Jamming out to your favorite band is fun and all. But, there is nothing like seeing that band live and in concert. Unfortunately, our favorite bands might not always be accessible for live and in-person shows. So, that is where live albums come in. But, there is something different about listening to a live album.
Live albums offer a vulnerable and honest listening experience where fans are introduced to another side of their favorite band or artist than studio albums portray. Not only that, the between-song speeches and the crowd’s roar featured on live albums create a similar experience to being at a concert. With that being said, we ranked the best live albums of all time that deserve a listen.
Talking Heads, ‘The Name of This Band is Talking Heads’
In 1982, Talking Heads released a live album titled The Name of This Band is Talking Heads. This album contains various live performances recorded between 1977 and 1981. During this time, Talking Heads performed in cities like Tokyo, Japan, and New York City.
The new wave rock band formed in 1975 and was still getting its start during these live shows, so the live album isn’t perfect. But, this album ended up being ranked No. 28 on the charts in 1982, and it was so successful that it received a CD reissue in 2004 featuring 16 additional tracks.
Grateful Dead, ‘Europe ’72’
Europe ’72 is a triple-live album covering the Grateful Dead’s tour of Western Europe in 1972, hence the name. The album was released because of the complications of their European expedition, how costly that tour was, and the hope that the live album would help recoup some of the band’s losses.
This live album features several songs that were never recorded in a studio. It was also the last Grateful Dead work to feature band member Ron “Pigpen” McKernan before he passed away in 1973. Nevertheless, this album will stay in Dead Heads’ hearts forever.
Sam Cooke, ‘Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963’
Something that sets this live album apart from the others is that it wasn’t released until 22 years after the live performances. For example, Sam Cooke’s live album Live at the Harlem Square Club featured recordings from 1963 from a show at Miami’s Harlem Square Club. But, they weren’t released until 1985 because the record label shelved them until then.
In those 22 years, Sam Cooke fell in popularity and didn’t have a fanbase like he used to. However, the live album showed a new, raw perspective that helped him garner a new generation of fans, which was well-deserved for an artist of his caliber.
Thin Lizzy, ‘Live and Dangerous’
The 1970s were a time when rock music was rising in popularity, and 1978’s live album Live and Dangerous by Thin Lizzy is a perfect example of this. The album was recorded in London in 1976 and Philadelphia and Toronto in 1977 before being released in 1978.
It came out because the band’s producer Tony Visconti didn’t have time to work on a full studio album. So, the band decided to release a live album instead, and it was a success. They proved themselves a formidable rock force and gained fans along the way. Good for them!
Lou Reed, ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal’
Most of the albums on this list contain nearly 20 songs, give or take. However, Lou Reed’s live album Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal has just five. These songs were recordings from a December 1973 concert in New York City and were released the following year.
Besides the five songs, the album also contains an instrumental prologue and a new rendition of the classic song “Heroin,” which was an obvious fan favorite. This album was a sleeper hit, reaching No. 45 on the Billboard 200 album chart before earning RIAA gold certification in 1978. Fans ate this live album up!