I know we’ve done live albums on more than one occasion before, but still, it’s a rich vein.
I was listening to Van Morrison’s It’s Too Late To Stop Now, Vols II, III and IV yesterday and marvelling at what a remarkable record it is. And the arrangements really make it. There are eleven people onstage including Morrison, and every part has its own lines, distinctive and clear. Strings are invariably used on rock records to provide a gloopy background, but here the quartet has a real role to play with lead lines and melodies enhancing the songs throughout. Ditto the two brass instruments which are never just reinforcing noise. Jeff Labes’ keyboard and John Platania’s guitar weave in and out with the texture of a jazz ensemble.
The playing is fantastic, and, above it all, Van’s vocals magnificent as he goes from bullhorn to whisper and back again in a stroke. What you hear is the essence of all great live albums – musicians feeding off each other, off the audience, and off the moment in a way that can never be created in the studio.
Many of my favourite live albums do this – Allman Brothers at Fillmore East, Rory Gallagher Live in Europe, Duke Ellington and Muddy Waters, both at Newport, Bill Evans Trio at the Village Vanguard. I’m sure there are many more I don’t know, so share – what are your favourite live albums (and why)?