Samson’s Picks: Top 7 Rock and Roll Live Albums

There’s rock music and then there’s LIVE rock and roll. It’s not just something you hear, but something you can feel; the rebellious, raw, real feel of the music. There’s nothing like it! But there are some performances that show true excellence of rock and roll and these are the top 7 rock and roll live albums that show the pure power.

#7: MC5 – Kick Out the Jams (1969)

Motor City Five was by far, way ahead of their time. This epic live performance in Detroit’s Grande Ballroom surely kicked off punk music as we know it. Their raw, roaring guitars explode your ears with righteousness! This rock album never loses it’s pace and will keep your head banging until the end. As frontman Rob Tyner says, “Kick out the Jams, Motherf—–!”, if that isn’t rock ‘n roll, I don’t know what is!

#6: Cheap Trick – Cheap Trick at Budokan (1979)

Cheap Trick’s best selling album, Cheap Trick At Budokan skyrocketed the band into stardom. Peaking at #4 on the Billboard Top 200 albums in 1979, many fans prefer the live recording of “I Want You to Want Me” over the studio version.  Fun fact: this was one of the first albums to print on colored LP vinyls. This album pressing on bright “kamikaze” yellow.

Cheap Trick "Kamikaze" yellow vinyl.
Cheap Trick “Kamikaze” yellow vinyl.

#5: Janis Joplin – Janis Joplin: The Woodstock Experience (1969)

This woman with a powerhouse of a voice definitely makes the top rock and roll live album list. This high energy rock/blues fusion performance is non-stop. Chatting in between sets and belting out her tunes – Janis Joplin is a rock and roll goddess. Her performance at Woodstock makes you feel as if you’re wearing fringe and sitting on a blanket in the New York grass.

#4: Nirvana – MTV Unplugged in New York (1994)

Released after Kurt Cobain‘s death, this live album debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts and won a Grammy for Best Alternative album. But what makes this live album so amazing is the raw acoustic elements. The soft versions of the heavy grungy tunes makes the band seem more than just rebellious dudes – but all around talented musicians.

#3: Johnny Cash – Live at Folsom Prison (1968)

In the late 60s, Johnny Cash was slowly but surely getting his life back together when he hit his fans with the best live album he could possibly put out. With his label highly discouraging performing in a prison, Cash did what any rock star would do – he rebelled. Cash performed two separate shows on January 13th in 1968 with the backing of the legendary Carl Perkins, June Carter and his band, The Tennessee Three. This album has been certified as three times platinum in 2003 and one of the best selling live albums of all time.

#2: The Allman Brothers Band – At Fillmore East (1971)

It’s no surprise The Allman Brother’s At Fillmore East is on the list. This gut-wrenching, soulful, true rock and roll live album is considered one of the best performances. You can tell the guys are having a great time performing and their energy is electric. The band’s ability to play together as one really makes this album shine. With nearly 20 minute jams and legendary guitar sliding makes this album truly a one of a kind performance.

#1: The Who – Live at Leeds (1970)

The Who have proven time and time again that they are masters of live performance. Live at Leeds is the purest rock and roll album, live or not! Keith Moon on drums, John Entwistle on bass, Pete Townshend on guitar and Roger Daltry on vocals, each playing their instrument like it’s just another appendage. Opening the album with “Heaven and Hell” starts the performance with powerful drumming and electric guitar hums that fills every space. This is a record that will never fade away. Even after 45 years from it’s initial release, it’s still the number one live album. The crisp audio sound and the high charged energy radiating from the band surely validates it’s perfection. This performance shows The Who’s never ending skill as a band and it reaffirms their legendary status of rock and roll kings.

Catch Jess Samson on Rebel Rock Radio every Thursday evening from 7-9p on WCRX 88.1 FM. 

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