extra musicians to the mix, and overdubbed in the studio later. These occasionally created really great albums worth listening to. This is why so many of these classic live albums have been consistently repackaged over the years as anniversary issues, DVD's and deluxe editions. In these reissues, the original album is often beefed up with extras and they are certainly worth your while to find.
Here are a few more of my favourites.
ACDC – If You Want Blood (released 1978)
Many live albums from 70's rock bands feature extended versions of famous tracks. After all, these were musicians not computer operators and the 70's was a decade of excess. Through this excess comes AC/DC with If You Want Blood. This album is blunt. Featuring ten loud and raucous tracks, If You Want Blood is something of a greatest hits package. Whole Lotta Rosie, Let There Be Rock, Riff Raff, this album doesn't quit and shows early AC/DC at their raging, no frills, rock and roll best.
The title comes from a response to a question a journalist asked Bon Scott. The reporter asked what could fans expect from a live show, and Scott replied “Blood”. Certainly on this album the band was indeed out for blood. It's often cited on best live albums lists and rightly so. If You Want Blood will make your ears bleed in a really wonderful way.
Allman Brothers – At Fillmore East (released 1971)
Like Cheap Trick and KISS, At Fillmore East is a live album that became the Allman Brothers' commercial breakthrough. This album is all about musical excess. Seven tracks over 4 album sides. The Allman Brothers were a jam band. In the studio they felt restrained but onstage they played as they pleased. Touching on jazz, blues, country and rock, the Allman Brothers were all about interplay between band members. That interplay created a real fusion of musical styles all evident on this release. Such was the impact of this album that when the Fillmore East closed its doors they band were invited to play a concert on the final night of the venue they came to regard as a home.
Some of these songs went on so long that producer Tom Dowd had to trim down the performances, at times condensing several pieces into one track. This helped present the Allman Brothers in their best light. And it works. At Fillmore East, their third album, sold platinum. Impressive for a double album from a bunch of down home boys.
Neil Young – Live Rust (released 1978)
Live Rust is the soundtrack to the concert film Rust Never Sleeps which was directed by Young under the pseudonym Bernard Shakey. The film features footage from a performance from Young and his band Crazy Horse in San Francisco. Over the course of four album sides, Live Rust touches on both Young's country folk side and his much heavier grungy side when then band joins him.
The first disc generally features Young's softer moments while the second disc kicks it. Young has been referred to as the grandfather of grunge, and Live Rust contains evidence that he deserves that title. It's a a great introduction to Young's huge body of work.
Peter Frampton – Frampton Comes Alive! (released 1976)
Here's another live album that really put an artist on the map. Although Peter Frampton had released several solo albums since leaving Humble Pie, it was with Frampton Comes Alive! that he became a household name. The album was a huge breakthrough selling 6 million copies in the U.S. alone the year of its release. Estimated sales so far are over 11 million copies worldwide.
Frampton Comes Alive! includes several tracks that have become radio classics. Show Me The Way, Baby I Love Your Way and the 14 minute Do You Feel Like We Do have endured the test of time and are still heard. What's more, Frampton helped sell countless “Talkboxes”, the guitar gizmo featured on Show Me The Way and Do You Feel Like We Do (the Talkbox has been prominently used on other hits such as Rocky Mountain Way and Livin' On A Prayer). However, success of this magnitude is a double edge knife. Frampton Comes Alive! ensured that the artist raised the bar so high for himself that he was never able to reach those heights again.
THE KINKS – One For The Road (released 1980)
Although released in 1980, One For The Road was recorded on various nights through a 1979 tour. This is why i'm including it. The Kinks never enjoyed the type of success their British Invasion peers did, possibly for being “too English” for American audiences. As the 80's dawned, there seemed to be a bit of resurgence in Kinks interest. One For the Road showcases the band at their live best. Ray Davies's command of the crowd, leading fans in singalongs, teasing them, and finally delivering, is legendary. There's rarely been a rock frontman as energetic and confidant.
One For The Road cover many great Kinks moments, performed almost flawlessly. From the expected Lola, Where Have All The Good Times Gone and You Really Got Me, as well as other classic Kinks like 20th Century Man, Victoria and Stop Your Sobbing this album covers a lot of ground. It's a solid live package, even if there are a few Kinks tracks obviously missing such as Waterloo Sunset, Picture Book and Apeman. But then, this isn't a greatest hits package, it's simply a great live album.
Off Rock contributor Mike Lang is a lifelong rock radio broadcaster. He has been known to play guitar live on occasion. @theemikelang