The Live Album Becomes an Art Form: 20 Classics from 1972


Live albums were already part of the rock recording industry before 1972.

There had been several live releases from bands like the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and James Brown, as well as classic tracks from The Who, Allman Brothers Band, Cream, Grateful Dead, Humble Pie, Jefferson Airplane, Grand Funk Railroad, from Elton John and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young — not to mention the Woodstock: three days of peace and music soundtrack.

More than placeholders or palliatives, live albums became creative works in their own right: integral parts of any act’s catalog, snapshots of how they were doing on stage at that precise moment.

But the live album arguably took off in 1972.

That year’s release sheet is full of important concert memorabilia, including band landmarks, Deep Purple, Neil Diamond and Aretha Franklin. With that in mind, we’re picking out the 20 key tracks from 1972 that took us to the stage without ever having to leave home.

The Allman Brothers Group, eat a peach
(February 12, 1972)

With the triumph of the previous year At Fillmore East tempered by the death of Duane Allman in October 1971, this part-live, part-studio set told the rest of the story with fillmore tracks such as “One Way Out”, “Trouble No More” and “Mountain Jam” – the latter, at almost 34 minutes, split between sides one and four. A 2006 deluxe edition corrected this and added more live tracks, and studio material like “Melissa”, “Blue Sky” and “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More” ranks among the Allmans’ best.

The group, rock of ages
(August 15, 1972)

The band set out to do something special with their 1971 graduation shows at the New York Academy of Music, recruiting Allen Toussaint to write arrangements for a five-piece brass section. The results were stellar and definitive, even before Bob Dylan appeared for four songs on the last night of the stand. For more essential listens, head straight to 2013 Live at the Academy of Music 1971 box set or compilation of two CDs.

Cream, Living Cream Volume II
(March 2, 1972)

The 1970s follow-up and companion piece living cream was a bit of a cash-in, but found the trio – long gone – through solid renditions of “White Room”, “Politician”, “Sunshine of Your Love” and a long take on “Steppin’ Out” from Memphis Slim.” A welcome addition to a small catalog.

dark purple, Made in Japan
(December 8, 1972)

Mc. He was smoking across the water when the band landed for three gigs in Tokyo and Osaka over the summer. the machine head The album gave the quintet their strongest commercial footing yet, and the band celebrated with extended takes on “Lazy”, “Smoke on the Water” and, of course, 20 minutes of “Space Truckin'” which have filled Side Four. Presumably, there was also more than one “Tokyo woman” in the crowd.

Neil Diamond, hot august night
(December 9, 1972)

Diamond took the stage at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles on August 24 and set the house on fire with a generous selection from his burgeoning catalog, reminiscing about early recordings (“Solitary Man,” “Cherry, Cherry”) and recent hits. such as “Song Sung Blue” and “Play Me”. The first release on new label MCA Records, the resulting live LP reached No. 5 on the Billboard 200 and was certified double platinum. A 40th anniversary edition in 2012 featured more of the show, and Diamond recorded three live sequel albums in 1987, 2009 and 2016.

The white basket of Edgar Winter, Road works
(March 1972)

The gang was on board when Winter and his brassy revue played gigs in New York and Los Angeles for one of only two albums under the White Trash name. Rick Derringer went through “Still Alive and Well” and “Back in the USA,” and Johnny Winter returned from a short hiatus for “Rock & Roll, Hoochie Koo.” Seventeen minutes from “Tobacco Road”, meanwhile, just smoking.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Pictures at an exhibition
(November 1971)

Technically a new work, the all-star trio’s rendition of Mussorgsky’s classic piece has been recorded for live audiences in Newcastle, England. It sounded bold but totally in tune with the times, and ELP’s additions (“The Sage”, “Blues Variation”, “The Curse of Baba Yaga”) fit the bill nicely. And it doesn’t have to be Christmas time to enjoy the fiery “Nut Rocker” at the end.

Aretha Franklin, amazing Grace
(June 1, 1972)

Just before the release of Young, gifted and black, arguably her best studio album, the queen of soul returned for two gospel nights at the Missionary Baptist Church that yielded this historic album. Although he would have been shattered by nerves, Franklin was touched by spirit, delivering truly divine performances of both spiritual standards and contemporary material such as Marvin Gaye’s “Wholy Holy” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone” by Carousel. Captured on both albums and, by Sydney Pollack, on film, it won a Grammy Award for Best Soul Gospel Performance and remains the best-selling live gospel album of all time. We also recommend the years 1999 Amazing Grace: The Complete Recordings.

Grateful death, European ’72
(November 5, 1972)

Six sides prime Dead from across the pond in the spring of 1972, marking the first recordings with Keith and Donna Godchaux in the band and Mickey Hart on hiatus, leaving Bill Kreutzmann as sole drummer. All hands were ready for the task – even an ailing Ron “Pigpen” McKernan – and the double-platinum set remains one of the Dead’s most successful commercial live releases.

Jimi Hendrix, Hendrix in the West
(January 1972)

Hendrix’s rock virtuosity is on display throughout this posthumous live collection, an eight-song sampler spanning the period 1969-70 and performances at Berkeley, San Diego, London and the Isle of Wight Festival – the latter including an instrumental interpolation of “God Save the Queen” in The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. There are also a few rare covers (“Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry, “Blue Suede Shoes” by Carl Perkins) and a searing rendition of “Red House”.

J. Geils Band, Live Full House
(September 26, 1972)

After just two studio albums, the Boston sextet demonstrated their acumen for the stage with this energetic set recorded in the band’s second hometown of Detroit. There’s only one original (“Hard Drivin’ Man”), but they made the blues and soul covers sound like their own, setting the stage for the band’s breakthrough “Give It to Me.” Next year.

Janis Joplin, In concert
(May 1972)

Coming between the posthumous pearl and Janis Joplin’s Greatest Hits, this two-LP set ran from 1968 to 1970, including gigs with Big Brother and the Holding Company and the Full Tilt Boogie Band. Sides three and four were pulled from stops in Toronto and Calgary on the Festival Express tour, with the latter giving long workouts to “Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)”, “Get It While You Can” and “Ball and Chain”.

King Crimson, Earthbound
(June 9, 1972)

Recorded during an American tour earlier in the year, this version of King Crimson – Robert Fripp, Boz Burrell, Mel Collins and Ian Wallace – had broken up when Earthbound came out of. The sound quality of the original release was a bit low, but it was improved for subsequent CD editions, which also expanded the set from five to 12 tracks.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono A little time in New York
(June 12, 1972)

Another half-live, half-studio set, with two sides of the duo playing with an all-star band in London (December 1969) and with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention in New York (June 1971). Some songs (“Cold Turkey”, “Well [Baby Please Don’t Go”]) goes down easier than others (“Au,” 15 minutes from “Don’t Worry Kyoko”), but it certainly captures an energetic Lennon navigating his way through a post-Beatles world.

Mountain, Live: the road continues
(April 24, 1972)

Released following the trio’s breakup, the four-song set sampled shows from 1968 to 1972, including a pair (“Long Red” and “Waiting to Take You Away”) from the Woodstock Festival and a side- long “Nantucket Sleighride” from the New York Academy of Music. A bit too short to be truly satisfying, it provided a placeholder until the band resumed in 1973.

Procol Harum, Procol Harum Live: In Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra
(April 1972)

Rock bands, especially British, loved teaming up with orchestras in the early 70s, and this 1971 session proved to be Procol Harum’s best-selling hit, reaching the Top 10 in the US and Canada. . The opener “Conquistador” was a Top 20 hit and a radio favorite, and the follow-up “In Held ‘Twas in I” was well suited to the orchestral setting.

Carlos Santana and Buddy Miles, Carlos Santana and Buddy Miles! To live!
(June 7, 1972)

After the demise of the original Santana lineup, Carlos Santana teamed up with drummer Buddy Miles (of Electric Flag and Jim Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys) at the Sunshine ’72 Festival in Honolulu. Accompanied by several Santana veterans – including Neal Schon, Greg Errico, Coke Escovedo and Mike Carabello – they vamped through Miles’ “Evil Ways”, “Them Changes” and more, then lay back for 25 minutes of dizzying jam on “Freeform Funkafid Dirt.”

Slade, Slade alive!
(March 24, 1972)

The British quartet had yet to release “Cum on Feel the Noize” or “Mama Weer All Crazee Now” when they released their first live album, recorded in October 1971 and produced by original Animals bassist Chas Chandler. But Slade was already a stunning live performer and showed it on tracks such as “Know Who You Are”, “Keep on Rocking” and covers of Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” and “Darling Be Home Soon” by Lovin’ Spoonful.

various artists, Fillmore: The Last Days
(June 1972)

Nearly a year after the Fillmore West closed with a series of concerts by favorite artists, this three-disc set offered a bit of everyone from Santana, Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service to Elvin Bishop, Tower of Power and Boz Scaggs. The all-star jams on Side Six are fun and messy — an apt description of the venue’s run as a groundbreaking musical sanctuary.

The Velvet Underground, Live at Max’s Kansas City
(May 30, 1972)

It was after-Charge VU which took the stage in August 1970, with Maureen Tucker gone and replaced by bassist Doug Yule’s brother Billy-and Lou Reed would be out by the time the album was released. Fans have always found it to be a “safer” version of the band than previous line-ups, but the simpler approach suits Reed’s material well, especially on “I’m Waiting for the Man. “, “Sweet Jane” and “Pale Blue Eyes”.

Top 100 Live Albums

Rock’s Top 100 Live Albums are more than just concert memorabilia or stage documents from that awesome show you saw last summer.


Comments are closed.