All too often they feature poor quality sound, tired arrangements of familiar songs, and a longing for the original, “studio” recording.
I still remember disappointment at the Moody Blues anemic Caught Live Plus Five. Get the concept? A recording of a Moody Blues concert plus five brand new songs! It was one of those cases where the concept was greater than the reality.
Yet every so often, a song — or an entire album — overcomes the genre. What results is a live recording that either improves an existing song or remakes it entirely.
So here below are five that in my experience — and for my tastes — have done just that:
5. I Want You To Want Me, by Cheap Trick. I personally never believed a Cheap Trick song would ever appear on one of my Top Five Tuesday lists, but you have to admit that they put the phrase “live at Budokan” in the vernacular.
4. Jailbreak, by Thin Lizzy. Thin Lizzy is a much under-rated band and Jailbreak a much under-rated song. I miss Phil Lynott’s voice.
3. Folsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash. Has there ever been a better way to intro a song than “hello, I’m Johnny Cash.”
2. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For by U2. I always knew that Still Haven’t Found was at its heart a gospel song. Then the backing of a gospel choir during the movie Rattle & Hum removed all doubt. I still get goose bumps when Bono answers the choir’s entrance with an elated, “All right!” A sublime reinvention of an already beautiful song.
1. Take It To The Limit by the Eagles. Speaking of goose bumps, the musical crescendo coupled with Randy Meisner’s falsetto at the song’s finale gets me every time. I saw and heard this song live at the very first concert I ever went to — Fort Worth, Texas, 1977 — and remember the awe Meisner’s voice created in the audience. The recording on the Eagles Live album captures the moment almost perfectly. When Glenn Frey says at the end, “Very good, Randy” you’ve just got to agree.