What are rock's greatest live recordings? That probably depends on your criteria, but certainly performance, song selection and sound quality must be considered. And, don't forget the "feel" of a live recording, surrounding you with atmospheric sounds as if you're sitting in the front row. With that in mind, the following titles, in alphabetical order, can't be ignored as among the best in the genre:
J. GEILS BAND, FULL HOUSE- Recorded over two nights at the Cinderella Ballroom in Detroit, this is THE party record of all time. Razor sharp from years of touring, vocalist Peter Wolf, guitarist Geils and bandmates storm through a set of mostly covers sure to get you movin'. Magic Dick's harp fills are phenomenal and the rhythm section cooks. You won't forget opener "First I Look at the Purse" and "Whammer Jammer." At the time, everybody knew these songs.
GRATEFUL DEAD, HUNDRED YEAR HALL- The Dead, with the distinctive guitar of Jerry Garcia, performed for adoring fans for thirty years. The band itself recorded thousands of shows and they even encouraged fans to do the same with their famous "tapers' section." While you can find many great Dead live efforts, including some more famous, this outing is nothing short of superb. Jerry and bassist Phil Lesh power the band through two and one-half hours of classic material and jam until the European audience is convinced of of the Dead's prowess. "Cryptical Envelopment " alone lasts 36 minutes, for you doubters.
JIMI HENDRIX, LIVE AT WINTERLAND- Lots of great Jimi performances have been released since the guitar master died over 30 years ago. While "Band of Gypsys" was the only live album released during his lifetime, this Ryko release aptly demonstrates Hendrix' timeless appeal. This historic disc was digitally mixed and mastered from original multi-track recordings and features over an hour of hits and four tracks unavailable elsewhere. Jimi at his best.
GEORGE HARRISON & FRIENDS, CONCERT FOR BANGLADESH- Just re-released on CD and DVD, this was the first superstar concert for the benefit of charity. Organized by Harrison for the relief of refugees from Bangladesh, this show features Eric Clapton. Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr, Leon Russell and Billy Preston performing before an appreciative crowd at a time when musicians and their fans thought music could change the world. The re-issue includes the addition of Dylan's "Love Minus Zero/ No Limit." Harrison and his co-performers earned Grammys for best disc of the year.
VARIOUS ARTISTS, CONCERT FOR GEORGE- Staged a year after George Harrison's death, this 2002 effort defines the modern rock concert. Organized by Eric Clapton, myriad stars give masterful takes on the Harrison songbook. Ex-bandmate Paul McCartney delivers stunning versions of "For You Blue" and the signature "All Things Must Pass". His ukulele backed "Something" is especially touching. The two-disc set also includes Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, and Ringo Starr. Also available as a flawless DVD program.
MC5, KICK OUT THE JAMS- A perfect document for the rock 'n' roll community around Detroit in the late Sixties- early Seventies period. Recorded at the Grande Ballroom on Oct. 30-31, 1968, this disc provided the blueprint for punk bands for generations to come. The MC5, led by singer Rob Tyner, was so incendiary as to be barely contained on disc. With the unforgettable introduction of Brother J. C. Crawford, this disc transports you to an ancient and incredibly exciting era. No kidding.
VARIOUS ARTISTS, CONCERT FOR THE ROCK 'N' ROLL HALL OF FAME- Recorded in Cleveland, this show rocked the 60,000 people lucky enough to attend. Starting with "R. O. C. K. in the U. S. A." by John Mellencamp, this show featured rock's elite performing at the peak of their abilities. Bruce Springsteen, Allman Brothers, Johnny Cash. You get the idea. A priceless memento for why rock still matters.
BOB SEGER and THE SILVER BULLET BAND, LIVE BULLET- Seger laid the foundation for his national break-out with this impressive show before a home-town crowd. Recorded live at Detroit's Cobo Hall, this disc rocks hard with Seger's renditions of "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man," "Heavy Music," and "Let it Rock." Listening to this disc will make a Seger fan of anyone and shows why he deserved the wide recognition he attained the following year with "Night Moves."
THE WHO, LIVE AT LEEDS- Every Who fan holds this disc in high regard. With the dual attack of "Young Man Blues" and "Summertime Blues," this record cannot be denied. Singer Roger Daltrey, guitarist Pete Townshend, bassist John Entwistle and drummer Keith Moon shred these songs. Call it the definition of rock 'n' roll.
VARIOUS ARTISTS, WOODSTOCK- Absolutely essential, even if you're not from the Woodstock generation. This presents the greatest players of an influential era making a gigantic statement. Nothing less. Whether by compact disc or movie, players such as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Santana, Jimi Hendrix and The Who deliver the goods in memorable fashion.
NIRVANA, MTV UNPLUGGED IN NEW YORK- Honorable mention.