What makes a great live album?

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Die Mensch Maschine
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What makes a great live album?

Post by BleuPanda » Wed Aug 13, 2014 12:46 am

I've noticed quite a few highly ranked live albums through the acclaimed music list, but there doesn't seem to be much if anything from the 2000s onward. What does it take for a live album to actually get acclaim?

I just listened to LCD Soundsystem's The Long Goodbye and really loved it (though I will admittedly love anything associated with the band), but I'm pretty sure it's not going to come anywhere near the AM list. Did bands stop making great live albums in the eyes of critics, or does it take an extra oomph to push them upwards? I noticed that quite a few of the highly ranked live albums are also the highest for the artist that created them. Do live albums mainly get notice when there isn't a better choice from the artist?

So I'm just generally curious about how a live album is made to stand out, I guess as more than just new recordings of old songs.

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Re: What makes a great live album?

Post by Listyguy » Wed Aug 13, 2014 1:33 am

I'm not a huge fan of recorded live music (being there is obviously different), but usually I prefer live albums with interesting covers and versions of their original songs that don't sound like they came right off the studio albums.

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Re: What makes a great live album?

Post by audioclectic » Wed Aug 13, 2014 1:36 am

Studio albums have impacts in their own time that can't be appreciated by those who didn't live through the time. Hearing music live can be an exhilirating experience. Hearing a bad live album can be the opposite. Good live albums usually appear when bands are totally versed with their material. To use a poor analogy, the performance is maybe more soulful than the atmosphere associated with the studio. We usually hear artists first through their studio efforts, and embrace them or reject them on those merits (or lack thereof).

Consider Kiss. I bought their first album. It was pretty crusty in its day. For those who were ready to march to hard rock, it was fresh and powerful. They weren't great musicians though, but they began to learn to play to the strengths of the music and it showed up on their live album. I see Cheap Trick as being similar. I find their early albums slightly dull. But they had an energy for Budokan that had to come from confidence in the material, and mastery of the material.

Okay, I'm rambling a bit here. But that's it for me. Energy, confidence, deep familiarity with the material. And all of that said, I think the studio albums must be primary for fans. Studio albums come first and create allegiance.

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Re: What makes a great live album?

Post by Jirin » Wed Aug 13, 2014 3:08 am

My favorite live albums tend to be the ones that do something a little different than on the studio albums. Like, Nirvana's MTV Unplugged stands out both because it's more acoustic and personal but because it had a couple brilliant Vaselines and Meat Puppets covers.

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Re: What makes a great live album?

Post by McJagger » Wed Aug 13, 2014 3:49 am

It would be interesting to see an overview of live albums listed on AM. My impression is that the vast majority of albums listed are studio albums (something approaching 98%, I'd say) and that the days of the iconic, critically-acclaimed live album like "'Live' at the Apollo" and "Live at Leeds" are over. This, despite (or because of?) the fact that, with piracy, live shows are more important than ever for the financial health of the industry. Have high quality bootlegs killed the live album?

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