Since we're busy working on a live record to put out, we've had them on the brain of late. Here's the official .44 pistol list of 5 live records you really should own...
Live Dead may be more typical of the group, but this is, in my opinion the better record. Pleasant acoustic versions of Lightnin Hopkin's Katie-Mae and The Everly Brother's Wake Up Little Susie intersperse their more usual material in first part of the record, before it really kicks up a notch with a version of Smokestack Lightnin thats drags the elegant one-chord-bash into 17 minutes and 59 seconds of psychedelic improvisation and closes with a surprisingly gentle version of Otis Reddings Hard to Handle.
Kicking off with tour manager Sam Cutler's immortal line "Ladies and Gentlemen the greatest rock and roll band in the world, the Rolling Stones" layered one on top of another from all recorded gigs on the tour, before bursting into Jumping Jack Flash, this is the Stones as they should be. Midnight Rambler slows down & then builds up into sinister blues jam extravagance; Sympathy for the Devil rocks along, stripped of all the latin percussion from the studio version; Love in Vain proves they can do acoustic, sort of; & Honky Tonk Women gains an extra verse that plays up its sexual ambiguities.
His studio output always sounds tame in comparison to this roller coaster of chugging train beat drums and pounding alternating bass. When he plays the specially written San Quentin ("San Quentin may you rot and burn in hell, may your walls fall and may I live to tell") and then launches straight into it again after a standing ovation he proves you don't need rock and roll to be a rebel.
2. Lynyrd Skynyrd - One more from the Road
Free Bird and Sweet Home Alabama may have been worn into tired clichés by endless bar band covers, but the sheer raw energy on display here demonstrates very much what a live record is for - this is their studio output made harder, louder & longer. Aside from the definitive 'piano solo' version of Free Bird highlights include a sleazy funk version of Jimmy Rodgers' 1927 country hit T For Texas; a not-so-laid-back rock through J.J. Cale's Call Me The Breeze along with the pleasing twangy-guitars-up-to-eleven bash through their hits.
I've written much about my love of R.L. in other posts on this blog, so suffice it to say that this is, in my opinion, not just the best live record ever, but simply the best record ever put out. His set list of Hill Country standards and originals hadn't really changed since George Mitchell made the first field recording of him in 1968, but by the time this was recorded in 2001 he'd plugged in his electric guitar and added the driving drums of his grandson Cedric & the sublime slide playing of Kenny Brown to the stage. I can't nominate highlights, because with the possible exception of the awful attempts at jokes, every last second is worth hearing.
The near misses: Randy Newman Live; Muddy "Mississippi" Waters Live; Mississippi Fred McDowell - I Do Not Play No Rock and Roll; The Allman Brothers - At Fillmore East.
Live at the Vaults by .44 Pistol is released on 1st March 2014.