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Live albums


alorrigan
Do bands do live albums anymore? I was discussing this with one of my friends a while ago. I said there was no reason for them to because any live performance nowadays is basically just a reproduction of what you would hear on an album. Not that I pay too much attention to the current popular music scene but this is my impression from what I do. I have a few live albums Isle of Wight '70, Woodstock, some Van Halen album I don't know where I got it from and each performance takes a life of its own. Maybe I'm just not that on top of things but I can't remember the last time I heard of someone doing a live album.
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Yes, there are still live albums. My favorite musician, Jason Mraz, has released 2 in the last 5 years. If you're looking at pop artists - no, probably not. But singer-songwriters have enough performance variations (and enough obscure, unreleased songs) to make live albums attractive.
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I actually think the live album is a cop-out stop-gap for most bands now. They put it out while they take their sweet time getting their next studio album together. They use them to make money, keep their songs on the charts and keep their popularity up.

 

I was kind of shocked to hear you ask, because I feel like everyone and their mom releases a live album these days.

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Maybe I don't hear about live albums now because there's nothing special about them. Like I said, each performance needs to take a life of its own and the few concerts that I've been too the only thing that seperates the album from the live performance is just that you're there witnessing the music instead of just listening to it. Some of the greatest albums ever are live albums in my opinion. Live at Leeds, Frampton Comes Alive, Band of Gypsies, and some others I'm sure. If you listen to these you notice that most of the songs are nothing like the studio versions. Heck listen to any studio song by The Who and then compare it to a live version. They won't sound anything alike. Even two live versions are completely different.
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One of my favorite musicians, Bob Schneider, records every show that his band does and sells CD's afterwards.

 

They don't play big venue's (Shank Hall is where they usually play in Milwaukee), and most here have probably never heard of him... but the shows vary enough that I've bought the cd after almost every show I've gone to.

 

The last major live release cd that I can remember was when Pearl Jam released all the shows from different venues.

"I wasted so much time in my life hating Juventus or A.C. Milan that I should have spent hating the Cardinals." ~kalle8

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I saw Bob Schneider open for Ben Folds at Summerfest a while back, and he was Amazing.

 

Everclear had a live disc.... "Live From Toronto"

 

Fall Out Boy just put out a live disc, but it's awful... your live shows don't really turn out well when they have to pump your lead singer's voice through a computer to make it sound good in the studio.

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"Exqueese me? Have I seen this one before? Frampton Comes Alive? Everybody in the world has Frampton Comes Alive. If you lived in the suburbs you were issued it. It came in the mail with samples of Tide. "
This is Jack Burton in the Pork Chop Express, and I'm talkin' to whoever's listenin' out there.
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Bruce Springsteen came out with a live album a couple months ago. It's pretty good, arguably better than the studio album the songs were pulled from.

 

R.E.M. just came out with a new live record, though I haven't heard it yet.

 

Also, it depends what you mean by new. Joy Division just released some live stuff from the vaults. Dylan's Bootleg Series 7 came out relatively recently. A new Johnny Cash live album came out last year.

 

Richard Thompson did a double album of live covers a couple years back and just came out with a new live album.

 

Wilco and The Melvins each released a live album in 2005. My Morning Jacket put out an excellent live double album in 2006.

 

Daft Punk just dropped one last year. Neko Case did too.

 

Marc Broussard put out a live EP last year. The White Stripes did the same in 05.

 

The Harry Smith Project Revisited came out in 2006, which featured guys like Lou Reed, Nick Cave, and Richard Thompson. There were a couple good benefits in support of Hurricane Katrina victims as well.

 

Widespread Panic has come out with 4 or 5 live albums over the past 5 or 6 years.

 

The Who came out with one in 2006. Steve Earle did the same in 2005. Dave Matthews (my wife is the one who likes him, not me) came out with one in 2007. Matisyahu (got it as a present) came out with one in 2005. Rhonda Vincent & The Rage came out with one in 2006.

 

The Cedar Cultural Center here in Minneapolis put out a sweet live compilation in 2006 featuring people like Ali Farke Toure, Gillian Welch, Loudon Wainwright III, and Doc Watson.

 

The Counting Crows came out with one in 2006. The Mars Volta did the year before.

 

A mash-up (they didn't call it that, but that's what it is) of a live Ray Charles show and the Count Basie Orchestra came out in 2006.

 

That's just off the top of my head. I'm sure there are many more. And that's not even counting the hundreds of live classical and Jazz albums that come out annually.

 

 

I used to be of the school of thought that live albums sucked or were, at best, unnecessary. I always loved the Velvet Underground's live stuff (Live 1969 & Max's Kansas City), but other than that, I never liked live albums. I always thought studio versions were superior. That all changed when I saw "The Last Waltz", about The Band's farewell concert. Neil Young's version of "Helpless" in that movie is twice as good as it is on "Deja Vu" (and it's pretty good there too). It really opened my eyes. Since then, I've been a devotee of live records.

 

You have to be willing to overlook some flaws in a live record. For example, "Live At Max's Kansas City" was recorded on a home tape recorder that a friend of the band brought to the bar. Because of that, the sound quality on that album is piss-poor and you can hear people ordering drinks and stuff. However, it's still a great album because of the music.

 

 

Also, alorrigan, your point about different versions is well-taken. However, I don't think that is necessarily necessary to make a live album great. Check out any of the live Ramones albums. The songs are generally almost identical to the studio versions (maybe faster and wilder), but that doesn't detract from the albums. Sometimes a band just gets into a groove and the result is worth hearing.

 

Judging live albums can be nebulous, because much of what makes one good or great is something almost intangible. It's soul or feeling or whatever you want to call it.

 

 

Also, I think part of the reason for the seeming decline in live albums is that many songs are difficult to recreate on stage. I saw Andrew Bird live a few months back and he sounds like garbage live because he has to use a bunch of backing tracks to recreate his songs. I think he would be better off rearranging his songs rather than doing that, but most of the audience was loving it, so whatever.

 

Hip-hop songs are almost impossible to make sound good live (imo), because few artists use bands, and the ones that do, are not talented (The Roots, I'm looking at you). The shows can be fun to be at, but because of the necessity of backing tracks, it's not really possible for an artist to stretch out on a song like a band can. That makes the albums generally superfluous and of dubious relevance. Some guys have the kind of stage presence that can pull off a live album (DMX, for example), but even groups like OutKast and the Wu-Tang Clan aren't great live.

 

So, with the rise of hip-hop, I think a corresponding decline in the release of live albums makes sense. That doesn't mean some people aren't coming out with excellent live albums though.

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Check

out any of the live Ramones albums. The songs are generally almost identical to the studio versions (maybe faster and wilder), but that doesn't detract

from the albums. Sometimes a band just gets into a groove and the result is worth hearing.

 

 

On my 24th birthday, I sang the entire Loco Live album into my checkbook, including the in between song banter.

 

I was drunk.

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