Monday, October 27, 2008

Rant: My Problem With Live Albums

I love music (as represented by this site), as you can see I have devoted a large chunk of my life to this outlet of creativity. I have thousands of songs, and hundreds of CD's (actual physical albums). Amongst all of this love and exploration, one thing that I can not stand are live albums.
Now, I love seeing bands live, I don't care the genre, I don't care the location (some of the best shows I have seen are by never-be-known bands in dive bars), as long as I can stand in the crowd and enjoy myself. Live shows are where the artist can fully do what they want, they are un-hampered by record companies, they can do medley/covers of some of their favorites, and they can have a ten minute guitar dueling session where the lead singer plays a solo with his tongue (I've seen it, it wasn't good but it was funny). Live is the last place of true self-expression, at least within the music industry. Live albums follow a far different path.

In my experience, there are three types of live albums, some better than others, only one type I enjoy.
  1. The first, and the worst, is the Pseudo-Live Album. I'm not talking when a band adds live sounds to a song for humor's-sake (or to trick the record company - see "The Origin of The Feces"). What I am referring to is an album where the only trace of live elements are at the beginning and end of the song. Where the guitar starts the opening riff and the crowd cheers, but then within twenty seconds the crowd becomes deadly silent, with the center sounding like a regular studio album. I really doubt that Journey's fans sit there quietly throughout a song (although I have never seen Journey so I don't know for sure), just to scream again at the end (see "Greatest Hits Live"). To me, this is just a farce to sell the same songs twice.
  2. The second, is the Direct-Live Album. This is the most neutral of the three types. It is basically just a plain recording of a live show. It has nothing extra, but isn't trying to pass for anything. Most live albums fall into this category, as do many live DVDs. While this type is not bad, per se, it offers nothing new, nothing special that would warrant the purchase (see Clutch's - "Full Fathom Five" - My Review). If you love the band, you will love this album, if you only like the band, you will be bored. If you are only looking for a Direct-Live Album, then go to the live show. At least then you are doing something different.
  3. The third, and the only one I will listen to, is the New-Live Album. This is when the band changes their songs for the live show. They add guitar solos, medley songs together, do covers, and talk to the crowd. This type is a full show on a piece of plastic (that is what CDs are made of right?). With this type you get things you can't get on the band's studio albums, an experience. Some of my favorites are AC/DC's "Live" (you get all of the old Bon Scott songs done by Brian Johnson) and Reel Big Fish's "Our Live Album Is Better Than Your Live Album" (lots of covers, banter with the crowd, and extended songs).
So, out of the three possible releases, two are guaranteed crap. Therefore I publicly dislike live albums. They are just ways to make more money, without actually putting out anything new. So do your part, only buy live albums that offer something extra, that way we can weed out the other, weaker, types of live albums.

Currently listening to: Tantric - Breakdown

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