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The 20 greatest live albums of all time

The 20 greatest live albums of all time

5/23/2020 10:27:00 AM

The 20 greatest live albums of all time

A good live album should have a special aura around it, giving the listener the sensation of actually being present at a momentous event. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Who ’s ‘Live at Leeds’, Graeme Ross picks his favourites

1/2020. Cast – All ChangeRetro Sixties meets Britpop on the Liverpool band’s excellent debut. John Leckie produced and main man John Power brought his La’s credentials, so guitars and harmonies shine. Hit singles “Walkaway”, “Alright” and “Sandstorm” are among the highlights and “Promised Land”, with fuzzed Neil Young guitars and a Ritchie Furay-like vocal, wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Buffalo Springfield’s first album.

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Polydor2/2019. The Jayhawks – Tomorrow the Green GrassChanneling the spirit of Gram Parsons, the alt/country luminaries’ fourth album found them in their mid-career pomp. Gorgeous melodies and wistful vocals illuminate “Two Hearts” and aching opener “Blue”, while “Real Light” and “Ten Little Kids” display a rockier approach. The cover of “Bad Time” achieves the near impossible feat of weaving silk from a Grand Funk Railroad song.

American Recordings3/2018. Blur – The Great Escape“Country House” might have won the singles race with Oasis, but The Great Escape’s reputation has fluctuated over the years. Still, there’s a broad scope to the songs here, the best of which – “Fade Away”, “The Universal” (one of Blur’s most ambitious), the Kinks-like “Charmless Man” and touching ballad “Yuko and Hiro” – ensure The Great Escape has a place on this list.

Virgin4/2017. Alanis Morissette – Jagged Little PillOne of the biggest and most unexpected successes of 1995, the Grammy album-of-the-year winner put the highly wrought Morissette on the confessional singer-songwriter map. Some found the unrelenting navel-gazing and uncompromising language overwhelming. Nevertheless, powerful songs such as “Ironic”, “You Oughta Know” and “Hand in My Pocket” struck a chord with many and the album sold shed-loads.

Maverick, Reprise5/2016. Black Grape – It’s Great When You’re Straight… YeahThis phoenix-like rise from the ashes of the Happy Mondays topped the charts. Relics of the old sound remained, but on mighty epics “Reverend Black Grape”, “Kelly’s Heroes” and “Shake Your Money”, Shaun Ryder, joined by rapper Kermit and remixing guru Danny Saber, unashamedly looted various back catalogues, adding hip hop, rock, soul and funk to the 24-hour party.

Radioactive6/2015. Garbage – GarbageThis knowing, grungy mix of styles – presided over by Shirley Manson, one of the faces and personalities of the year – was a superb debut, laced with loops and samples. Arresting opener “Supervixen” immediately grabs the attention with its stop/start motif, and in among the multifaceted groove lie banging singles “Stupid Girl”, “Queer” and “Only Happy When It Rains”.

Almo7/2014. Paul Weller – Stanley RoadWith Steve Winwood guesting on “Woodcutter’s Son” and “Pink on White Walls”, a lovely Traffic vibe permeates the autobiographical successor to Wild Wood. Described by Weller as the culmination of his solo career to that point, blistering opener “The Changingman”, soulful ballads “You Do Something to Me” and “Wings of Speed”, and the menacing “Porcelain Gods” rank among Weller’s finest.

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Go! Discs Island8/2013. The Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness“The impossible is possible,” Billy Corgan exhorts on the outstanding “Tonight, Tonight”, which follows the opening instrumental and really kick-starts this post-grunge classic. Corgan then attempts to prove it on a wildly ambitious and breathtakingly audacious double album – which, even at two hours long, and with a dazzling array of styles, doesn’t overreach itself, and which also includes other essential Pumpkins songs “1979”, “Zero” and “Muzzle”.

Virgin9/2012. Elliott Smith – Elliott SmithSmith’s lo-fi second album was the template for his future success and acclaim. A dark album with Smith baring his soul throughout, it has finger-picked guitars and hushed delivery that recall Nick Drake. Addiction and depression haunt beautifully structured songs like “Needle in the Hay”, “The Biggest Lie” and “Christian Brothers”, but this fragile, intimate record rewards repeated listening.

Kill Rock Stars10/2011. Elastica – ElasticaFronted by glacial ice maiden Justine Frischmann, these magpies threatened to become better known for the bands they were ripping off on early singles “Connection” (Wire) and “Waking Up” (The Stranglers), both found here. However, Elastica’s debut album quickly powered its way to No 1 in the charts, their brand of spiky punk attitude striking gold in Britpop’s banner year.

Deceptive11/2010. Leftfield – LeftismClub music entered the mainstream with this Mercury Prize-nominated album. Techno, punk, trance, ragga, tribal chants, it’s all here – and familiar even to the uninitiated, thanks to the frequent media use of tracks like “Release the Pressure” and “Song of Life”. It’s notable, too, for highly successful collaborations with Toni Halliday (“Original”), and John Lydon’s ferocious vocal on “Open Up”.

Hard Hands12/209. PJ Harvey – To Bring You My LoveHarvey’s rootsy third album tempered the rage of earlier works, however Harvey’s enduring themes, such as the paradox between the carnal and the spiritual, remain on tracks such as “The Dancer”. “Send His Love to Me” was a mainstream breakthrough, while the key track on arguably her best album, “Down by the Water”, was a chilling slice of swamp blues.

Island13/208. Bjork – PostWith scant regard for the difficult second album cliche, this truly original artist produced a brilliantly eclectic album, exploring ambient and electronica along with the usual pop and avant-garde elements. The quirky single “It’s Oh So Quiet” grabbed the headlines but the string-laden “Isobel”, the wonderful folk/techno hybrid “Hyperballad”, and the industrial beats of “Army of Me” proved much more rewarding.

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One Little Indian14/207. Teenage Fanclub – Grand PrixAll the hallmarks of the art cherished by so many are here – great harmonies and melodies, jangly guitars, ramshackle yet finely crafted production on a suite of glorious Big Star, Byrds and Beach Boys-influenced songs. “Verisimilitude”, “Don’t Look Back”, the euphoric “I’ll Make It Clear” and “Sparky’s Dream” are absolute wonders, making this the Fannies’ finest record.

Creation15/206. Mercury Rev – See You on the Other SideMore accessible than the avant-garde psychedelia of previous works, the dreamy ambience and gloriously off-kilter sounds of Mercury Rev’s third album anticipated Deserter’s Songs. David Baker’s departure handed vocal duties to Jonathan Donahue and jazzy flourishes and lush orchestration dominated. “Sudden Ray of Hope”, “Everlasting Arm” and “Racing the Tide” are just some of the majestic, expansive marvels on display here.

Beggars Banquet16/205. Pulp – Different ClassJarvis Cocker trained his jaundiced eye on British social and sexual mores on Pulp’s breakthrough album, establishing himself as the wittiest, most articulate songsmith of his generation. The autobiographical “Mis-Shapes” and the voyeuristic “I Spy”, on which he made it quite clear what to do with your year in Provence, dazzle, and in the cherished “Common People”, Cocker created an anthem for the ages.

Island Records17/204. Supergrass – I Should Coco.A joy from start to finish, full of humour, manic punk energy, great hooks and melodies in a wide range of styles, encompassing all manner of Sixties and Seventies influences. “Caught by the Fuzz”, “Alright”, “Mansize Rooster”, “Lenny” and “Time” are just some of the singalong classics that earned this classic debut a special place in the nation’s hearts.

Parlophone18/203. Tricky – MaxinquayeA brooding paranoia inhabits this disturbing but totally compelling journey through the mind of the trip hop maestro. Tricky merged various genres, sampling Public Enemy, The Smashing Pumpkins, Isaac Hayes, and Michael Jackson over deathly slow hip-hop beats and off-kilter sounds, juxtaposed with ethereal, occasionally sinister female vocals. A quarter of a century on, Maxinquaye remains innovative, influential and damn-near perfect.

4th & B'Way19/202. Oasis – (What’s the Story) Morning GloryThe only matter still up for debate about this album is whether or not it trumps Definitely Maybe as Oasis’s finest hour. For me, the masterful songwriting and assured performances here just edge it, and there’s barely a misstep. “Champagne Supernova”, “Cast No Shadow”, “Morning Glory”, “Don’t Look Back in Anger” and “Wonderwall” are wonderful, with the rest not far behind.

Creation20/201. Radiohead – The BendsDownbeat, melancholic, yet wonderfully melodic and uplifting, with Thom Yorke’s tortured lyrics and anguished falsetto perfectly matched to soaring guitar-driven soundscape, rarely has such sweeping ambition been so bountifully fulfilled than on Radiohead’s boundary pushing second album. Epic in stature and vision, yet remarkably intimate, The Bends stood apart from Britpop and everything else in the storied year of 1995.

Parlophone/Capitol1/2020. Cast – All ChangeRetro Sixties meets Britpop on the Liverpool band’s excellent debut. John Leckie produced and main man John Power brought his La’s credentials, so guitars and harmonies shine. Hit singles “Walkaway”, “Alright” and “Sandstorm” are among the highlights and “Promised Land”, with fuzzed Neil Young guitars and a Ritchie Furay-like vocal, wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Buffalo Springfield’s first album.

Polydor2/2019. The Jayhawks – Tomorrow the Green GrassChanneling the spirit of Gram Parsons, the alt/country luminaries’ fourth album found them in their mid-career pomp. Gorgeous melodies and wistful vocals illuminate “Two Hearts” and aching opener “Blue”, while “Real Light” and “Ten Little Kids” display a rockier approach. The cover of “Bad Time” achieves the near impossible feat of weaving silk from a Grand Funk Railroad song.

American Recordings3/2018. Blur – The Great Escape“Country House” might have won the singles race with Oasis, but The Great Escape’s reputation has fluctuated over the years. Still, there’s a broad scope to the songs here, the best of which – “Fade Away”, “The Universal” (one of Blur’s most ambitious), the Kinks-like “Charmless Man” and touching ballad “Yuko and Hiro” – ensure The Great Escape has a place on this list.

Virgin4/2017. Alanis Morissette – Jagged Little PillOne of the biggest and most unexpected successes of 1995, the Grammy album-of-the-year winner put the highly wrought Morissette on the confessional singer-songwriter map. Some found the unrelenting navel-gazing and uncompromising language overwhelming. Nevertheless, powerful songs such as “Ironic”, “You Oughta Know” and “Hand in My Pocket” struck a chord with many and the album sold shed-loads.

Maverick, Reprise5/2016. Black Grape – It’s Great When You’re Straight… YeahThis phoenix-like rise from the ashes of the Happy Mondays topped the charts. Relics of the old sound remained, but on mighty epics “Reverend Black Grape”, “Kelly’s Heroes” and “Shake Your Money”, Shaun Ryder, joined by rapper Kermit and remixing guru Danny Saber, unashamedly looted various back catalogues, adding hip hop, rock, soul and funk to the 24-hour party.

Radioactive6/2015. Garbage – GarbageThis knowing, grungy mix of styles – presided over by Shirley Manson, one of the faces and personalities of the year – was a superb debut, laced with loops and samples. Arresting opener “Supervixen” immediately grabs the attention with its stop/start motif, and in among the multifaceted groove lie banging singles “Stupid Girl”, “Queer” and “Only Happy When It Rains”.

Almo7/2014. Paul Weller – Stanley RoadWith Steve Winwood guesting on “Woodcutter’s Son” and “Pink on White Walls”, a lovely Traffic vibe permeates the autobiographical successor to Wild Wood. Described by Weller as the culmination of his solo career to that point, blistering opener “The Changingman”, soulful ballads “You Do Something to Me” and “Wings of Speed”, and the menacing “Porcelain Gods” rank among Weller’s finest.

Go! Discs Island8/2013. The Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness“The impossible is possible,” Billy Corgan exhorts on the outstanding “Tonight, Tonight”, which follows the opening instrumental and really kick-starts this post-grunge classic. Corgan then attempts to prove it on a wildly ambitious and breathtakingly audacious double album – which, even at two hours long, and with a dazzling array of styles, doesn’t overreach itself, and which also includes other essential Pumpkins songs “1979”, “Zero” and “Muzzle”.

Virgin9/2012. Elliott Smith – Elliott SmithSmith’s lo-fi second album was the template for his future success and acclaim. A dark album with Smith baring his soul throughout, it has finger-picked guitars and hushed delivery that recall Nick Drake. Addiction and depression haunt beautifully structured songs like “Needle in the Hay”, “The Biggest Lie” and “Christian Brothers”, but this fragile, intimate record rewards repeated listening.

Kill Rock Stars10/2011. Elastica – ElasticaFronted by glacial ice maiden Justine Frischmann, these magpies threatened to become better known for the bands they were ripping off on early singles “Connection” (Wire) and “Waking Up” (The Stranglers), both found here. However, Elastica’s debut album quickly powered its way to No 1 in the charts, their brand of spiky punk attitude striking gold in Britpop’s banner year.

Deceptive11/2010. Leftfield – LeftismClub music entered the mainstream with this Mercury Prize-nominated album. Techno, punk, trance, ragga, tribal chants, it’s all here – and familiar even to the uninitiated, thanks to the frequent media use of tracks like “Release the Pressure” and “Song of Life”. It’s notable, too, for highly successful collaborations with Toni Halliday (“Original”), and John Lydon’s ferocious vocal on “Open Up”.

Hard Hands12/209. PJ Harvey – To Bring You My LoveHarvey’s rootsy third album tempered the rage of earlier works, however Harvey’s enduring themes, such as the paradox between the carnal and the spiritual, remain on tracks such as “The Dancer”. “Send His Love to Me” was a mainstream breakthrough, while the key track on arguably her best album, “Down by the Water”, was a chilling slice of swamp blues.

Island13/208. Bjork – PostWith scant regard for the difficult second album cliche, this truly original artist produced a brilliantly eclectic album, exploring ambient and electronica along with the usual pop and avant-garde elements. The quirky single “It’s Oh So Quiet” grabbed the headlines but the string-laden “Isobel”, the wonderful folk/techno hybrid “Hyperballad”, and the industrial beats of “Army of Me” proved much more rewarding.

One Little Indian14/207. Teenage Fanclub – Grand PrixAll the hallmarks of the art cherished by so many are here – great harmonies and melodies, jangly guitars, ramshackle yet finely crafted production on a suite of glorious Big Star, Byrds and Beach Boys-influenced songs. “Verisimilitude”, “Don’t Look Back”, the euphoric “I’ll Make It Clear” and “Sparky’s Dream” are absolute wonders, making this the Fannies’ finest record.

Creation15/206. Mercury Rev – See You on the Other SideMore accessible than the avant-garde psychedelia of previous works, the dreamy ambience and gloriously off-kilter sounds of Mercury Rev’s third album anticipated Deserter’s Songs. David Baker’s departure handed vocal duties to Jonathan Donahue and jazzy flourishes and lush orchestration dominated. “Sudden Ray of Hope”, “Everlasting Arm” and “Racing the Tide” are just some of the majestic, expansive marvels on display here.

Beggars Banquet16/205. Pulp – Different ClassJarvis Cocker trained his jaundiced eye on British social and sexual mores on Pulp’s breakthrough album, establishing himself as the wittiest, most articulate songsmith of his generation. The autobiographical “Mis-Shapes” and the voyeuristic “I Spy”, on which he made it quite clear what to do with your year in Provence, dazzle, and in the cherished “Common People”, Cocker created an anthem for the ages.

Island Records17/204. Supergrass – I Should Coco.A joy from start to finish, full of humour, manic punk energy, great hooks and melodies in a wide range of styles, encompassing all manner of Sixties and Seventies influences. “Caught by the Fuzz”, “Alright”, “Mansize Rooster”, “Lenny” and “Time” are just some of the singalong classics that earned this classic debut a special place in the nation’s hearts.

Parlophone18/203. Tricky – MaxinquayeA brooding paranoia inhabits this disturbing but totally compelling journey through the mind of the trip hop maestro. Tricky merged various genres, sampling Public Enemy, The Smashing Pumpkins, Isaac Hayes, and Michael Jackson over deathly slow hip-hop beats and off-kilter sounds, juxtaposed with ethereal, occasionally sinister female vocals. A quarter of a century on, Maxinquaye remains innovative, influential and damn-near perfect.

4th & B'Way19/202. Oasis – (What’s the Story) Morning GloryThe only matter still up for debate about this album is whether or not it trumps Definitely Maybe as Oasis’s finest hour. For me, the masterful songwriting and assured performances here just edge it, and there’s barely a misstep. “Champagne Supernova”, “Cast No Shadow”, “Morning Glory”, “Don’t Look Back in Anger” and “Wonderwall” are wonderful, with the rest not far behind.

Creation20/201. Radiohead – The BendsDownbeat, melancholic, yet wonderfully melodic and uplifting, with Thom Yorke’s tortured lyrics and anguished falsetto perfectly matched to soaring guitar-driven soundscape, rarely has such sweeping ambition been so bountifully fulfilled than on Radiohead’s boundary pushing second album. Epic in stature and vision, yet remarkably intimate, The Bends stood apart from Britpop and everything else in the storied year of 1995.

Parlophone/CapitolJames Brown and the Famous Flames –Live at the Apollo Vol 1,1963The Godfather of Soul’s record label wouldn’t fund a live album, but Brown went ahead anyway at his own expense and tore the roof off the Apollo in the process. The result was this historic recording of one of the most exciting performers who ever lived, giving a masterclass in audience manipulation and participation.

2) The Who –1970Live at Leedscontained just six songs in its original form – three Who originals and three covers of rock and roll standards – but was hugely influential in the development of heavy rock during the Seventies. Marking the beginning of the second great stage of the band’s career, this is Exhibit A in the case for The Who’s claim as the greatest live band of all time.

1) The Allman Brothers –Live at Fillmore East, 1971Duane Allman at Fillmore East in 1971. He was killed in a motorcycle crash shortly after the release (Getty)On their definitive live statement, the original line-up of this fabled band reached hitherto unheard-of improvisational peaks. They incorporated blues and jazz influences on covers of “Statesboro Blues” and “Stormy Monday” and their own standards, such as the 23-minute “Whipping Post”. That, plus the telepathic guitar interplay of Duane Allman and Dickey Betts, and Gregg Allman’s Hammond organ and soulful vocals, means that (for me) this record edges out

Live at Leedsas the greatest live album of them all.​ Read more: The Independent »

Led Zep- song remains same. Doors-absolutely live. UFO-strangers In night. Iron Maiden-live after death. Ramones-it’s alive. Stranglers-live x cert. Judas Priest-unleashed In east. Hard Rain by Bob Dylan is a perfect live album IronMaiden Live After Death should be well up there But no UFO or Blue Oyster Cult!!!

Can't believe Hawkwind- Space Ritual isn't on this list. Captures them in a way none of their studio albums do. A glaring omission is the Dr. Feelgood album ''Stupidity'', a No. 1 album in 1976, recorded and produced by Vic Maile who was an uncredited recording engineer on the Who album. Humble Pie, Rockin the Fillmore had to be in the top 20 🤔

Beach Boys In Concert around 1972. Best live version of band including Chaplin and Fataar. Alchemy - by Dire Straits Acte 2 du collectif des Associations de protection de l'environnement cap sur les marigots en vidéos: Unpopular opinion: Whilst they are amazing, Nirvana's is not the best MTV Unplugged. Shadows and light by Joni Mitchell

A live album is an oxymoron. Where's Motorheads No sleep till Hammersmith? Live in Japan is tedious compared to Live and Dangerous. These albums are so old! No Its Alive by the Ramones? Absolute joke! Ramones' 'It's Alive' has to be no. 1 but doesn't even make the list. The author is clearly of the dreary MM/NME anti Rock school of thought in which serious musicians must dress like plumbers and have absolutely no sense of humour whatsoever. Boring.

No Bill Withers, Live at Carnegie Hall And what about this? Essential. bgbplr Can't have a 'live' list without Rush's Exit....Stage Left from 1981 What? No Ramones It's Alive Hot August Night is not there. Why? Where is simpleminds live in the city of light? What!? Obviously, the person who compiled this was born in the 30’s. Only one I agree with is Bob Seger. Missing and 1 must be Stop making sense by TalkingHeads followed by Secret World by PeterGabriel followed by Alchemy by DireStraits followed by Paris by Supertramp Amen

Big Country's 1983 New Year's Eve Concert in Glasgow belongs on this list. - Frank Sinatra: Sinatra at the Sands - Joni Mitchell: Miles of Aisles Whilst I love both, I’m not sure I would have put Thin Lizzy live (which actually was virtually totally over dubbed in the studio) in the list and left out Led Zeppelin, probably the best live rock band in history.

Fantastic- I can listen to I'm So Afraid and Rhiannon constantly and never get bored No „It‘s Alive“ from The Ramones? Incomplete list. Good if safe choices. Bit lacking in soul - Curtis Live, Donny Hathaway, War!, The Commodores all the equal of some of that 70s rock - and anything post-77 - Stop Making Sense, Live at Rajis, Live (X-Cert), Hanx, Tim Buckley l'Olympia.

No room for Derek and the Dominoes Live? And if for nothing other than the full stop end on Many Are Called But Few Get Up, Live At The Paget Rooms Penarth, by Man. Mmmm...... None of them compare to Sam Cooke at the Harlem Square Club. LCD Soundsystem: Live At Madison Square Gardens pretty decent. lcdsoundsystem

Think you missed something You missed NightwishBand's outstanding Showtime, Storytime (Live at Wacken, 2013). It is flawless. Can you just like... pull a BuzzFeed already?

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