As long as there are contractual obligations, there will be live albums. What better way to not write new songs and still get paid? What better way for your record company to sell songs that people already own back to them a second time? Now, rock music is known for its live "exuberance" and its audience is known for its inability to clap in time with the music! Put the two together and you've got Kiss at their peak!
Now lots of people will point out Live At The Apollo by James Brown or one of Johnny Cash's prison albums, or that Dylan live album where someone mistakes some concert hall in England for the Last Supper and calls out for Judas to pass the wine, but I don't like historical documents. I like stupid between-song patter and out of tune guitars! I want to know that on any given night a great performer can--through poor equipment, a hazardous mix of alcohol and pills and general indifference--play as poorly as me in my prime.
Live Bootleg--Aerosmith: I remember when I first bought this album and my friends gathered around and we kept wondering if there was something wrong with my record player. It sounded like they were playing too slow and then too fast and the vocals seemed to get buried in the mix of guitars that didn't seem to know what they were doing either. I loved this album and I still do. But for anyone not already enamored with these lovable lugs, well, this isn't the place to start.
Alive II--Kiss: They made a career with their first live album, Alive! So, two years later they decided to release another live album. But for whatever reason, they only came up with three sides' worth, so they added a fourth side of studio cuts. Then someone noticed that you can hear Paul Stanley singing both lead and background vocals on the live stuff, which back then wasn't possible to do in a live setting. So the word is that this isn't even a "real" live album, as if other bands weren't also "sweetening " the sound here and there. Who cares anyhow? With tunes like "Ladies Room," "Calling Dr. Love," "God Of Thunder" and "Shout It Out Loud," you're expecting what?
Still Life--The Rolling Stones: Keith Richards describes what he and Ron Wood do onstage as something approaching the ancient art of weaving. Love to see the blanket sometime! Unless Keith was referring to the "weaving" one does while driving under the influence. No offense guys, but this album is awful! It takes a lot to take a catalog as good as the Stones and make it sound crappy! But with no effort, it's amazing what incredible transformations can occur. No wonder they eventually started touring with tons of extra sidemen and backing vocalists and guest stars. Gotta hide somewhere.
Experience--The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Poor Jimi Hendrix died before he could release a sizable enough catalog to stop this sort of thing. Hendrix was a genius, make no mistake. But he had his off nights like any one else. But since he was Hendrix, it all gets issued. This "soundtrack" to some live footage, maybe the Isle of Wight, maybe not, who knows, everyone makes stuff up, contains some of the most off-key playing I've ever heard from a major performer. Hendrix isn't hitting bum notes. It's his guitar that through some confluence of bad weather and poor tape reproduction sounds as if it's got a hangover and refuses to behave. The band also sound like they haven't played these songs in years and don't really want to think about it either. That said, as a perverse kind of guy, I love this album as well. Because even on his worst night, Hendrix pulls it out.
The Yardbirds: This album has been pulled from the market more than once. It sounds like a trainwreck. The band play with great momentum. The singing is loud and enthusiastic. Jimmy Page's guitar goes out of key in a few spots and everything sounds like the world is going to end. It's 1968 and it sounds like the band is years ahead of its time while the guys recording the concert are years behind the times. Talk about frission!