As a whole I think I tend to listen to more live recordings than I do studio albums, especially from the late 60’s and early 70’s. That period for me is second to none when it comes to live music. The places bands took music, including those listed below, have never been reached since in my opinion. At least not the same extent. So, the following are my top five live albums of all time. Enjoy.
The Allman Brothers Band – At Fillmore East
#1 on my favourite live albums list is At Fillmore East by The Allman Brothers Band. Not only is it one of the best live albums but it’s also one of the best albums, period. Hearing the Brothers at the peak of their performing powers is nothing short of magnificent with the late great Duane Allman leading the way, forging a path forward into the blues/rock unknown. This is the album that would ultimately propel the band to stardom and it’s clear why when you listen to it. The version of Statesboro Blues that opens the album is arguably one of the best performances by any band EVER, and if that isn’t enough the whole album is brimming with magnificence from start to finish.
The superb individual solo sections on Stormy Monday are another one of my favourite moments, as well as Berry Oakley’s explosive bass playing on Whipping Post which ends the album. A deluxe edition would be released in 2003 with a number of other tracks including Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’ and the monstrous Mountain Jam which is up there alongside the most magnificent pieces of music ever recorded. I don’t think any band has ever been to that kind of place musically since.
Derek and the Dominos – In Concert
Derek and the Dominos are more well known for the stunning studio album Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs released in 1970, but those who know the band well know they were a force to be reckoned with on stage. In Concert, released in 1973, was recorded at Fillmore East and features tracks from three of the four shows the band played at the venue on the 23rd and 24th October 1970. At this point the Dominos had just started their US tour, having played their first show at Rider College in Trenton, NJ, only a week earlier, but the album shows how developed the band were at that point, even though they had only played two legs of a UK tour prior to playing in the United States.
Not many people are really aware of how great Derek and the Dominos were as a live unit. Eric Clapton, Bobby Whitlock, Carl Radle and Jim Gordon combined to make one of the best bands of all time and you can hear this on In Concert. The song Got To Get Better In A Little While from this album is a fantastic version and one of my favourite live performances ever. The band gel as one which is impressive considering at this point they had only been playing live regularly for just over two and a half months. It’s a must have album for your record collection.
Derek and the Dominos – Live At The Fillmore
Yes, that’s right, a second live album from Derek and the Dominos. 1994 saw the release of an expanded live album called Live At The Fillmore which contains a number of previously unreleased tracks from the Fillmore shows and the addition of Key To The Highway and Crossroads really make this album something else entirely. The original In Concert album is largely seen as the better of the two but for me at least I love the addition of more songs so I had to include this album as well. You can’t get enough of Derek and the Dominos, but I could be biased…
Key To The Highway, Crossroads and a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s Little Wing are among the new songs to be released that weren’t on In Concert. Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out is another new song which is a wonderful addition because it’s not a song the band played live much compared to other numbers so having it here and being able to listen to it in fantastic quality really is a dream.
Eric Clapton – Unplugged
Clapton had a major resurgence in the early 90’s led by this incredible album released in 1992. After nearly two decades of either drug or alcohol abuse, Clapton was back and the acoustic blues featured on this album is some of the best playing he’s ever done. The unplugged nature of the recording laid bare his soul for the world to see, especially in his song Tears In Heaven which he wrote after the tragic death of his son Connor a year earlier. It’s a song that Clapton hasn’t played much since and even though there was a studio version recorded in 1991 it’s this version that everyone remembers for the breathtaking beauty it contains.
Unplugged also contains a host of superb acoustic blues covers from Before You Accuse Me to the great cover of Robert Johnson’s Walkin’ Blues which may be my favourite song on the whole record. But it’s the complete reworking of his signature song Layla that many people remember about this album. The song doesn’t sound anything like the original version recorded by Derek and the Dominos 22 years earlier yet it still manages to remain, to this day, one of Clapton’s stand out tracks.
B.B. King – Live At The Regal
When talking about greatest live albums of all time, you can’t not have B.B. King’s legendary Live At The Regal in your top five. The album is brimming with musical excellence and features some of the best electric blues playing ever recorded. King’s opening notes on the first track, Everyday I Have The Blues, are a thing of legend and feature one of the most unique and recognisable guitar tones of all time.
Some people may say that his Live In Cook County Jail album is the superior but I go for this one every time. Both albums are magnificent of course because what you get on them is B.B. King at his very best, that smooth Lucille tone that can cut through butter at a seconds notice. But hearing the opening guitar lines from Every Day I Have The Blues melts me instantly. When you think of live albums this has to be in your top five and it’s also one of the best blues albums as well, and one of the best albums of all time. Period.
What are your favourite live albums? Let me know by leaving a comment in the comment section below!
In my next OPINION PIECES article I will be naming my top 10 favourite songs by The Beatles, a list that has proved very difficult to put together.