The Greatest Live Rock and Roll Albums Ever

Rolling Stone has a readers poll on the greatest live rock and roll albums of all time. The article is here. The list is as follows:

1) The Who “Live At Leeds”
2) Allman Brothers “Live at the Filmore East”
3) Peter Frampton “Frampton Comes Alive”
4) Rolling Stones “Get Yer Ya Yas Out”
5) Kiss “Alive”
6) Deep Purple “Made In Japan”
7) Little Feat “Waiting For Columbus”
8) Nirvana “MTV Unplugged in New York”
9) The Band “The Last Waltz”
10) Bob Seger “Live Bullet”

I am kind of shocked, completely shocked, that I agree with most all of the list. It is really good. First off, and this is a positioning quibble, so not that important, but I think the Stones “Get Yer Ya Yas Out” is the greatest live rock and roll album ever, not the fourth best.

I would not have Frampton Comes Alive on my list. It was unquestionably one of, if not the, best selling and most popular live albums in history; but it was not musically that great of shakes. In its place I would unquestionably put “Full House” by the J. Geils Band (anybody who leaves this off of their list is either nuts or doesn’t know the album).

Secondly, “Alive” by Kiss is actually pretty great in a way. But I would replace it with “Live At The Apollo” by James Brown. Other than that, Rolling Stone’s list is darn good.

Here are five Honorable Mentions that are so good, it is a crime they are not listed:

Jefferson Airplane “Bless Its Pointed Little Head”
Bob Dylan “The Royal Albert Hall Concert”
Lou Reed “Rock and Roll Animal”
Derek And the Dominoes “In Concert”
Thin Lizzy “Live and Dangerous”

Well, those are my thoughts. What are yours? This is a open for any purpose music discussion thread, just with emphasis on live rock.

109 replies
  1. rosalind says:

    well, “The Greatest Live Rock and Roll Albums, Ever: Oldies Edition”, sure. and Male. be back later to help the women represent.

    on sad news front, i had managed to miss knowing about local jazz keyboard phenom, Austin Peralta (son of “Dogtown & Z Boys” skateboard legend Stacy Peralta) who died a day ago at age 22. no cause announced.

    here he is at age 17 with his trio at the Tokyo Jazz fest:

    beyond tragic this talent is gone so soon.

  2. bmaz says:

    @sOLbus: Ooh, sorry, you got caught up in the filter because a first time commenter. Shouldn’t happen again.

    Obviously you have impeccable taste!

  3. What Constitution says:

    I completely agree that “Get Yer Ya-Yas Out” tops the list, good call. Also that Lou Reed’s Rock and Roll Animal would do well on it. My own addition would be Blue Oyster Cult’s “On Your Feet or On Your Knees”, but I’ll admit that’s a tad eclectic (Buck Dharma in the day was a formidable presence). I’d put Bob Dylan and the Band above The Last Waltz. They omitted all the Grateful Dead live albums, as if I’m surprised.

  4. Maxcrat says:

    Depending on how expansive your definition of rock and roll is, Joni Mitchell’s Miles of Aisles belongs on there.

    The Allman Brothers’s Fillmore album is my pick for #1.

  5. bmaz says:

    @What Constitution: I agree One Hundred Percent about BOC On Your Feet Or On your Knees. In fact so much so that had I not written this pretty quickly before undertaking a massive garage and patio cleaning, I would have thought to have that on the “ought to be on the list” list. I’ve seen BOC about eight times, and Buck Dharma is one of the finest guitar players I have ever seen, and I have seen most of em.

  6. bmaz says:

    Hey guys, there is a great discussion to be had here.

    Can’t wait for Miss Rosalind to come back and fem us up!

    I will be in and out throughout the day and night as I clean.

  7. Jason Leopold says:

    I can’t believe I am late to this party.

    Damn good list. I’d have to say that Thin Lizzy Live and Dangerous deserves to be in the top 5. Also, I demand you amend the list and include UFO Strangers in the Night. It is the best live hard rock album ever!

  8. Jason Leopold says:

    I’d take out Kiss and Frampton Comes Alive and Bob Seger.

    My top 10:

    1. UFO “Strangers in the Night”
    2. Thin Lizzy “Live and Dangerous”
    3. Queen “Live Killers”
    4. Aretha Franklin “Live at Filmore West”
    5. The Velvet Underground “Live 1969”
    6. Cheap Trick “At Budokan”
    7. Genesis “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway”
    8. Talking Heads “Stop Making Sense”
    9. Johnny Cash “At Folsom Prison”
    10. Eva Cassidy “Live at Blues Alley”

    Honorable mentions

    Motorhead “No Sleep Til Hammersmith”
    MC5 “Kick Out the Jams”
    Neil Young “Live Rust”
    Townes Van Zandt “Live at the Old Quarter”

  9. Duncan says:

    That’s the reason I’m not all that interested in top ten lists: ten is not enough to count anything but fingers. There are too many good, even great live rock albums out there to limit the best to ten, or twenty-five, or even more. Even though I agree with some of those singled out, and disagree with many of the amendments given here.

    As Edmund White likes to say, canons (another version of the top ten list) are only for people who don’t like to read. If you do, your reading won’t be contained by a a canon. If you don’t, even a top ten will probably be too many.

  10. Rirer Capital says:

    What a lily white list by RS. Not surprising. Overlooking rock n’ roll classics like “Curtis Live”-Curtis Mayfield–yes, rock n’ roll, and James Brown’s “Live at the Apollo” a second on Aretha’s great live record and many many more…Not hating on the post, but Rolling Stone peddles some bigoted shit for white, mostly nostalgic baby boomer, readers.

  11. JohnLopresti says:

    Past my time. I was a betwixt and between. Arrived on the scene when people were being kind, about “studio ” albums made by artists who’d never been recorded. East-West Paul Butterfied Blues Band. Grateful Dudes first “studio” album. Rolling Stones 12×5. See how quiet the background is? The Stones quit singing together, I stopped listening; rock is for singing together. Their last album singing together was Between the Buttons.

    Fresh Cream. Gift from a Flower to a Garden by Donovan Leitch. Ravi Shankar’s first album, not rock or roll. Country Joe and the Fish, first studio album. Big Brother and the Holding Company Live at the Carousel with then still lead singer Janis Joplin. Kaleidoscope from the Great Highway Family Dog.

    I tend toward live, as in not recorded.

  12. jerryy says:

    No Grand Funk Railroad or Pink Floyd? Where is Santana or John Lee Hooker? Martha and The Vandells? Is the RS thing just somebody’s easy listening list or is there some reason as to why those albums made it? One could argue that albums from Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, Heart, Jeff Beck and the Eagles had more influence over Rock and Roll than some on the RS list. Woodie Guthrie, Carol King, Simon and Garfunkel as well.

  13. dakine01 says:

    Actually, the re-mastered Fillmore East is even better than the original. They went and got the original master tapes, re-mixed everything, pulled all the songs from the original plus Eat a Peach plus a couple of un-issued songs and put out a 2 CD set back in the mid 90s. And it has the complete Whipping Post segue into Mountain Jam for 55 minutes of solid jams on the 2nd disc.

    Otis Redding “Live in Europe” should be in the top ten

    My top ten would be;
    the aforementioned “Fillmore East” (re-master)
    Otis Redding “Live in Europe”
    Stones “Get yer Ya Yas Out”
    Little Feat “Waiting for Columbus”
    Who “Live at Leeds”
    Bob Marley “Live”
    The Band “The Last Waltz”
    Seger “Silver Bullet”
    Derek and the Dominos “In Concert”
    James Brown “Live at the Apollo”

  14. bmaz says:

    That Which Is Fucking Awesome: I pu this post and thread up and suddenly the ads that are popping up for me here on Emptywheel are for The Beatles on Amazon and AC/DC on iTunes.

    You gotta love that!

  15. jjerryy says:

    @dakine01: Great albums. I am a bit curious; why leave off David Bowie or Elton John’s two best or for that matter the Kinks or Lou Reed? Or The Clash’s London Calling? Not to mention Highway 61 Revisted or Blood On The Tracks

  16. rosalind says:

    ok, we need some estrogen in here. not a top ten list, but some women who’ve rocked my world for a long, long time. (name of live youtubes in quotes).

    Merry Clayton: most don’t know the name, all know her voice, singing THAT backing lead on the Stones “Gimme Shelter”. this youtube isolates Merry & Mick’s vocals during the recording, good stuff starts at 2:30: “Mick Jagger and Merry Clayton making vocals Gimme Shelter Rolling Stones”

    Tina Turner: the woman Mick cribbed his dance moves from and who at rock bottom reinvented herself, paid off every debt, and reconquered the rock world: “Brown Sugar live – Mick Jagger & Tina Turner”

    Heart: first female guitarist I saw live. top musical highlight remains sitting in the audience at late, great Backstage club in Seattle during the recording of their “The Road Home” CD. something from the year I first saw them: “Heart – Crazy On You (live 1977)”

    Steve Nicks: the voice that launched a thousand bedroom dances singing into my hairbrush, she released one of the best albums of 2011 “In Your Dreams”. from the Mac’s great comeback concert: “Fleetwood Mac – ‘The Chain’ Live (The Dance 1997)”

    Melissa Etheridge: for the 3rd Bridge School concert Neil Young invited a new singer-songwriter to open the show with a brief 10 minute set. Melissa walked on stage alone with just her guitar and came off a star, 20,000 screaming people on their feet asking each other “who the hell was that?”: “Bring Me Some Water (Live at The Kodak Theatre)”

    Exene Cervenka/X: my fav punk rock country queen: “X (LIVE): Los Angeles – SXSW”

    Patti Smith: just watch: “Patti Smith Gloria Live Jools Holland 2007”

  17. Rirer Capital says:

    one more thing: Prince’s “Sign O’ Times Live” film—don’t think he released a soundtrack album for it, would have been a fine add to list.

  18. jerryy says:

    Instead of asking questions, I’ll submit:

    The Cowboy Junkies “The Trinity Sessions”
    Lou Reed “Lou Reed Live”

    Since some might quibble if I use the 2003 two CD re-issue of “Working Man’s Dead” (the 2nd CD is filled with live stuff.) I’ll instead submit The Grateful Dead “Live Dead”.

    Ray Charles “Live”

  19. Peterr says:

    All good albums . . . but let me toss in a few that are more under the radar.

    “Live at Wolf Trap” by John McCutcheon — a great folksinger/storyteller/entertainer, who blends old union songs, old folk songs, and his own new songs to draw his audience in. Truly an incredible musician, and this album captures his live performances well. See here for more.

    “Live — Out on the Road” by The Flirtations — If you saw the movie Philadelphia with Tom Hanks as a gay, HIV-positive lawyer who got canned from his firm (as the AIDS epidemic was cranking up fear and hysteria) and Denzel Washington as the homophobic defense attorney hired by Hanks to go after his old firm, you’ve seen the Flirtations. (Great party scene!) They were a gay a cappella vocal group in the 80s and 90s with incredible harmonies and even more incredible passion and compassion. Powerful singing, and amazing connections with the audience. Again, see here for more. (The video at the link in the post is a studio version, but the live version is even more spectacular.)

  20. Brindle says:

    Neil Young “Live Rust” is a deservedly a top ten, had the debut of “My My Hey Hey” and “Powderfinger”.
    Nitpicking maybe, but Kurt Cobain’s guitar was a little out of tune in Unplugged.

  21. bmaz says:

    @jjerryy: Oooh Goodbye Yellowbrick Road should have been on my “Why Ain’t They On There List”.

    So, too, should have been Live at Pompei and Delicate Sound Of Thunder by Pink Floyd

  22. Jason Leopold says:

    Merry Clayton. Very nice, Rosalind! Her solo album, Gimme Shelter, was reissued recently.Worth checking out. Also, Exene rules.

    @jerryy: big fan of the bootleg! Partial to Dylan and Lou Reed bootlegs, as i’ve been collecting them for years. you should check out Wolfgang’a Vault, if you don’t already know about it for some great live shows that you can stream.

  23. Brindle says:

    “Frampton Comes Alive” has so much post recording “sleight of hand”–boosting the volume of crowd noise during certain segments of songs to make it a caricature of a “live album”.

  24. Valley Girl says:


    Great to see you too, m’dear! xxoo

    I’ll go back to youtube and see if I can pollute this Rock and Roll thread with more Johnny Cash!

  25. Jason Leopold says:

    @Valley Girl: the Aretha Concert is really spectacular. King Curtis who also played the show with Aretha in March 71 deserves special mention too. He was phenomenal!

  26. jerryy says:

    @bmaz: Leaving those off the list reeaally makes me wonder if the writer was having major memory lapses.

    You have a great list being put together here!

  27. Valley Girl says:

    @Jason Leopold:

    Tried to find Richard Greene playing rock and roll fiddle.

    Still seems like fiddle and not rock and roll. But, thanks for turning me onto Richard Greene.

    But I found some great youtubes.

    I will post this one, just because looking at whole thing, it’s kinda a weird moment of politics and music. Gotta watch the whole thing to see what I mean.

  28. Peterr says:

    As luck would have it, the local PBS station is showing “Live at the Troubadour” — Carole King and James Taylor, 2007.

    Gotta pour me a scotch and settle in.

  29. jerryy says:

    @Valley Girl: Zappa is R&R all the way. Anyone that dashes off epics about using diamond encrusted tweezers to raise up a crop of dental floss out in Montana is R&R. Yippee Yippee yo-tay-yay.

  30. Jason Leopold says:

    I just made a late night trip to Amoeba Records in Hollywood as a result of this post. Found a great live album that I completely forgot about: Hot Tuna’s debut, which is newly remastered.

    @Valley Girl forgot about Jean Luc Ponty! He played on a bunch of Zappa records, best one being Hot Rats.

  31. dakine01 says:

    During the overnight I remembered the J Geils Band “Full House”

    It seems that often it is the live album that first really gets folks attention for some groups. J Geils was like that. In college it was almost always played to get the party kick-started. Live Bullet was another. I first saw Seger in ’75 when he was touring to support the album “Beautiful Loser” that fed a lot of Live Bullet. He was the opening act in a show at a tobacco warehouse in Bowling Green, KY (with Cactus, Bloodrock, and Goose Creek Symphony as the ‘headline’)

    And although it is not rock, there is always “Willie & Family Live”

  32. bmaz says:

    @rosalind: Crap, I should have thought of X-Live, great call. I have known about Merry Clayton, but just learned something new from Wiki: She was the original Acid Queen in Tommy! Awesome.

  33. skyway says:

    My favorite live album by far is Jerry Lee Lewis Live at the Star Club. There is NO live album anywhere with as much sheer energy. It’s exhilarating and exhausting both to listen to. I’m startled that it didn’t make the Rolling Stones top ten list. My second favorite live album is Jeff Buckley live at the Sin-e. Amazing voice.

  34. Jim White says:

    Okay, yes I’m an old fart and bmaz will hate this, but Neil Diamond’s Hot August Night deserves some consideration here. Just an outstanding collection of rocking hits with talented artists backing him up.

  35. What Constitution says:

    @Jason Leopold: That acoustic Hot Tuna is a treasure, and it’s great to learn it’s been remastered. With all the great additions mentioned, I find myself looking for my copy of Eric Clapton’s Rainbow Concert. He wasn’t finished, after all, and this proved that the signs were right — “Clapton is God”. And still is, as every cameo gig he stands in for continues to prove.

  36. DonS says:

    excuse me if I am too late to make a wee suggestion here:

    Van Morrison “Too Late To Stop Now”

    which vinyl version I wore out several times. Sorry if I missed it already named upthread.

  37. Mack says:

    Way late, but I cannot believe that Humble Pie Rockin the Filmore is missing from this list
    The Frampton/Marriot axis is the equal at least of Hunter/Wagner on Rock and Roll Animal
    (which makes the list on Sweet Jane alone)

  38. bmaz says:

    @Roadrash: I probably should have mentioned somewhere One For the road by the Kinks. Everybody’s In showbiz didn’t cross my mind because only half is live, but both sides are killer.

  39. bmaz says:

    @Mack: Speaking of Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter, they are, of course, famous for both Rock and Roll Animal era Lou Reed and their work with Alice Cooper. But I saw them in 1978 or so, along with Prakash John on bass, backing a band by the name of 1994. Had a female singer named Karen Lawrence, and holy shit did they rip. Unbelievable. I would kill for a live album of that show. Here’s a couple of the studio tracks:

    Shoot To Kill

    So Bad

  40. JohnLopresti says:

    Monterey Pops. Ace of Cups, did they ever do a live album?

    But I believed Sergeant Pepper was live because of the prerecorded crowd sound.

  41. bmaz says:

    @Mack: I saw Wagner a couple of years ago at an Alice Cooper’s Christmas Pudding show here. Kind of a charity gig that he does here every December, and Dick has played in a couple of them. He has definitely put on some weight (haven’t we all), but can still kill.

  42. Larue says:

    You, and the hacks at the poll, missed on piece of work.

    Desert Island Work

    Dead, Live. The first one, and then Europe ’72.

    Pointed Head and ESPECIALLY Rock N Roll Animal, are top getters.

    Rock N Roll Animal, is top 5, end of story.

    The sad shit is, they don’t make it like that, anymore.

    N that’s due to the corporate fascism control of our media, and the watered down crap of all our music since the early 70’s.

    Most of it less than soiled bath water . . . .

  43. What Constitution says:

    @Valley Girl: Thanks so much! You Tube is an amazing and wondrous place. Been watching the links you sent and man does it bring back memories of evenings at Winterland (“Winterland” is now a mini-mart on the ground floor of the condos now occupying the site at Post & Steiner in SF). BTW, one of the “other” links in the margins of your posted sites is a full 1972 Hot Tuna w/Papa John concert from New York — if only for the blast of “Keep on Truckin’ Mama” (nowhere near the finest piece on the recording, but the one most nostalgically emblematic of the era) this has kept me entranced for the past hour. But I don’t know what “put in mod” means, sounds bad, sorry for that.

    One of the great things about these live albums is how the artists embellish a piece, especially when it’s done for the pure theatrical value and to showcase some talents — or just for the fun of it. The Intro to Sweet Jane on “Rock and Roll Animal”. The outrageously campy, yet pure, send-up of “Ain’t That a Shame” by Cheap Trick on “Live at Budokan”. And then there’s Blue Oyster Cult’s sheer chutzpah to cover (and nail) the Yardbird’s “I Ain’t Got You (Maserati GT)”: Rock and Roll is fun.

    I’ve had too much fun, gotta go do something now. Oh, and Larue — you’re absolutely right about the Dead selections, it just seems nobody has the attention span any more. I’ll listen to that on my way in.

    Thanks to bmaz for taking on RS.

  44. Valley Girl says:

    @What Constitution:

    About “put in mod”. Put into moderation. That means- the comment vanishes from the public list of comments so someone behind the scenes can check it out, and see if it is acceptable for publication. It if is, it is “released” for public view.

    I’m assuming that ew site uses WordPress, and WP has a “feature” such that any comment that contains more that a certain number of “links” is automatically put into moderation. At the time I worked with WordPress, more than 2 or 3 links “tripped” the filter. I’d forgotten that. It’s not an active choice by the site owners. I don’t know the WP rationale, but irrc correctly, it’s not easy for the site owners to change this. Or at least not time efficient.

    I like to include links so that people don’t have figure out what vid/ YT I’m meaning.

  45. JThomason says:

    A couple Gov’t Mule shows from this last tour that can be downloaded on their site need consideration; July in Nuremberg where Warren et al. coverd both Maggot Brain and Cortez the killer, and the Chicago Halloween show which was a Hendrix tribute where much of Electric Lady Land was represented.

  46. 4jkb4ia says:

    Bruce Springsteen, “Live in Dublin”. That does claim to be one show. “Live 1975-85”, the 3-CD epic, does not, but has many definitive live versions.

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