Do you buy "Live" albums? (or Live music of any kind?)

Recently, I’ve been trying to organize my music collection. It turned out to be a much bigger job than I thought it would be. Some of my favorite artists include Dylan, Santana and AC/DC. I have more than 20 albums for each of them and I feel lucky not to have more than that because many artists have recorded more than 100 albums. Trying to organize that much music (to remove duplicates, short tracks and other problems) is truly a huge job - at least it has been for me.

Before I began to appreciate Santana, I would never have believed Carlos Santana had produced more than 100 albums. But you can see that for yourself on the following Wiki discography:

The question I’d like to ask you is: Do you buy “Live” albums? After spending a few weeks trying to organize my music, I have decided to give up entirely on “Live recordings”. I don’t keep them on any albums and I have removed all live tracks from my hard drive. Why?

Well, I have been to a few live events and they can be really thrilling. But when I’m listening to music in the privacy of my home, I want to hear what the artist intended but I truly don’t get that from “Live” recordings. If I’m paying to listen to the artist, I sure don’t want to pay to listen to the audience. Especially when the audience includes drunks or rowdies who try to sing along with the band or talk over them. For me … that is just … No Bueno!

Let me share one example with you? One of my all-time favorite songs is “I’m not Like Everybody Else” by The Kinks. Here is a link to one specific “Live” performance:

At the 12 second mark, Ray Davies is explaining how The Kinks often “mess up” opportunities when an audience member shouts out, “Oh no you don’t!” That just ruins the moment for me - especially since Davies is sharing a personal moment and may be about to reveal more. But this audience member interrupts him and we never find out whether he was going to reveal any more or not.

Generally I don’t bother with live recordings, but two exceptions would be “Live at Leeds” by the Who and Jeff Beck’s “Live at Ronnie Scotts.” Amazing must have recordings.

Depends on the performance.

If it’s jams, medleys, and improvisation, yeah, I’m into it.

If it’s just exact album arrangements with cheering, fuck that. Those are shameless money grabs.

It really depends. Some artists, especially jazz, are at their best live. I usually avoid live classical music recordings, except for opera, as audience applause and coughing gets annoying. With rock music, it really depends. There are plenty of live recordings, especially ones that are released posthumously or years after the original performance, that show a sloppy band, annoying audience, or artists that were stoned or drunk out of their minds. Other live recordings are so overdubbed in the studio that they barely qualify as a live performance. So, I research potential recordings and usually give them a listen on Spotify before buying.

Reported for forum change.

Well, there are live albums and there are LIVE albums. Two absolutely great live albums are “KISS Alive” and “Frampton Comes Alive.”

Neil Young’s “Rust Never Sleeps” is an original album with most tracks recorded live (albeit with some studio dubbing).

Jackson Browne’s “Running on Empty” is similarly an original album with some live tracks: also tracks recorded on the bus, backstage, in the hotel room, etc.

Simon and Garfunkel “Live in Central Park” is an absolute must-have for live albums. What a performance!

So, yeah some live albums are superb.

Sometimes, yes; typically, not as much. That is, unless it’s a band I’m obsessed with, which admittedly is quite a few, I’ll often treat live albums as optional, and sometimes even ignorable, depending on who it is and how and why they’re doing a live album. The point of a live album should be that it captures the energy of a live performance. Being a HUGE fan of live performances, that ought to be a big plus, but it takes very careful work by the sound engineers, the band, and even the crowd, to make it worth listening to.

The work of the sound engineers is obvious, they need to get a great recording of the band performing that nearly rivals a studio performance. If it’s muddy, then it’s unlistenable no matter how good the performance may have been. They also need to catch enough of the crowd reaction to give me a sensation of being in the crowd and how they’re reacting, without drowning out the music itself. That’s a delicate balance, and its rare that I hear it done well.

The band has the most work, though. Obviously, they have to pick a good set. Most tours will be heavy on the newest material, but a good live album should make sure to include most or all of the favorites from their whole catalog. After all, most live performances serve to perform songs that we haven’t heard live before and to help sell the newest album, but a recorded liver performance is it’s own thing and should be treated as such. Similarly, I’m frustrated when the band loses the audio only aspect of that performance. Sure, when I’m in the crowd, I’m all for games and sing along and random chit chat or whatever, but that doesn’t translate to a live album. They need to make sure as much of it translates to the recording as possible. It’s like hearing an audio recording of a comedian who does visual gags and all you hear on their album is “and then he was like… and then he did…” It just sucks. But most of all, they need to be TIGHT and bring something special. I can forgive a lot of mistakes from the crowd, but they come through a lot more in the recording. And they need to do something special on some of the tracks, some different vocal inflections, and extend or improvised solo, whatever. If it’s just the same as what’s on the album but with worse quality recording and mistakes, forget it.

Yes, the crowd is a big part of it. If you’re at a live recording, you should be pumped and you have to do your part in keeping your energy, and the energy of the crowd and the band high. Don’t be a dick and heckle the band or yell obnoxious stuff or start a fight or whatever other stupid crap the the crowd does.

And as a bonus, if it’s a bluray or dvd, the direction and lighting and camera work all matter a lot. I’ve seen some that were largely just ruined because they had no idea what the crowd would actually be looking at. For instance, if there’s a guitar solo going on, I don’t need a zoom in on the crowd or the bassist or whatever, show me that guitarist shredding. If the singer is in an emotional part, show me his expressions on his face. Give me some crowd reactions of people actually REALLY into the show, not just some random due screaming or a hot girl that’s only there because her boyfriend dragged her along. And, seriously, I know most people only care about the vocalist and the lead guitarist, but I want to see fair time given to every member of the band.

Seriously, if a live album is really well done, it can rival or even exceed a band’s best studio album. Too often, though, it’s just a recording of one, or a few, random performances on a given tour and it’s thrown together for a quick cash grab from loyal fans. So, yeah, unless it’s one of those bands I must own everything for, I’ll generally check the set list and listen to a track or two before I decided if I should buy it or not.

My first two albums. Before that, I was all 45s


I have a few “Live, in concert” DVDs I like to use for BBQs or other type get-togethers. I think they make for a nice background where guests can stop by the TV, watch for a few minutes, and then go about mingling with the other guests. Makes for a nice conversation piece I guess.

But when it’s just me, I prefer studio version.

I like to watch live DVDs when I’m on my elliptical trainer. My current workout disc is Deep Purple’s Perfect Strangers Live.

I could have sworn that when I read the rules for Polls, it said this forum was the place for polls. But now I can’t find it. Figures.

Nice tip. Thanks very much. I like Jeff Beck but never heard that one. I will def have to check it out.

I’m not a big fan of live recordings, to be honest.

However, I do still buy them occasionally. For many bands, it’s the only way to get a “greatest hits” equivalent and the price is often cheaper per song than either regular albums or picking up each song individually.

I also have a couple of live albums backed up by a symphony orchestra - Metallica’s S&M being one of them. There’s generally no studio equivalent to those.

Relocated to Cafe Society.

Leaffan - Kiss Alive is barely live - lots of overdubs and remixing and crowd noise.

I’m the first to mention Cheap Trick: Live at Budokan? Those version are SO much better than the original studio.

UFO’s Strangers In the Night is definitive - held up by a lot of metal fans, including That Metal Show’s Eddie Trunk, as a fave. Michael Schenker at his best…

I have lots of “Live” albums in the collection. Some are noted above. Ones that aren’t mentioned that I really like include Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense (which is so studio-sweetened it almost doesn’t qualify!), Bruce Springsteen & the E street Band’s Live from Madison Square Garden, virtually every live recording of the Dave Brubeck Quartet I can find, and of course countless Santana. “Toussaint L’Overture” live is what I use to get my blood pumping before school.

While “live” recordings generally suck for rock bands, “Frampton Comes
Alive” is an exception.

Many of the titles on Earth Wind & Fire’s “Gratitude” are better than the studio versions.

I’ve had a few live albums, by accident mostly, and they pretty much sucked (greatest hits collections with shitty sound)–But then my wife bought me Nighthawks at the Diner, and everything changed. That is what a live album should be. Now, I don’t rule out live albums when considering for purchase.

I have every album Live ever made. Big fan, even without Ed.

Great album. So is Rush’s “All The World’s A Stage.” This album’s recordings of “Lakeside Park” and “By-Tor and the Snow Dog” are unequaled.