10 Things - Essential Live Recordings

This months’ installment of "10 THINGS" will engage the Guitar.com visitor in that age-old epic debate; the top 10 live recordings for a guitar player. Now clearly lists of this type are subjective and reflect the writers taste and influences, so we did our best to ask numerous players what their thoughts were on this topic. We combined the many lists and did our best to distill what we thought would be essential live recordings for players to ruminate over, contemplate and even better, aspire to out-do these offerings.

But remember, these are just opinions and the suggestion from guitar players that love guitar music. So if you have a recording that we’ve over looked (and we’re most confident that we have, as we had a roughed time limiting this list to just 10, with over 80 suggestions brought forth), feel free to suggest your list in the comment section below. We look forward to your critique and criticism (and these are in no particular order of import).

#10 Allman Brothers – Fillmore East – Released in 1971, Probably the best known live recording, especially with Duane Allman’s stunning slide performance. This record set a very high standard for live recordings to come. There have been deluxe editions and re-mastered versions but whether you listen to it on CD or Vinyl, it’s a captivating performance.

Stand out tracks: Statesboro Blues, In Memory of Elizabeth Reed, Whipping Post.

#9 The Who - Live At Leeds – Released in 1970, this is one of those must listen recordings. The NY Times hailed this album as the “best live album ever made”. Granted in 1970, there weren’t quite as many as we have today, looking back over the last 30 to 40 years. However, it doesn’t pail with time. Townsend’s playing is massive and angry. Moon’s drumming is equally raucous. Whether you’re a Who fan or not, this is one of those classic moments in Rock History, that was thankfully preserved to revisit again and again.

Stand out tracks: My Generation and Summertime Blues

#8 Kiss – Alive – Released in 1975 - If you are of the age to remember when this record came out, live records were definitely “a thing” by this time. However, this “thing” was new in a jaw-dropping, parent-scaring, eye-popping musical feast for both your ears and eyes kind of way. The theatrics, the bombast, the fire, the blood, the make-up, the complete mayhem that KISS evoked spoke to legions of soon-to-be fans. Simply the fact that KISS is currently celebrating 46 years together (in one format or another) says a great deal about their inception and legacy but this album said it all. It was their 4th release and it was head and shoulders above anything else they had done to date.

Stand out tracks: Black Diamond, Strutter and Rock and Roll All Nite

#7 Peter Frampton – Frampton Comes Alive – Released in 1976 - So much has been written about this recording it’s almost not worth saying too much more. It’s one of those iconoclastic recordings that made Peter Frampton a household name. His guitar playing, his good looks and his songwriting, put him on the cover of teen magazines, guitar publications and sold him millions upon millions of this recording. His studio efforts would never match up. But even as he tours today, his playing speaks for itself (honorable mention; Humble Pie, Rockin’ the Filmore – Peter’s previous band; also a very powerful live recording).

Stand out tracks: Do You Feel Like We Do, Shine On, Show Me the Way

#6 Wes Montgomery  – Full House – Released in 1962 and has since been released with the full concert, Wes was way ahead of him time. Carrying forth the legacy of players like Charlie Christian and Django, Wes was breaking new ground in an era of Jazz that was filled with sax and horn players. As this is a list of live Guitar Recordings, this is one of those must listen to recordings, not only because it was 1962 (and remember that if you get your hands on this release) but also because, if it came out today, it would still be burnin’.

Stand out tracks: Born to Be Blue, Come Rain or Come Shine

#5 – Bob Marley and the Wailers – Live – Release in 1975 Reggae truly reached a pinnacle with Mr. Marley and unfortunately, seem to pass a particular point in its popularity with his passing as well. Bunny Wailer really helped Bob generate a tone, a sound and a vibe that spoke to the masses. Some attribute that breakthough at the hands of Eric Clapton. Eric's recording “I Shot the Sheriff” on his 461 Ocean Boulevard (1974) certainly aided Bob’s next step to stardom. But on his own, Bob’s songwriting and truthfulness shone through regardless of any outside assistance.  The toughest part of adding this to the list is that from a guitar perspective, it’s the negative space created by Bunny Wailer that makes this recording so superlative. Sometimes less is more and this recording speaks volumes in that regard.

Stand out tracks: No Woman No Cry, Get up Stand Up, I Shot the Sheriff

#4 – The Grateful Dead – Dead Europe ’72 – Released in 1972 – one of the quintessential Dead Recordings (although I’ll probably get a ton of email refuting this ten times over). Out of the previous five recordings released by the Grateful Dead, three of them were live, including this one. For me, this was the best of the best. The material covered by this record represents some of Jerry’s better playing (I can see the emails already start flying in). If you never got to see the Dead, this recording showcases some of the “hits” (using that term very loosely as that was never the Dead’s intent, goal or otherwise) and also some of their more esoteric songs. Between the unique harmony lines, the interplay between Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir and of course, the final performance for “Pigpen” McKernan, this is some of the Grateful Deads’ finest moments for the non-fan. Fans will have much more to say on this topic.

Stand out tracks: Morning Dew, Truckin’, One More Saturday Night

#3 Thin Lizzy – Live and Dangerous – Released in 1978, internationally Thin Lizzy received far more critical acclaim then they would ever garner in the US, which was unfortunate. They did do some massive tours opening for everyone from Queen to Rush. Unfortunately, this particular record will be forever marred in its “live” classification, as legend has it, that it was largely recreated in the studio. Overdubs, new vocals added, new guitar tracks – or so the story goes. Basically, the audience was live and the drums are live. Everything is up for discussion. This is Thin Lizzy its their peak.

Stand out tracks: Jailbreak, Cowboy Song, Warriors


#2 - Judas Priest, Unleashed in the East – Released in 1979 – and as many live recordings from the 70’s seem to suffer from, reworking in the studio. This recording was mockingly called “Unleashed in the Studio,” however, you won’t find a better live recording of this bands musical legacy beyond this, their first, live (cough) recording. The dual guitar attack of K.K. Downing and Glen Tipton is at full mast for this recording and Rob Halford’s voice was the perfect match for that attack. For all you metal fans, you can’t have a complete live collection without this one.

Stand out tracks: Diamonds and Rust, Exciter, Sinner (where the hell is Hellbent for Leather?)

#1 – The Rolling Stones - Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out – Released in 1970 – technically this is the 2nd live recording released by the band but the Stones don’t particularly care for the previous “Got Live” recording (1966) so they view this as their first official live recording. This tour would have Mick Taylor taking Brian Jones spot, after his death earlier in the year. B.B. King, Chuck Berry and Ike and Tina Turner would open for them across the US. Keith and Mick (Taylor that is), have a dual guitar attack of their own. In fact, you’ll hear parts still working themselves out on this recording. 

Stand out tracks: Midnight Rambler, Street Fighting Man, Love in Vain

BONUS RECORDINGS – Okay, this was a very difficult task and quite frankly, nearly impossible to limit to just 10. So here are a few more you should check out, if for no other reason, than to expand your guitar vernacular and hear some amazing guitar lines.

1.    Lynyrd Skynyrd   - One More From the Road
2.    Little Feat - Waiting for Columbus
3.    Eric Clapton – Another Ticket
4.    Howlin’ Wolf – Rockin The Blues: Live In Germany 1964
5.    James Brown – live at the Apollo
6.    Cheap trick – live at Budokan
7.    Robin Trower Live
8.    Cream - Wheels of Fire
9.    Johnny Winter And… Live
10.  The Band - The Last Waltz

Be sure to check out our previous months edition of "10 Things" as well. See you next month!

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