The Ten Best Live Rock Recordings: The Best of the Rest
The Grateful Dead: Europe '72 (Warner Brothers, 1972)When asked the best introduction to the Dead for the uninitiated, I recommend Europe '72. I suspect that I will receive more mail about this single statement than any other recent proclamation. This is not the best Pigpen. Ron McKernan was dying by the time these recordings were made, but the band as a whole was on, night after night. From the same period have been released Hundred Year Hall (Grateful Dead 14020, 1995) and Ladies and Gentlemen The Grateful Dead: The Fillmore East New York 1971 (Arista 14075, 2000). Convincing music from the greatest jam band ever.
Rory Gallagher: Irish Tour '74 (Polydor, 1974) Irish blues? Sure, I can't imagine who better. Guitar virtuoso Gallagher turns in an unadorned lo-fi performance of some of his chestnuts, including "Cradle Rock," "Who's That Coming," "Tattoo Lady," and "A Million Miles Away." This disc sports perhaps the best "I Wonder Who" since Muddy Waters first growled those words.
Commander Cody: We've Got A Live One Here (Warner Brothers, 1976/1996) What can I say. More irreverent that Asleep at the Wheel and almost as authentic as Bob Wills and the Playboys. This is the seminal truck-driving album. The good commander steers his way through such tomes of the road as "Semi Truck," "Mama Hated Diesels," and "Eighteen Wheels." But that is not all. "Rose of San Antonio" proves the band can hold its own in the court of Western Swing. "Milk Cow Blues" is a superb blues. And "Too Much Fun" and Hot Rod Lincoln" close a energy filled exciting set.
Slade: Alive (Polydor International, 1972/1998)None of that "Cum on Feel the Noize" shit here. Noddy Holder is in full bloom back in his salad days, screaming his way through John Sebastian's "Darling Be Home Soon" and Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild," not to mention Alvin Lee's "Hear Me Callin'" and Holder's own "In Like A Shot From My Gun." Not another voice like that, unless one considers Bon Scott.
Jimi Hendrix/Otis Redding: Live at Monterey (Reprise 2029, 1972) This is my sentimental favorite. I was about 10 years old when I first heard this and what I was most knocked out about was Jimi Hendrix playing Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone" and Otis Redding's soul searching vocals on "Try a Little Tenderness." Recorded at the Monterey International Pop Festival during the Summer of Love 1967, it was this recording that made stars of Hendrix and Redding. The definitive live recordings of these two artists before Hendrix's Band of Gypsies (MCA 11931, 1999) and Redding's In Person At the Whiskey A Go-GoLive (Rhino 70380, 1996). Both candles extinguished before 1970 closed.
Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band: Live Bullet (Capitol, 1976)/ Nine Tonight (Capitol 46086, 1981)Taken together, these two live recordings, originally released as two 2-LP sets, provide a snapshot of '70s turning into '80s popular music by a journeyman coming into his own. Bob Seger had already been a mover in the music industry. Live Bullet released just prior to Night Moves along with that record was credited with nailing the final nail in the coffin of Punk Rock. Starting with "Nutbush City Limits" and ending with "Let It Rock," while passing through "Beautiful Loser" and "Katmandu," Live Bullet is an arena rockfest. While not as good as its predecessor, Nine Tonight nevertheless delivers that same Seger punch.
Edgar Winter's White Trash: Roadwork (Epic, 1971)Roadwork is the tipple point where Rock and Roll, Blues, Gospel, and R&B meet on the dark end of "Tobacco Road." Armed with brother Johnny Winter, Rick Derringer and a full horn section, Edgar Winter shows that he once had balls before losing them with the tepid "Frankenstein" and beyond. With songs culled from the Trash's first album and the American R&B songbook, Roadwork seethes with rhythm. "Tobacco Road," "Save the Planet," and "Rock and Roll Hoochie Coo" make this collection worth the modest price of admission.
Johnny Winter And: Live (Columbia, 1971)If Jimi Hendrix is the definitive interpreter of Bob Dylan ("All Along the Watch Tower," "Like A Rolling Stone"), then Johnny Winter is the definitive interpreter of the Rolling Stones. "Jumpin' Jack Flash" is as final a statement in Rock Music as can be hoped for. Add a corrosive "Johnny B. Goode" to the mix and the listener is transported to some Hard Rock Nirvana where Britney Spears and N'Cync are no where to be found. Oh, did I mention Winter could sing the blues?
Humble Pie: Rockin' the Fillmore (A&M, 1971)A happy piece of British Invasion fluff, Humble Pie was never as essential as the Rolling Stones or Faces, but did nevertheless provide rock music with an unforgettable rock voice in Steve Marriott and credible rock guitarist turned pop culture Twinkie Peter Frampton. Like Edgar Winter, Frampton used to have balls and they are quite in evidence here. "I Don't Need No Doctor" was an AOR must and still can excite.
U2: Under A Blood Red Sky (Island, 1983)None better than four Irishmen to stir up a revolution. After releasing three well received studio efforts, U2 step out on the stage and provide a minialbum culled mostly from the earlier albums but presented with confident muscle and rage. This is the definitive "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "Gloria" and the definitive live recording of the 1980s.
The Who: Live at Leeds (MCA, 1970)Post-Tommy , pre-Who's Next, Leeds illustrated that Roger Daltrey was the finest rock vocalist of his generation and Peter Townsend the finest composer of his. Loud and proud, "Summertime Blues" sums up the frustrations of the 1960s, repackages them and offers them as a gift to the 1970s.
Lou Reed: Rock n' Roll Animal (RCA, 1974)for "Heroin," of course.