Favorite Live Album

One person's version of the Top 100 live albums.  My favorite, Seconds Out by Genesis, is not on the list.

I know this choice is semi-blasphemy for other old Genesis fans, as this was in the early days after Peter Gabriel left and Phil Collins had just taken over as lead singer.   I like a lot of the old Gabriel-era work, but for me this was the band at its peak, still playing all of its original prog-rock work but with a little more polish and less, uh, wackiness with Collins out front rather than Gabriel.   The band was at that inflection point before it slid downhill from rich, complex, challenging music to polished but thin and mediocre pop songs  (roughly the same transition we have had to watch Springsteen go through), a transition that is certainly related to Gabriel's departure.

Update: By the way, the purpose of this post was not to try to establish some musical moral high ground.  In looking back on the post, I fell in the trap of snobbily turning my nose up at certain works.  Shouldn't have done that.   I don't grok Bob Dillon and get irritated with those who look down their nose at me for that, and I try to avoid doing the same.  So I will say it is perfectly OK if you don't "get" early Genesis and prog rock.  In fact, it probably makes you normal.  70's prog rock can be, frankly, inaccessible for those who did not grow up on it.

However, if you like old Yes, Jethro Tull, ELP and the like and haven't ever heard Seconds Out or some of the albums it is based on (Trick of the Tail, Wind and Wuthering, Lamb Lies Down on Broadway) it might reward you to check it out.

  • Chris K.

    I've been a big Genesis fan ever since the release of their 1980 album, Duke. Before that, I really didn't understand any of their work. Too artsy, too intellectual. It was on Duke where Phil Collins' presence became more apparent. I think Invisible Touch was the group's undisputed masterpiece. It's an epic meditation on intangibility. At the same time, it deepens and enriches the meaning of the preceding three albums.

  • Gordo

    These lists are always interesting. The Who "Live at Leeds" is the best live album I've ever heard & I've listened to 1/2 those that were above it. I have to take issue with the Judas Priest selection because it's not even the best live album that they put out, which is "PRIEST LIVE". Oh well, thanks for linking to this.

  • http://devilish-details.blogspot.com/ Mesa Econoguy

    Seconds Out is good (we used to play squonk), but Three Sides Live is crisper. I never got into the Gabriel stuff, though I do have his solo works.

    Collins was actually still a musician at this time, also fronting the jazz-fusion band Brand X.

    Overall sound-quality-wise, anything Floyd-related is the best (notably Pulse), with Gilmour claiming they never overdubbed (I seriously doubt this). Sounds great, tho.

    The really cool stuff now is taking some of the old live recordings and cleaning them up and upmixing them to Dolby 5.1 or DTS. A lot of the originals still exist in multitrack form (thanks, Les Paul!) and now they're remastering into the 5.1 and 7.1 (and 11.2) realms.

  • Sol

    I don't have any trouble believing Pulse wasn't overdubbed -- it's the best performances from multiple nights, after all, and most of the songs were things they'd been doing for decades.

    I looked over what I got when I typed "live" into my iTunes, and I think Kurt Elling's "Live in Chicago" might be the pick of the litter -- top notch performances, Jon Hendricks guest appearance, and a bunch of songs Kurt never recorded in the studio.

  • Peter

    Early Genesis are still some of my favorite albums. Foxtrot and Nursery Cryme being my favorite. Or maybe Selling England By the Pound. Musical Box on Nursery Cryme is the best. Then again The Knife (both live and studio version) is pretty good. Hell they were all good!

  • NJconservative

    Dude,

    How can you criticize the Boss? He's been dining out on the same bloated, fake working-class music for the last 25 years!

  • Frank Gas

    The guitar solo on Firth of Fifth on Seconds Out is sublime. If you like Seconds Out, check out Watcher of the Skies (Genesis Revisited) by Steve Hackett. I divide Genesis into with or without Steve...

  • BDAABAT

    Seconds Out is one of my favs as well. Those guys were on fire in that period! Love the interplay between Chester Thompson and Phil as well.

    If you like mid period Genesis and are looking for something more current, would suggest trying out Porcupine Tree (http://www.porcupinetree.com/). Five member live band with outstanding musicians. They have a terrific live DVD called, "Arriving Somewhere..." that's an excellent introduction to the band. The current album is called, "The Incident"; the first disc has one song that's divided into several parts... proggy length, some nifty timing (drummer is Gavin Harrison... he's terrific!), terrific musicianship, and crafty lyrics. Good stuff!

    Bruce

  • J Howe

    Seconds Out is still one of my favorite live albums. I agree with Frank Gas about the guitar solo on Firth of a Fifth. Hackett's solo is terrific (although Darryl Stuermer's version on later tours is probably equal or better) and I really enjoy the versions of Supper's Ready and Cinema Show.

    I recently heard that Phil was giving up the drums because of a physical ailment. Makes me sad to think we won't be seeing/hearing the great dual drum solos by Chester and Phil. That was a highlight of any Genesis concert.

  • dave smith

    Love seconds out...it is slightly better than three sides live. Genesis is my favorite band.

  • http://economicfactoidwatch.blogspot.com/ Mike Walsh

    I liked a lot of the earlier Genesis work. I thought they got too polished after a while. The only thing I saw by them in that era was a movie of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway sometime in the mid seventies. I saw them live a few years later in their more "pop" mode.

    That list is interesting. Some of those tours I saw live though not the same show that was recorded.
    The most notable was the Led Zeppelin 1972 tour. I saw them about ten days before that show that was recorded on How The West Was Won. To this day I still say that was the best concert I've ever seen. Ticket price was $4.00 LOL.

    @Gordo: Live at Leeds is fabulous...the Who with Keith Moon really rocked in the early seventies but then they started paring down songs and quit the jamming and improv after a while. They sucked live after Moon died.

    U2 Under A Blood Red Sky: classic but the Video that accompanied it was even better. They were just coming into their own then and the live recordings were better and ballsier than the studio recordings.

    For blues fans: Live at The Regal by B B King...classic

    Hendrix: what can you say?

  • http://devilish-details.blogspot.com/ Mesa Econoguy

    Yep, Sol, just listened to it again tonite, and you’re right: serious professional performance.

    It’s too tight to be live, but just loose enough to be pf live.

    [WYWH tempo is variable, but other than that, unbelievable.]

    Nice weird OMG Police cover…..

  • Tom G

    I wish Joe Jackson's "Live 1980/86" had made it to that list, but I don't really have problems with what did make it. I usually prefer live albums over "best of" collections because, well...
    the album's a live recording of (usually) both "best" and "songs the band likes". Which often includes tunes never released as singles.

  • Brian H

    I thought I was the only one that held 'Seconds Out' as favorite live album. The versions of Carpet Crawlers, Cinema Show and Supper's Ready far exceed the studio versions, with Collins voice at its peak and also the tightness of the live band. This era of Genesis from 'Seconds Out' through 'And Then There Were Three' was easily their finest. During this period, their live shows were studio quality. Their choice of Chester Thompson and Bill Bruford filling in for Collins on drums and percussion on the tours was a stroke of brilliance.

  • http://jeffreyellis.org/blog/ Jeffrey Ellis

    Ah, a Genesis fan. I prefer Three Sides Live, myself. The "In The Cage" medley can not be topped.

  • http://jeffreyellis.org/blog/ Jeffrey Ellis

    And BTW I completely agree with your analysis of Genesis -- the post-Gabriel but pre-pop period was the absolute best. I actually wrote a parody song about that, you can find it here: http://www.amiright.com/parody/80s/philcollins57.shtml

  • Link

    I saw Genesis do Lamb at the Capitol Theater in NJ ... the last tour with the original lineup.

    I've seen most of the groups on this list live. Sign of a misspent youth. Best live acts I've seen have been The Who when Keith Moon was "on" ... he was wasn't always on, Bob Marley (I saw one of his last shows -- audience was half Rastafarians), The Clash in 1980 when Topper Headon was on, U2 (nobody's better at filling a football stadium)... and Bruce. Bruce may be the best live performer ever ... the 1978 tour was the best tour ever.

  • Mike Walsh

    "Bruce may be the best live performer ever"

    You may be right about that. I'm not a fan but every time I've seen him live he puts on one hell of a show and he's been doing that consistently for years.

  • http://economicfactoidwatch.blogspot.com/ Mike Walsh

    "Best live acts I’ve seen have been The Who when Keith Moon was “on” … he was wasn’t always on"

    That seems to be a thing with the English artists. I once saw the Stones two months apart and one was a great performance and the other one was trash. A stadium show with Clapton the headliner: he was falling down drunk and the second guitar was doing most of the playing. Another Zeppelin show where Plant's voice cracked about half way through....

  • http://currencytradingresearch.com/ CT

    I liked a lot of the earlier Genesis work. I thought they got too polished after a while. The only thing I saw by them in that era was a movie of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway sometime in the mid seventies. I saw them live a few years later in their more “pop” mode.
    That list is interesting. Some of those tours I saw live though not the same show that was recorded.
    The most notable was the Led Zeppelin 1972 tour. I saw them about ten days before that show that was recorded on How The West Was Won. To this day I still say that was the best concert I’ve ever seen. Ticket price was $4.00 LOL.
    @Gordo: Live at Leeds is fabulous…the Who with Keith Moon really rocked in the early seventies but then they started paring down songs and quit the jamming and improv after a while. They sucked live after Moon died.
    U2 Under A Blood Red Sky: classic but the Video that accompanied it was even better. They were just coming into their own then and the live recordings were better and ballsier than the studio recordings.
    For blues fans: Live at The Regal by B B King…classic
    Hendrix: what can you say?

  • http://domainnamebusinessnews.com/ DN

    I liked a lot of the earlier Genesis work. I thought they got too polished after a while. The only thing I saw by them in that era was a movie of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway sometime in the mid seventies. I saw them live a few years later in their more “pop” mode.
    That list is interesting. Some of those tours I saw live though not the same show that was recorded.
    The most notable was the Led Zeppelin 1972 tour. I saw them about ten days before that show that was recorded on How The West Was Won. To this day I still say that was the best concert I’ve ever seen. Ticket price was $4.00 LOL.
    @Gordo: Live at Leeds is fabulous…the Who with Keith Moon really rocked in the early seventies but then they started paring down songs and quit the jamming and improv after a while. They sucked live after Moon died.
    U2 Under A Blood Red Sky: classic but the Video that accompanied it was even better. They were just coming into their own then and the live recordings were better and ballsier than the studio recordings.
    For blues fans: Live at The Regal by B B King…classic
    Hendrix: what can you say?

  • nom de guerre

    i've always kinda thought peter gabriel leaving genesis was the absolute best thing that could have happened for both parties. addition by subtraction, in both cases. most unusual. as far as live albums go, why so little love for cheap trick at budokan? #21?!? c.t. never really impressed me much, but that album captured perfectly what must have been a *monster* show. when the day comes that *that* concert is rated behind keith jarrett playing his random, only semi-musical piano meanderings, (*eerily* like the sweet little youtube kittycat that likes to bat the keys with her paws)(google 'nora the piano-playing cat') that's the day we say "enough". well. you can do what you want to US....but we're not going to stand here....while you *bad-mouth*....THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!!! also, somebody correct me if i'm wrong, but wasn't gabriel the drummer when he was with genesis? if you're a good enough drummer to keep phil freakin' *collins* playing the kazoo or jew's harp or whatever he had to do to occupy himself, it's a safe bet there's some serious talent there. the "steve young sitting on the bench behind joe montana" analogy just BEGS to be said .....and i've had just enough vodka (medicinal purposes, you understand)(potato extract - cure for priapism - long story.) to say it.

  • Link

    One of the albums on this list is Sam Cooke at the Copa ... which is Sam as whitebread. There's a better Sam Cooke live album I highly recommend ... Live at the Harlem Square Club 1963, It's a minor miracle. It might even top my list of best ever live albums.

    Sam Cooke was murdered in 1964 at the height of his fame ... and the tapes from a segregated live show recorded in Miami just before his death were forgotten. Years later -- in 1990 -- the company found the tapes in the vault. It's the real Sam Cooke ... soul and gospel .... different from his vanilla 60s popular recordings and his Copa performance -- but the one EVERYONE has copied since. It'll sound old and new, at the same time. It's a so-so recording -- made with poor equipment at a venue with poor acoustics but it sounds like you're at the back of the room. You'll hear the history of soul-R&B-rock ring between your ears. King Curtis is on sax ... he and Sam are both in the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame. King Curtis was murdered too.

    And it's a lot of FUN ... this guy kills. You could play this album for a crowd of young and old, white and black .... they'd all love it.

    I actually recommend the original 1990 version if you can find it. They reissued it 2008 with cleaned up sound but it loses the live feel of the crowd.

    Two other recommendations:

    Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes may the best club band ever. There's a lot of Sam Cooke in Southside.

    Steely Dan is touring a lot these days -- Becker & Fagen were always jazz musicians at heart -- their current live performances show it -- their shows are even better than their records. Right now, Keith Carlock may be the best drummer on the planet.

  • SK

    Wow, I never knew you were a classic prog fan, too!

    I am a HUGE fan of Yes and Genesis, and definitely believe Yessongs and Seconds Out should be on the list. I actually don't think Genesis skipped a beat when Gabriel left -- I think Trick of the Tail and Wind and Wuthering are outstanding albums, and Seconds Out is a terrific live account of those tours. What REALLY hurt the band was when Steve Hackett left.

    Looking forward to buying the Genesis live boxset soon (just need to scarf up the $100). Can't wait to hear the remastered Seconds Out.

    Oh, and I second the love for Porcupine Tree. Fabulous group, great new album.