Sunday, April 26, 2009

One more cup of coffee for the road

I'm still thinking about that live Ry Cooder record. It's a real pity the single album live album has now gone the way of all flesh. CDs are wonderful - they hold a lot of information on them - too much when it comes to live albums. Less is definitely more in this case. The single live album is the succinct record that the triple live and double live can never be. And vinyl is special! I do like the occasional triple and double - more on them in later posts, but this post is honouring the single live.

My top 5:

Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart - 'Bongo Fury'. A great live record that would have been even better if Zappa had included the version of 'The Torture Never Stops' (can be found on 'You can't do that on stage anymore Vol 1') from this concert and deleted the two studio lightweight songs about America's bicentennial celebrations. Beefheart is in great form and the band are tight. A single live album should leave you wanting more and Bongo Fury does exactly that. The next selection bares out the paradox - wanting more but glad there isn't.

Bob Dylan - 'Hard Rain' Compare this to the fuller Rolling Thunder Revue concert found on the Bootleg series Vol 5 ( Live 1975) and you get what I mean - the single version is raw power that gets dissipated over a double CD. The versions here are well chosen - there's a snarl, snap, crackle about 'Idiot Wind' that is largely kept in check on the studio version from 'Blood on the Tracks'. Each song has been deconstructed, rearranged and then punk'd up into a rolling thunder menace. This is the Dylan album I want! It sits alongside 'John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band', Neil Young's 'Tonight's the Night' in the honest emotion charts.

U2 - 'Under a Blood Red Sky'. Not perfect ('Party Girl' hasn't aged well as a song) but a great summary of their early power and passion. In many ways the time around 'War',their third album, is for me their best. I can remember buying and listening to that album on wet miserable days in New Plymouth in 1983/84. I'd started with the single 'Gloria' and a great video of the band playing on a barge on a canal by a housing estate. An amazing clip. The live album captures them at an early peak - lots of great blustery guitar from the Edge and Bono's vocals fit the music superbly.

The Rolling Stones - 'Get Yer Ya-Yas Out'. This is a great list isn't it?! My Stones collection isn't complete but this was one of the first things I bought to catch up when I was working at Marbecks (at that time the best damn record store in New Zealand). Roger Marbeck loved this album and we'd play it often on Friday nights to keep the energy levels high. When we made our crazy eclectic tapes Greg and I used the Jagger 'button...trousers' stuff and Keef's guitar intros a lot. A single live album (their 1980's tour document 'Still Life' is also recommended) is perfect for the Stones.

Jimi Hendrix - 'Live at the Isle of Wight'. Again the single version is far superior to the expanded CD/DVD sets. Like the Dylan this is rough!! The microphone picks up all sorts of radio transmitted traffic, sounds fade in and out, feedback squalls, Jimi is dazed and confused!! But when I heard this in 1972 I was shaken and stirred, rocked and rolled into submission. The opening introductions - "bit more volume on his one Charlie - it's gonna need it" set the scene. And it doesn't matter that the songs are out of order and the editing between songs is terrible. Somehow the whole thing has it's own structure and it makes sense where the expanded version doesn't.

Single live albums - I love 'em (a few more notable ones - John Lennon's 'Live Peace in Toronto' - well side one anyway; Jefferson Airplane's 'Bless its pointed little head' and don't forget that live album by Ry!)

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