The 10 Greatest Live Albums of All Time


What are the 10 greatest live albums of all time? 

Let's face it, most of us love a good live album, and it's easy to see why.  Live albums give us a chance to reminisce about seeing our favourite musical acts in action, and they also add a nice twist on some of our most loved songs.

Regardless of whether it's a 'greatest hits' or a 'compilation' live album, we tend to love them all the same.  Here, in no particular order, we look at the ten greatest live albums ever released...



James Brown, ‘Live At The Apollo’

King Records founder Syd Nathan declined to jump on James Brown's idea of a live album — they hadn't been established as a profitable venture and he wasn't particularly interested in anything but singles at the time. "Didn't nobody believe us — none of the company executives believed us," recalled hypeman Bobby Byrd. "But see, we were out there. We saw the response as we run our show down." In turn, Brown self-financed the show and was even prepared to self-release it.

Though Wednesday was usually Amateur Night inside Harlem's historic Apollo Theater, the Hardest Working Man in Show Business was in his prime. Despite the 27-minute run time, he was a tease: At first, he tries alternating between the locomotive rhythms of his revue, the Famous Flames, and acting cool in formal ballads like "Try Me." The longer he tries to restrain himself, though, the more his voice quivers before he eventually caves, shouting and screaming as he begs and pleads. - Rolling Stone




The Who, 'Live At Leeds'

At the very peak of their powers, there was absolutely no stopping The Who upon the release of their much loved live album, Live At Leeds.  Like with anything in life, it's all about timing, and the timing of this release could not have been any better.

They'd become a fearsomely powerful live band, as fluid as they were brutal: four wizards at separate corners of the stage, raising a golden demon together.




UFO, ‘Strangers in the Night’

Ask any hard rock fan and they'll all rank Strangers in the Night as one of the best live albums ever made.  It's not often you see a band or an artist with a live album that out performs their studio work, but you could argue the case for UFO.

This iconic album marked a real moment of relevance in the legacy of the band, and it set a new benchmark for how live albums should be made. If you're not overly familiar with UFO, then be sure to give this little number a spin - you won't be disappointed.



Kiss, 'Alive!'

It's funny how we mention Strangers in the Night being UFO's most significant album, and along comes Kiss with Alive!. Kiss is another band that made so much of their success through their live shows and live albums.
Tagged by many as the greatest live rock band of all time, it's little wonder to see Alive! make this list. This album has the energy and style that you would associate with this band, and it is yet to be topped, even by their follow on albums.




Aretha Franklin, 'Live At Fillmore West'

Aretha Live at Fillmore West is the third live album by American singer Aretha Franklin. Released on May 19, 1971 by Atlantic Records. It was reissued on compact disc in 1993 through Rhino Records.

The recording was made at the Fillmore West concert hall, the storied rock venue in San Francisco, over three nights, March 5, 6 and 7 in 1971. The album opens with Aretha's best-known song, her version of Otis Redding's "Respect". The album features Aretha's take on many "hippie" anthems as Aretha and Atlantic Records executive/album producer Jerry Wexler wanted to reach out to the expected hippie audience in San Francisco. Covers include the Bread song "Make it With You", the Stephen Stills song, "Love the One You're With", Diana Ross' "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)", the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby" and Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge over Troubled Water".





Johnny Cash, 'At Folsom Prison'

Johnny Cash had been arrested twice in 1965—for smuggling Dexedrine capsules across the Mexican border and trespassing in Starkville to pick flowers. But his interest in prisons dated back to 1953, when he saw Crane Wilbur’s drama Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison.  The 1955 hit “Folsom Prison Blues” resulted in invitations from inmates around the country to come play their prisons, something he did fairly regularly early in his career. But it wasn’t until 1968, when drug abuse had led to career struggles that the singer approached Columbia Records with the idea for a live album from a penitentiary. 
He played two 24-song sets at Folsom with Carl Perkins, the Tennessee Three and his future wife June Carter, whittling the album down to 16 tracks. The venue is a perfect fit for a man who’d struggled with his own demons and could sing about them honestly without losing sight of his own redemption.—Josh Jackson




Muddy Waters, ‘At Newport 1960’

Bob Dylan going electric at Newport's sister festival gets all the lore, but Muddy Waters beat him to the plugged-in punch by five years. At the height of the folk revival, the Chicago electric-blues icon brought an amped-up, scarifying-ly powerful combo into Newport Jazz Festival. Between Waters' bull-roar voice, stinging guitar and swinging band, nobody could stand still, not even Muddy — during "I've Got My Mojo Working," he left the mike long enough to do a twirl with harmonica player James Cotton as the crowd shrieked. 
For a finale, poet Langston Hughes wrote "Goodbye Newport Blues" on the spot, and pianist Otis Spann sang it because Waters was too worn out from "Mojo" to sing anything further. At Newport quickly became a guidebook for young blues-rock enthusiasts: Keith Richards and Mick Jagger were among those paying close attention. - David Menconi, Rolling Stone.




Cheap Trick, ‘At Budokan’

By the end of 1978, Cheap Trick had three albums on the shelves, but they'd yet to attract a big audience in the US. They did have a big following in the Far East and were treated like the Beatles when they arrived in Japan in 1978, leading to a wild night of music at Tokyo's Nippon Budokan.
Originally released solely in Japan, the label wisely released it in the US after radio stations began playing the live version of "I Want You to Want Me" and import copies began selling at hugely inflated prices. Upon its release in the States, the album hit Number Seven on the Hot 100.



Jimi Hendrix ‘Jimi Plays Monterey’

With so many exceptional live albums by the late great Jimi Hendrix, it was near impossible to pick just one. If truth be told, the legendary guitarist could have had a few of his live albums in our top ten, such was the standard of his live shows.

These nine songs from the iconic, guitar-charring 1967 show have appeared in many editions, first as the incomplete Historic Performances Recorded at the Monterey International Pop Festival, a wonderfully strange split album which contained about half of the Jimi Hendrix Experience's set and all of Otis Redding's.




Nirvana, ‘Unplugged in New York’ 

The MTV Unplugged years were particularly special in the '90s, But you could argue that the most significant and favourite of them all was Nirvana's Unplugged in New York. This performance saw the band delight its audience with a softer tone to their usually hard grungy tones. 

We saw a completely different side to Kurt Cobain - a vulnerability that grabbed its audience, and gained new fans of all musical genres along the way.  Unplugged in New York was Nirvana at the peak of their powers - it had the most relevance and significance of any other acoustic album ever made. 

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