Monday, July 17, 2006

What makes a live album good or bad?

Before I go off into reviews, I thought it wise to try and establish what makes a live album good or bad. Now with live album week I will mainly just be focusing on official live albums rather than bootlegs. My thoughts are that a good live album should.......

-Have a good sound quality of course, no fuzzy or muddy sounding recording.
-The band should sound excited.
-Have the band's big songs.
-Have some dialog with the audience. These band's have personalities or they should so let's hear what they say to their fans.
-The hope is that there is some variance between at least some of the live versions and the studio versions. Not every one will agree with this, but I like it when a band speeds up a song a little live or takes a chance with a song or two. Maybe they make the song longer by adding some solos or different parts in.
-Depending on the band, you may want some solos thrown in.

-If it's not the band's first live album then you want some different tracks from the first live album.

There are probably others so feel free to add your own. As for a bad live album, I guess it could be described as anything does the opposite of the above. A few other things a bad album might do is ......
-Be boring or not even as good as the studio versions of songs.
-Sound fake or obviously not live.

I think too often live albums are used as contract obligations. Meaning a band owes the label another album and they don't want to go into the studio right then so the label plops together some piece of pulp and the band doesn't have input or doesn't care. Have some pride in your work. Led Zeppelin didn't want their performance from Live Aid released because they didn't think they performed that well. I can respect that, I can't respect band's who let subpar recordings come out although sometimes I know it's the label's decision rather than the band. I'll step down off the soapbox now and let someone else have a chance.

So what do you think makes a live album good or bad?


Blogger OnMyWatch said...

actually, I don't really even like live albums mostly because I find the cheering crowd to be's like a laugh track on a bad sitcom.

And mostly, drum solos are about as much fun as waiting to be selected for jury duty and last just as long. boring.

The good thing about live albums is you get a sneak peak on whether you should waste money on a ticket to their concert or not.

7:09 AM  
Blogger :P fuzzbox said...

I was impressed by Pearl Jam putting out all of the live recordings from a tour a while back. I have a cd of the one in Lubbock. I think that it is awesome how they covered an old Buddy Holly tune for his hometown. The recording quality wasn't all that great but it wasn't muddy and the background noise wasn't over powering.

I believe Metallica did the same thing not to long ago but eventhough I attended the St. Anger concert, I never have heard the recording.

8:12 AM  
Blogger Webpirate said...

OnMyWatch, I totally agree, I use a cutting software to update my MP3's and remove all crowd cheering and, band talking. During the 90's there was a big call for "Unplugged" and some great songs were stripped down to the bare soul, allowing for a clean and new look at a long loved song, drawback was open concert like environment, where people needed to shut up.

Fuzzbox, I have the Saint Louis release of the PJ album, when they came here. That is just PJ's style, they love bootlegs.

8:59 AM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

Onmywatch-I think live albums are hit or miss. The crowd noise has never bothered me because I just focus in on the music. I think drum solos depend on the drummer. I have heard some on albums and in person that served only to rest of the band and the audience to go and use the bathroom. Drummers shouldn't feel they have to do a solo. They should only do one if they really have something to give.

Fuzz-I think it's great when bands pull out covers to play live that they have not recorded. I saw Aerosmith twice on the Get a grip tour. At the second time Tyler and Perry came out and sat on stools and did an accoustic version of the Stones "Wild Horses" while the rest of the band took a break and it was great.

Webpirate-I thought the band talking is a plus for the most part. The problem with playing unplugged is that the band has to have something to give in that format. Last year VH-1 sponsored a show that was Kip Winger, Don Dokken, Firehouse, Jani Lane and Stephen Pearcy all doing accoustic sets. I'll bet it was largely a train wreck except for Winger who has been doing this kind of set for a while and maybe Don Dokken had enough of a voice to pull it off.

I will have my first review of the week out on Tuesday and it will likely be the Nuge album. I was listening to it today and it's pretty interesting I thought.

10:22 AM  
Blogger OnMyWatch said...

you're right about drum solos.

on a different note...just noticed in your profile that you listed Clash of the Titans. You're the only other person I know who likes that movie. HA. :)

10:48 AM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

Onmywatch- When I was in 7th grade we studied mythology in English and we took a field trip to see Clash of the titans at an old rundown theater and it was great. Then around late 1984 different channels were showing Clash of the titans (I didn't have cable) and I swear I saw it 20 times in about three months. I have probably watched it another 20 times since then. Next to Wizard of Oz and Army of darkness it is the movie I have seenthe most times in my life. The effects were outdated for 1981 and some of the acting is bad, but the locations are great and there is plenty of action.

11:09 AM  
Blogger OnMyWatch said...

that's cool about the old theater, I guess I must've been 16 or something, but still, on occasion, I yell, "Release the Crackin" more times than I'd care to admit. :)

11:15 AM  
Anonymous fred charles said...

I feel that if the songs on a live album have no varience from the studio cuts, then what's the point. Maiden, my favorite band, are guilty of this and so are Rush to a certain extent.

12:01 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

I think well planned guitar and drum solo's are nice to hear on a live album, but not when they go on for to long. I also enjoy it when the lead singer, or lead guitarest either sings or plays a little of another tune in the middle of a song. It doesn't necessarily have to be one of theirs.

12:45 PM  
Blogger David Amulet said...

I will add one that may conflict a bit with one of yours. INstead of focusing on the hits, I really like the albums that hae some lesser-known album tracks or unreleased songs. I think here of something like Tesla's live "acoustic" album, which had "Signs" and "Lodi" along with the better-known tracks.

-- david

1:44 PM  
Blogger David Amulet said...

I will add one that may conflict a bit with one of yours. INstead of focusing on the hits, I really like the albums that hae some lesser-known album tracks or unreleased songs. I think here of something like Tesla's live "acoustic" album, which had "Signs" and "Lodi" along with the better-known tracks.

-- david

1:44 PM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

Fred-I agree or even worse is having version that are not even as energetic as the studio version. G-n-R's Live Era had a lot of those.

Mike-I remember hearing Dio do a concert that was played on the radio around 84-85. they were playing Stand up and shout I think and they played the fast part of Sabbath's Heaven and hell and it was great.

David-That's good too some times. I remember thinking it was cool when Metallica had "The thing that should not be" on their Live binge and purge set or when Judas Priest played "Desert Plains" on Priest live .

2:21 PM  
Blogger Vicious Steve said...

One bad thing about live albums is that they aren't always truly "live". Every band claims that it is "totally live, no overdubs in the studio". How many of you have read that in an interview? Well, I like to believe the hype that it's liveeven though some of my favorites have been suspect: Alive, Strangers In the Night, Priest In The East.

Another bad thing is if the latest live album mirrors the last one. KISS, Crue, and Maiden take notice!

A good live album should have a good overview of the band's career AND a good representation of songs from the album it's promoting. That doesn't mean you have to have all the hits plus 1 new tune. I prefer variety, play some old school that no one ever hears, especially if this is the latest in a long line of live albums.
Many bands are afraid to deviate from their regular setlist (KISS) save for 1 or 2 songs.

2:52 PM  
Blogger Vicious Steve said...

Sorry, one more bad thing.....

Too many live albums.

How many does KISS have?
Iron Maiden seem to release one after every album.
Same with Dream Theater and Dio.

2:57 PM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

Vicious Steve-I think live albums prior to say the early 90's were more of a novelty. Not everyone did one and very few bands did multiple ones. If they did then they should have several studio albums in between like Rush so that they had a lot of different material to do. I don't know if the record labels push these bands to do a lot of live albums or not. Or it may be a like a celebrity doing a commercial, meaning that it takes little effort to do it and it'a quick way to get a paycheck.

3:07 PM  

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