Wednesday, April 7, 2010

 

Album of the Day: CSN&Y (4/7/71) 39 Years!

Live albums generally sell well, but very few make it into the Top 10 on the Billboard album charts. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s 4 Way Street, released on April 7, 1971, broke that rule and then some by topping out in the #1 album position shortly after its release. Following re-release as an expanded CD in 1992, 4 Way Street became a multi-platinum seller and one of the highest selling live albums of all time.

Assembled from tapes made at a half-dozen shows in Chicago, L.A. and New York in June and July 1970, the double disc contains a nearly even sampling of songs by the four stars on its four sides. Most of the songs were previously released, either on solo works or in various groupings. And the live versions of their most well-known (“Ohio,” “Southern Man,” “Teach Your Children,” “Long Time Gone” and “Love The One You're With”) are all quite good.

What isn’t evident in the music is the internal friction that was tearing the band apart just as the shows were being taped. Within weeks after the tour ended, the band split, and by the spring of 1971 all four had released highly-acclaimed solo albums (with Nash’s Songs For Beginners and Stills’ Stephen Stills 2 coming within weeks of each other right after 4 Way Street). CSN&Y re-formed in mid-1974 for a summer tour (without an album to support), issued the compilation So Far that fall, but didn’t return as a foursome until American Dream came out in November 1988 (though CSN sans Young had three albums between 1977 and 1983).

That 4 Way Street was a big hit isn’t surprising given that every album from CSN&Y (and those without Neil) between 1969 and 1982 reached into the Top 10. They were (and in many was still are) the premier American folk-rock band in the 70s and 80s, and for live versions of their hits and other good tunes, 4 Way Street is required listening. It’s number 14 on my Top 25 Live Albums list and available on Amazon and iTunes.

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Friday, February 12, 2010

 

Album of the Day: Allman Brothers (2/12/72) 38 Years!


The band’s tribute to departed brother Duane, the Allman Brothers released Eat A Peach on February 12, 1972. Duane had died in a collision between his motorcycle and a flatbed lumber truck (not a peach truck as commonly thought) on October 29, 1971, and the double album included a mixture of studio tracks recorded before his death, live cuts from the Fillmore concerts in early 1971 that were not included on the terrific Live At The Fillmore collection from July 1971, and a handful of new songs completed in the studio by the band in the weeks following the accident. (For a 25 song playlist of the best of the Allman Brothers, visit Dr. Rock’s Playlist Vault here).

By mixing live jams and studio tracks, Eat A Peach creates the quintessential Allman Brothers Band collection. From boogie-rock (“One Way Out”) to jazz-rock instrumental interplay (“Les Brers In A Minor”) to inspirational piano-guitar rock (“Blue Sky”) to plaintive folk-rock (“Melissa”) to acoustic simplicity (“Little Martha”), the album highlights the exceptional range and capabilities of the ABB as a tight-playing group and as individual artists. Duane’s slide guitar virtuosity is showcased on “Mountain Jam,” a 2-side, 33-plus minute rendition of the ABB’s take on Donovan’s “First There Is A Mountain.” Although it’s quite long for casual fans of the band, it’s a great track that’s even better when compared to the less polished version the band released in 1991 on the Live At Ludlow Garage 1970 retrospective CD.

Eat A Peach is one of my favorites and is available for purchase as a CD or download as mp3 files on Amazon (click here) or as iPod downloads at iTunes (click here).

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Friday, December 11, 2009

 

Album of the Day: Paul McCartney (12/11/76) 33 Years!


Paul McCartney (click here for Dr. Rock’s playlist) and his post-Beatles band Wings toured the world in 1976. Their epic triple-disc live album, Wings Over America, was released on December 11, 1976 at the end of the tour and quickly became the last of five straight U.S. #1 albums and a favorite of McCartney’s fans (if not critics). The album capitalizes on several of Paul’s biggest hits from the early 70s, including “Live And Let Die,” “Maybe I’m Amazed” and “My Love,” plus old Beatles’ tunes and a rare live version of Wings guitarist Denny Laine singing “Go Now!,” his big mid-60s hit from his stint with the early Moody Blues.

The triple album was recorded at the Forum in Inglewood outside Los Angeles on June 23, 1976. Rather than include the songs in the order in which they were played during the show, McCartney chose a novel arrangement and batched them on the LP’s six sides by style and the instrument he played. Thus, Side 1 features upbeat rockers with Paul on bass, followed by mellower, mostly piano love songs on Side 2, acoustic-guitar based folk songs on Side 3, and more piano songs on Side 4. Paul returns to the bass on Side 5 and focuses on tracks from Wing’s March 1976 studio release, Wings At The Speed Of Sound. Side 6 completes the package with another round of upbeat rockers with Paul on the bass.

Wings Over America is one of the highest selling live albums of all time. It’s available as a CD from Amazon (click here) and as download tracks on iTunes (click here).

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

 

Album of the Day: Rolling Stones (11/4/66) 33 Years!

4181SYH3NPL._SL160_A U.S.-only release by the Rolling Stones and their first official live album, Got Live If You Want It! was released on November 4, 1966, at the height of the American craze for anything by the Stones (and the Beatles and any other mid-60s British band, for that matter). With an early November release, it was timed to follow the Stones’ U.S. tour from that summer, prelude the Christmas buying season in America, and fulfill a contractual obligation with London Records, the Stones’ U.S. distributor. As “live” albums went in those days, Got Live If You Want It! (the word “Live” is capitalized on the original cover) is an uneven, “doctored” collection of actual live material that was heavily remixed, plus a couple of previously unused studio cuts (“Fortune Teller” and “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”) overdubbed with screaming teenage girls to offer the illusion of a concert recording. Subsequent releases on CD in the 80s and early 00s further played with the mix and added between-song banter absent on the original LP. They’re just not the ’66 version, though.

Bottom line: the original mix is raw and energetic, just like the mid-60s Stones, and includes live versions of eight of the band’s hits from their early years. Despite its obvious shortcomings (which are more evident today than in 1966), it’s still the original version and the one to own, no matter whether you’re a rock (or Stones) purist, a collector of originals, a lover of great 60s live albums, or just a common Stones fan.

Got Live If You Want It! is available as download tracks from iTunes (click here) and as a CD from Amazon (click here).

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