Top Ten Live Albums

Live albums are usually considered to be only for the “hard core” fan of that particular artist. I’m not not sure that I agree with that. Sometimes the live album raises to the level of high art. So what follows is my list of the top live rock albums. I’d love to hear what your list would be. Review the list and make your own.

1.  The Rolling Stones  – “Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!”Cover of Get Yer Ya Yas Out -

This album captures the Stones at the height of their powers.  The 1969 American tour is considered to be one of the greatest rock-n-roll tours of all time.  It was the first time a band toured with monitors on stage so they could hear themselves above the crowd noise.  The Stones came back to England and told the Beatles “You need to go tour the U.S. again.  Now you can actually hear yourself on stage.”  The result was that they could do things musically on stage that could not be done before.  A great example it the magnificent version of “Midnight Rambler” .  The new deluxe version of this record contains The original LP on CD and vinyl as well as bonus cuts and the complete opening acts that toured with the Stones that year:  Ike and Tina Turner and B.B. King.

2.  Little Feat “Waiting for Columbus”

Little Feat "Live" - Waiting for Columbus

I get excited the second I hear the band warming up their voices back stage. This band is so good live that you wonder if it’s really a studio recording with a crowd overdub. Consummate musicianship and artistry!





3.  The Who – “Live At Leeds”

Album cover of The Who "Live At Leeds"

Album cover of The Who "Live At Leeds"


This is another live album that caught a band at the height of their power. Tommy was still a new LP. Roger Daltry was young and had that powerful voice. Keith Moon was still alive and kickin’, and Pete Townsend wasn’t deaf. I love the 18 minute version of “My Generation” that becomes a highly complex medley of several of their best songs.

4.  Jimi Hendrix – “Band of Gypsy’s”

Jimi Hendrix "Band of Gypsys"

What an album this is! It is spooky how good Hendrix was. Here he is only months before he died, with a new band, pushing his music in an entirely new direction. This album was recorded at Filmore East at the height of the Vietnam war and the civil rights movement. Jimi sings “Machine Gun” and dedicates it “to all the cats fighting in Chicago, and New York and, oh yea; all the soldiers fighting in Vietnam”. In many ways this is my favorite Hendrix LP.

5.  Neil Young with Crazy Horse – “Live Rust

Neil Young and Crazy Horse Live

This was one of the all time greatest tours of rock history. Neil toured in support of his masterpiece “Rust Never Sleeps”. All the hits are here. You gotta love “Cortez the Killer”, “Like A Hurricane”, and “Hey, Hey, My, my, Rock-n-roll will never die…” Crazy Horse at their sonic, dissonant best!



6.  Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young “Four Way Street”


Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young - Live













I remember the first time I heard this record. It was in Art class in junior high school. This girl I had a crush on brought it in to listen to while the class painted. I loved it the moment I heard it. I loved how it was divided into a “wooden” disc and an “electric” disc. CSN&Y used to start their shows acoustic, take an intermission, then come back and do an electric set to close the show. There are so many great moments on this record. I love all the banter the band members have with the audience. It creates a very intimate atmosphere that is unique in live recordings.

7. The Allman Brothers “Live at Filmore East.”


The Allman Brothers Live at Filmore East

This is without a doubt one of the most amazing live albums ever. The musicianship on display here is mind blowing. These guys were great! What a lose to rock-n-roll that Duane Allman died so young. “Whipping Post”, “Statesborro Blues”, and “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” are wired into the Psyche of roll-n-roll. This is a “must have” in any collection.

8.  Talking Heads – “Stop Making Sense”

Soundtrack to the Concert film “Stop Making Sense”

If you have never seen this concert film you should. This is a stunning performance by one of America’s best bands of all time. Talking Heads are a force of nature. The concert starts with just David Bryne on stage by himself. With each song another band member comes out to join him until finally the entire band is on stage. What is amazing is that each song retains it’s identity no matter who is on stage performing it. “Once in a Lifetime” is just unbelievable. Every song is great. The drama and musicianship is beyond belief.

9.  U2 -“Live at Red Rocks”  


U2 Live at Red Rocks

I think this is one of the best live albums U2 ever did. I like it much more than “Rattle and Hum”. They are still young and full of piss and vinegar. I love “11 O’Clock tick-tock”. All these songs were still new and the power and outrage the band feels at the violence in Ireland is palpable.



10. Johnny Cash “Live at Folsom Prison”

Johnny Cash Live at Folsom Prison











You can hear prison guards in the background. You can even hear Prison doors clink and slam shut. A passionate performance from a man who really tried to make a difference in the lives of prisoners. By the way, although Johnny Cash is a country singer, he is one of only two country singers in the Rock-n-Roll Hall Of Fame; so, he belongs on the list. This is a powerful, and moving recording. If you ever get a chance to see the documentary about this concert don’t miss it. It will make you think. God Bless Johnny Cash.

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About John

I taught myself how to play the piano and read music when I was 9 years old. I've been been consumed by music ever since. I majored in Piano performance in College and I still play, although not as well as when I had time to practice 4 -6 hours per day. This blog is about music. Music is the sound track of our lives. All it take is one song, one composition; and we are transported across time and space. I think it was Beethoven that said: "Music is the landscape of the soul."
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4 Responses to Top Ten Live Albums

  1. Ken West says:

    Great list-here’s a few that would make my top 10. Genesis, Seconds Out-recorded during the transitional period after Peter Gabriel left the group, this record has stunning live versions Genesis classics like Squonk, Carpet Crawlers, Cinema Show (love Bill Bruford’s drumming!) and Afterglow. Amazingly well recorded for a live show. Yes, Yessongs-THE classic lineup (albeit with Alan White instead of Bruford) shows the band at the height of their powers. The recorded sound is pretty opaque, but what music! Trish, Colin and I just saw the latest touring version of Yes (with Benoit David on vocals) and it was great-hearing Starship Troopers live has to be one of my all time favorite concert moments, made even more so by seeing how much Colin was digging it! Cheap Trick, Live at Budokan-you have to get past what sounds like 100,000 Japanese girls having a collective orgasm at the sight of Rick Nielson, but the incendiary live versions of Surrender and I Want You to Want Me blow the studio recordings out of the water. Their cover of Ain’t That a Shame gets me cranking up the volume and air drumming along with Bun E. Carlos every time. Neil Diamond, Hot August Night-true confession time: I love early (Bang Records) and Uni Records era Neil, and this is a great live album, with live versions that surpass the originals. Sounds incredible, too, especially on the MFSL vinyl. It’s almost enough to make you forget the gag reflex inducing schlock he began recording after signing with Colombia (Heartlight, You Don’t Bring Me Flowers, et. al.). B.B. King, Live at the Regal-the King of the Blues thrills a Chicago audience with incredible singing and playing. This record gives my goosebumps every time I hear it.

    Can’t argue with any of your choices-Live at Leeds and Live at the Fillmore are desert island discs for me, I’ve listened to them both so many times. BTW, the 1995 CD of Leeds is a must, if you don’t have it-it features the entire concert, including a blistering live version of Amazing Journey/Sparks.

    Great stuff, John! Happy Sunday to you and Pam.

    • John says:


      Great comments. One of the reasons I did a top 10 instead of 15 or 20 is that there are so many great live albums. “Seconds Out” was very tough to leave off the list. Also, “live at Budokan. I liked the Neil Diamond comment a lot! I remember when we were roommates in college, we tried to wear “Hot August Night” completely out. Other glaring omissions were: A live Grateful Dead LP, the Woodstock soundtrack (the Santana performance alone is worth putting it on the list), U2 “Rattle and Hum”, Led Zeppelin “How the west was won”, Wilco “kicking Television”, “Pete Gabriel Plays Live “, and on and on it goes. It is very difficult to pick just 10. I also have the CD of Live at Leeds. You are dead on about the version of amazing journey/sparks. Cool stuff and great comments for the blog. Keep em coming!

  2. GG Allin says:

    Lou Reed. My god, are you people insane. Lou Fuckin’ Reed! Rock N Roll Animal is an amazing document – not only because it was recorded on the night of my birth, or because two of the 70’s greatest guitarists are on it, or because it is a “true” live LP with no overdubs or studio fix-ups on it. It captures one of the greatest 70s live performers as he blossomed into a fully developed Rock icon. Not many other records have that.

    It helps that Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter are so in tune with one another. I don’t think there is another guitar duo quite like them. And the ones that ARE similar followed in their footsteps, rather than blazed a trail.

    From the bassist on that night, Prakash John: “Wagner and Hunter – I remember this clearly – all these guys that came after Wagner and Hunter in ’73, all these guys in that band Aerosmith, and a band called Boston, they’d have those dueling guitar things, you know… leads, harmonizing – they got that all from Wagner and Hunter. These guys use to come and follow us all over the place – New York, Boston, wherever we were playing with Lou Reed. Next thing I know, I listen to their albums, and it sounds like Wagner and Hunter. And good for them, but people should acknowledge that Wagner and Hunter were the originators. They’re the guys who made that sound. If you hear that live album, Rock N Roll Animal, play the intro to “Sweet Jane.” I’m telling you, that will give you and idea of what the two Detroit guys – well, Hunter came from Decatur, Illinois – and Whitey and I from Toronto, with our R&B roots, hammering away on a Lou Reed song. It’s unedited. The beauty of that is none of the mistakes are fixed. Nothing is fixed on that album. It’s a true live album. It was the third day I was in that band. I rehearsed one day, played in Toronto – of all places – the opening night, the next night was in New York and they recorded this album. When we were with Alice Cooper, people all over the world would always play that album, more than Welcome to My Nightmare, so that usually used to irritate Alice. That album got such rave reviews that even Lou Reed hates it, because a lot of people started panning him because of his singing, and I thought that was kind of unfair. Lou Reed has his own style – great lyricist – and people shouldn’t judge him on his ability to sing. Nobody said he had to be Al Green or Frank Sinatra. He’s Lou Reed. He can sing in that monotone voice, and if he didn’t, it would sound silly. Anyway, Lou doesn’t acknowledge that album, but that is a famous album, and everywhere in Europe, they’d play it.

    People still e-mail me about that album. The president of the Jack Bruce fan club finally got a hold of me a couple years ago. He’d been looking for me because was such a fan of Jack Bruce, but he was also a fan of Chris Squire and, oddly enough, me. He was telling me how influential that album was to a lot of people in Australia. Get it, play it full blast, and think of yourself at the Academy of Music in New York. Steve Katz, the guitar player for Blood, Sweat, and Tears, produced that album… the most unusual guy to produce that album, but nevertheless, the best guy, because he left it alone. That’s probably my favorite album of all the albums I’ve done. I’ve done stuff that’s maybe technically better, but every time that album is played, it sounds just like the way we recorded it. There’s Lou reed coming in a bar early, two bars late… but that’s how he is. You would be surprised at how many people talk about “Sweet Jane” alone. People just go mental when they find out that I played on it or they’ve been looking for me.

    Outtakes of that album actually ended up on an album called Lou Reed Live. That’s a prime example of RCA Records ripping off the bloody musicians. They have two albums, they pay us for one, but they can get away with it, because it was outtakes of the previous album. You couldn’t give each musician a couple grand in the early ’70s? That’s the stuff that really irks me about the business. Once in a while I may think of it in a conversation like this, but really, the overriding factor is the music.”

    • John says:

      Thank you for this great comment! I agree completely. What a great album “Rock-n-Roll Animal” is. The guitar playing is overwhelming. The version of Sweet Jane is priceless! The quote from Prakash John is fantastic and I have never read that before. Thanks for sharing…

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