Is It Live or....

Happy New Year everyone! I trust you all had a great holiday season. The madness is over, we have a few months until St Patrick's Day (or Valentine's Day, if you're so inclined), so lots of time to get caught up on music that we may have missed. Which is always a fun thing, amirite?

Before we delve into this week's topic, I wanted to weigh in on the guys' recommended pick of the week (Ep 137) Car Seat Headrest Teens of Denial. There was a lot of things in the press a few months ago about this band, mainly because they were using a snippet of The Cars 'Just What I Needed' in one of their songs. Apparently, Rick Ocasek did not like that and forced them to leave it out. Having heard the song, I can't really say that it would have added anything to it. That really sums up my whole feelings on this record - it's decent, but to my ears there's nothing really memorable about it. Some songs are good and in a way, the ones I like remind me a little of Teenage Fanclub. At the same time, I'm not really sold on singer Will Toledo's voice - it can be downright irritating at times. There's definitely some promise there though. It may take a better producer or mixer to bring it out of them. I know I know, it's got a lo-fi vibe. I get that, but this type of music needs a little more polish to really shine.

How many of you out there are ready to see some live music? I know I am! I saw a grand total of one concert last year (Nofx, if you're keeping track) and I really would like to get to more this year. I personally feel that going out to see live shows really reaffirms my love of music. Yes, I love the albums but going out and seeing a good band play is really one of the great joys in life. And experiencing that with a bunch of like-minded fans makes it a communal experience. I hope to never feel too old to enjoy a good concert. I'm usually so keyed-up after a show it takes me a while to come down and I usually have a hard time talking to my wife about it afterwards. It's hard to describe that rush. The next day I'm usually seeking to replicate that rush by listening to their albums.

Which brings us to the subject of live albums. Many times these are simple cash grabs put out by the record companies, but there are some really good ones out there. Are they messed with in the studio? Sometimes, the answer is yes, as is famously displayed on Kiss Alive. That album was said to be at least 50% overdubs. Sometimes there are the live albums that could use a little help (Van Halen Live At The Tokyo Dome, I'm looking at you). But really, the best of these can transport you back to that magical night when you saw a particular band. I have always been a huge supporter (sucker?) of live albums, I will get them for just about anybody. For me, they are more than just the "greatest hits, played faster", they are a way to relive, or pretend, to see them play. What follows is a list of some of my favorites, in no real order. Except for The Ramones. I feel they should be placed first on any list...

Ramones It's Alive: Recorded 40 years ago (Dec 31, 1977) at the Rainbow Theater in London, this is the definitive live document of the Ramones

Iron Maiden Live After Death: Scream for me Long Beach! Maiden at the height of their powers. Supposedly, the show they played at the Hammersmith was better, but the California one was better taped.

Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison: The Man in Black. Newly sober and ready to play, this one makes you feel as if you are right there alongside the other cons.

Scorpions World Wide Live: One of the first live records I ever bought. They just seem to be more powerful in front of an audience.

The Who Live At Leeds: What can I say that hasn't been said about this one a thousand times? Just get it, you'll understand.

Ozzy Osbourne Tribute: Recorded with guitar legend Randy Rhodes, who at times sounds as if he's playing two guitars at once. The only known document of that period of Ozzy's career, to my knowledge.

Slayer Decade Of Aggression: Performed during their 1991 tour, this is where Slayer shines brightest.

Motorhead No Sleep Til Hammersmith: Taken from their Ace Of Spades tour, one of the albums that helped to break them in America.

Fu Manchu Go For It Live: Stoner rock brought right into your living room. Be sure to check out the one-two punch of Hell on Wheels and Laserb'last.

Down Diary Of A Mad Band: Phil Anselmo and co. ripping it up throughout Europe. Heavy stoner doom sludge rock. Good stuff....

Clutch Live In Flint, MI: Only available from the band at shows, if available at all anymore, this captures them on their Blast Tyrant tour, and it straight up rocks.

I'm sure I've missed quite a few. In fact, we didn't even touch on bootlegs, but there will be other times for that. What's on your list of top live albums? Be sure to give me some feedback here, or on our Facebook page. I'd love to know, and I always love finding out about new albums!

Current Listening: Down Down II;  Fun Lovin Criminals Come Find Yourself; Del Tha Funky Homosapien Both Sides Of The Brain