Tag Archives: Countdown

30 Best live albums countdown: 22 – Kick out the Jams by MC5


“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!
MC5 bare chested

…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 Concert Poster

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:

This was danger caught on vinyl!
Continue reading 30 Best live albums countdown: 22 – Kick out the Jams by MC5

30 Best live albums countdown: 23 – One night stand Live at the Harlem Square Club 1963 by Sam Cooke

Sam Cooke Harlem 1

Sam Cooke was one the first to blend gospel music and secular music, the early foundation of soul music. He was the opposite of Elvis: He was a black performer who appealed to a white audience, who wrote his own songs and who controlled his own business.

On Jan. 12, 1963, Sam Cooke was not playing to the white  audiences who knew him only from his earlier records. He was headlining a few concerts at Miami’s Harlem Square Club, he performed for black audiences who appreciated his roots and expected a grittier, more soulful Sam Cooke, which isexcactly what they got! It is indeed  a rougher, rawer and more immediate side of Sam Cooke on display. Sam Cooke’s smooth voice sets the tone but it’s his abillities as an entertainer in world class form that take it to the top.

Sam Cooke Recording at RCA Studios

Cooke was  energized by a recent tour of Europe with former labelmate Little Richard, when he took the stage at the Harlem Square Club in Miami.  He gave us an electrifying set of sweaty, sanctified, manic and masterful soul music. The show was taped for an album which sat on the shelf for twenty years until it was released in 1985.

It is a fantastic recording and maybe it shows us what direction Mr. Cooke could have gone. But instead he got an eighteen month period which would see his baby son die, see the recording of some of his finest music, and then his all too early death.

One night stand! Live At The Harlem Square Club is one of the finest live releases I know of, worthy of standing next to James Brown’s landmark Apollo Theater date (recorded just a month earlier) and also worthy of the 23rd place on my list of the 30 best live albums.


It is one of the great moments in the history of soul music, heck, any kind of music! 

Rolling Stone Magazine  ranked it at 443 on their 500 Greatest Albums of All Time:

Cooke was elegance personified, but he works this Florida club until it’s hotter than hell, while sounding like he never breaks a sweat. He croons “For Sentimental Reasons” like a superlover, and when the crowd sings along with him, it’s magic.

Peter Guralnick (in his book Dream Boogie:  The Triumph of Sam Cooke):

There was nothing soft, measured or polite about the Sam Cooke you saw at the Harlem Square Club; there was none of the self-effacing, mannerable, ‘fair-haired little colored boy’ that the white man was always looking for. This was Sam Cooke undisguised, charmingly self-assured, “he had his crowd,” said [guitarist] Clif White approvingly – he was as proud as he has been raised to be, not about to take any scraps from the white man’s table.

For me the difference from his studio work and this live album is clearest on Chain Gang. Listen to the two songs from the two minute mark, strike that, listen to the whole song. Both versions are great but the live version is raw, fantastic distillation of Soul! The way he switches from smooth, velvety voice into a gritty rasp, it is amazing, what an “instrument” he had.

Chain Gang:

All the songs are darker, more raw, more sexual. Cooke is twisting the audience around his finger and he sounds like a man who has  earthly desires to attend to. It is raw soul, and I never thought I should say that about Sam Cooke!
Continue reading 30 Best live albums countdown: 23 – One night stand Live at the Harlem Square Club 1963 by Sam Cooke

30 Best live albums countdown: 24 – Live at the Apollo by James Brown

“When I’m on stage, I’m trying to do one thing: bring people joy. Just like church does. People don’t go to church to find trouble, they go there to lose it.”
– James Brown

“Our whole thing was based on James Brown. We listened to Live at the Apollo endlessly on acid. We would listen to that in the van in the early days of 8-tracks on the way to the gigs to get us up for the gig. If you played in a band in Detroit in the days before The MC5, everybody did ‘Please, Please, Please’ and ‘I Go Crazy.’ These were standards. We modeled The MC5’s performance on those records. Everything we did was on a gut level about sweat and energy. It was anti-refinement. That’s what we were consciously going for.” 
– Wayne Cramer, MC5

One of the best live albums in music history, James Brown – Live at the Apollo was recorded october 24 in 1962.

My favourite moment: The whole horn infused “Think” that borrows heavily from jazz legend Charlie Parker in the way Brown scats over the band with the crowd participating enthusiastically. Not remotely like the studio versions and terribly good!

Lost Someone (audio):

Before the release of the classical and hugely influential ‘Live At The Apollo’ in 1962, James Brown was something of an unknown quantity outside of the R&B charts of the US south. Staying on the pop charts for 14 months, and peaking at #2, it’s a demonstration of Brown’s self-belief that he (himself!) had financed and released the recording when his label saw no sense in releasing a live album that featured no new material. Brown went on to record several more albums at the Apollo over the course of his career, including 1968’s Live at the Apollo, Vol. II (King), 1971’s Revolution of the Mind: Recorded Live at the Apollo, Vol. III(Polydor) and Live at the Apollo 1995 (Scotti Bros.).

Night Train (not the Apollo show but a great video clip from The T.A.M.I. Tv-show!):

Continue reading 30 Best live albums countdown: 24 – Live at the Apollo by James Brown

30 Best live albums countdown: 27 – On Stage by Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley On Stage

My choice at number 27 is Elvis‘ excellent live record On Stage.

 I missed the closeness of a live audience. So just as soon as I got out of the movie contracts I started to do live performances again.
~Elvis Presley (NYC press conference – june 9, 1972)

This is an absolutely stunning live album and the best official live album from Elvis ,  better than  That’s the Way It Is.

The album was recorded Feb 17-19 in 1970, Elvis was just starting his Las Vegas run (the “Vegas years” – 1969-76) & the Band & backing groups sounded great.

Elvis las vegas

Released June 1970
Recorded February 17-19, 1970 International Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada
Genre Rock
Length 31:57
Label RCA

Elvis las vegas 2

Elvis’ idea of bringing in white gospel singers with black soul singers was really genius on his part because he covered the whole gamut of music
~Joe Moscheo (The Imperials)

Continue reading 30 Best live albums countdown: 27 – On Stage by Elvis Presley

30 Best live albums countdown: 29 – Waiting for Columbus by Little Feat


At number 29 in my countdown of the 30 best live albums in history, I have chosen Waiting for Columbus by Little Feat.

Many considered Little Feat to be over their golden age by 1977, but I think this live album shows them wrong. This is a band at its peak!

Willin’ 1977, Rockpalast:

Waiting for Columbus is the first live album by the “swamp rock” band, Little Feat. The album was recorded during seven performances in 1977. The first four shows were held at the Rainbow Theatre in London on August 1–4, 1977. The last three shows were recorded in George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium on August 8–10 that same summer in Washington, D.C.

Little Feat Waiting 2

The band was backed by the Tower of Power horn section with whom they had recorded in previous studio sessions. And they really fill out the sound!

Dixie Chicken (w/Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt and Jesse Winchester):

Continue reading 30 Best live albums countdown: 29 – Waiting for Columbus by Little Feat