The title of this blog post is the title of the Stones’ first “live” album (a play on bluesman Slim Harpo‘s “Got Love If You Want It”). It’s a poor recording (even rumored to be live in the studio with overdubbed cheering) and the Stones essentially disowned it. We’ve come a long way…
In the beginning, every song was recorded live. Get everyone in the room and get that tune down on cylinder, then wax, eventually tape and so forth. The pioneering Les Paul (at Bing Crosby‘s suggestion, apparently) helped to develop multi-track recording (which he had experimented with since the 30’s) in 1949 when he began working on an eight-track recording machine with Ampex, which was finally produced in 1957. Prior to this, every recording was virtually live.
So we’ve gotten used to the studio sheen of echoes, reverbs and gated drum machines — effects that keep our favorite new songs modern and up-to-date. But there’s nothing quite like a stellar recording of a great show in a memorable venue to bring a sense of history to a listener… early live landmarks like Judy (Garland) at Carnegie Hall and James Brown Live At The Apollo 1962 give almost equal (and deserved) billing to the venue and artist. As recording techniques got better, the live Rock albums of the 70’s came into vogue (The Who Live At Leeds, Lou Reed Rock & Roll Animal and The Allman Brothers Live At The Fillmore East are varying examples) culminating in one of the biggest sellers of all time: Peter Frampton Comes Alive. Check out the similarly warm room sound in the Fillmore East during that time on the Allman Brothers sets as well as the albums recorded there by Neil Young, Frank Zappa & The Mothers and Derek & The Dominoes. Records recorded at Bill Graham‘s other venue, the Fillmore West, by Santana, Miles Davis and especially Aretha Franklin also have a unique, warm sound.
As time marched on, improved recording techniques brought a lot of live albums to the forefront; simultaneously, cranking up the cheering and crowd noise also came into vogue with mixed results. While Supertramp‘s Live 1988 and Ted Nugent‘s Double Live Gonzo might seem like polar opposite ends of the sound spectrum, they both suffer sound-wise. Coming into the 21st century, contemporary artists of all genres are finding that performing live is their bread and butter. While there is a dearth of live albums now, many artists have steered those recordings toward thematic albums of innovative versions of their hits and/or clever covers. Our own Jimmy Page & The Black Crowes Live At The Greek is a very strong seller; Daft Punk produces a live album every decade (in 1997 and 2007 so far); Pink, Beyonce and Katy Perry all have shows available, and Eric Clapton‘s Crossroads Guitar Festival features him alongside Robert Cray, John Mayer, Gary Clark Jr., Buddy Guy among others.
Our taste for hearing live shows remains insatiable, and enough is never enough. There are 89 show recordings by the legendary SF Blues/Rock group Hot Tuna in The Orchard catalog… isn’t that enough? I think not. Just released: We Were Promised Jetpacks‘ E Rey (Live In Philadelphia) is a sonic feast for your ears!