Desert Island Discs: Live Album Edition

Only perhaps on this site could we query folks for Desert Island Live Discs, and find a six-way tie among the responses between the Who, Bill Evans, Little Feat, Kiss, Warren Zevon and the Talking Heads.

The Who and Evans, officially, edged into a shared top spot — since both received two first-place votes a piece for Live at Leeds and Sunday at the Village Vanguard, respectively. Little Feat topped one of our lists with Waiting for Columbus, as well. Alive! from Kiss, Stand in the Fire from Warren Zevon and The Name of This Band is the Talking Heads each received two total votes. We also had multiple nods for separate albums by Bob Dylan, Chicago, the Grateful Dead, John Coltrane and Sting.

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Credit the nature of live discs, which can surprise and delight across every genre there is in music. Don’t believe us? Read on, as Something Else! Reviews’ Desert Island Disc series takes on in-concert recordings …



NICK DERISO

1. BILL EVANS – LIVE AT THE VILLAGE VANGUARD (1961): My favorite live album, and it’s not even close. There are, of course, Evans’ delicate joys, but check bassist Scott Lafaro. This tragic figure, a genius with a unique counter-melodic style, has come to loom almost as large for me.
2. BOB DYLAN AND THE BAND – BEFORE THE FLOOD (1974): Recorded on the last night of the Band reunion — these where their first shows together since their groundbreaking 1966 folk-rock jaunt — this record finds a ferocious group cleaning Dylan’s clock.
3. CANNONBALL ADDERLEY – MERCY, MERCY, MERCY!: LIVE AT ‘THE CLUB’ (1966): Adderley is joined by fellow Miles Davis alum Joe Zawinul on a soul-lifting set, capped by the uproarious title cut. This was, in fact, the first jazz record I ever heard, and my gateway to Davis, who then led me to Charlie Parker, and on to points further out.
4. CHICAGO – AT CARNEGIE HALL (1971): Their first live album is marred a bit by sound problems, in particular with a mis-miked horn section. And these guys are clearly (I mean, seriously) high. Yet there remain these stunning moments of musical prowess, and a shared bond of on-stage brotherhood that I’m not sure Chicago ever completely reproduced on record.
5. SINATRA/BASIE – SINATRA AT THE SANDS (1966): Sinatra often liked to play it cool, approaching the lyric with a wink and a snap. Not here. The Basie band charges forward with a fearsome thunder, surrounding him with banging brass and careening reeds. It’s all Ol’ Blue Eyes can do at times to keep from getting bowled over.

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Michael Wolff on the lasting importance of Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, Nancy Wilson’s way with a song — oh, and being Dear Old Dad around the Naked Brothers Band.]



TOM JOHNSON

1. THE WHO – LIVE AT LEEDS (1970): Not the too-short original, not the complete “deluxe” or even the recent “deluxier” super-deluxe with a whole ‘nother show included, but the Goldilocks-just-right expanded edition first issued in 1995. So tight and amazing in this format. You don’t really need that live version of Tommy, do you?
2. JACO PASTORIUS – THE BIRTHDAY CONCERT (1981): One of my earliest forays into jazz, and what an introduction it was. I couldn’t find anything that even came close to measuring up to this for ages. “Soul Intro/The Chicken” still kicks my ass to this day.
3. TALKING HEADS – THE NAME OF THIS BAND IS TALKING HEADS (1982): As reissued in 2004, I have to give this the nod over Stop Making Sense. The band is leaner, weirder, and more fun here.
4. RUSH – A SHOW OF HANDS (1989): If one wants an example of a live album that highlights a particular time and a particular mood, there aren’t many that do so as well as this one that focuses heavily on Rush’s keyboard-dominated ’80s material – and that’s exactly why I love it so.
5. MIKE KENEALLY – BAKIN’ @ THE POTATO (2011): Some live albums just do it up right, and this one is a great example. Perfect sound, perfect mix of old and new songs, and Mike is perfectly on fire from beginning to end.

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Mike Keneally talks with us about the lingering influences of Frank Zappa and XTC, and his magical introduction to prog through 'Tarkus.']



CHARLIE RICCI

1. JOHN MAYALL – THE TURNING POINT (1969): A unique live album! Two acoustic guitars, harmonica, flute, sax, and bass (no drums) provide the foundation behind this blues based set of tunes. Mayall always made sure the best musicians supported him and this concert is no exception.
2. J. GEILS BAND – FULL HOUSE ‘LIVE’ (1972): This street-wise bar band was always more comfortable on stage than in the studio and they should have been America’s answer to The Rolling Stones. All the ingredients were there.
3. THE BEACH BOYS – IN CONCERT (1973): This double set LP, single CD, is a testament to the great touring band Carl Wilson led during the early ’70s. The album is full of both hits and rarities that span The Beach Boys entire career up to this point in time.
4. BILLY JOEL – SONGS IN THE ATTIC (1981): This is easily Joel’s most rewarding album. His goal was to offer superior live versions of the best of his deep tracks from his pre-Stranger days. He succeeded.
5. BLACK 47 – LIVE IN NEW YORK CITY (1999): These Irish-American rockers play a combination of Celtic-folk, reggae, and punk rock. If you can picture the Chieftains, the Clash, and Bob Marley and the Wailers all playing on the same stage, in the same band, at the same time, you get the idea.

[SOMETHING ELSE! FEATURED ARTIST: We track back to some of our favorite, most memorable moments from the long history of Kiss - from 'Destroyer' to 'Alive,' from from 'Ace Frehley' to 'Revenge.']



FRED PHILLIPS

1. IRON MAIDEN – LIVE AFTER DEATH (1985): This album, for me, is arguably the greatest live album of all time. Maiden, always a great live band, rips through about an hour and 12 minutes worth (an hour and 42 minutes if you have the original LP version, which sadly, I don’t, but I accept donations if you have one you don’t want anymore) of the best songs from their best albums.
2. BLACK SABBATH – LIVE EVIL (1982): Many people will disagree, but I have always loved this record. Ronnie James Dio and Vinny Appice bring a different feel to the classic Ozzy lineup songs on this record that make it a very interesting performance.
3. KISS – ALIVE! (1975): Alive or Alive II? Tough call. Alive II has a few songs that I really like, but in the end, the hit parade of Alive won out. Can’t really go wrong with a single song on this record. Party rock ‘n‘ roll as it should be done.
4. OZZY OSBOURNE – LIVE AND LOUD (1993): My heart says Tribute, the little demon on my shoulder whispers Speak of the Devil. In the end, though, I think this is my favorite of the three Ozzy live albums that got consideration. It features a better mix of songs from his whole career to that point, and the version of “Changes” with Zakk Wylde on piano is phenomenal.
5. TED NUGENT – DOUBLE LIVE GONZO (1978): It’s not a perfect record. I think it’s missing a few important songs, but it does showcase Uncle Nuge at the height of his powers, doing what he does best.

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Chad Wackerman stopped by for an SER Sitdown that focused on Frank Zappa and the celebrated drummer's 2012 jazz-rock project.]



MARK SALESKI

1. LITTLE FEAT – WAITING FOR COLUMBUS (1978): It’s a big ‘ole greazy pot of blues/rock/funk/jazz. It’s also full of heart,groove, and fun. Easily my favorite live rock album.
2. KISS – ALIVE! (1975): Sometimes you need, as Frank Zappa called it, the Big Stupid. Hell yeah, I do!
3. ROLLING STONES – GET YER YA-YA’S OUT (1970): The Stones at the height of their powers. It’s an edit from a full show but worth it for the killer versions of “Midnight Rambler,” “Sympathy For The Devil,” and (especially!) “Honky Tonk Woman.”
4. FRANK ZAPPA – YOU CAN’T DO THAT ON STAGE ANYMORE, VOL. 2, THE HELSINKI CONCERTS (1988): Frank and his band were so good they made even the impossible stuff (“Approximate”) look easy.
5. GRATEFUL DEAD – DEAD SET (1981): There’s a metric buttload of live Grateful Dead recordings out there from the iconic Europe 72 to the Dick’s Picks series. Despite this particular recording not having some of my favorite Dead tunes, I’ve always loved the vibe of the show.

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MATTHEW REYNOLDS

1. BOB DYLAN – THE BOOTLEG SERIES VOL. 4, LIVE 1966: THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL CONCERT (1988): Dylan and members of the Band toured Europe not long after he plugged in and broke folk traditionalists’ hearts at Newport, and you could cut the awkwardness with a knife. When a heckler screams “Judas” at Dylan in between tunes, Bob responds in original punk fashion — calling the unhappy patron a liar before telling Robbie Robertson to “play it fucking loud” as they launch into a blistering version of “Like a Rolling Stone.”
2. THE GRATEFUL DEAD – ROCKING THE CRADLE (2008): This 1978 concert catches a glimpse of the Dead approaching their heyday as a touring juggernaut, with a jiving version of “Shakedown Street” from the last night under Egyptian skies – an evening that was also marked by a lunar eclipse highly viewable from Cairo.
3. BOB MARLEY AND THE WAILERS – LIVE (1975): I’ve often wondered how a country of so much poverty and pain could have produced the soothing sounds of the Wailers. It’s like Bob Marley and his band of Rastafarian rebels had to produce their style of music just to counteract the tragedy of life around them.
4. THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND – LIVE AT FILLMORE EAST (1971): There’s not a wealth of recordings of Duane Allman with the band available for consumption, but every single one is magical — and none touch this performance, which displays some of the most soul-piercing guitar work in rock history.
5. LITTLE FEAT – WAITING ON COLUMBUS (1978): This boogie-down jam band had the type of loyal followers that rivaled the Dead, and they partied like them to. Taken from seven shows from their ’77 tour in England and the U.S., Little Feat put together 17 live tracks that would become one of the most feel-good southern rock albums constructed.

[SHOWS I'LL NEVER FORGET: On this night, Bob Dylan once again proved he was no fan of history. And that’s why I’ve been a fan of his for so long.]



KIT O’TOOLE

1. STING – BRING ON THE NIGHT (1986): Supported by a crack group of players, Sting proves that rock and jazz can peacefully co-exist. In addition, Kenny Kirkland’s piano solo on “Bring on the Night/When the World is Running Down” is simply sublime.
2. GENESIS – THREE SIDES LIVE (1982): Recorded right before they turned completely pop, the now Collins-driven group performed both mainstream tracks as well as artsier classics like the “In the Cage” medley. It’s also a sentimental favorite for me, as the album served as my “conversion” into a Genesis fan.
3. THE BEATLES – LIVE AT THE BBC (1994): From 1962-1965, the Beatles performed their own songs and covers live in the radio studio. If you need proof that the Beatles were one of the most dangerous live bands in rock, check out this amazing album.
4. ERYKAH BADU – LIVE (1997): Releasing a live disc as a second album is a risky move. But Badu’s jazz-inflected performances of “Next Lifetime” and “Otherside of the Game” effectively demonstrated that she was the real deal.
5. TONY BENNETT – UNPLUGGED (1994): The entire show can be summarized by one song: “Fly Me to the Moon.” All the mics and amps are turned off, allowing Bennett to show off both the power and nuances of his voice.

[BEYOND THE BEATLES' HITS: Think you know the Fab Four? Kit O'Toole's 'Deep Beatles' series takes you into some undiscovered corners of the group's ageless musical legacy.]



PERPLEXIO

1. CHICAGO – LIVE IN JAPAN (1972): Compared to the U.S.-released Live at Carnegie Hall, with horns sounding like kazoos, Live in Japan is in another ballpark completely. Easily the best Chicago live album ever officially released.
2. TOTO – FALLING IN BETWEEN LIVE (2008): A farewell album of sorts. The band sounds tight and it includes material from all eras of Toto.
3. DREAM THEATER – SCORE: 20TH ANNIVERSARY CONCERT (2006): An orchestra backs the band on two of this set’s three CDs, as Dream Theater plays some of its more technically complex and classically inspired material.
4. REO SPEEDWAGON – YOU GET WHAT PLAY FOR LIVE (1978): REO was one of those bands that sounds better live than in the studio. And this live release was recorded when the band was still rocking in their pre-Hi-Infidelity days.
5. POCO – THE LAST ROUND-UP (2004): Recorded during the “Indian Summer” tour back in 1977, it was a fan favorite in bootleg circles for years before it was finally officially released in 2004. This album is the epitome of live country-rock and captures the energy of the show much better than many other live albums by other bands.

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Steve Lukather takes us inside the sessions for Michael Jackson's blockbuster album 'Thriller,' saying: "We knew something special was happening."]



DAVID GREENBERG

1. JOHN COLTRANE – LIVE AT THE HALF NOTE (2005): Recorded in 1965, we see Coltrane at arguably the pinnacle of his creative mastery. His solo on “One Down, One Up” lasts for over 25 minutes, and it is nothing short but an absolute masterpiece — not leaving a single human emotion untouched.
2. BILL EVANS TRIO FEATURING STAN GETZ – BUT BEAUTIFUL (1995): Featuring songs from several live dates in August, 1974 — one of which was Evans’ Birthday — this album catches Getz’s interpretation of “The Peacocks,” which may be the most beautifully played ballad I’ve ever heard.
3. STING – ALL THIS TIME (2001): Before this concert which took place on September 11th, Sting gave the musicians the option of stepping down, but none did, leading to an emotionally raw and ever-so-meaningful performance.
4. JOE HENDERSON – JOE HENDERSON IN JAPAN (1971): Recorded with a relatively unknown (in the U.S.) all-Japanese rhythm section, Henderson is soaring on this album like a bird that has just been uncaged.
5. DUKE ELLINGTON – ELLINGTON AT NEWPORT (1956): As is now legend in the jazz community, Paul Gonsalves’ electrifying 27-chorus solo on “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue” caused a woman to hop down from her box seat in excitement — and soon, the rest of the audience joined her.



GORDON HAUPTFLEISCH

1. THE WHO – LIVE AT LEEDS (1970): The raw immediacy of this album signifies that it’s “meant to be played loud.” That’s a given. But in my case it was also seemingly meant to emanate from a crappy eight-track tape, bought at a swap meet or from the trunk of stranger’s car much like, say, my friend’s ’65 Impala with its tape-eating eight-track player — or from my scratchy used copy of the simply-packaged LP, which for some reason lent itself to the previous owner’s scribbles and math problems.
2. TOM WAITS – NIGHTHAWKS AT THE DINER (1975): Oh, to have been a barfly on the wall! I would’ve forgone my frontal lobotomy to have a bottle in front of me, strike up an Old Gold in a Naugahyde booth at Nighthawks’ nightclub setting soaking up the “inebriational travelogue” offered up by this early career souvenir, punctuated by beatnik bonhomie and bon mots. And of course, afterwards I would’ve gone out for one of those “strange looking patty melts at Norms” — the one on Fifth and Vermouth, of course.
3. WARREN ZEVON – STAND IN THE FIRE (1981): “He’ll rip your lungs out Jim, and he’s looking for James Taylor!” “Enjoy every sandwich” on the excitable powerhouse performance documented here in an intensity and passion that perfectly mirrored my experience in seeing Zevon live. And by the way: His hair was perfect!
4. NEIL YOUNG – LIVE RUST (1979): I’ve seen the record needle and the damage done: With its irresistible sequencing of powered-out performances of “Powderfinger,” “Cortez the Killer,” and “Cinnamon Girl,” I practically wore out the grooves of side three of the original double LP soon enough.
5. TALKING HEADS – THE NAME OF THIS BAND IS TALKING HEADS (1982): Unique for chronicling the as-it-happened evolution of the group, this energetic double album sees the first crisp and quirky disc showcasing the core four-Heads. But by the time of the recording of songs for the burning-down-the-house second disc, they had benefited by picking up backing vocalists and musicians including P-Funk veteran Bernie Worrell, and newbie Adrian Belew.

[SOMETHING ELSE! FEATURED ARTIST: We dig into some favorite Talking Heads cuts, including "Once in a Lifetime," "Crosseyed and Painless," "Memories Can't Wait," "I Zimbra" and "Sax and Violins."]



S. VICTOR AARON

1. BILL EVANS – SUNDAY AT THE VILLAGE VANGUARD (1961): The most magical trio performance ever recorded. This one gets the nod over Waltz For Debby, culled for the same gig, for the emphasis on Scott LaFaro — and for LaFaro’s gorgeous tune “Gloria’s Step.”
2. JOHN COLTRANE – LIVE AT THE VILLAGE VANGUARD (1962): Trane at a peak with a performance that must have had to be seen to be believed. Bringing along Eric Dolphy for the ride made it even better.
3. PETER BRÖTZMANN – FUCK de BOERE (1970): Just two tracks — a raw, raucous early live version of the seminal “Machine Gun” and a later audio cyclone featuring Derek Bailey and four trombones. Whack jazz at its finest.
4. GEORGE BENSON – WEEKEND IN LA (1978): Benson’s tightest, funkiest unit unencumbered by studio sterilization and Claus Ogerman’s weighty orchestral backdrops.
5. WARREN ZEVON – STAND IN THE FIRE (1981): Energetic and clean, Zevon performs several of his gems from his classic 1976-1980 period.

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Something Else!

The Something Else! webzine, an accredited Google News affiliate, has been featured in The New York Times and NPR.com's A Blog Supreme, while our writers have also been published by USA Today, Jazz.com and UltimateClassicRock.com, among others. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
  • http://www.somethingelsereviews.com Something Else! Reviews

    MORE FROM AROUND THE WATERCOOLER AT SER TOWERS …

    MARK SALESKI: This was the hardest one so far.

    NICK DERISO: Toughest cut I made: Miles Davis’ ‘Plugged Nickel’ recording. A boiling group of rebels that included Tony Williams and Herbie Hancock shoves Davis toward a complete evisceration of these once-cherished standards, in what became the first of a number of mind-blowing experiences as I dug into Miles’ post-Coltrane period. I’m not sure I’ve gotten over it yet.

    GORDON HAUPTFLEISCH: My honorable mentions — Bob Dylan, The Bootleg Series, Vol. 4: The Royal Albert Hall Concert; Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band, Live 1975-’85; Elvis Costello/Steve Nieve, Costello & Nieve; Ray Davies, The Storyteller; Maria McKee, Live at the BBC; Little Feat, Waiting For Columbus; and Roy Orbison, Black and White Night.

    FRED PHILLIPS: Those who know me will be stunned to note the absence of Aerosmith’s ‘Live Bootleg,’ a decision I struggled with, my loyalties torn between fandom and records I felt had to be there. There are lots and lots of great live albums out there, and five is tough. I’m missing Priest’s ‘Unleashed in the East,’ Iced Earth’s ‘Alive in Athens,’ AC/DC’s 1992 live album, Blind Guardian’s live double album, all of which get regular play at my house. Other favorites like Nirvana’s ‘Unplugged in New York’ or Tesla’s ‘Five Man Acoustical Jam’ will hopefully get their moment on an acoustic desert island list one day. And how can you ignore ‘Live at Folsom Prison’? Not easily.

    NICK DERISO: I considered Sting’s ‘Bring on the Night,’ which made Kit’s list. He really gave new life to songs from his uneven solo debut, but also (more intriguingly) sparked new musical conversations within older Police sides. It was jazz-rock for a new generation, and maybe the best thing he ever did.

    KIT O’TOOLE: For me, Paul McCartney’s ‘Wings Over America’ was a REALLY close call, as this album (as well as the accompanying documentary ‘Rockshow’) epitomize a great rock concert. For my money, “Rockshow” and “Jet” are some of the best concert opening songs ever.

    MATT REYNOLDS: What an album the Grateful Dead’s ‘Rocking the Cradle’ was: Just a stone’s throw from the Great Pyramid and the Sphinx, Uncle Jerry and his army of crazies invaded the cradle of the ancient world for three days in 1978. Terrible recordings of the first night supposedly kept the tapes buried in the sand for thirty years until we finally got to hear them in late 2008.

  • Perplexio

    Cold Chisel’s 2003 “Ringside” from their reunion tour barely missed my list. Chisel is one of Australia’s best kept secrets. Jimmy Barnes voice is a bit of an acquired taste but once I acquired that taste I can’t get enough of it!

    Hunters & Collectors “Under One Roof” was another near miss. There’s something about Aussie pub rock that translates far better to live settings than the studio and both H&C and Cold Chisel epitomize that.

  • Tom Johnson

    I could also have thrown in the Flecktones’ Live Art, one of those live albums that succinctly sums up what a band is about and would suffice as all that is needed by someone who didn’t want to invest in their catalog.

  • http://bloggerhythms.blogspot.com Charlie

    I can’t believe I forgot about The Last Waltz!! It should have been on my list and I can’t believe NO ONE else put it on their lists. Great album!

    • http://www.somethingelsereviews.com Nick DeRiso

      I just like ‘Before the Flood’ much more … and ‘Rock of Ages’ (which made an earlier list of mine) too for that matter. All of the guest stars, while fun in their way, ultimately become rather distracting for me on ‘The Last Waltz.’ If I want to hear the Band live, that’s always the last one I consider.

  • http://www.somethingelsereviews.com Something Else! Reviews

    STILL MORE FROM AROUND THE WATERCOOLER AT SER TOWERS …

    GORDON HAUPTFLEISCH: No, when it comes to the Who’s ‘Live at Leeds,’ I just can’t have nice things, but it didn’t prevent me from enjoying it. The force of such a superseding sonic assault originating from only three instruments and a main vocalist was revelatory to me, then and now.

    NICK DERISO: On ‘Before the Flood,’ Bob Dylan sounds, at turns, invigorated and taken aback (sometimes during the same tune) by the rising storm the Band was kicking up behind him.

    FRED PHILLIPS: I’ve heard that Dio never liked singing the Ozzy songs, but you can’t tell it from the way he delivers them on Black Sabbath’s ‘Live Evil.’ I don’t like all of them (“War Pigs,” for example, doesn’t really work for me), but most are great.

    GORDON HAUPTFLEISCH: Neil Young’s ‘Live Rust’ is one of the most consistent and mesmerizing live albums ever. The affecting and fiery quality is sustained throughout, comprising a stellar career retrospective to that point.

    MATT REYNOLDS: A 22-plus minute version of “Whipping Post” on the Allman’s ‘Live at the Fillmore East’ came to be Duane’s lasting swan song, as the 24-year-old died in a motorcycle crash only months after the release of the album. Pick up your gear, gypsy roll on!

    FRED PHILLIPS: I wore out Iron Maiden’s ‘Live After Death’ on cassette — and limped along, babying it in my player for years after a corner broke off, exposing the tape.

    GORDON HAUPTFLEISCH: Disc 1 of ‘The Name of This Band is the Talking Heads’ will always evoke for me the experience of having seen them burning down the house at an L.A. club — on a bill with Iggy Pop.

    NICK DERISO: That Heads album is TITANIC.

    TOM JOHNSON: That one somehow almost slipped my mind and I’d have been really pissed because it IS titanic. I wanted to slot in Maiden’s must-have ‘Live After Death,’ too, but since Fred covered it I feel okay going with something else. But there’s a silent sixth entry there for that. I really hope they do a real reissue of this someday (and not the shoddy, god-awful remaster they did in the 90s with the extra disc – that whole catalog remaster is, no exaggeration, among the very worst sounding reissues ever.)

    FRED PHILLIPS: I bought a couple of those for the bonus tracks on the extra discs, the Bruce Dickinson version of “Wrathchild,” in particular. They were pretty bad. Just a release that puts the other five songs that were on the original vinyl back on it would be nice.

  • Roy Martin

    I defer to no one in my love for “Nighthawks at the Diner,” but it really isn’t a “live” album as it was recorded in the studio with invited guests making up the “audience.”

    The live album that’s guaranteed to make you smile is The Ventures’ “Live in Japan ’65.” Each song is introduced by a Japanese MC: “When man went into outer space The Ventures were there to make some music for them…Ladies and Gentlemen they play for you ‘Outer Limits!’”

    • Perplexio

      Another Live album that kind of fits the mold of “studio album recorded live with an audience” that I really dig is Bill Champlin’s “MayDay” release from 1996 or so. He assembled a band of his favorite cats (Rochon Westmoreland and Jerry Lopez from Santa Fe and the Fat City Horns, and his wife Tamara all participated) and performed a handful of songs including “After the Love Has Gone” which he co-wrote with David Foster and Jay Graydon and which won a grammy for Earth Wind & Fire. He also did a killer cover of “In the Heat of the Night.”

      • http://www.somethingelsereviews.com Something Else! Reviews

        YES, STILL MORE FROM AROUND THE WATERCOOLER AT SER TOWERS …

        GORDON HAUPTFLEISCH: This was a tough list to narrow down — I was tempted to make each of my top five three-way ties to account for everything. In any case, I was surprised to realize that I had seen (and met in the case of Costello and Waits, plus a “Brushes with David Byrne” moment) all of the artists in my top five and honorable mentions, except one (someday, Neil). Also there are two — Roy Orbison and Little Feat’s Lowell George, I had seen shortly before they died.

        KIT O’TOOLE: Another honorable mention — Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Live in Central Park.’ Art Garfunkel’s stunningly emotional rendition of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” still reduces me to tears.

        CHARLIE RICCI: As a front man, Mick Jagger had nothing on Peter Wolf.

        MATT REYNOLDS: Backed by the funky Tower of Power on ‘Waiting for Columbus,’ Little Feat captured the best versions ever recorded of classics such as “Dixie Chicken” and “Rocket in My Pocket.”

        KIT O’TOOLE: Always loved Maxwell’s ‘Unplugged,’ too. In concert, he completely rearranges his previously released songs to beautiful effect. And where else can you find a gospel makeover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer”?

        CHARLIE RICCI: With ‘The Beach Boys in Concert,’ they proved they didn’t miss Brian Wilson — even if he was the guiding light on most of the actual songs.

        MATT REYNOLDS: The uplifting and energetic version of “No Woman No Cry” on the Wailers’ ‘Live’ album became the standard version broadcasted today. Bob got it right on “Trenchtown” when he wrote, “one thing about music, when it hits you, feel no pain.”

        KIT O’TOOLE: ‘Concert for Bangladesh’ from George Harrison almost made my list, too. An all-star group, led by Harrison, performs passionately for a good cause. Harrison’s live version of “Wah Wah” rivals the studio recording.

        NICK DERISO: Talking about Scott LaFaro, it’s still amazing to me that he performed for just six years between 1955-61, yet he moved his instrument into a whole new place.

        FRED PHILLIPS: No matter what you think of Nugent or his personal philosophies, you’ve got to give him this: He brings it live. If you’re at a Ted Nugent show, you will be entertained.

        S. VICTOR AARON: Yes, with a lot of artists, you have to separate the music from the person. ‘Double Live Gonzo’ is undeniably a great live record from a time when he concentrated more on the music.

        NICK DERISO: Whatever his politics, you’re going to have to pry my vinyl copy of ‘Double Live Gonzo’ out of my cold dead hands.

        KIT O’TOOLE: The rest of my honorable mentions: ‘Woodstock’ (Some artists may not have turned in some of their best performances here — hello, Crosby, Stills and Nash! — but the festival is so historically significant that the album cannot be overlooked); Bill Withers’ ‘Live at Carnegie Hall’ (His gentle, heartfelt rendition of “Grandma’s Hands” is worth the price of the album alone); and James Taylor’s ‘Live’ and ‘One Many Band’ (Hard to decide which one is superior, as both showcase different sides of the legend. On the latter album, his lovely performance of the poetic “Frozen Man” demonstrates his gifts as a singer and songwriter).

    • http://www.somethingelsereviews.com Nick DeRiso

      I don’t think it has to have been on a tour date to be considered a live recording. My Cannonball Adderley album pick was also recorded in a similar fashion, on a sound stage with invited guests and an open bar. But, as with ‘Nighthawks,’ that still qualifies — to me — since it was done in front of an audience.

  • Gordon Hauptfleisch

    An unforgivable overnight in my part remains the Raspberries’ “Live on the Sunset Strip”:
    The Raspberries got back together to “Go All the Way”—still one of the most deliriously sublime slices of power-pop ever–to incite a rapturous crowd in 2005 at House of Blues in Los Angeles.

    Also not on my radar–I wasn’t thinking in term of various artists’–is “The Last Waltz.” A highlight is Van Morrison’s “Caravan,” but on the video you get the added bonus of an animated Morrison triggering admiring facial exchanges among the Band marveling at his performance, replete with some Rockette-like leg kicks.

  • Andy

    Would love to see my favorite live recording Miles’s My Funny Valentine and Four and More on this list with a kicking rhythm section featuring a 19 year old Tony Williams and the vastly underrated George Coleman on tenor sax.