I was arguing with a friend recently about the correct names of places. He turned to me and said: “Actually it’s not called Calvary, it’s real name is Golgotha.” I thought: “Weird hill to die on, but whatever.”
So after only 10 posts I thought I’d take a wee break and see what the state of play is based on my listening experience. Below is a ranking of the 10 double (and triple) live albums I’ve listened to so far. My reasons? I like listening to music, I like giving out scores and I like making lists, like what’s not to like? Maybe my overusage of the word ‘like’, like.
1.Grateful Dead–Europe 72 9/10 1.Allman Brothers–Filmore East 9/10 3.Grand Funk Railroad-Live 8/10 3.Humble Pie-Rockin The Filmore 8/10 3.Grateful Dead-Skull & Flowers 8/10 3.Yes– Yesssongs 8/10 7. CSN&Y– 4 Way Street 6/10 7.Deep Purple– Made In Japan 6/10 9. The Doors– Live 5/10 10. Grateful Dead– Live Dead 4/10
Once I start getting into the meat, or meat-substitute if you’re vegan, of the seventies double live albums, it’ll be interesting to see where these albums end up, in the cosmic scheme of things. Expect an updated list after another 10 double live albums have been devoured by my good self. Until then, have a picture of some cute puppies and toodle-oo.
I just received some great news! My boss has made me his sexual consultant. Well, his exact words were: “When I want your fucking advice, I’ll ask for it!”
Another day, another blog post, another live album, and more specifically, another Grateful Dead live album! Their third record to be featured here, and a triple one to boot! Europe ’72 was released in November 1972 and it covers the band’s tour of Western Europe in April and May that year, and showcases live favourites, extended improvisations and several new songs including “Jack Straw” and “Brown Eyed Women”. The album was the first to include pianist Keith Godchaux and his wife, Donna Jean Godchaux and the last to feature founding member Ron ‘Pigpen’, who died shortly after its release. The European tour was expensive and logistically complicated, and the band’s record company hoped that a live album would recoup its costs. Consequently, the entire tour was recorded, with highlights making it onto the final release. Europe 72 was a commercial success, remaining in the US album charts for 24 weeks. It has since become one of the most successful Grateful Dead albums in terms of sales, and has been certified Double Platinum, selling over 1,000,000 copies.
The album was well received by music critics. Tom Dupree’s contemporary review in Rolling Stone praised the sound fidelity and musicianship, especially Garcia’s lead guitar playing: “He displays more sheer savvy of the guitar fretboard and its incorporation — but not sublimation — into the rock milieu than anyone I can think of.” He also said “there are riffs of all kinds liberally scattered throughout.”
This was another album that I owned when I was younger but it seemed to wash over me, like their previous two live records, maybe I was not really ready to appreciate them; they weren’t loud enough or flashy enough or fast enough for this young, early 80’s rocker (I definitely couldn’t hear bang to them!) so I was not looking forward to revisiting this and I was not sure whether to feature yet another GD live album. Well fortunately for me, and you dear readers, I’m glad I did because this is probably my favourite live Dead album I’ve listened to, so far. The songs featured here are excellent, the relative shortness of them allow the band to show their strengths and diversity; the crisp, clean guitar riffs and solos, the vocals, and indeed the production let the listener hear the band in top musical form. There are some outstanding performances here, He’s Gone and Hurts Me Good are particularly sublime and even the two long tracks (Truckin and Morning Dew) show off the band’s chops without outstaying their welcome (the Epilogue and Prologue tracks however are a different kettle of fish altogether). My only minor complaint is the lack of crowd noise and the very quiet ending to the album, it just kind of fades away. Still, for a triple record it puts its best foot forward and doesn’t feel like an arduous endeavour.
Is it excessive? No, for a triple Grateful Dead album this is surprisingly tight and direct. Only two of the 17 songs are over 10 minutes and even they seem to fly by. Were the critics right? Yup, for me this is a great example of the Dead’s musical chops and in particular Garcia’s soloing. Would I listen to it again? Certainly, this and the previous Dead live album are fine examples of the band. Would I recommend it? Abso-damn-lutely! Is there a drum solo? No, but this is the one time I wish there was one! (See below for details!)
So my score for this album is a very high 9/10. If it was just a double album, without the jams on side 5 and 6, it would be a straight 10, an absolute cracking double album. However, the track after Truckin is a little jammy and although it kinda flows it does seem a little unnecessary to me; and track before Morning Dew (Prologue) is just a mess; the sound of a band just tuning up and mucking about before launching into a stupendous rendition of Dew. I’d happily accept a drum solo in its stead, that’s how bad it sounds to me! So the third live album by the Dead is deemed, by me and despite a little hiccup, to be their best I’ve heard so far and it shares joint top spot in our chart with the Allman Brothers. Tune in next time for some more double live album re-evaluation, in the meantime I’m off to build a flux capacitator and travel back to let the 14 year old me to embrace the Dead. TTFN!
I’m in the process of making a movie about Twitter. It’s going to be similar to The Social Network but with fewer characters. (the bad jokes will continue until morale improves). Today’s delve back into the past is not going to be a double album, oh no, it’s our first, (of many) TRIPLE albums! Our cups, and running times, runneth over! So for our first entrant we feature the prog giants Yes and their 1973 live album, Yesssongs.
Yessongs is the first live album by the English progressive rock band Yes, released as a triple album (their first but not their last) in May 1973 on Atlantic Records. After completing their Close to the Edge Tour in April 1973, the band selected live recordings between February and December 1972 on their tours supporting Fragile (1971) and Close to the Edge (1972) for a live album release. Three tracks ( Perpetual Change, Long Distance Runaround, The Fish) feature original Yes drummer Bill Bruford while the remaining tracks feature his replacement, Alan White. Bruford’s departure came eleven days prior to the tour’s start, leaving White to learn the band’s repertoire in three days. The tour ended in April 1973, by which time Yes had made additional live recordings. Yessongs received a mostly positive reception from music critics, though much of its criticism was directed at its sound quality. As producer Eddy Offord was in charge of the band’s sound on stage, he could not operate the recording equipment at the same time. This resulted in recordings that he was disappointed with as they were substandard. When it was time for the album to be edited and remixed, Offord and the band retreated to studio 2 at Advision Studios in Fitzrovia, London to complete it. Guitarist Steve Howe recalled the group treated the mixing process with as much care and importance as one of their studio albums with careful consideration to the preparation of the various edits and the finished product. The album was a commercial success for the band, reaching number 7 on the UK Albums Chart and number 12 on the US Billboard 200.
Variety published a positive review, noting the album shows the band at “their exciting best.” Band biographer Tim Morse thought the album’s downfall was its substandard audio quality despite the band’s strong performances.
Yes, along with Rush and Gabriel-era Genesis, were one of the band’s that introduced my young ears to the glorious world of prog-rock. The Yes Album, Fragile and Close To The Edge are fantastic examples of prog albums to me; wonderful long songs, superb musicianship and glorious solos by the bucket load and all the songs on here are taken from those 3 records, except for the Stravinsky Firebird opener and, for some reason, an excerpt from Rick Wakeman’s Six Wives of Henry VIII, (which makes me yearn for a drum solo!). The performances on here are excellent, the band are firing on all cylinders here, from Anderson’s soaring vocals, Howe’s stunning riffing and soloing, Squire’s bass driving the band onwards and upwards. The only issue here is the poor sound quality throughout the album, which manages to makes the album both tinny and fuzzy at the same time; it’s more like a glorified bootleg than an official release. And that’s a shame as the songs on here showcase the very best that Yes had to offer up to that point in time. Close to the Edge, Long Distance Runaround, And You And I, I’ve Seen All Good People, Heart of the Sunrise; it’s a veritable greatest hits record. Side 6 for me is possibly my favourite side; I mean, what better to to end a live show with two of the most monster Yes tracks ever, Yours Is No Disgrace and Starship Trooper, with Howe’s guitar solo soaring majestically up into the rafters and beyond.
So is it excessive? 6 of the 13 tracks are over 10 minutes, 2 other tracks are a gnat’s erection away from 10 minutes, oh and did I mention that it’s a freaking TRIPLE ALBUM. However, in spite of all that the album doesn’t feel long or outstays it welcome. Were the critics right? Yeah, this album does showcase Yes at “their exciting best.” Would I listen to it again? Definitely, it’s a live greatest ‘hits’ album with very few flaws (sound quality notwithstanding). Would I recommend it? In a heartbeat. Is there a drum solo? Not only is there a drum solo but there’s a bloody bass solo too! But as it’s a bass-god Chris Squire solo, all is forgiven.
My score for this album is a very respectable 8 out of 10, half a point off for the Wakeman keyboard snooze-fest and 1 and a half points off for the sound quality but overall a great live document of a great prog band. Another triple live album re-evaluation is coming up in my next post, so I hope you can join me. Until then, keep it proggy and toodle-oo!
During this COVID-19 lockdown, I’ve been keeping busy and have started to learn the guitar. My wife asked me politely if I could stop playing Wonderwall; I said maybe.
Welcome back my little chums to another re-evaluation of a classic double live album. Tonight’s morsel is the 1972 Deep Purple classic Made in Japan, which recorded during their first tour of Japan in August of that year.
The band did not want the album to be released outside Japan and wanted full rights to the tapes, but it was released worldwide anyway. “That double album wasn’t meant to be released outside of Japan. They wound up putting it out anyway and it went platinum in about two weeks” – Jon Lord.
The response from critics was favourable. Rolling Stone’s Jon Tiven wrote that “Made in Japan is Purple’s definitive metal monster, a spark-filled execution … Deep Purple can still cut the mustard in concert.” Subsequently, a readers’ poll in the magazine declared the album to be the sixth best live album of all time, adding the band have performed “countless shows since in countless permutations, but they’ve never sounded quite this perfect.” The band as a whole had mixed feelings about the album: Gillan was critical of his own performance, yet was still impressed with the quality of the live recording. Paice gave a very positive impression, suggesting that the shows were some of the best the group had performed, and the album captured the spirit of them well. Lord listed it as his favourite Deep Purple album, saying, “The band was at the height of its powers. That album was the epitome of what we stood for in those days.” Heady stuff indeed, but does it still hold up today? Let’s find out…
Cards on the table here folks, I was never a huge Deep Purple fan. I mean, I know they were important in the creation of hard rock/heavy metal, one of the pioneers alongside Zeppelin and Sabbath, but I always preferred to listen to the bands that sprang from Purple’s demise: Rainbow, Whitesnake, Gillan (Shiva, I just about had every Gillan album ever made when I was growing up!) Other than the 1980 Deepest Purple compilation, I never bought any of their records until much later on in my rock/metal journey, and even that was the expanded, 25th anniversary 3cd set. So I have owned and heard this album, just never in its original form. Kicking off with a super energetic Highway Star (Paice and Lord are on fire here), the band then follow it up with a sublime Child In Time with the band kicking arse and taking names. Even the most overplayed song in their catalogue, Smoke On the Water, sounds fresh and exciting here (tbf it was still a new song and hadn’t yet been saturated via classic rock radio), Blackmore’s solo is probably the best version I’ve heard on this song. The album takes a couple of steps backwards, firstly with the drum solo on the otherwise great version of The Mule (I don’t like drum solos or any other unaccompanied solos be they guitar, keyboard or, Ganesh forbid, bass solos) then with Lazy, which starts off with 3 to 4 minutes of faffing about and strange noises good enough to scare away cats! Once the song gets underway it’s, as usual, a cracker, as is the ending track Space Truckin; Jon Lord’s keyboards on here is the star of the track but even here the track ends with a whimper rather than a bang, leaving the audience a little quiet and confused before realising the song has finished and start applauding and cheering.
So is it excessive? A bit, 3 out of the 7 tracks are over 10 minutes and 2 of them (Lazy and Space Truckin) could use a little trimming. Were the critics right? They were; it does feature the band in all its pomp and glory and there are some excellent performances on here, the band as a whole are on fire. Would I listen to it again? In all honesty, no. Certainly the first three tracks would get some heavy rotation but the rest of the album not so much. I’ll stick with the studio versions, thank you. Would I recommend it? I wouldn’t wholeheartedly say ‘you gotta hear this album’ but it has some great moments. Is there a drum solo? Yes, and it’s totally unnecessary, as drum solos usually are.
So my score for this album is a 6/10. It might seem low for such an acclaimed record but it just kinda lost its way after the first three songs. A little too indulgent for my liking. Speaking of indulgent, my next two posts will be featuring triple albums! Yikes! Until then, toodles to you!
I bumped into two very attractive blonde sales reps in the street who promised me a night of fulfilling all my sexual fantasies if I was to advertise Persil washing powder. Naturally I refused, as my love for my wife is strong. Strong like the cleaning power of New Persil Ultra, with 48 hour freshness and a relaxing scent, available in all good supermarkets.
I never got the craze of youngsters developing a taste for fabric softener, to me it just seemed like comfort eating. On today’s double live album re-evaluation we check out the 1971 release by GDLIYWI alumni, the Grateful Dead. Unlike Live/Dead (featured on the first GDLIYWI post), this album contained several lead and background vocal overdubs. For the three new original compositions (“Bertha”, “Playing in the Band”, and “Wharf Rat”), the band invited Jerry Garcia associate Merl Saunders to overdub organ parts. This made the organ playing of Saunders more prominent than that of Pigpen, whose contributions tend to be buried in the mix.
The album’s cover art, composed by Alton Kelly and Stanley Mouse, is based on an illustration by Edmund Joseph Sullivan for an old edition of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. The graphic became one of the images most associated with the band.
When the band submitted “Skull Fuck” (a contemporary euphemism for “blow your mind”) as the album title, it was rejected by the record label. Ultimately the agreement was made that the album would be published without the title appearing anywhere on the record labels or cover artwork. Though the band refers to the album by this title, and it has long been known to fans (through interviews with band members, the Deadhead network and other outlets), the alternate, descriptive title “Skull & Roses” developed among distributors, music buyers and reviewers as a graphic incipit from the cover artwork.
During this time period of The Grateful Dead, they were going through many difficult times. During the recording of American Beauty family members of both Phil Lesh and Jerry Garcia passed away. Pigpen was becoming very thin and sick from bad drinking habits. He would die in a short amount of time. Mickey Hart was going through despression problems, for his father Lenny Hart had been covering the band’s financial problems, and just ran off with a boat load of their money. Mickey blamed himself and quit the band for a time period. So just how, after all this drama and trauma, did the Dead react?
Well, the country feel to Workingmans Dead and American Beauty certainly makes its presence felt on this record, especially with some of the cover versions on here. And the band sound a lot tighter than on the previous live album; shorter songs (only 1 of the 11 tracks is over 10 minutes), more focused playing and better vocals as well albeit with studio overdubs. The songs are mainly upbeat, country blues fare that engage the listener immediately and the improv jams that the band are known for are mainly absent. The one track that does (The Other One), is a great song showing off the interplay between the group. It even has a drum solo in the opening 5 minutes of the song (which is nice of them) and I still liked it! Unfortunately side 3 kind of wobbles a bit; the covers of Me and Bobby McGee and Johnny B Goode seem misjudged, especially the latter; in fact I don’t think I’ve ever heard a good cover of Johnny B Goode by any band but I’m happy to be corrected. Fortunately side 4 ends on a high with the mellow, proggyness of Wharf Rat; it’s got a gorgeous riff, some lovely solos, Phil Lesh’s bass playing anchors the band and this is the best song on here. The last track, a cover of Not Fade Away/Goin Down The Road Feeling Bad, closes the album on an upbeat happy mood that sends the listener home happy.
So is it excessive? No, not in the slightest. Were the critics right? I couldn’t find too many contemporary reviews of this album but it did sell very well. Would I listen to it again? I used to own this record and would quite happily not play side 3. Re-listening to this made me realise that I made the right choice. Would I recommend it? Oh, for sure. Unlike the previous Dead live album, this is a lot more accessible for non-Deadheads; short songs, not too much noodling, great playing, win-win. Is there a drum solo? There is, it lasts a little over 5 minutes, it kicks off the longest song on here and it does not suck! I know! I’m shocked too, but credit where it’s due, it kept me engaged and felt it was there naturally rather than shoe-horned in.
So my score for this one is a 8/10. Much better than Live/Dead though it was let down by the songs featured on side 3. For a band that had so much turmoil before recording this, they did a pretty good job. Next time we featured another classic double live album, until then toodle-oo
Somebody asked me today if I knew what irony was. “Of course,” I replied, “it’s between Magnesiumny and Cobaltny on the Periodic table.”
Welcome back once again to another re-evaluation of a classic 70’s double live album. On the turntables tonight is the 1971 release by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young : 4 Way Street. Unlike the previous 3 entrants to this blog, I actually owned records by CSNY, not this one obvs, but at least it’s a start and I know roughly what to expect. So let’s see how the mild-mannered quartet fare, shall we?
4 Way Street is the third album by CSN, their second as CSNY and their first live album. At the time this album was recorded, tensions between the band members were high, with their dressing-room fights becoming the stuff of rock legend, even being referenced by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention in their 1971 LP Fillmore East – June 1971 on the song “Do You Like My New Car?” The tensions led to CSNY dissolving shortly after the recording of 4 Way Street; they would reconvene for a stadium tour in the summer of 1974. The next release of new studio material by the group proper would not be until CSN in 1977, without Neil Young. The album went to #1 upon its release and also garnered a positive review in Rolling Stone in which critic George Edward Kimball called it “their best album to date.”Other more recent reviews have also been positive.
Coming to this album; seeing the track listing, knowing most of the songs from the first two records (yeah, I know Young wasn’t on the debut but you know what I mean), I was really looking forward it and wondered why I didn’t buy it when I was into my Neil Young phase (still ongoing btw). After finally listening to this I can safely say I made the right choice in not picking this up. It’s not a bad album, there are some cracking songs and performances on here, but it’s definitely an album of two halves.
Starting off on the wrong foot is never going to be a successful strategy, yet this album does it. The first time I heard ‘Suite:Judy Blue Eyes’ was on the Woodstock soundtrack and it was magnificent. 3 voices, one guitar and an absolute monster of a tune about heartbreak and lost love. CSN (and Y) have written great songs but this is my personal favourite, so seeing it was going to open the album I was excited; less than 5 seconds later I was pissed! 33 seconds! 33 friggin’ seconds of what is arguably their best song! And it’s the bloody end of the song too! What in the name of Satan’s nipple clamps is going on? Was it just a cynical ploy to put the title on the album cover and get people to buy it? Like a dog with a depressive personality disorder I was not a happy bunny! Side one and two is an all acoustic affair, with harmonies galore and some tasty guitar work from Stills and Young. The problem here, with the exception of the always excellent ‘Triad’ and Stills ‘Love The One Your With’, is that the three Neil songs (if you include ‘On The Way Home’) stand head and shoulders above the rest of the tracks featured here.
Sides 3 and 4 are a different kettle of fish altogether and it’s these sides that save the album for me. The long jams on ‘Carry On’ and ‘Southern Man’, the wonderful guitar interplay of Stills and Young on these tracks alone is worth the price of the record. When these two guys get together magic happens; they have an almost telepathic sense of when to come in and when to bow out and let the other one take over. ‘Carry On’ should really be the album’s closer but CSNY finish as they started with another mis-step and end with the downbeat ‘Find The Cost of Freedom’ bringing the album, for me, to an unsatisfactory end.
So is it excessive? Nah, far from it. Only 2 of the 17 tracks here are over 10 minutes and both of them rip, the only other flashy element on here are vocal harmonies, which are gorgeous. Were the critics right? Not in my eyes. I would hardly call this “their best album to date”, the first two records are much better with ‘Deja Vu’ just edging out the debut. Would I listen to it again? The second disc most definitely I’d play again. The first probably would remain in pristine condition! Maybe they should have put the arguments on there as a bonus! Would I recommend it? Not really, I probably would point anyone who asks to the first two records and leave it at that. Is there a drum solo? Not a chance, which is a Swiss flag (a big plus).
So what’s the final verdict? 6/10 seems like a fair score. The electric portion of the album it top notch on its own but the acoustic side brings it down. Join me next time for another trip down memory lane and until then I’m off to see if Mark Volman still has those three unreleased recordings of CSNY fighting in the dressing-room of the Fillmore East. Toodles!
After months of lock down we are now finally allowed to attend sporting events, albeit in a reduced capacity. I was one of the lucky ones to be able to attend a football match; it was Tottenham Hotspurs vs some other chappies, can’t remember their name but they were awfully good. Excitement got the better of me and I started shouting “oxidisation”, “combustion”, “ignition”, “friction” and got thrown out for using inflammatory language.
Welcome to another episode of ‘Got Double Live If You Want It’ (aka: Is That Drum Solo Really Necessary?) where we re-evaluate classic double live albums released by classic rock acts from the ’70s and discover whether they stand the test of time via my arbritory scoring system. Today’s victim is Humble Pie’s 1971 release ‘Performance Rockin the Filmore’.
Performance Rockin’ the Fillmore is the 1971 live double-LP/single-CD by English blues-rock group Humble Pie, recorded at the Fillmore East in New York City on May 28–29, 1971. The original band line-up featured lead vocalist and guitarist Steve Marriott from Small Faces, vocalist and guitarist Peter Frampton from The Herd, former Spooky Tooth bassist Greg Ridley and a 17-year-old drummer, Jerry Shirley, from The Apostolic Intervention. On 9 July 1971, Humble Pie opened for Grand Funk Railroad at their historical Shea Stadium concert, an event that broke the Beatles record for fastest selling stadium concert, to that date.
The live album reached No. 21 on the US Billboard 200 and was certified gold by the RIAA propelling the album up the charts. However, before the album’s release, guitarist Peter Frampton left due to growing friction between him and Marriott and later went on to enjoy success as a solo artist.
When I started these posts I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. I’ve been into rock/metal since I was 11 and yet, after listening to some of these albums I’ve got a dead leg from kicking myself for missing out on such great music! As a young ‘un, I foolishly dismissed this band and the previous two acts as hoary, old farts playing hoary old blues for hoary old rockers suppin’ pints of hoary old ale. Well, I guess that makes me a hoary old idiot!
‘Performance’ shows the band in all its gloriousness: Marriott’s rough and ready blues howl, Frampton, who I had dismissed growing up based solely on the ubiquitousness of his ‘Comes Alive’ album and what the ‘cool music press’ said about him, is an absolute revelation to me on here. His guitar playing, riffing and soloing are some of the finest I’ve heard in a good while. Pretty boy AND an amazing axeman! Yeah, I’m jealous! The rhythm section of Ridley and Shirley keep the band motoring along, all tight and loose, allowing Frampton to solo like a man possessed and for Steve Marriott to blow his harmonica, sing, shout and sound like he’s having a grand time.
This is an excellent live document of a band who could have been so much bigger if only Frampton and Marriott could get along with each other. The songs on here, (only 1 of the 7 songs is an original, the rest are covers) are brilliant blues/hard rock compositions that must be played loud. My only quibble is the song ‘Rolling Stone’, it’s 16 minutes long but it’s not until the last 3 minutes that the pace picks up and shows more energy than the previous 13. Also, ‘Hallelujah (I Love Her So) the song sounds quite clunky and sloppy and is only saved by Marriott’s voice and audience interaction. Fortunately there are a number of other great songs and performances to more than make up for a couple of mis-steps, and I think that ‘I Don’t Need No Doctor’ is one of my favourite song to close a live album I’ve heard so far.
So is it excessive? Only 2 of the seven songs are over 10 mins, one of them is the 27 minute cover of Dr John’s ‘I Walk On Gilded Splinters’, which sounds so far removed from the original it almost gets lost in the bayou! But no, other than what I said above about ‘Rolling Stone’, it’s not an excessive album. Were the critics right? I could only find Robert Christgau review that gives it a C-, so no the critics were not right. This goes way above that mark. Would I listen to it again? This album, along with the Allman Brothers one, makes me want to go back in time and tell the 11 year old me not to casually dismiss this record. Would I recommend it? That’s an affirmative. Is there a drum solo on here? No, not even a sniff of one, which makes me happy!
So the scores on the doors show that this record is a 8/10, which ties it for second place alongside Grand Funk Railroad. Who’s up next for classic double live album re-evaluation? Join me next time and find out!
I’ve been trekking around the world and have made many amazing discoveries but none more amazing than finally finding the source of mercury; apparently it’s Hg wells.
Welcome back my friends to the blog posts that never ends, (I’ve got that ‘joy’ to review some time down the line!) and another double live album from the seventies to review. This time ’round it’s this majestic beast!
At Fillmore East was released in July 1971 by Capricorn Records as a double album, but reduced to the cost of a single LP. Atlantic and Atco initially rejected the idea of issuing a double album, with Jerry Wexler feeling it “ridiculous to preserve all these jams.” Their manager Phil Walden explained to executives that the band were less of a studio band and that live performances were most important to them. In a contemporary review, George Kimball of Rolling Stone magazine said that “The Allman Brothers had many fine moments at the Fillmores, and this live double album (recorded March 12th and 13th of this year) must surely epitomize all of them.” Kimball cited the band as “the best damn rock and roll band this country has produced in the past five years” and said of comparisons to the Grateful Dead at the time, “The range of their material and the more tenuous fact that they also use two drummers have led to what I suppose are inevitable comparisons to the Dead in its better days.” In a less enthusiastic review for The Village Voice, Robert Christgau gave At Fillmore East a “B-” grade and said the songs “sure do boogie”, but ultimately found it musically aimless: “even if Duane Allman plus Dickey Betts does equal Jerry Garcia, the Dead know roads are for getting somewhere. That is, Garcia (not to bring in John Coltrane) always takes you someplace unexpected on a long solo. I guess the appeal here is the inevitability of it all.”
So what do I know about the Allman Brothers Band? Well, aside from ‘Jessica’ (or the Top Gear theme, as UK readers may know it), the excellent ‘Midnight Rider’ (check out Patti Smith’s great, acoustic version) and the song Frank Zappa always closed his shows with, once Bobby Martin came into the fold, ‘Whipping Post’, I know next to nothing about them. They were, if you excuse me, a little before my time and by the time I did get into that late 60’s-early 70’s period of rock music the Allman’s never reached my radar. So with an acclaimed double live album, 4 of the 7 tracks over 10 minutes (one of them taking up an entire side!) and a band with 2 drummers (!), I gingerly dove in head first! (is that even possible? – Ed)
Things start off great with the 1-2 bluesy rock punch of ‘Statesboro Blues’ and ‘Done Somebody Wrong’. It’s bluesy, it’s groovy and the band sound tight but loose. Taking on the classic ‘Stormy Monday’, the band slow the pace down and show off their chops, before picking the pace up again with ‘You Don’t Love Me’ ; a good song for about 7 mins before they activate jam-mode and then it turns into a great song. ‘Hot Lanta’ features some great keyboards from Duane Allman and has a superb funky/groovy riff. More groovy, jazzy riffs ahoy as the band launch into ‘In Memory of Elizabeth Reed’ and features yet more fabulous guitar solos, not sure which is Gregg’s or which is Dickie Betts’ but they all sound fantastic. Finally, side 4 features ‘Whipping Post’, a near 24 minute song/jam that, quite frankly, is one of the highlights of the album; the whole band are on top form here and the song seems to fly by despite its length.
So, is it excessive? As stated earlier, 4 of the 7 tracks are over 10 minutes yet none of them seem to drag or outstay their welcome, and when it was originally released it cost the same price as a single album, so that is good VFM in my eyes. Were the critics right? Yes. Although I feel that Robert Christgau just doesn’t like rock music and graded the record a tad harshly, I kind of get the Grateful Dead comparisons however in my opinion, I feel that the Allman Brothers take you on a journey starting from A, go off on a detour with their jamming and still get you to B without getting lost, swearing at the sat-nav or having the kids whine “are we there yet?” unlike the Grateful Dead, who sometimes make you feel that you should have taken that left turn at Albuquerque. Would I listen to it again? Definitely, in particular ‘Stormy Monday’ would be a great song to listen to on a grey, rainy day. Though in fairness, I would have to need to be in the mood to listen to this in it’s entirety, it’s a great album to pick and choose tracks from and I’m thankful for this album helping me break my Allman Brothers Band peach. They were perfect gentlemen. Would I recommend it? Hell to the yes! It’s a great record for playing air guitar to. In fact, if you’re going to listen to this bring some crumpets ‘cos these guys are bringing the jam! (and I’ll be bringing the cheese!) Is there a drum solo? 4 tracks over 10 mins, one song filling an entire side of the album, a band renowned for jamming and improvisation AND two drummers and you have the nerve to ask me “is there a drum solo?” Happily there isn’t! I know, I’m just as shocked as you!
So the final score for this album is a healthy 9/10, which puts it atop the leaderboard of classic double live albums. Will it stay there? Only time will tell, but the album that knocks it off is going to have its work cut out. Will our next entrant achieve this? Stay tuned to find out! 🤘
Sorry I didn’t post yesterday but I was at the doctor’s; I told him that I couldn’t stop singing Bing Crosby, Perry Como and Frank Sinatra songs. He told me I was showing signs of the crooner’s virus. Well, seeing as I have some new followers I better make my posts both educational and entertaining, just like a Bruce Willis movie. Speaking of whom, I hear he’s going to reprise his John McClane role once again. Well you know what they say about old habits…..
Today’s tasty excessive morsel is the 1970 release by Grand Funk Railroad imaginatively titled ‘Live Album’. The reception of Live Album by music critics upon the album’s release were unfavorable. Popular music critic Robert Christgau said of the album “I know they have a great–even grand–audience. But an audience and a live album aren’t the same thing–not the same thing at all”. He then gave the album a C- rating. Despite the massive dislike of the album by music critics, Live Album became very successful in the United States, peaking at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 andcrossed over to the R&B Albums chart at No. 17—the band’s only album to do so. The album was so successful that it was certified gold by the RIAOA a week after its release and was eventually certified 2x multi-platinum in 1991.
Other than the hit We’re An American Band, the awful cover version of Little Eva’s The Locomotion and the wild, shirtless lyrics of Mark Farner, the bong-rattling bass of Mel Schacher and the competent drum work of Don Brewer (all thanks to Homer Simpson for this education) everything I knew about the Michigan band could be written on the back of a stamp. So will this album help to fill in some gaps in my knowledge?
To say this album rocks harder than a bear with rocks is an understatement! From start to finish, despite a few wobbles on the way, Live Album contains some of the most powerful, loud, aggressive and fiery music I’ve heard for a while. Cthulhu knows how it must have sounded back when it first came out! There are some amazing, top class, hard rock songs on here, the guitar work is blistering, yes the bass playing is bong-rattling and the drummer is damn more than competent! This album wants you to have a bloody good time and it delivers some bloody good fun!
Is it excessive? Well, 3 songs over ten minutes is starting to creep into excessivity but, it’s not that excessive. Were the critics right? No! This is a great live document of a great live act and despite the negativity from critics, it did sell by the shedloads proving that most music critics have cloth ears. Would I listen to it again? I’m listening to it as I write this post! Would I recommend it? That’s a big fat yes! Is there a drum solo? You know when I mentioned the few wobbles earlier? Well, the song Mark Says Alright threatens to feature a drum solo but good sense prevails and it becomes a tight, hard rockin’ jam. “Phew, dodged a bullet!” or so I thought, then along comes T.N.U.C (I see what they did there!) “Oh, deep joy!”, I exclaim “a dull-as-funk drum solo! My cup runneth over!” Though unlike some bands I could mention, it’s doesn’t take up the entire side of one album! Oh, I know what’s waiting for me in future posts! Cthulhu help me, I know! #PrayForLaBarbaAzul.
So that’s half a point knocked off the total score, which still brings it to a very respectable 8/10, which is the highest score so far of the 3 albums featured. Let’s see how 1975’s Caught In The Act compares when we get there. Until that time, join me again as I delve into another 70’s excess-driven double live rock album!
For a blog celebrating the excess of 70’s double live albums, we’ll actually feature an album released in 1970! Today’s dish is Absolutely Live by the Doors, an double album consisting of tracks recorded between July 1969 and May 1970 and containing over 200 edits(!) by producer Paul A Rothschild to create one seamless concert. Absolutely Live sold poorly upon release, moving only 225,000 copies, half of what their previous studio album Morrison Hotel had sold. Gloria Vanjak of Rolling Stone magazine wrote a scathing review of the album, singling out Morrison’s performance in particular and referring to “Celebration of the Lizard” as “rancid”. Robert Christgau of The Village Voice gave a more favorable review, praising its “strong performances and audio,” but concluded that “I don’t happen to be into reptiles when the music’s over, much less while it’s on.” Morrison reportedly hated the album cover for Absolutely Live. He had changed his appearance dramatically since the band’s early days, growing a beard and discarding his onstage leather attire in an attempt to overcome his “rock god” image, but was dismayed to find that his record label opted for an earlier photograph of him for the cover.
So with that being said, is it any good? Surprisingly yes. It starts off with a cover of Ellas McDaniels ‘Who Do You Love?’ and not a Doors original, which is a strange choice to me but it’s done really well. Then it’s 3 quick songs in 6 minutes, less time than it takes the Dead to tune up, before sliding into a great version of ‘Five To One’. The band sound good and seem like they enjoying it, judging by the quicker-than-the-studio-version of ‘When The Music’s Over’; the song grooves along nicely and the guitar and keyboard work of Manzarek and Kreiger is delightful. It’s on side 3 and 4 that it all goes a little pear-shaped. ‘Close To You’ is an upbeat but dull little blues number; the 3 minutes before ‘Break On Through’ feels like a waste and ‘Celebration of the Lizard’ is just a disjointed, indulgent nonsense. There’s some nice parts of the song, ‘The Hill Dwellers’ and parts of ‘Not To Touch The Earth’ but the song seems thrown together. Fortunately the album ends on a high with a cracking version of ‘Soul Kitchen’ and the crowd goes wild.
So, is it excessive? Not really. A couple of tracks over 14 minutes and only one of them is a dud (COTL), a few covers and far less Jim poetry that I thought I would get going into this album. Were the critics right? Well, I wouldn’t call ‘Celebration…’ rancid but its not very good, but the overall performances are very strong for the most part. Would I listen to it again? Some tracks I would, I really liked ‘Universal Mind’ and ‘When The Music’s Over’, but to sit down and listen all the way through again? No. Would I recommend this album? Only the more well known tracks and the aforementioned ‘Universal Mind’. Does it contain a drum solo? No, which is nice. So my marks out of 10 are a 5. Despite a few mis-steps in places, it’s a decent, enjoyable record but not really essential.
*see first post for details of scoring system and album criteria. **listen to the song Tinseltown Rebellion for reference.