Mar 172021

I remember a conversation I had at a record store with an owner that knew me well and when I was buying some music she said, “You really like live albums, don’t you?” I said, “I suppose, but doesn’t everyone?” She was emphatic when she said that so far as she could tell most people didn’t like them at all. Since I was thinking about it, I decided I’d take a look when I got home and see how many live albums I really have. If I include The Stones, it’s a ton but I wasn’t thinking specifically about them. I was thinking more about everyone else. She was right. I seem to like live albums.

Right now, I’m listening to one of the two AC/DC albums I have. I have Back in Black and If You Want Blood. I haven’t played Back in Black in 25 years and I doubt I’ve listened to If You Want Blood in a long time, either. I didn’t have to get far in my record collection to come across my first live album, and it wasn’t even AC/DC, that was the second one. While I’m listening to it I remember why I bought it. When I was in school AC/DC was one of the newer bands kids listened to, and I never really liked their sound. They sound so produced and artificially gigantic on their studio records. A friend had the ‘74 Jailbreak record and I seem to remember that was hard to find or expensive, but I liked that one because they sounded like I thought they should. My friend told me this one was easier to find, and I’d probably like it just as much. It’s never been one of my most played records, but I definitely like this better than all their studio records. They sound like 5 guys blasting some decent rock ‘n roll and not some polished studio product.

I think the first live album I ever bought was either Joe Walsh’s You Can’t Argue With a Sick Mind or Bob Seger’s Live Bullet. We used to call that one Double Live Bullet when we were kids. I don’t know why the amount of records in the package was added, but we definitely called it that. That Joe Walsh album was one of my favorites when I was 14. I had it on 8-track and I took it everywhere with my Panasonic Dynamite 8. I seem to remember having Bob Seger on vinyl but it’s definitely not the same copy I own now. Those were really huge records in Cleveland in the middle of the ’70s. I bet the Classic Rock station still plays songs from the Bob Seger album every day. Bob’s Beautiful Loser album was actually a thing in Cleveland but not half the thing those songs became when the live album came out.

I still buy live albums. If someone asks me what Rory Gallagher they should check out on Spotify I used to tell them Irish Tour ’74, but now I tell them Check Shirt Wizard, which is the same band he had in ’74, but it’s recorded in 78 and Rory dissolved that band after this tour. It’s some tight, loud Blues Rock that’s probably a little faster than the more straight Blues from ’74. Then, Neil Young is releasing practically every concert he ever recorded lately. I stay clear of the ones with just Neil and an acoustic guitar and I had written Neil of well before Ragged Glory, but the recent release with Crazy Horse, Way Down in the Rust Bucket, has been getting a lot of attention from me since it came out. I liked his Tuscaloosa album with the Stray Gators a lot, too.

As I look at my records, I see I definitely have a lot from the ’70s. I suppose that’s kind of the heyday for live albums. Some of them aren’t really even all that “live.” Get Your Ya-Ya’s Out has a lot of extra studio work to it. Jumpin’ Jack Flash sounds completely reworked. It’s a great record, though. I don’t really know why so many people don’t seem to like live records. There’s good ones coming out all the time. If you look for the Live at Third Man Records series you can find some newer bands in that series and they sound real good and they’re really inexpensive. I’ve got Blitzen Trapper from 2016, and I play it pretty often. They have a ton of them, from Wanda Jackson to Waxahatchee. Then there’s the New West Live From Austin City Limits series. Man, these are great!  I’ve got Steve Earle, Neko Case, and Tony Joe White and I’d definitely buy more.

Do you like live albums? Does it matter if they have studio work done to make them “better?” If you don’t like them, why not?


  71 Responses to “What Do You Mean, You Don’t Like Live Albums?”

  1. I’ll come back to this thread in depth, when time allows, but I don’t necessarily dislike live albums. I will say that repeated instances of people pointing out the studio gimmickry behind some of my favorite live albums, starting with The Last Waltz and Steppenwolf Live, bums me out. It’s like – no little kids are reading this, are they? – when I learned that Santa Claus wasn’t real.

  2. My all time favorite live album is James Brown Live at the Apollo, Vol. 1. I was in 7th grade and read about the album in Paul Gambaccini’s 100 Greatest Albums of all Time. I didn’t know anything about James Brown, but a lot of the critics in the book had him and the album on their top ten lists. Something had to be there. No record store around me had it. My grandmother, two hours away in Media, tracked it down at the Wee Three in her neck of the woods. When I finally heard it, it was everything the critics said it was. Unbelievable high energy shit from beginning to end. What made this live album experience unique was that I had never heard the songs before in any form whatsoever, so I was getting new music and hearing it live. My obsession with James Brown absolutely and positively began with that album.

    The Beatles Star Club LP is another winner. Why? It’s a mess, but the Beatles are absolutely incredible on all four sides. I finally got to hear and see in my mind what I’d been reading about in Beatles histories about their days in Hamburg. They’re more or less a punk band, playing covers of songs I once again had never heard before. My listening experience was similar to that of the James Brown album.

    I also have an indefensible taste for the Stones’ Got Live if You Want it LP. To these ears, it is one of the quintessential live rip off LPs of all time. It’s badly recorded and filled out with previously recorded tracks which weren’t released in America. When I first heard it, I couldn’t believe the Stones were behind the release of the thing. And then I more or less saw that it fit in with their “couldn’t care less” attitude regarding their US releases. Based on prior experiences, it didn’t seem like they were going to have much input with the London think tank. Fuck it. Take the money and run. Knowing all that somehow or another still makes listening to the lp a pleasure.

    With those 3 exceptions, I’m really not a fan of live albums. I never understood the point of listening to inferior versions of previously well crafted and recorded tracks.

  3. BigSteve

    I would say that in general I’m not a huge fan of live albums. There are exceptions of course. Time Fades Away and the two Rust Never Sleeps albums are two of my favorite Neils.

    Europe ’72 is one of my favorite Dead albums, not because of the third LP with the extended jams. The rest of the album has perhaps their best batch of songs, and for me the Dead was always mostly about the songwriting.

    I love the Band’s Rock of Ages album. If Levon is to be believed the Last Waltz was so heavily re-recorded after the fact that is doesn’t count as live.

    And Live at Leeds. Duh. Especially the reissues where we get to hear the whole show.

  4. BigSteve

    I just started reading a book about Hawkwind (Hawkwind: Days Of The Underground: Radical Escapism in the Age Of Paranoia). I believe their first live album Space Ritual is pretty universally acknowledged as their best album.

  5. BigSteve

    Someone recently wrote what I thought was a fairly dim-witted article on this topic — “Live Albums Are the Best Albums, Actually”

  6. My favorite live album — by a significant margin — is Van Morrison’s IT’S TOO LATE TO STOP NOW. If the conventional wisdom is to believed, there are no post-concert overdubs, which is amazing to me. A wonderfully balanced recording by a big band (guitar, bass, keys, drums — plus horns and strings) and a frontman who is in complete control and in the zone. The live album as personal statement. I listen to it more than any Van studio album, even ASTRAL WEEKS. The three CDs of bonus tracks from the tour that came out a few years back are nearly as essential.

    I also really love Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds’ LIVE SEEDS (feral frontman and a backing band that’s all rhythm, sharp as jagged glass) and the Isley Brothers’ THE ISLEYS LIVE (recorded at the Bitter End, in front of what I like to image is a crowd of blown-away Village denizens). No idea how “live” these albums really are, though.

    Lots of great live Neil out there, both official and not. I’ve had the RUST BUCKET album as a boot for a while and it’s amazing.

    The only Stones live album I like is THE BRUSSELS AFFAIR, which I believe is currently available as part of last year’s deluxe version of GOATS HEAD SOUP.

    Cosign with BigSteve on LIVE AT LEEDS and ROCK OF AGES.

  7. Alright, Tokyo! Are you Ready!?!? Please welcome Epic recording artist, Cheap Trick! (Budokan is probably polished up in the studio, right?)

    The ultimate has to be, has anyone been at a show that was then released as an album?

  8. 2000 Man

    When I woke up this morning I thought, “how could I say anything about live albums and not mention The Plimsouls One Night In America.” I think cdm and I have talked about it a little here, but I’ve got it on right now and I think it’s proof that on almost any night almost any rock band can be the best in the world. It’s not a stellar recording, but it’s not bad. The show is so great, though. I think I like the way guitars sound when a guy has to fight to keep it in tune for an hour and a half or make up for what happens to his guitar through a show. I know today guitars stay in tune way better than they used to and a really successful band may have thirty guitars for one show, but my favorite shows are generally in front of audiences that number in the four digits or less and not the 65,000 plus shows The Stones, Pink Floyd or U2 do. I don’t care if someone makes a mistake or the song falls apart. I like it better if it doesn’t quite fall apart but I think I like the tension Rock bands generate onstage.

    The Stones’ Brussels Affair is pretty famous. The one on the Goat’s Head Soup reissue actually has a bunch of songs that didn’t make the broadcasts on the BBC and actually contains some stuff us die hards were really anxious to hear. I love it, but in general I like the 72 tour better or the Australian leg from 73, but they aren’t as readily available. I think my favorite official live Stones album is Some Girls Live In Texas 1978. That’s some great stuff, there!

  9. BigSteve

    Gang of Four recently released a batch of 16 live shows to streaming services, including their first visit to New Orleans in November 1980. I was there, but I’m not sure this counts, because I don’t think these ‘albums’ are being released in physical formats.

  10. 2K Man, I was shocked when I read your original post because you didn’t mention One Night In America but I’m glad you took care of that terrible oversight. As much as I love the Plimsouls, that live album sounds better than any of their studio stuff just because of the energy.

    I like live albums well enough. Most of my favorites have been mentioned: Last Waltz, Get Your Ya Yas Out, Live at Leeds (although for some reason, I prefer the original 6 song single album version). I also like Hendrix/Otis Redding Live at Monterey (an odd split LP. I wonder why they chose those two artists ), about 60% of Kick Out the Jams.

    I’d like to get Elvis Costello – Live at the El Mocambo and the Replacements – Live at Maxwell’s.

    As for post-gig studio chicanery, it’s like faking orgasms: I’m sure it goes on a lot more than I think, but I don’t really want to know about it. I’m happy to suspend disbelief.

  11. I know it’s not rock & roll but I like it.

    There’s a 3 disc live Sinatra set from a few years ago called Standing Room Only. One of the discs is from the Spectrum on October 7, 1974 and I was there.

    Don’t be too jealous EPG!

    I was also at Cropredy for the annual Fairport Convention festival in 1987 which has been released.

    There you go, the unlikely conjunction of Frank Sinatra and Richard Thompson.

  12. Al, still waiting for you to explain the whole Frank thing!

    And I forgot one more live LP that I count as absolutely essential: Lou Reed’s Take No Prisoners.

  13. That Van Morrison album is awesome, as are some of the other albums discussed. However – and I wish I had it in me to insult everyone in subtle ways, so please imagine that I’m doing so – I think Live at Leeds is a drag. I like it in bits and pieces, but it captures the band at its most pompous, macho posturing. I need a healthy dose of self-doubt in my Who.

  14. hrrundivbakshi

    In my view:

    Live at Leeds is good (in parts), but not great. Too much wankery.

    Curtis/Live (a Mayfield club date from like 1972 or thereabouts) is really great. He does a version of “We’ve Only Just Begun” that’s just wonderful.

    I love Ya-Yas. But I also have a turgid nostalgia boner for much of Love You Live.

    There are lots of great classic rock /70s live LPs. Kiss Alive, Thin Lizzy, Skynyrd, Cheap Trick, Seger… lots.

  15. hrrundivbakshi

    Hey, 2000Man — has anybody offered a T-shirt like the one Charlie Watts is wearing in this video? I want it BAD. Also: I spent an afternoon with one of the guys on the cover of “Exile…” Pretty cool Stones connection, eh wot?

  16. hrrundivbakshi

    Whoops — forgot the link:

  17. 2000 Man

    HVB, that shirt of Charlie’s has been sold on occasion. That’s Three Ball Charlie on his shirt. I’ve wanted one forever and the two times I noticed they were selling them they were already sold out. I’d even be happy with a poster but I haven’t seen one.

  18. I used to have that shirt in the early 90s. I found it in a random shop when I was living in SF.

    I also had a shirt that had the picture of Keith next to the sign that says “Patience please, a drug free America comes first”

  19. garlic salt

    I’m a big fan of live albums, and I really don’t mind if things are edited a little bit to make them better. Would the Waiting for Columbus version of Dixie Chicken really be the same if it didn’t have more piano and guitar leads than singing? While I would not put straight up live music and overdubbed/excessively edited albums in the same category, they’re both good in my book.

  20. That Exile T shirt is tremendous. I’ll take a white one please!


    Honestly, it doesn’t get any better than this! No?

  22. EPG, that’s my #1 song by my #1 band.

  23. Love that fucking thing!!!!! We should agree to have a Stones day once a week up here! Monkey Man Monday! No?

    Hanging out in the basement, putting together a big order for one of my buyers in Spain, listening to Live at Leeds. I know this is going to cause trouble, but here’s my take on the thing. I picture Chris Stamp and Kit Lambert having a sit down with the band, while the Leeds recordings play in the background. Their pitch is something like this: “Trust us. This will sell big time in America. Forget the past, fuck art and subtlety, screw the whole Mod thing, and Sell Out. Now it’s time to really sell out! Again, trust us! Those stupid Americans will absolutely and positively eat this shit up. Let’s go for the money, the BIG MONEY!”

    It’s also my belief that Kinks’ management had a similar sort of talk with the band right around the time Lola Vs. Powerman came out, when Shel Talmy was told to take a hike, and quality got flushed right down the toilet.

  24. hrrundivbakshi

    EPG, I was with you until you pegged “Lola…” as the first of the Great Shitty Kinks Albums. That album is sublime.

  25. Also Shel Talmy was long gone by that time. SOMETHING ELSE is the last Kinks album he had any involvement in.

  26. Hrundi, I respectfully disagree. To these ears, it’s really boring, and it sounds like sludge.
    Oats, whatever. Let’s just say that the Kinks have pretty much sucked beginning with Lola Vs. Powerman.

  27. Gergs, there was a time I would have violently disagreed with you. Muswell Hillbillies is where the Kinks fall-off began.

    Now, I find Muswell Hillbillies unlistenable and the last time I listened to Lola I realized that that is where the decline began.

    Speaking of Muswell Hillbillies, that is one of the pieces of evidence for my contention that no British Invasion band can play country & western. Not the Kinks, not the Beatles, and especially not the Stones.

  28. I can’t believe that you guys don’t have any love for Live at Leeds.

    And I love when the Stones try to play country. They get it wrong but it ends up being its own separate thing that is very cool.

    Much less defensible is my opinion about the Kinks. I like most of Misfits even though I recognize it’s not a great album. I suspect I stand alone on this one (the first part of that sentence, not the second).

  29. hrrundivbakshi

    I cannot find a single note to enjoy on “Misfits,” but I pretty much love “Sleepwalker.” No surprise that Sleepwalker was one of the first albums I ever bought, whereas I heard Misfits for the first time in my late 20s.

  30. hrrundivbakshi

    And I have some love for Live at Leeds — just not as much as I’m supposed to have.

  31. I have none. And just for the record, I didn’t think it was possible to take something as bad as “Magic Bus” and make it a whole lot worse than it already is. The Who proved me wrong with their elephant tranquilizer version on Leeds.

  32. “Magic Bus” might in fact be the dumbest song of all time. Pretty hard to take with something in the catalog as brilliant as “Pictures of Lily.”

  33. 2000 Man

    The other great thing about Rocks Off is that Rip This Joint follows it. And the rest of Exile follows that, and that’s as good as it gets.

    Stones country works for me. Then again, it all works for me. I think the best song Mick ever did outside The Stones is a country song.

  34. BigSteve

    The title song to Misfits is one of my favorites. For me the decline of the Kinks begins right after that song. I was still onboard till then.

    And think there’s very little on Muswell Hillbillies that qualifies as country music. The title song is playing with the style for thematic reasons, but beyond that and maybe Uncle Son (and maybe the “sugar in the morning, sugar in the evening” interlude in Have a Cuppa Tea), not really. There’s American music, but not country. I think people are misled by the heavy use of slide and resonator guitar.

  35. BigSteve

    The thing about Live at Leeds is that the original album was such a weird selection of songs, and it gives a distorted and diminished impression of what the Who were about. Too much of the LP’s running time is wasted on covers. When you get to hear Tattoo, Happy Jack, I’m a Boy, and Can’t Explain, and A Quick One, the covers recede into the background. I do agree that the live version of Magic Bus doesn’t really work, but I like the single version. Pete was a monster on acoustic guitar.

  36. I just need to clear up a couple of factual errors I saw on this thread.

    Magic Bus is a great fun song employing a clever use of the Bo Diddley beat. (and, yes, excellent acoustic guitar) Calling that dumb, and the equally silly Pictures of Lily brilliant is wrong.

    Muswell Hillbillies is fantastic, and ranks among The Kinks best.

    Happy to have corrected the record.

  37. 2k man, it will come as no surprise that I love that song. I think the soundtrack version of Memo From Turner is his best solo effort, and one of is best vocal performances ever, but I do love Evening Gown.

  38. What makes Muswell Hillbillies “fantastic”? If Muswell Hillbillies is fantastic, what are Something Else, Face To Faec, VGPS, and Arthur? Give me a 1 – 10 rating on each so I have some better sense of how crazy you are.

    Not trying to be EPG here but I need to put this fantastic statement in some kind of context.

  39. Chickenfrank, just trying to understand your logic here. So if I take a song like “Wheels on the Bus”, a fun kiddie song, and wrap it around a Diddley beat, it may have the potential to knock someone on their ass. Interesting.

    Muswell Hillbillies is fantastic. Any reasons why that might be the case? Hmm.

    It appears that the late night drained ramen over popcorn thing is still going on. Do me a favor, when you get yourself back together again, check in with a sound defense for the aformentioned duds that reek worse than penicilin farts.

  40. Arthur is on the same level. That’s a 10 too. The other ones, I had to look at the discography to remember which songs were on which album. Tremendous songs on each album, but there’s a fair number of same sounding songs that don’t have much to distinguish them from each other on all those albums. Which album; Little Miss Queen of Darkness, Johnny Thunder, Dandy, No Return, Starstruck? Made you look, right? Those albums are in the 7-8 range for me with each album having at least one song as a 10.

    MH is a concept album and each song sounds like it fits together. (kudos for knocking Mountain Woman off it) I love a good concept album. I like Ray’s more cynical grown up songwriting on MH; Oklahoma, Uncle Son. The musical hall granny numbers have a little more bite and humor to them than earlier. No real twee songs. Dave’s playing is super on MH. Cool acoustic instruments everywhere. Lyrically funny and deep.

    But there’s one authority we all agree with; the 1984 Rolling Stone album guide. “5 out of 5. Davies’ signature statement as a songwriter”.

    Glad I could change hearts and minds.

  41. EPG, nope. If THE WHO take a fun kiddie song and wrap it around a Bo Diddley beat then THEY create something interesting. Maybe not knock someone on their ass enjoyable, but as good as Pictures of Lily enjoyable.

  42. BigSteve

    I’m with chickenfrank about Muswell Hillbillies. It’s one of my favorite Kinks albums. I am a little surprised by the denigration, not shocked because I know people love to be contrary, and I don’t think there’s anything like an RTH consensus on anything really.

    I even wrote a scholarly paper titled ‘Lola vs. the Muswell Hillbillies: Contrasting Approaches to the Concept Album’ and delivered it at the Popular Culture Association meeting in Philadelphia (!) in 2001. Despite the title, the paper was probably 90% about Muswell Hillbillies.

    Certainly among the Kinkologists in attendance at that session there was no question that MH was in the first tier of Kinks albums.

  43. EPG: You’re on the wrong side regarding “Magic Bus.” It the song dumb, incoherent. Yes. Is it a good record. Definitely. BigSteve and Chicken get it right. You should not underestimate the rock superpowers required to make a record like “Magic Bus.”

  44. hrrundivbakshi

    Magic Bus: it’s always seemed like a trifle, a throwaway to me. It’s silly, it lacks meaning, it’s hippy-dippy in a pretty stupid way. It’s actually a very un-Who (or maybe really un-Pete) song, like Squeeze Box, but simpler. BUT: I also agree with those who are essentially saying: don’t underestimate how hard it is to write a timeless classic, even if it is simple and silly. Speaking for myself, I’ll sit through it just to hear Pete say “you caaaaan’t have it!” Even more elemental: the sudden appearance of the power chords at the end. *That* is what you call a punchline. Bottom line: it ain’t great, but it’s good enough, in its own way.

  45. hrrundivbakshi

    On Muswell Hillbillies: MW is one of those albums that took decades to open up for me. For the longest time, I found it busted down and lazy, trying to hide lousy songs by affecting an air of countrified simplicity. But over time, I suppose I came to understand that it was a very real album, an honest one, and that some of the songs it contained were damn near miraculous. “Oklahoma” (for example) is perfect, and its perfection is enhanced by being on that particular album. It’s the Kinks’ “Exile on Main Street” — an album that you have to take or leave in its entirety, and an album that increases its songs’ quality by virtue of their inclusion in it. Anybody who says “Exile…” would work better as an EP just misses the point of it. Same for Muswell Hillbillies.

  46. Good day for record collections again. Got a gorgeous mono copy of Blonde on Blonde. I’m a happy man.

    On the way back from all my running around, I listened to “Magic Bus” again. It’s even more boring than I originally thought. And it’s basically a half assed reworking of “My Generation” made for those idiots in America who will eat up anything.

    Muswell Hillbillies is nothing more than a $2.99 cut out bin album. It sounds sludgy, and it’s really boring.

    BigSteve, my apologies. You’re hearing something in that album that these ears can’t. I’n not fucking with you. I really mean that. And one more thing, I’d really appreciate it if you wrote a fleshed out piece about the MC5 / Stooges / Alice Cooper show which would include your thoughts and other happenings that occurred all throughout the day before the concert. I think one of the roles of RTH is to provide fresh insights into that which needs to be revisited and reconsidered. I had you all wrong. I see a novel in you. Every time you tell some kind of story about growiing up, I always want more.

    I have a feeling that my equivalent of your Stooges/MC5/ Alice Cooper show is when I saw the Circle Jerks at the Harrisburg Metron when I was about 17 years old. It was the beginning of the end of my beloved high school punk gang.

    Geo, consider this a compliment. I respect your opinion but strongly disagree. File under BigSteve.

    Chickenfrank, based on your last response, I’m assuming you’re just about ready for yet another batch of drained ramen over popcorn. Hell, you can’t even remember what tracks are on which albums, yet you’re ready to reward each of those Kinks LP titles with 7s and 8s. And your preferred book for a rock album guide is from the Rolling Stone gang? When did you decide that spraying formaldehyde on dope might be a good idea?

  47. Wait, you had me defend Muswell Hillbillies when you have ‘Lola vs. the Muswell Hillbillies: Contrasting Approaches to the Concept Album’ waiting in the wings? Bring out that howitzer! I would love to read that. And HVB’s point about the whole somehow lifting up the parts rings true. That’s a good concept album.

    EPG, you and I are comparing apples to orangutans. I gave you facts about why those records are good, and you are giving just your opinion. Jann Wenner and I are very disappointed.

  48. I, for one, will attest that the pre-ramen popcorn indulgence appears to enhance the clarity of chickenfrank’s thinking as demonstrated convincingly in the prior exchange.

  49. hrunndi just let me know that this blog is up and talking these days, which I hadn’t realized. Fun.

    Put me down as a big fan of Muswell Hillbillies. Probably the individual Kinks album that I listen to the most, great for car rides. It’s no more a country record then early Brinsley Scwharz or than “The Girl with Faraway Eyes” is a country song, though sure, they do have a “back to the land” British folky slumming it (this is a positive for me) tone. One or two tracks late in the record, I sometimes skip, but that’s the biggest demerit I have for it.

  50. If Muswell Hillbillies can bring Mwall out of retirement, that’s a clear 10! Great to see you roaming the Hall again.

  51. Agreed! I hereby declare Muswell Hillbillies to be the greatest thematic exercise in all popdom! And I’ll grant there may indeed be magic in “Magic Bus” should Massimo roll in as well,

  52. BigSteve

    There are no more MC5/Stooges/Alice Cooper memories. After all it was over 50 years ago, and I wouldn’t remember what I did earlier in the day before a concert that I truly loved (like the aforementioned Roxy Music show 45 years ago), much less one I didn’t really like. I will say that I assumed for years that that bill was some kind of Detroit package that was touring around, and I just happened to see one of the stops. Nowadays you can find gigographies for lots of bands online. When I tried to confirm the idea of the package tour, the dates did not match up. It was apparently a one-off.

  53. Coming in late on this thread, but what I like about live rock records, when they work, which isn’t that often: they give me the aura of something happening, of a SHOW, and they don’t so much just play the songs like they sound on the studio records, but transform them into part of an event. That’s the reason James Brown at the Apollo (and other James Brown live) is so great, as one for instance.

    I think at Budokan is the record that most brings Cheap Trick’s concept to life, that Frampton Comes Alive! is the only Frampton worth hearing anymore, and that the original Allman Brothers are best heard in their live context. Thin Lizzy’s Live and Dangerous is their best album, and I’d put that J. Geils Band live record (too early here for me to look up the title) as their best work if I didn’t find him so annoying. The Dead Kennedys and The Ramones each have an excellent live record.

    It’s interesting, although I’m not sure why it’s true, that live albums are unquestionably essential in the history of jazz more so than in rock, Miles Davis at the Plugged Nickel, Cellar Door and Fillmore East, Ellington at Fargo and the Newport shows, Basie at Newport, Bennie Goodman at Carnegie Hall, and many many others.

    Anyway, just my two cents on the back end here.

  54. Bob Dylan’s Live 1964 concert at the Philharmonic Hall is like a time lapse film of Dylan’s development taking you through the goofy Guthrie Talkin’ Blues, the earnest protest singer, confessional folkie, right up to the budding surrealism of “It’s Alright, Ma” and the implied rock’nroll of “If You Gotta Go, Go Now.”

    It’s easy to see why this wasn’t released at the time. He’s giving too much away. Better to dole it out in digestible one album bites.

  55. The live Minutemen show included in the We Jam Econo DVD was shot at the 930 Club in D.C. I was there, but I don’t think I make an appearance. It’s possible it’s capturing the back of T Roth and Cills heads. Kinda dark to tell. HVB, MWall, do you recall being there?

  56. I was definitely there, CF! Spoke briefly with D Boon in the hallway after the show.

  57. hrrundivbakshi

    At one of those 9:30 shows, d read one of Bob’s Revenge’s flyers from the stage (that townsman kcills handed him), and urged all in attendance to go. I nearly fainted from swooning.

  58. Wow, I’m way behind, but great stuff. Two quick things:

    1) I think “Magic Bus” is pretty great and highly entertaining. I’m a sucker for the Bo Diddley beat; only U2 failed to make it work on that shitty song “Desire.”

    2) I think Muswell Hillbillies is pretty good, a second-tier Kinks Classic and the beginning of the end (and I agree with BigSteve that the song “Misfits” is the last great thing they did). I think it’s a lot better than Lola vs the Powerman but much worse than The Kinks Are the Village Green… And Something Else. Those two are stone classics. The fact that my close personal friend chickenfrank can’t distinguish songs between those albums makes me wonder whether we should end out friendship and artistic partnership. Let me think about it…Nah, I love him too much.

  59. OK, then tell this ketchup topping hotdog eater, what is the best Kinks album?

  60. Speaking as someone who is by no means always a Kinks fan, I have to say that Something Else stands out to me as clearly their greatest original studio release. I also think Arthur is great if a bit more uneven. I recognize what’s important and great about Village Green, but that album also has as part of its zeitgeist one of the things I like least about the Kinks, which is their fussy and snotty sense of superiority (very British!) that leads to some of the occasional problems with their lyrics. They remind me at times of a line from a late William S. Burroughs novel: “As soon as the British gentlemen gets off the plane, he looks around for someone to dislike.”

    I know this thread isn’t about the Kinks, but I also wanted to say that I’d rather play a Kinks greatest hits set (I have a 50-song one that’s just about perfect) than any of their solo albums.

    Now, to dovetail back to the actual question, I’m one of those people that likes late 70s Kinks… and I even think they’re a better live band than they are sometimes given credit for. I actually enjoy One For the Road (released in 1980 I think), and I have a live set of them playing in 1974 (not sure what the album is actually called) that is also good.

    I was thinking about a sub-thread in relation to your topic, Mr. Mod, which would be about bands whose reputations are usually “they weren’t very good live” when that isn’t true. Big Star, for instance: much more credible in their live recordings than people often say.

  61. I think we have a consensus that EPG is indeed wrong regarding the total lack of worth in the Who’s Magic Bus.

  62. Chickenfrank, The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society is the best, in large part based on the truth of that Burroughs quote from Mwall. If you disagree and we need to break up the band, I will still think you’re the bee’s knees.

  63. No equivocation in that response. I can’t defend my choice of MH by trashing VGPS. It’s a worthy pick.

    And I see what you did there; distract me with your admiration while withholding the more important agreement with me. Devious.

    I bet VGPS is Wes Anderson’s favorite Kinks album too. That’s how I play dirty.

  64. Ooh, that was well played, chick!

    I didn’t share my opinions about Arthur. While I don’t love every song on it and feel there are points where the story is too heavy handed, I like that album a lot. Most incredibly- and you know I’m not an audiophile – it sounds fantastic. I’d say that and Kinks Kontroversy are the only two Kinks albums that sound as good, if not better, than the tunes in the grooves themselves. How did The Kinks manage to make two albums that actually sound GREAT, not just…”special,” as I might gently find a way to compliment the other good-to-great ones in that run from KK to Muswell Hillbillies?

  65. Just to make sure I was right about Muswell Hilllbillies, I forced myself and the wife to revisit the thing while playing rummy during dinner. It was and is pretty much horrible from beginning to end, no better than any other budget bin album from the same time period, no better than any Argent, Wishbone Ash, Spirit, or West, Bruce, and Laing offering from the same time period. What makes it so insufferable is the fact that this was a band that gave the Beatles a run for their money. The drop off in quality from something like VGPS or Something Else is Ripleys. The only song I seem to remember from the 45 minutes I wasted listening to that turd again was “Muswell Hillbillies,” and that certainly wasn’t anything to get excited about. As far as the whole thematic brilliance of the thing is concerned, I’d rather listen to something like Styx’s Mr. Roboto. Both are boring, but at least you can laugh at Mr. Roboto. Muswell Hillbillies makes one cringe because it’s downright embarrassing.

    On a more positive note, I’ve been reading The Color of Water by James McBride. Didn’t know a thing about him until I heard him on Fresh Air talking with Terry Gross about his latest book Deacon King Kong. During the interview, Terry Gross asked him about his mother, and that’s more or less how I found out about the book I’m reading now which is a memoir and tribute to his mother. I’m hooked.Can’t put it down. Can’t wait to read the rest of his stuff. A similar thing happened to me around this time last year after hearing an interview with Rick Bragg. Love having a new author to read.

  66. You tried to listen to it critically while both eating dinner and playing Rummy 500? I don’t feel like you could possibly give it a fair shake with that much going on. And stop playing cards at the dinner table.

  67. CDM, I did the very best I could. All the Kinks LPs up to Arthur have a certain sonic oomph that disappears completely when they get to Muswell Hillbillies. There are many factors for that loss but the major ones include the loss of Talmy and Quaife and the decision to record at at a whole new location. Lyrically, there may well indeed be something interesting going on, but the trip there is too difficult to make. Too hard to stay awake at the wheel in such a lackluster environment. Again, it’s the black and white contrast, not unlike Lennon’s fall from grace. How does one go from creating art with the perfect band and producer to Yoko, Phil Spector, and Elephant’s Memory? I know that sounds like a drastic comparison, but that’s more or less what I hear. Post Arthur is all slop with no edge. The magic of the Kinks up to Arthur is that they’re uniquely sloppy and loose, not because they’re weak players, but because that’s what the songs call for. And it works because of the brilliance of the songs and the production. None of that is there on Muswell Hillbillies.

    Greil Marcus is the most insufferable of all rock critics, but he nailed it when after hearing Dylan’s Self Portrait, he asked rhetorically, “What Is This Shit?” That was my more or less my reaction after hearing Muswell Hillbillies for the first time.

    Very important. When I listen to records, I listen for the overall impact of the song, the arrangement,the instrumentation, and the production. If one of those aspects is off, it usually affects the whole thing. Dylan might have had something worthwhile to say on Empire Burlesque and Knocked Out Loaded, but I’m never going to find out what it may have been because the overall sound of both records is horrible. Likewise all Kinks records after Arthur, which is the end for me, but it’s a hell of an ending.

  68. I read McBride’s “Good Lord Bird,” recently adapted to a decent TV series, and Deacon King Kong. I preferred the former but they’re both solid. Although he does make the same crack about crackers in both. The eatin’ kind, not the southern kind.

  69. Thanks for the tip, George. Check out that Terry Gross interview when you get a chance. He’s terrific!

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