I have 20 albums left in my top 30 live albums countdown, it is getting extremely difficult to say that one is better than the other. Now I continue on “gut feeling” and even if it is a carefully thought out list, it may well look different tomorrow (or even later today). But don’t take it too seriously, we’re just having fun here.
Live At The Star Club, Hamburg is not an album, it’s a crime scene: Jerry Lee Lewis slaughters his rivals in a thirteen-song set that feels like one long convulsion. – Rolling Stone Magazine
Live at the Star Club, Hamburg by Jerry Lee Lewis is the best classic rock’n roll live album ever made. No, it is not from Lewis’ golden age, the 50’s, it is from The Star Club in Hamburg in 1964.
It was not released in the U.S. until the early nineties when Rhino re-issued it on CD. That’s when I heard this thunderstorm of a record.
From the liner notes (the Rhino re-issue): What do you think of when you think of the Star Club? “Well, that’s obvious. That’s where The Beatles played.” Right and wrong. If you’re a regenerate rocker, you’d say, “That’s where Jerry Lee Lewis recorded the greatest album ever made.”
It’s a speed driven, frenzied, rock’n roll moment, luckily it is captured for posterity.
#16: Get Yer Ya-Ya’s out! The Rolling Stones in Concert – The Rolling Stones
“I have no doubt that it’s the best rock concert ever put on record.”
“Recorded during their American tour in late 1969, and centered around live versions of material from the Beggars Banquet-Let It Bleed era. Often acclaimed as one of the top live rock albums of all time, its appeal has dimmed a little today… it’s certainly the Stones’ best official live recording.”
~Richie Unterberger (allmusic.com)
Stop Making Sense is a live 1984 album by Talking Heads, the soundtrack to the film of the same name. Stop Making Sense spanned three live shows at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles (Dec 1983).
“Stop Making Sense the album” cannot be separated from “Stop Making Sense the movie”, this is a two for one deal. When I write Stop Making Sense I mean them both. I’ve seen Stop Making Sense 4 times in the cinema and countless times on video/dvd/blu-ray. I have the album on vinyl, cd and digital files. When I hear the music I see the movie in my head.
And it’s a great movie!
The beginning is iconic. David Byrne comes shuffling out on an empty stage, starts a cassette-player with a rhythm track and play along with an acoustic guitar as he sings Psycho Killer.
Bill Withers is not underrated by people who know about him and who recognizes his music, but he is unknown and criminally overlooked by the general public. He is in fact one of the greatest singer/songwriters in music history. He is soulful, but his music is not constrained to the soul genre. He writes good songs and he is a marvelous performer.
Bill Withers became a part of the L.A. music scene in the late 60s after a period in the Navy. While he was assembling airplane toilets for Boeing he was signed to the Sussex music label (in 1970) and had instant success with his first album, Just As I Am, and the acoustic ballad, Ain’t No Sunshine. Bill Withers had more in common with the singer/songwriters than with the rising disco/soul, even though there’s a strong groove in his songs, sometimes even a funky rhythm. His second release, 1972’s Still Bill, became a career high point, it contained songs like Use Me and Lean On Me, big hits both of them. The album cemented his position in music history.
In 1972 he also recorded the fantastic live album, Live at Carnegie Hall (released 1973). Nowhere is his narrative prowess and powerful vocal style more clear. This is number 19 on my list of the best live albums of all time.
The opener is a slow version of Use Me that Bill Withers turns into a seductive almost nine minute jam.
Use Me (Soul Train, 197?), not nearly as good as the Carnegie Hall version, but very good anyway:
The album also has the definitive version of Ain’t no Sunshine, a faster more jazzy interpretation than usual.
There are many great songs on the album, but the real masterpiece is Grandma’s Hands and especially Bill Wither’s long intro, he is reminiscing about his grandmother playing tambourine in the church. We hear him describe the dancing and preaching at the church, his grandmother banging on the tambourine in joy, it’s an incredible story. He then launches into a heartfelt version of the song which, again, bests the original by miles. After hearing this version and his strong introduction, you will experience the song in new and deeper way.
Grandma’s Hands (audio with slide show):
“Grandma them had one a them churches where they sung “If you wanna help me Jesus, it’s alright. If you wanna help me Jesus, it’s alright”. And at the funeral they used to have to tie the caskets down! Yeah. Yeah.” – Bill Withers from the introduction
Allmusic (Steven McDonald): A wonderful live album that capitalizes on Withers’ trademark melancholy soul sound while expanding the music to fit the room granted by a live show. Lovely versions of “Grandma’s Hands” and “Lean on Me” are balanced by heartfelt downbeat numbers like “Better Off Dead” and “I Can’t Write Left-Handed,” the latter being an anti-war song with a chilling message. The set finishes off with the lengthy “Harlem/Cold Baloney,” with lots of audience-pleased call-and-response going on. One of the best live releases from the ’70s. Continue reading 30 Best live albums countdown: 19 – Live at Carnegie Hall by Bill Withers→
“And right now, right now, right now it’s time to… kick out the jams, motherfuckers!”
Let’s continue with my countdown of 30 the best live albums ever, at 22 I have MC5‘s ferocious Kick Out The Jams.
I was into punk when I grew up, and not metal. There were two camps in our little town when I grew up. When us punk fans listened to Detroit music, we listened to The Stooges. When the metal kids listened to Detroit music, they listened to Kiss. MC5 were something in the middle, to me they are the ancestors of both punk-and metal music. Their attitude was punk and their riffs were the inspiration of many metal bands. Together with Detroit sparring partners The Stooges, The Motor City Five were truly an anomaly in the peace-and-love hippy climate of 1967.
Kick out the Jams (1970):
And they looked great!
…and the borders between the genres have blurred since my childhood, I now like good music no matter what genre or where it comes from.
On new years eve in 1968, MC5 recorded this earthquake , this thunderstorm, Kick Out The Jams. Not everyone’s new year, but the followers of Zenta, The religion of MC5. To us who have no religin or who has other beliefs and follows the ordinary calendar, it was recorded at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit on the Halloween weekend, 30. and 31. October. It was released in February 1969, through Elektra Records.
I know, they were a special group of people…
MC5 was formed by their time, the Vietnam War and the social changes, this was garage rock with a rage not known to anybody before (and very rarely since). The guitars acted as assault weapons in their war against conformity.
John Sinclair (poet) was instrumental in leading the MC5 into creating the soundtrack for the new party The White Panther Party, which had the fitting slogan: “Rock’n Roll, dope and fucking in the streets”.
Video where John Sinclair is reading the liner notes from the album: