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This week on my i-pod #2 – Live Albums

February 12th, 2006

I love live albums. Good ones capture a moment in music, the energy of a live concert a feeling that’s lost in studio albums. Last weeks REO Speedwagon story led me to burn their live album – Live, You Get What You Play For – to MP3. It’s been years since I listened to this You Get What You Play For, but I remember it as a great live album.

The mid-70’s to early 80’s were the golden years for live albums, possibly because it was great years for live performances. But also because the artists treated them as what they were, chronicles of the live experience: good bands doing what they do best.

Which takes us back to You Get What You Play For. Released in 1977, REO was a great live band at the time. With both Guitarist Gary Richrath and singer Kevin Cronin playing Les Paul guitars, they had a big thick sound. Richrath is a hot shot player with good chops and REO was a good vehicle to show them off. You Get What You Play For is one of those great mid 70’s live albums with lots of energy and big, bold sound. Like “Frampton Comes Alive” or a few years later, Ian Hunter’s “Welcome to the Club” this is a live album that proves great rock and roll is played on a stage.

Another Live album this week, was from a different era, and instead of being a bands breakthrough, it was a swan song. “Live Yardbirds featuring Jimmy Page” was released in 1971 to capitalize on Led Zeppelin’s success. Recorded at the Anderson Theatre during the Yardbirds last US tour in March 1968. Jimmy Page quickly sued the record company over it’s release, and it was pulled from the shelf, making it a rarity (see here for the story). I picked it up 20 years ago for $40 at a used record store in Brampton, and have never regretted it.

Instead of great, this album is historic, especially for us Zeppelin fans. But it has it’s moments of greatness too. Page’s playing is good here, referred to once by Keith Relf as “Magic Fingers Jimmy”, but the rest of the band is sloppy. Singer Relf is not good, and the music suffers for it. Page quickly became disgusted with what he considered the unprofessionalism of the band, and it’s easy to hear why on this album. But in fairness, the rest of the band was burned out by this time, while Page was just beginning his foray into the wild world of touring musician.

This album provides real glimpses into what would become. “I’m Confused” is an early incarnation of “Dazed and Confused” and the guitar solo “White Summer” would go on to become “Black Mountain Side.” Page would play “White Summer” for the rest of his Zeppelin years, towards the end it would lead into “Kashmir” as it had the same eastern tuning. Also, Led Zeppelin’s early shows opened with the old blues standard “Train Kept a Rollin'” as did the later Yardbirds (Zeppelin also opened their final shows in 1980 with this song).

For all the talk of history, and a tired band, this album is also enjoyable on it’s own. It has that energy I keep talking about. The Yardbirds were a legendary band, and this album gives you an idea of what we missed.

This Week on my I-Pod

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