When it comes to live albums, they have to be REALLY good for me to like them. Most of the time, the live albums that bands release don’t sound that great or they don’t really capture the essence of their live shows. But over the years, the list of great live albums has been growing for me. In this article, I’ll explain which live albums are my favorites and why you should give them a listen!
1. The Levellers – “The Fiddle and the Drum”
This live album is an official fanclub bootleg, at least I think it’s an official release. The Levs sound great and are very energetic. Another reason why I love this release because it’s the very first album I heard from the band. Don’t tell the band, but thanks to file sharing, I wouldn’t have heard of the Levellers if it wasn’t for downloading. Hey, and don’t give me crap for downloading because I’ve spent so much money on the Levellers you wouldn’t believe (like flying to England twice to see them live)! But anyway, The Levellers play mostly tracks from “Levelling the Land” and “A Weapon Called the Word.” “The Game” and “Liberty Song” were THE songs from this album that got me hooked onto the Levellers. If I had to recommend a live album by my favorite band, then this one would be it.
2. The Pogues – “Ultimate Collection” (Disc 2)
The recent Pogues “Ultimate Collection” was an official 2-disc release by the Pogues that came out in 2005. The first disc served as a best-of disc with many songs you’d expect to hear. The second disc is a live performance at London’s Brixton Academy in 2001. I’m sure some people would prefer the unofficial Streams of Whiskey live album since the band was in their prime then. I actually think this one is the far superior one because there’s just so many great songs being played here. Shane MacGowan’s vocals sound excellent and the rest of the band playing & singing sound equally great. Definitely pick up this Ultimate Collection album if you call yourself a Pogues fan.
3. Madness – “Universal Madness”
I saw Madness around the time this album was released, and that show could been one of the best concerts i’ve ever been to. Their performance on this album is great, and you really get the sense of a live concert. You hear the crowd cheering, and you feel like your at the concert with them. There’s 13 tracks in total and each one of them is a classic. Well I guess hearing a skinhead reggae version of Swan Lake I could have done without but the rest of the album is almost flawless. “Our House” and “Bed & Breakfast Man” stood out in my mind.
4. Bob Marley and the Wailers – “Live”
Granted there are only 8 tracks on this album, it’s still an infamous show and one of the best live recordings from Marley & the Wailers. You should be able to recognize at least one song from this live album, and that’s “No Woman No Cry.” It’s the second track on the Wailer’s “Legend” album, which I think could be the best Greatest Hits album ever but that’s another article for another time. “No Woman No Cry” is such a powerful song that sounds ten times better live than it does in the studio. It certainly doesn’t hold the same impact as hearing it on their studio album. Another notable song that I love from this album is “Trenchtown Rock,” which starts the album off. There are other great live albums from the Wailers like “Babylon By Bus” but this one stands out from the rest. I believe there might have been a live video from this concert as well? At least check out the live album if anything.
5. Ozzy – “Tribute”
The Randy Rhodes Tribute was one of the very first live albums I owned. I think it might have been my first Ozzy album as well. I got into Ozzy right around when “No Rest for the Wicked” came out and I saw him live that time as well. This live album really captures how crazy Ozzy was live, plus all the songs being played here are amazing! Though hearing them in person is just as great. The album cover is quite iconic as well. It’s right up there with The Clash’s London Calling album cover. This is by far the best Ozzy live album out there. “CRAZY!!”
6. Subhumans – “Live in a Dive”
I think this is one of the best albums in the Fat Wreck “Live in a Dive” series! Now i’m not positive but I don’t believe the Subhumans had a proper live album until this came out in 2004. So, many thanks to Fat Wreck Chords for giving the Subhumans the chance to record a terrific live album. You would think the band were a bunch of youngsters for having this much energy in a live show. But no, they are a bunch of old geezers who still have one of the most energetic punk shows around. The Subhumans breeze through 26 tracks and it’s an impressive list of songs as well. You got songs like “All Gone Dead,” “Waste of Breathe,” Religious Wars,” “Parasites,” “Pigman” and “Drugs of Youth.” There’s obviously more songs to list but once the sense of listing so many damn songs. What’s worth noting is how clear the sound is for this recording; it almost makes you not want to go to their shows and just listen to this instead. But honestly, who the hell wants to stay home and be a hermit and not enjoy an awesome punk show!
7. Mighty Mighty Bosstones – “Live from the Middle East”
Obviously the Bosstones didn’t play IN the Middle East but this is from Boston. Each year, the Bosstones would have a Hometown Throwdown and this recording is from one of those shows. This live album was released around the height of the band’s popularity so you’ll hear a lot of their stuff from the “Let’s Face It” album. The Bosstones do an excellent job of balancing new songs with older songs. But since I love all their albums I don’t mind the mixture. The band really sounds like they are enjoying themselves, and the album quality is really good. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones are one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen and sadly they have been on hiatus for a few years now. Hopefully the band will come to their senses and get back together. They are too good to go out like that but for now we have to hold ourselves over with this great live album.
8. Dead Kennedys – “Never Been on MTV” (bootleg)
This isn’t an official live album but i’m pretty sure its an official video. I’ve seen this show when it was on VHS but now it’s available on DVD as well. But hearing the Cd is just as good as watching the DK show. Although, you do miss out on crazy 80’s punkers stage diving and Jello Biafra’s wacky stage antics. They play a lot of awesome songs during this show like “Police Truck,” “Moral Majority,” “MTV get Off the Air” and “Nazi Punks Fuck off!” There’s other live albums out but I actually think this one is the best one if you can find it on CD or mp3.
9. The Pietasters – “Strapped Live”
This was the first Pietasters album I bought and I’ve been a fan ever since. The Pietasters’ live show is great because they either play their songs faster or slower, I guess depending how they feel that night. Either way, it’s a jolly good time! On this live album, the band does great covers of the Pogues’ “Fiesta,” as well as The Business’ “Drinking & Driving.” I actually prefer hearing their live versions of “Without You,” “Perfect World” and “Girl Take It Easy” instead of their studio tracks. This album captures their live show quite well!
10. Tom Waits – “Storytellers”
Some people like Big Time, some people simply like Tom Waits’ bootlegs. I love all the Tom Waits bootlegs I can get but I actually like the VH1 Storytellers special the best. Tom plays a lot of great songs during this in the studio set, but he’s also quite funny with his stories and in-between song banter. I actually haven’t seen this episode of Storytellers but I have the album (Although I have YouTube clips of it). He sings “Hold On,” “Hang Down Your Head,” “Downtown Train” and “Tango ’til they’re sore,” which are some of my favorites from Tom. But out of all the live albums and bootlegs, this one is my favorite.
11. The Clash – “From Here to Eternity”
“From Here to Eternity” was released several years ago but it’s a bunch of live songs from various venues. While that may not be as real as hearing the band play straight through, it’s still a top notch live album. Might as well get the best songs & best quality and put them all together instead of having some crappy songs, some good songs. But you wouldn’t really know the difference if it was recorded in other cities if it wasn’t stated. The Clash’s song selection on the album is good, with songs from their earlier stuff all the way to their last album. I liked hearing “London Calling” and “Straight to Hell” the most.
12. Swingin’ Utters- “Live in a Dive”
This is another favorite of mine from the Fat Wreck Live in a Dive series. Of course Swingin’ Utters are one of my favorite punk bands so it was very easy to like this one. The band covers a lot of ground in such a short amount of time. They play earlier material all the way to their newest album. The Utters even play one or two Filthy Thieving Bastards tracks, with Darius on the accordion. I think my favorite track on the album is “the Dirty Sea” and I can’t even remember what album that song is from. This is definitely an album for Swingin’ Utters fans to get if they haven’t already.
13. Agnostic Front – “Last Warning”
This was the first Agnostic Front album I bought & heard from the band. Not sure how I found about it; but I’m thankful I did. This recording was done at the now closed CBGB, and it was suppose to be the last performance from AF but apparently that wasn’t the case. The recording itself is okay, but i’m sure there are better sounding recordings out there now for Agnostic Front. I think I love this album so much because of the setlist but also because of nostalgic purposes of being in a pissed off high school student. I just would listen to this album, stuff from the Dead Kennedys and Minor Threat everyday in high school.
14. Great Big Sea – “Road Rage”
People may or may not know who Great Big Sea are but I happen to love their music. The Newfoundland Celtic group are known for their lively stage presence, and I guess their horde of screaming female fans. You’ll hear them plenty on this live album. One thing that makes me want to see all of Great Big Sea’s concerts is all those female fans to look at. Anyway, the band sounds great and the quality is excellent. The one song that stands out on this album is the cover of The Pushstars’ “Everything Shines.” Great Big Sea do a better version than The Pushstars do and as far as I know, this is the only album where you can hear them doing that song. There’s a few songs on here I wouldn’t have played but for the most part, this is a great album to own if you’re a GBS fan.
15. Mad Caddies – “Live from Toronto: Songs in the Key of Eh”
If it wasn’t for the Mad Caddies opening up the Warped Tour in 1997, I might not have gotten into the band. But thankfully I saw their show and became an instant fan. Once they signed to Fat Wreck Chords, they have gotten better & better with each release. Their live album was released in between their brilliant “Just One More” album and their brand new album “Keep It Going.” The production of the album is excellent and the band plays all their hits, including one of my favorites “Weird Beard.” I love when the band does the pirate and dixieland songs and you get plenty of that on this live album.
16. The Jam – “Dig the New Breed”
I guess this would be the best Jam live cd out there? There are a few others but this has the best setlist I think. The other live album “Live Jam” has 24 tracks and those songs don’t appear on “Dig the New Breed.” The sound quality is roughly the same; you’re not gonna get much better sound from the 80s if it’s not re-mastered. On “Dig the New Breed,” the Jam play great tunes like “In The City,” “To Be Someone,” “It’s Too Bad,” “Going Underground,” and “That’s Entertainment.” All they could have included was “A Town Called Malice” and I’d be all set. “Live Jam” might have more songs on it but I think “Dig the New Breed” has a better song selection.
17. The Descendents/All – “Live Plus One”
I’m sure Descendents fans prefer “Liveage” or don’t even like Descendents as much as All (They are pretty much the same damn band anyway). To support that theory, All is on the first disc and the Descendents are on the second disc. This is the live album I always have to listen to when I’m in the mood for the Descendents though. The reason why I like this album is because the sound quality is a lot better than “Liveage.” Plus the band mixes old favorites with their new material from “Everything Sucks.” That album is one of my favorite albums from the Descendents. The punk band plays some of my faves from their other albums on this live Cd like “Hope,” “Silly Girl,” “Myage,” and “Cheer” and “Bikeage.”
18. Johnny Cash – “At Madison Square Garden”
Everyone and their mother has put a Johnny Cash live album on their list at some point but they always either pick “At San Quentin” or “At Folsom Prison.” Those are great albums but I always end up listening to the Madison Square Garden live album (from 1969). There’s 26 songs in total, Carl Perkins stops by to play “Blue Suede Shoes,” the Statler Brothers play “Flowers on the Wall” (which you might remember from Pulp Fiction) and the Carter Family plays a few songs as well. I actually like the song selection Cash picks, and he plays songs like “Five Feet High and Rising,” “A Boy Named Sue,” “Wreck of the Old 97,” “Cocaine Blues” and of course “Folsom Prison Blues.” Great live album that is under-appreciated.
19. The Ramones – “We’re Outta Here”
This was the last concert from the Ramones I believe. There’s over 30 songs but this is the Ramones so don’t be expecting these long epic rock operas. This live album shows how great the Ramones sounded after all these years. Everybody just sounded awesome and it saddens me to think that most of them are gone now. Fans have a variety of live albums to choose from, but since this is the only Ramones album I have, this is the one I tend to listen. I always listen to their studio albums so it’s a nice change to hear their music on a live album. You all know the songs by now so no need to list what they played.
20. Pennywise – “Live at the Key Club”
Pennywise put on a great punk show, especially the times i’ve seen them at Irving Plaza & the Warped Tour. This live album has a lot of awesome Pennywise songs but the quality isn’t the greatest (Although I’ve heard worse). It is punk after all so I shouldn’t be all hung up on the sound quality. Pennywise do a cool cover of “Minor Threat” and play with intensity. Be sure to listen to the very end when they do “Bro Hymn.” While this might not be the best live album out there it’s still a live album by one of my favorite punk bands.