The Vinyl Issue: Live LPs

Peak performances, perfect format.


At Folsom Prison (COLUMBIA, 1968)

Cash’s career was in decline prior to fetching up at Folsom in January ’68. The electrifying result, recorded before 2,000 rowdy inmates, not only gave him his first hit album for five years but also established his rep as champion of the dispossessed.


Made In Japan (PURPLE, 1972)

With its gorgeous, golden-hued gatefold cover, this double album looked irresistibly enticing when it appeared on record shop shelves in December 1972. Moreover, it was recorded in the Land Of The Rising Sun instead of Llandudno. Impossibly exotic stuff.


Live And Dangerous (VERTIGO, 1978)

Yet another milestone from the golden age of the double live album, this was also Lizzy’s finest hour-and-a-bit. And only the scale of the original vinyl does the cover image justice: a thrusting Phil Lynott, flanked by guitarists Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham, doing everything but smell of rock’n’roll.

**AC/DC **

_If You Want Blood You’ve Got It _(ATCO, 1978)

Like AC/DC themselves, If You Want Blood… was a no-frills affair – a single-disc live album with frugal packaging. But the white heat of its ten tracks, recorded at Glasgow Apollo, and the indelible cover image of Angus Young impaled on his own guitar bottled up all of the thunder and excitement of the Bon Scott-era line-up in full flow.

**UFO **

Strangers In The Night (CHRYSALIS, 1979)

Still undervalued after seven studio albums, Strangers In The Night catapulted UFO into the Top Ten. No surprise: from its iconic gatefold cover to the crowning glories of each of its four sides (Doctor Doctor, Love To Love, Rock Bottom and Shoot Shoot), this encapsulated the explosive sound of British hard rock in the late 70s.


It’s Alive (SIRE, 1979)

Taped during a triumphant NYE show at the Rainbow, da brudders’ first great live album is a breakneck summation of everything they did best. They tear through their repertoire with a frenzy that makes even their studio work sound sluggish.


Live… In The Heart Of The City (UNITED ARTISTS, 1980)

Whitesnake were very much a band of the people when this album was released in November 1980. Listening to it is such an intimate experience, you can almost feel David Coverdale’s tongue gently probing your eardrum. Vinyl was, and remains, the perfect format for the warmth and sincerity that the original blues-rockin’ ’Snake generated.


Alchemy (PHONOGRAM, 1984)

At the time, Alchemy was seen as the counterpoint to suggestions that Dire Straits were lightweights. With Money For Nothing having since passed under the bridge, it’s still a potent reminder of their expansive gifts. Beautifully presented, it also allowed Mark Knopfler’s guitar to range over four sides.


Live After Death (EMI, 1985)

Maiden’s first live album is legendary for several reasons, and particularly on vinyl. Classic Derek Riggs gatefold artwork, a fan-pleasing tour itinerary, Bruce Dickinson’s iconic stage banter and, most importantly, four sides of the greatest heavy music ever committed to plastic.

**WILCO **

_Kicking Television _(NONESUCH, 2005)

Recorded in their Chicago home town, this sprawling double further plugged Wilco into the classic lineage of American rock. In sound, spirit and execution, it was both timeless and trailblazing, reclaiming the idea of the vinyl live album as a defining artistic statement.

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