Sweating Til You Bleed - Best Live Album
by Turtle Jones

Live albums. Always hit or miss. Most live albums are just a waste. Your favorite band screaming incoherently and saying stupid things like "Are you ready to rock?" or "You guys are the best crowd on this tour so far!" Right. I bet you say that to all the crowds. Really, the only people who love live albums are the people who don't mind 29 minute versions of 4 minute songs. You know who you are.

But once in a while you'll get a live album that really does stand out. We're not talking Frampton Comes Alive here, so get that out of your head. We each came up with an album that we think surpasses what the usual concert disc contains.

Michele first:

You don’t want to know some of the albums that came to mind when we picked this subject. I’m not really a big fan of live stuff and all the picks that I first thought of would have made me look like a damn hippie, so I’m not even gonna say. But then I thought some more about and it hit me. The live album that still gives me chills when I listen to it. The live album that is so amazing, it sounds studio produced. The live album that I put on about an hour ago and thought, damn. Damn you, Layne.

Alice in Chains - Unplugged.

Some will argue that Nirvana put out the best Unplugged album. It was pretty damn good, but I think AIC is just better in a lot of respects. Really, you can look at both the albums in the same way.AliceInChainsUnpluggedAlbum.jpg Each is a lasting, haunting legacy of two talented musicians whose lives went to waste.

There’s something about these Unplugged sessions that is unlike any other live effort by a band. It’s personal. Intimate. And you can hear and - if you have the DVD - see how different it seems for the musicians, too. The lack of that vibrance and energy that comes with being plugged in is replaced with a solemn kind of emotion. It’s raw. Stripped down. You get to see and hear the bare bones of a song. Sometimes that’s a beautiful thing. And sometimes it’s unnerving.

A lot of people think Layne Staley sounds bad on this album. They say his voice is cracked and old and worn. Well, the band hadn’t played live in like three years, so cut the guy a break. Personally, I think he sounds great. How he looked at this show, though, that’s another story. And that, I think, is what makes Unplugged stick out. Just knowing where he was headed. Watching him sing, looking at his face and knowing the end of the story. He looked beaten and halfway to dead. You knew. Well hell, everyone knew from a long time before that he’d die a junkie death, but looking at him that night, you just knew it was all winding down. It took about six years after that for his way of life to finally take it’s toll, but any AIC fan who watched the show that night saw the end of Staley right then.

But the music. Wow. The playlist is the heart of AIC. The songs here are all laid out like raw meat. Cooking in reverse, kind of. Knowing what a steak looks and tastes and smells like when it comes out of the kitchen and then looking at a slab of meat and thinking, that’s what I just ate. Does that make any sense? Fuck, I’m tired. It makes sense in my head. Maybe I’m hungry, I don’t know. But anyhow. You take a song like Angry Chair and throw it out there unplugged and you think that just can’t work, but it does. It works so well. It gives you a new appreciation of the song and of the musicianship of the band.

Over Now. Damn. The harmony on this is beautiful. And sad in a way. I tend to think metaphorically when I’m tired. But I won’t bore with you that now. Just...listening to this makes me feel sad. And then, Down in a Hole. The fucking highlight of this album. This song, this version of this song, never fails to blow me away. Such a depressing song, yet so pretty in a lot of ways. It makes me feel down but I listen to it anyhow because there’s so much feeling in it and it’s just a reminder of things. That sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when you know everything is going to hell and you can't stop it. Not even having the urge to climb out of the hole anymore. Listening to the song this way, live, somehow kicks me harder than the studio version.

So this is a great album, musically. But depressing as hell.


I'm gonna put on some Love and Rockets and go back to thinking about steak. -M

turtle rides the train

Alcohol, amphetamines, LSD and pot. The most amazing live record ever. Something that you listen to and wonder why you ever thought guitarists and singers were so cool. They didn't do that much.

What album am I talking about?

The Who - Live at Leeds

From start to finish, you can see why Keith Moon was a damn god on the drums. Those fills didn't need to be there. He just did them cause he was out of it. Don't get me wrong. Playing high is hard but sometimes it is a hell a lot of fun. Cept for LSD. No bueno on playing on that stuff. The fucking strings feel like tree limbs.

But maybe that's just me.

This was the album that got me into the background of music. Guitarists? Meh. Singer? Meh.

Wanna know what holds a band together? Listen to this. Moon is so fucked up he can barely talk, but somehow his fills are incredible. Fucking amazing. bellboy.jpgDaltry and Pete don't even need to be there. They are just icing on the cake.

You want to know why this album worked so well?

Cause they all hated each other. That's a true story. The best bands all hated each other. Do their job and then go home alone. If you guys can tell me any band that hangs out with other when they are on off time, go for it.

The truth be told, everyone hates each other in a band after the end of a tour. The real good bands can come on, still hating each other, and put out something amazing. Something that no one wants to repeat or ever wants to forget. Something that you ask yourself how can that guy barely make out a sentence, but still pull off a drum fill like that? That wasn't on the real album was it?

I have seen the Who about ten times. I have never seen them with Moon. I’m only 11 years old for god's sake, but even their fill in drummers lacked. They died when Keith died. This was the ultimate live album of a band at their peak.

This is what they did.

Enjoy it or fuck off.

The attitude on this whole thing inspired me to pick up a bass.

RIP - John Entwistle
RIP - Keith Moon

If there is a god and a heaven, you guys are fucking the place up right now. - T

So that's our take on Best Live Albums. We know that you will all have your own, but some will always be in our heads. Where you can just feel the power, energy, emotion, crowd, and the heavy breathing of the band.

Just imagining how tired you are and looking at the set list thinking you have sweated every kind of moisture, emotion and talent out of yourself.

Then seeing you are only on song two of the list.

But you just have to keep going.

So what's your favorite live album?


frampton comes alive


Wheels of Fire (live side) by Cream. Talk about hating each others guts. Talk about excess. Jesus. I'm not a Clapton fan. I'm a Jack Bruce fan. I LOVE this album. Jack's the shit on this. 15+ minutes of Baker's "Toad", man i bet Clapton and Bruce stepped offstage, smoked a couple of Js, drank some beer, got blow jobs and came back and there's Baker still just pounding away. Drummers.


I toll you

the best bands hated each other and wanted to out do each other every night.


i can't argue too much with the alice in chains choice; however, nirvana fan or not i think their unplugged album is unsurpassed. not only did they show off their own material in a light few had seen, they shared their inspirations and love of music by playing a number of covers throughout the session.

that unplugged special is how i remember kurt the best -- sitting on a stool sharing himself with the world.

for a more recent title, i really liked seether's one cold night and with a complete genre shift matisyahu's live at stubbs.


The quintessential live album has to be Johnny Cash At San Quentin.

But my favorite is Dream Theater's Live Scenes from New York. This band is note-for-note perfect live, but the sound is a little more raw. Love 'em. They also have a live cover album of Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon that is quite good.


Johnny Cash: At Folsom Prison is my favorite live record, and one of my favorite records, period.


Ugh. I meant Folsom Prison too. Sorry 'bout that.


Have to agree with the Johnny Cash.

As for Nirvana, that is indeed an amazing album, but I think because I'm more of an AIC fan, I lean toward them.

Weird thing about Nirvana - I was into them when they first came out and then totally turned on them. And just recently I've been revisiting their whole catalog and finally appreciating how good they were.


Yeah, Folsom is a pretty good document alright. All my picks for best live album would make me sound like a hippie too. I probably listen to The Descendents' Liveage more often than any other live album though. Lately.


One of my first picks was Allman Brothers live at Fillmore.

That's about as hippie as I'll admit to.


Ha, you got my number Michele. Peace.


Judas Priest Unleashed in the East


i need to go on record here saying that no unplugged album is the best live anything... THEY HAVE PLUGS FOR A REASON!!!! did velvet lou teach us nothing?


best live album... evillive. i love when danzig gets too tired to sing and sneer/forgets the words...


Ok, not the best maybe but damn good:

Elvis - Aloha from Hawaii.

Thankyouverymuch. You're a beautiful audience...


Rush - Exit Stage Left
Thin Lizzy - Live and Dangerous
Jeff Buckley - Live at L'Olympia
Metallica - S&M

ack..sorry...there are so many good ones...


AIC's "Unplugged" is totally a better *album* than Nirvana's by simple virtue of the set lists. I mean, I love the Meat Puppets too, but could Cobain *be* any more transparent about trying to regain his lost cred?

That said, "Where Did You Sleep Last Night" is almost physically painful to listen to now. You just know listening to it that he's already decided to kill himself, and nobody can do a damn thing about it.


ian, i'm not even thinking of the meat puppets; but rather, the bowie cover ("the man who sold the world") and the vaselines' "jesus doesn't want me for a sunbeam" come to mind. and what you call a transparent attempt at regaining lost cred, i think was kurt sharing his past and future interests with the audience. argue as much as you want, but unlike many musicians cobain was not in it for the "cred".

i'm also going to disagree with you regarding "where did you sleep last night". while the show did expose some of the sadness in kurt (personal and up-close moments often did), i for one don't think that song nor the show provided any particular foreshadowing. if you watch the show or listen closely to the cd, it is more of a tribute to leadbelly, the heritage of the song, his inspirations, and true passion for music as a whole -- not just the grunge genre. it was song also covered by the likes of bob dylan and the grateful dead and has quite a history of its own.

i'd consider arguing whether or not he actually killed himself, but that would be getting way off target. if there was any foreshadowing of death; however, i'd argue that it was the beginning of the end of nirvana and kurt's interest in exploring music outside of grunge which to some degree held him captive.

still, i can't complain about aic... great band and their unplugged session was excellent. but for events like this i like to see artists show sides of themselves we wouldn't normally see. i was looking for the "surprise me" effect and it wasn't there with aic -- they played their stuff just as i'd have expected given the unplugged constraints.


I'm going to take Ian's side here - I saw the same things in the Nirvana show that he did.

And AIC - I absolutely think we saw a side of the band we normally don't see. Maybe not musically, but it was there.

So, are you a Courtney Killed Kurt person?


courtney did kill kurt. even if she didn't pull the trigger.


Joe Jackson's "Big World"


courtney did kill kurt. even if she didn't pull the trigger.

Well...kind of.

But the fact remains that he did literally kill himself if not figuratively.

I was just wondering if ac is one of the "Kurt didn't pull the trigger" conspiracy theorists.


lets say that i wouldn't be shocked if someone stepped forward and admitted to killing kurt; however, i believe it more likely he chose to end his life. i do think courtney love was a significant influence in his choice.

i would love to see an in-depth forensic investigation that explains some of the anomolies. something in the style of the proverbial "did we land on the moon" debate where nasa provided clear scientific answers to the issues raised. to my knowledge, nobody has done this with respect to kurt's death.


I'll admit that the foreshadowing or lack thereof in the Nirvana album is something of a Rorshach test. I never saw or heard that show unti after Kurt's death so I've always placed it in that context. Some critics agree with my interpretation, some believe "In Utero" was the actual "suicide note", and some don't ascribe major significance to either.

Regarding AIC, it wasn't that unplugging the music was so technically revolutionary as much as how well it held together in that acoustic format. Facelift and Dirt were very heavy sounding records and I was honestly expecting the songs to just sound like a jangled mash of guitar strings - instead, the detail really shone through and proved how good they were as songwriters.

As for Courtney and her influence/role, I've made my peace with that whole happening a while ago. It was a necessary thing so that we could experience the full awesomeness of Dave Grohl (and indirectly QOTSA and Tenacious D).


Oh, and I second ac on the Matisyahu live disc. Great stuff!


i'm with you there ian... dave grohl is the man and the foo's stuff just seems to get better and better as a whole.

as for matisyahu... "live at stubbs" is so much better than his studio produced album.

i'd really like to see gnarles barkley do an unplugged version of some material from st. elsewhere -- crazy would be excellent i'm sure, but there are a few other songs that could also be surprising in the format.


ac: I'm with you on Dave Grohl. He stepped out of the Nirvana spotlight and showed himself to be an amazingly talented artist in his own right.

As for Kurt....meh. Other than he ruined my birthday forever by offing himself on April 8, I just couldn't care less about him. And now I have to listen to Nirvana songs and Nirvana groupies whining about Kurt every year on MY birthday.

After all, it's all about ME.


Okay, I have Famously Bad Musical Taste, but here are some votes (in no particular order)

David Bowie--Stage

Albert King & Stevie Ray Vaughn--Listen to this bad boy.

BB King Live at Cook County Jail.


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