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Friday, October 10, 2014

My Favorite Live (Single) Albums

My old friend David Jenkins challenged me to provide some Friday night discussion by listing my five favorite live albums. Well, I'm sorry Dave: I can't. I can't because I can't just choose five. I tried this once before, years ago; back then I restricted myself solely to live double albums, and I ended up listing fifteen anyway, and even with that I missed some (Eric Clapton's 24 Nights, Bob Dylan's "Royal Albert Hall" Concert, Joe Jackson's Big World, Rush's Different Stages, and now the recent addition of The Rolling Stones's Brussels Affair). Still, I'll do my best. So herewith, my top 15 live single albums. (Note: I'm excluding my jazz recordings, because if I threw in those it would just be impossible.) In alphabetical order, beginning with probably the best of them all:

1) Johnny Cash, At Folsom Prison. Essential track: "Cocaine Blues."
2) Johnny Cash, At Sen Quentin. Essential track: "Starkville City Jail."
3) Shawn Colvin, Live. Essential track: her marvelous, haunting cover of David Byrne's "This Must Be the Place."
4) Bob Dylan, MTV Unplugged. Essential track: despite all the countless bootlegs and live recordings, I can't think of a better recording of his singing "With God On Our Side."
5) Joe Ely, Live at Liberty Lunch. Essential track: "Me and Billy the Kid."
6) Joe Ely, Live Shots. Essential track: the Buddy Holly classic "Not Fade Away" (which, despite the many long years he's been playing this song, he still makes absolutely his own).
7) Robyn Hitchcock, I Often Dream of Trains (in New York). Essential track: "That's Fantastic, Mother Church."
8) The Hollies, Greatest Hits...Live! Essential track: a barn-burning, 11-minute version of "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress," which I have forced my children to listen to all the way through far too many times to possibly justify.
9) Elton John, Live in Australia with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Essential track: "Burn Down the Mission."
10) The Red Clay Ramblers, Live. Bland Simpson was never more than just a part-time member of this little-known bluegrass-folk-comic outfit, but his charming piano composition "Pictures for You" is, for this son of Washington state, one of the most nostalgic and joyous songs I've ever heard.
11) The Rolling Stones, Some Girls: Live in Texas. Essential track: "Honky Tonk Women."
12) The Rolling Stones, Stripped. Essential track: their furious, rocking, and very nearly (but probably not quite) definitive take on Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone."
13) Sting, ...All This Time. Essential track: "If You Love Someone Set Them Free."
14) Talking Heads, Stop Making Sense. Essential track: good grief--"Life During Wartime," of course.
15) 10,000 Maniacs, MTV Unplugged. Essential track: "Hey Jack Kerouac."

All right Dave (and everyone else), tell me what I got wrong.


Anonymous said...

I cannot argue with anything on this list.

Anonymous said...

Wait, yes I can:
Elton John = meh.
Rolling Stones version of "Like a Rolling Stone" _is_ the definitive recording, just like Jimi's version of All along the Watchtower is.