Strictly for research purposes, you understand, I’m including this link to a list of the best live rock records from 1969 to 1979, which Eric Alterman spotlighted on his blog.
I have no problem with C. Michael Bailey putting the Allman Brothers at the top of his live-records list, but personally, I would push sixth-place Neil Young’s Live Rust to the second spot, in place of the tasty-licks lite funk band Little Feat.
I would also delete fourth-place Four Way Street entirely and substitute It’s Alive, recorded in those halcyon early years when the Ramones were a light-on-their-feet punk band, instead of the heavy metal group they morphed into when success failed to come a’knockin’ for End of the Century.
I don’t know the Joe Cocker record (No. 8) or the J. Geils Band live set (No. 9), but I doubt either of them could go toe-to-toe with the Who’s Live at Leeds, which shouldn’t be that far down the list.
Get Yer Ya Yas Out and Before the Flood are strictly pro forma inclusions: they don’t belong anywhere on this list for the simple fact that neither the Rolling Stones nor Bob Dylan released a great live album during this period. Ya Yas was a contract-killer released to undercut a successful bootleg version of the same show, LIVEr Than You’ll Ever Be, which the Stones openly praised at the expense of the official release.
Before the Flood, recorded during Dylan’s blowhard 1974 arena tour with the Band, was a profit-making consolation prize for David Geffen, whose Asylum Records had taken a bath on Planet Waves, and who was beginning to wonder why he’d laid out so much money to steal Dylan away from Columbia in the first place. Except for the too-brief acoustic set, Before the Flood consists of Dylan bellowing like an elephant seal through selections from his back catalogue, with the Band playing competently but rather listlessly behind him, then stepping forward to prove they could be just as uninspired with their own material.
If you want to hear how loud Dylan could bawl back then, get Hard Rain. If you want to hear how good the Band could be in concert, get Rock of Ages, which deserves its spot at the top of the list, rather than Before the Flood, in which thoroughbred songs sound like a bunch of nags getting flogged around the track one last time.
As for Europe ’72 — well, I liked everything about the Grateful Dead except their music. I liked the non-exploitative relationship between the band its Deadheads; I liked the idea of hippies supporting obscure artists through their Rex fund; I particularly liked the idea of a band allowing bootleggers to operate openly during its shows.
But the music just ain’t there for me. I find American Beauty to be all the Dead anyone needs for normal purposes, though I occasionally listen to Workingman’s Dead if I’ve just had a good night’s sleep and a nice cup of coffee. When both Tipper Gore and Ann Coulter can claim Europe ’72 as their favorite rock album, you have to wonder if there’s a bit less there than meets the ears.