I was recently thinking about live albums that I’ve really enjoyed over time, and I figured that in and of itself is plenty of inspiration to write a blog post listing my own personal favorite live albums. While they aren’t necessarily as enjoyable, in my opinion, as a finely polished studio masterpiece, they do serve the purpose of capturing a band in front of a live crowd in all their glory. So here are a few live albums that I feel really capture great bands at great moments in their history.
Ozzy Osbourne – Live & Loud. I got this album when I was in the eighth grade. It’s actually one of my prized possessions in my collection too. It’s in pretty ratty shape at this point, but it’s still complete with the washable tattoos, booklet, and steel grate cover. As for the music, Zakk Wylde makes the band sound insanely heavy, and it’s the best Ozzy has ever sounded.
Kiss – Alive III. People always say Alive or Alive II is the best Kiss live album. They’re probably right, but I’ve always dug this one just because of the tunes they included in the show. I’m also a bigger fan of Bruce Kulick than Ace Frehley. There, I said it.
Iced Earth – Alive in Athens. The Greek crowd on this album is on fire. Iced Earth also kill it with Matt Barlow fronting the band too.
Iron Maiden – Live at Donington. Iron Maiden has more awesome live albums than most bands even have albums. I could literally say any of them here and be fine with the choice. I’m going with Donington though. It’s from their Fear of the Dark era, which was the time I really discovered the real majesty of the band, so I can’t deny the nostalgia. I also love the overly loud bass guitar sound throughout.
Dream Theater – Live at Budokan. I have this one on DVD. Having seen Dream Theater live once, I can assure you it’s a spectacle for no other reason than just how good the band are technically. They don’t miss a note. This show sounds amazing, and the songs they play are great, but the documentary portion of the DVD makes it worth it. I love seeing the band make fun of James Labrie’s warmup routine every time.
Slayer – Decade of Aggression. I’m not a big slayer fan, but they sound better on this album to me than they do in the studio.
Judas Priest – Unleashed in the East. This is just an utterly classic live record. Every song is even a classic, and the band sounds amazing.
Metallica – S & M. The San Francisco symphony. Metallica. What could possibly go wrong? My wife and I both love this record to death, and the DVD is equally fantastic.
Rammstein – Völkerball. German guys who shoot fire out of a flamethrower on stage. If you don’t want to see or hear that, I don’t know what to tell you.
Kamelot – One Cold Winter’s Night. This is a truly magical show. The band sounds great doing a lot of great tracks, but the DVD of the show is what’s really stunning. They make it snow in the venue during “Abandoned,” and it’s awesome.
Sonata Arctica – For the Sake of Revenge. This album doesn’t sound particularly great, but the banter between songs is always pretty funny, and they smash a keytar on the stage.
Van Halen – Live: Right Here, Right Now. Van Halen is awesome regardless, but the epic 13-minute guitar solo that Eddie blazes out for “316” makes this a live record worthy of capturing some magic. Sometimes I listen to that track and just wonder how he got so good at guitar.