As the release of On XRT: Live From the Archives Vol. 14 approaches, let’s consider the relationship between the studio and the concert stage. Artists have long been fascinated, almost to the point of obsession, with creating a spontaneous, live sound in the recording studio.
Since the two environments are very different, the results are often mixed and something other than the musicians expected. Playing in front of a producer and engineer and assorted family members and maybe a few sycophants doesn’t really compare to staring down a large stadium and a sea of faces obscured by special effects and fog machines.
At least you get to wear silver jumpsuits and wake up at 4pm. (In Omaha!) Anyway, here’s some live sets that get it right:
1. Live’r Than You’ll Ever Be by the Rolling Stones. This was one of the first mainstream rock bootleg albums. It was a pretty good quality recording and got some attention in the popular music press. It sold well and was rumored to be the reason the band released the sonically superior but more overdubbed Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out!
2. Pb by Led Zeppelin. This is another famous bootleg release circa 1970, aka Pure Blues, although it’s not and Pb is the periodic table Latin shorthand for lead. (A popular plumbing metal at one time.)
3. Before the Flood by Bob Dylan and the Band. This recording from the epic 1974 US tour is a graphic example of one of the most professional and accomplished groups ever (The Band) trying to match the quirky genius re-arranger (Bob Dylan) in real time and mostly succeeding. One of the best examples of studio mastery and live action.
4. Live/Dead by the Grateful Dead. No band has done more to created studio sound on stage and vice/versa than the Dead. This 1969 set recorded with equipment especially designed to bring the stage into your headphones delivers transcendent results.
5. Chi-Town Budget Show by Don Dixon. This excellent set from the famed producer and singer/songwriter was recorded at an XRT show at Park West in 1988. Also features Don’s wife Marti Jones on vocals (and a great DJ intro!)