Tag Archives: top 30

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: 25 – Band of Gypsys – Jimi Hendrix

Band Of Gypsys Cover

Baby Child as a man
as a living grain of sand…
Sitting on the ever changing shore,
Greeting the sunrise…
Picked up upon the Gypsy woman,
Hair Flaming Night as ravens even sleep…rainbow cloth
Tambourine complimenting her chant and choice of graces,
And Love Her God…

– Jimi Hendrix

Band of Gypsys is a live album and a band, but it isn’t any kind of band. It is the band that was formed by Jimi Hendrix after The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Band of Gypsys (the band) is Jimi Hendrix backed by Billy Cox (bass) and Buddy Miles (drums). They made one album before Jimi Hendrix died, but what an album!

Band of Gypsies poster

The Songs were recorded at the Fillmore East on two nights, New Years eve 69 and New Years day 70. The Band of Gypsys played  four concerts on these dates, but only songs from the final two shows was included on Band of Gypsys (the album). These shows were the live debut of Band of Gypsys.

Machine Gun:

Continue reading 30 Best live albums countdown: 25 – Band of Gypsys – Jimi Hendrix

30 Best live albums countdown: 26 – The Köln Concert by Keith Jarret

Keith Jarret 1

1432 people in the audience, one piano player. A huge stage and a tiny piano.

When the first notes came running through his hands, everyone knew they witnessed something special, magic. Jarret was completely immersed in his music, it was more than improvisation, it was total unity between performer and music. Jarrett’s improvisation was hypnotically rhythmic, bordering on a mantra.

He doesn’t know where he is going, he has a sense of shape, but he really makes it up as he goes along. He can not play the same concert again, even if he wanted, isn’t that amazing!

He moans, he stands, he sits, he is very much giving a performance, maybe the performance of his lifetime!

Sometimes the hype is justified and The Köln Concert is one of these times. It is the best selling solo album in jazz history and the best selling piano album of all times. And it is so deserved.

Keith jarret 2

Continue reading 30 Best live albums countdown: 26 – The Köln Concert by Keith Jarret

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: 28 – One for the road by The Kinks

One for the road 1

A double album from a criminally underrated period in The Kinks’ carreer is number 28, One for the Road.

The Kinks‘ U.S. career never flourished like that of their British Invasion peers, but that’s another and very interesting story. The Kinks is the quintessentially British band – especially in the nostalgic bittersweet songs of vocalist/rhythm guitarist Ray Davies.

one for the road 4

The Kinks enjoyed arise in popularity in the U.S. in the late ’70s and early ’80s. The gold-selling 1980 double-live album One for the Road is a fascinating document of english gentlemen who paved the way for heavy metal and punk, but always made great pop songs.
This album is my choice for the 28 place on my countdown of the 30 best live albums.

It may be considered an odd choice. partly because many felt that Kinks was over the top at the time and also because they was seen as strangely unmodern, especially in Europe. But that dosn’t matter, I discovered Kinks at this time (two years later actually), we were fed great concerts from Germany’s Rockpalast TV-show and The Kinks was one of the bands that came through our TV sets. I was mainly into punk and new wave but two bands felt very right, even if they were very old (in our eyes at the time), namely The Who and The Kinks. They were just as New Wave as anything we heard at the time. My love for both those bands is an everlasting one, and I have dug into their past eagerly.

One for the road 2

One for the road also proves that Dave Davies is an extremely underrated lead guitarist. The guitar sound is very “punk like”. I belive Sex Pistols learnt a great deal from Kinks, both the guitar style (listen to Where have all the good times gone and Pressure) and the way Ray Davies delivered his lyrics. Brothers Dave Davis and Ray Davies, bass guitarist Jim Rodford, drummer Mick Avory, and guest keyboardists Ian Gibbons and Nick Newell recorded One for the Road at several concerts in 1979 and 1980.

One for the road 3 - lola (live)

Lola is the best-known track from this album, and this live performance was a minor hit single; Ray Davies’ teasing intro shows his playful side. Listen to the Spotify album at the bottom of the post and you will know what I’m talking about.


The Hard Way, Low Budget, a raw, stripped-down Superman, Celluloid Heroes, and You Really Got Me are the other fantastic songs on this album. They may be faster or slower or very different, but they are just as good as their studio album counter parts. I also love the riff on Catch me now I’m Falling, where did they get that one? He, he.


Continue reading 30 Best live albums countdown: 28 – One for the road by The Kinks