BACK LIVE

Having already offered two pieces on the joys of ‘live’ albums*, it would probably be sensible to leave that topic alone for a while. But I re-acquainted myself with so many terrific recordings while writing those posts that I just had to bring out those that didn’t quite make the first two ‘Live In Your Living Room’ articles. Their omission was nothing to do with quality, only word count.

What’s special about ‘in concert’ recordings? Here’s a refresher course:

Five Things To Love About Live Albums

Getting in   –   you didn’t buy a ticket for the concert but get to be there anyway

Getting real   –   hearing the artists speak to each other and to you

Refresh page   –   performance breathing new life into well-known music

Shifting time   –   you didn’t get born in the right era but get to be there anyway

Reliving your own past   –   a souvenir of a brilliant band you actually saw

*  Live In Your Living Room – First Set;   Live In Your Living Room – Second Set

 

The Reviews

Return To Forever “The Mothership Returns” [2012]mothership-returns

The concert Return To Forever IV played in Melbourne in February 2011 was one I fondly remember. For starters, I was there with Ms Connection –  an uncommon but delightful event. The venue was Melbourne’s ornate Regent Theatre – packed with eager fans jostling for a plastic cup of over-priced red wine but not getting over-wrought, simply excited about seeing this great band.

One notable characteristic of the crowd was the significant number of parent-child combinations: I found it deeply encouraging that this complex yet rewarding music was spanning the generations. Well, hopefully. The younger halves may have been slouched on their smart phones checking Facebook for all I know. I hope not, though.

And what an exhilarating noise it was. Frank Gambale, an 80s Corea alumnus and Aussie born, did sterling service on guitar. The core trio of Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White were as tight and fluid as you would expect from these veterans whilst the addition of Jean Luc Ponty added extra tonalities and textures to bring even well-known tunes new life.rtf-australia-7

The set list covered many of the important albums from the rich RTF catalogue, from “Spain” (1973’s Light As A Feather) and “After The Cosmic Rain” (Hymn Of The Seventh Galaxy, also 1973) via “Beyond The Seventh Galaxy” (Where Have I Known You Before, 1974) to this writer’s favourite, Romantic Warrior (1976) which scored no less than three selections: the title track, “Sorceress” and “Medieval Overture”.

The inclusion of Jean-Luc Ponty’s “Renaissance” (Aurora, 1975) was a welcome addition, as was a Lenny White solo composition and Stanley’s fun “School Days”.

This was a joyful concert experience enhanced and preserved by the 2012 release of a double CD live set (plus DVD) that I have returned to several times.

 

Kraftwerk “Min Max” [2005]Kraftw-min-max

I connected to the spark plug magic of Kraftwerk while transiting 1974’s Autobahn and have loved them ever since, so their appearance in Melbourne in 2005 was a thrill. As much art statement as performance, the “Min Max” tour was a mobile greatest hits package. That is to say, Kraftwerk travelled to various countries where a generous selection of songs were accompanied by wide-screen visuals, many of which showed lots of movement (especially the Tour de France and Trans Europe Express selections). The four musicians, in contrast, remained utterly statuesque, apparently affixed to  small rostra supporting the computer keyboards which presumably drove the music. The uncertainty in this description is because there was so little data visible from the audience; not much more can be gleaned from the DVD. This was a non-concert. Other than a couple of words from Ralf Hütter, no-one spoke. No-one smiled. No-one moved on stage until they walked off. It was simply brilliant.

Richard Thompson “Semi-detached Mock Tudor”, Live 1999 [2002]Richard Thompson Semil ive

Adopting the maxim “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”, Richard Thompson created his own Beeswing label to release “official” live recordings from his regular tours. All those I’ve heard are terrific, but this is a favourite. The first section blazes through the opening five-song “Metroland” grouping of the recently released Mock Tudor, climaxing with a trademark avalanche solo on “Hard On Me”. It’s visceral and exciting. Then the pace drops for a beautiful reading of “Jennie” before a second half that includes more live interpretations of Mock Tudor songs plus two from my favourite RT album. Danny Thompson’s bass playing is a cohering subterranean force throughout (and that’s the third time he’s been mentioned in Vinyl Connection dispatches!) while son Teddy adds vocals. A class songwriter and iconic guitarist doing something he clearly loves… and doing it damn well.

Ramones “It’s Alive” [1979]Ramones_-_It's_Alive_cover

I listened to It’s Alive in the car this morning. Started off at modest volume, as you do when you’re warming up to a longish day. By the third track I was cranking up the volume, grinning like an idiot and rocking around like the characters in the VW in Wayne’s World, except this was “Blitzkrieg Bop” not bloody Queen. To call this live album an adrenaline rush would be clichéd understatement. But the stats tell the tale: 28 tracks (including a couple of ballads!) in the staggering time of 54 minutes. Do the math. This is one fast and furious mofo of a concert, but one that flings you forwards on a wave of the fizzing fraternal energy that made them justly famous. “WunTooFreeFawa…”

Lou Reed “Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal” [1974]Lou Reed rra

I knew the Velvets and the solo albums well, but was taken aback by this live ‘tour de force’ from an artist who hated and baited the media and who most believed to be wracked by addiction and tormented by demons. Somewhere I may still have an interview from a 70s university student newspaper tellingly entitled “An afternoon of sheer terror with Lou Reed”. But despite the harrowing reading of “Heroin” there is little terrifying about this album. The addition of not one but two gun guitarists (Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner, later to ante up Alice Cooper’s sound) added fire and unexpected virtuosity as Lou powers through the show. When I saw him live in Melbourne a couple of years later, I was chuffed to discover that audience response during the instrumental passage of “Rock ‘n’ Roll” was to Lou dancing. Who’d a thought it? Here’s a live recording that amplifies the studio versions in most agreeable ways.

If you have just stumbled across Vinyl Connection, feel free to wander back through previous posts. Comments are always welcome.

Copyright

© Bruce Jenkins / Vinyl Connection 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Bruce Jenkins/Vinyl Connection with appropriate and specific links back to the original content. Copyright is not claimed for images of album covers / LPs.

11 comments

  1. Excellent post, Bruce! Your 5 reasons for live albums were spot on – perfect! One of our fellow bloggers (Jamie) pointed out in a comment that Frampton Comes Alive was the top selling live album ever – was it big in Australia? It was a freaking monster here! A Godzilla of an album. 😉

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    1. Thanks Marie. Yep, Mr Frampton’s contribution to the ‘double live’ register was a monster here too, though not as pervasive as the ubiquitous ‘Hot August Night’. I believe it was compulsory to own this in Australia in the mid-70s.

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  2. I’m not a massive fan of live LPs – with the usual dispensations given for It’s Alive, No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith and If You want Blood… ; but all my fave 70’s bands (in particular) released them – but here’s a challenge for you, has any group ever released a second good/brilliant live LP? (jazzers excluded).

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  3. I agree with 1537 – I’m not a huge fan of live albums. I don’t even like a lot of the live recordings on Youtube. I love concerts and I go to them as much as I can, but live performances lose so much in the translation when they are recorded. With a few exceptions, I generally prefer to hear the studio recording at home, and hear it performed live when it’s actually live. 🙂

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  4. Well esteemed colleagues of the blogiverse, if I haven’t whetted your appetite for live destruction after three posts, I guess I’ll just withdraw, hurt, and drown my sorrows under waves of unbridled audience applause (tweaked to make 2 people sound like 20,000).
    As to your challenge, Mr JS1537, just give me a moment…

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  5. Well, perhaps I spoke too rashly – I was forgetting about Yessongs, which is the best live album in the history of the universe, in my opinion. And of course, the live version of Freebird was the one that hit so big. And then there’s Cheap Trick Live at Budokan – not a big fan of C.T., but that was one huge record. And of course, as we see, when we talk about live recordings, the Frampton album stirs in its lair. As I said, it’s a monster, and as such, can never die. 🙂

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  6. […] album was to refresh my memory of Rock n Roll Animal for one of a series of articles on the joys of ‘live’ albums. I didn’t actually need to play it again –  it’s an album whose slashes and strokes are […]

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  7. […] been written about frequently (the series on triple live albums, for example) but not recently (Back Live goes way back). Not through waning interest nor fears of retribution from the unconverted but […]

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  8. […] Richard Thompson was an eighteen year-old guitar prodigy when he joined Fairport Convention in 1967. He departed after the Full House album in 1971, beginning a solo career with Henry The Human Fly, on which Linda Peters sang. They married and released a clutch of highly regarded albums culminating in 1982’s Shoot Out The Lights, before the relationship collapsed leaving Richard solo again. Since, Thompson has produced more than sixteen albums under his own name along with innumerable guest appearances with artists as diverse as Crowded House and Nick Drake. His album Still, produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, was released in 2015. RT appeared previously at Vinyl Connection in August 2013, as part of Back Live. […]

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  9. Another ‘Live ‘ one huh. I get on jags too. Good choices again. Don’t have the RTF album but I have the ones that the concert drew from. Seen them back in that time. Great show. Played the hell out of the Lou album. Went to see him at that time also and he was so out of it, it was a waste of time. Seen him after and he was much better. Cleaned up. Ill be on the look out for the Thompson record, the guys just good. Been listening to a lot of him lately. Ramones always sound live.

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    1. Terrific precis!

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