Think about the 1970s. Just about every great band you can think of during that period brought out a career-defining live album. Sometimes the album might have been the star attraction of a recording career like, say, Frampton Comes Alive or Rockin’ The Filmore or maybe it was one of a band’s many successful releases. Sometimes the live album represented a full stop in a band’s career before they would change tack (hi, Rush!), but always these great albums captured a high-point of success or peak performance.
So what happened to the live album?
I was reading an excellent post that sings the praises of Iron Maiden’s superb Live After Death the other day. And I started to wonder if, maybe, Live After Death (released in the mid-80s) was the last truly classic live album of all-time. I mean classic as in essential! Classic as in one of the albums you think about or recommend when you’re talking about that band.
I wonder why this might have happened. Maybe one factor is the concert film – why just listen to the concert when you can watch the show too? I can certainly think of a good few great concert DVDs. Also, a few 70s bands struggled to capture their sound on studio albums, possibly due to the available recording technology. So perhaps bands are just happy with their studio albums now and don’t feel the need to impress us all with their live sound, being that it’s probably pretty close to their studio sound. And is there a fear that a live album would just come across like a Greatest Hits with crowd noise over the top? Have we just written the live album off as an artistic statement? Hmmmm…
Pre-Live After Death I’d struggle to think of any bands that hadn’t brought out a brilliant live album. After it, I’m struggling to think of many bands that have. I can think of some… but are they classic? No, but maybe they should be. I’m going to see if I can come up with some contenders! And, if you have any suggestions, please get in touch.
Watch this space!