Posts Tagged ‘Classic Live Albums’

No ’60s concert scene was better documented than the San Francisco explosion . But of the official releases that came out at the time, the one to have is this Jefferson Airplane set, recorded during October ’68 dates at SF’s Fillmore West and a month later at Fillmore East in NYC. Here in that time between Monterey and Woodstock, between the albums “Crown Of Creation” and “Volunteers” , the band was growing daily in confidence, muscle and a knack for making the most of the moment. The constantly shifting dynamic of vocal triad Grace Slick, Marty Balin and Paul Kantner was a nimble beast, but more evident than ever was how much the tandem of guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Casady formed the beating heart of this band.

Must-hear song: Balin’s “Plastic Fantastic Lover” has fury only hinted at on the Surrealistic Pillow studio version . But the real treasure is the version of folk figure Fred Neil’s written staunch and steely “The Other Side Of This Life” , a live Airplane staple from the early days, but never before seeing official release.

The cheat: Not only was it pieced together from several dates, some of the songs themselves are multi-date spliced jobs.

The live rock album really took flight at the end of the decade with Bay Area bands like The Grateful Dead “Live/ Dead”  Quicksilver Messenger Service  “Happy trails” , Big Brother & the Holding  Company(parts of ’68’s ) Cheap Thrills . It made perfect sense: part of the San Francisco mystique was the live experience, the sense of community and unpredictability, bands being given the space—and the state-of-the-art sound systems to take winding (and long) musical trips. With , a combination of 1968 recordings from the Fillmores East and West on both coasts,

The Airplane

Jefferson Airplane made one of the defining albums of the band’s career, with dynamic vocal interplay among its three singers (Marty Balin, Grace Slick, Paul Kantner), a blues spotlight for guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and Rock Me  , a swirling rendition of Donovan’s “Fat Angel” (“Fly Jefferson Airplane, gets you there on time,” it goes, making this a self-referential self-tribute), and a soaring 3/5 of a Mile In Ten Seconds . The Airplane were a strange amalgam, part post-folk (there’s a terrific take on Fred Neil’s “The Other Side Of Life” on ‘Pointed Little Head’), part psychedelic rock, part electric blues, and it could all get scattered, but when it locked in, they were one of the more mesmeric of the groups who came out of San Francisco scene. If you want to get a sense of what made them, on a good night, so special, you can start here.

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B.B. King, 'Live at the Regal' (1965)

When he stepped onstage at the storied Regal Theater on Chicago’s Southside in November 1964, B.B. King had 30 R&B hits but had barely creased the pop charts. Recorded that night, It was B.B King’s first live album would become an entry point for many white listeners, and blues aficionados still speak of it with awe — Eric Clapton was rumored to spin Live at the Regal to prep for his shows. Newcomers encountered an urbane but never slick professional, backed by a killer horn section, who belted each number with class and grit, all the better to showcase the jazzy yet terse yet economical solos he coaxed from his beloved black Gibson, “Lucille.” His set here begins, as it did those days, with “Everyday I Have the Blues” — not a lament, but the boast of a touring workhorse who performed more than 300 shows each year.

B.B. King is not only a timeless singer and guitarist, he’s also a natural-born entertainer, and on Live at the Regal the listener is treated to an exhibition of all three of his talents. Over percolating horn hits and rolling shuffles, King treats an enthusiastic audience (at some points, they shriek after he delivers each line) to a collection of some of his greatest hits. The backing band is razor-sharp, picking up the leader’s cues with almost telepathic accuracy. King’s voice is rarely in this fine of form, shifting effortlessly between his falsetto and his regular range, hitting the microphone hard for gritty emphasis and backing off in moments of almost intimate tenderness. Nowhere is this more evident than at the climax of “How Blue Can You Get,” where the Chicago venue threatens to explode at King’s prompting. Of course, the master’s guitar is all over this record, and his playing here is among the best in his long career. Displaying a jazz sensibility, King’s lines are sophisticated without losing their grit. More than anything else, Live at the Regal is a textbook example of how to set up a live performance. Talking to the crowd, setting up the tunes with a vignette, King is the consummate entertainer. Live at the Regal is an absolutely necessary acquisition for fans of B.B. King or the blues music in general. A high point, perhaps even the high point, for uptown blues.

Neil Young should have been on top of the world in 1973. The incredible success of Harvest finally took him out of CSNY’s shadow, “Heart of Gold” had become a Number One hit in 1972, and a 62-date arena tour sold out all over America. But the death of Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten, a painful back disorder and the endless infighting of his backing band turned the tour into an endless slog. He had a ton of hits by this point, but he opted to devote a big chunk of the set to gloomy, brand new tunes like “L.A.,” “Don’t Be Denied” and “Yonder Stands The Sinner.” The new songs were captured on the live LP “Time Fades Away”. But it was greeted by a collective shrug when it came out in 1973 and its also been out of print for decades, but Neil diehards recognize it as an absolute classic and original vinyl copies are highly prized. Unsurprisingly, Young has a wildly different take. “My least favorite record is “Time Fades Away,” he said in 1987.

Neil Young had a rough childhood. His parents went through a nasty divorce and he was raised primarily by his mother, moving from town to town and constantly being the new kid in school. He poured these painful memories into “Don’t Be Denied,” a standout track from 1973’s long out-of-print live LP Time Fades Away. “I wore white bucks on my feet,” he sings. “When I learned the golden rule/The punches came fast and hard/Lying on my back in the school yard.” It ends with the rise of Buffalo Springfield, and the realization that even success wouldn’t make him happy. It’s one of the most personal songs he ever wrote, and he’s only played it three times since 1983.

There are so many albums in Neil Young‘s catalog that most fans wouldn’t miss a stray out-of-print entry or two. But that isn’t the case with his infamous “lost” 1973 live release, Time Fades Away.
Mostly recorded on a disastrous tour that found Young and his band slowly falling apart over 62 shows in early 1973, Time Fades Away should have come at a moment of triumph, since it arrived in the wake of his hugely successful Harvest LP. Platinum sales often bring their own set of problems, however, and for Neil Young, mainstream stardom proved a burden that started chafing almost immediately. “I felt like a product, and I had this band of all-star musicians that couldn’t even look at each other,” Young reflected in a 1987 interview. “It was a total joke.”
Of course, Young being Young, he didn’t exactly make the tour easy on himself, chiefly by opting to perform previously unreleased material for crowds expecting to hear the hits. Going on to call Time Fades Away “my least favorite record” and “the worst record I ever made” in the same 1987 interview, Young explained, “As a documentary of what was happening to me, it was a great record. I was onstage and I was playing all these songs that nobody had heard before, recording them, and I didn’t have the right band. It was just an uncomfortable tour. It was supposed to be this big deal — I just had Harvest out, and they booked me into 90 cities.”
At this point, it’s hard to say who the “right band” would have been for Young, whose mental state grew progressively darker during the tour. All the same, the bloom was probably off the rose from the moment that former Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten, who’d been slated to join Young’s band the Stray Gators for this series of dates, ended up being sent home to sober up  and soon died of a heroin overdose. The bad vibes grew to the point that drummer Kenny Buttrey quit partway through, replaced by the Jefferson Airplane‘s Johnny Barbata, and eventually, Young developed a throat infection that made things even worse.

Once Young and his crew actually started turning the tapes into an album, the problems continued, due to his decision to record using a new and fairly wonky digital mixing board whose idiosyncrasies left the whole thing sounding less than pristine. As a document of the state Young was in at the time, it was probably appropriate, but once it came time to try and remaster it for the CD format, they realized they’d have to go back to the original tapes and remix the shows all over again.
Still, there have been plans to reissue Time Fades Away on CD, most notably in 1995, when Young went so far as to schedule a November street date for the remastered disc. It was pulled before it ever got to stores, although test pressing copies have circulated for years (and ended up on YouTube, as you’ll hear in the video at the top). And in the vaults is apparently where Young intends for it to stay, despite the wishes of a growing number of fans — some of whom have signed a petition clamoring for its release.
In typically idiosyncratic fashion, in fact, it sounds like Young will release a Time Fades Away sequel before he ever sends the original to CD. Discussing his plans for the second volume of his Archives box with Guitar World in 2009, he mused, “One thing I’ll tell you about the next volume of Archives is that Time Fades Away II is in there. And it’s interesting because the whole thing has a different drummer than what was on that album. I switched drummers halfway through the tour — Kenny Buttrey was in there for the first half, and Johnny Barbata came in for the second. It’s a completely different thing, with completely different songs. So that’s interesting. There’s lots of stuff like that that I’m working on right now for the second volume.”

Bob Seger had released eight albums and had been on the road for nearly a solid decade when he played Detroit’s Cobo Hall on September 4th, 1974 — but he was still largely unknown outside of the Midwest.

‘Live’ Bullet is a live album recorded at the Cobo Hall , released in April 1976, during the heyday of that arena’s time as an important rock concert venue. For Detroit fans, however, the entire Live’ Bullet recording captured a Detroit artist at the height of his energy and creativity, in front of a highly appreciative hometown crowd. ‘Live’ Bullet also captured the wild and free spirit of rock concerts in the seventies, and has great historic value in that regard. Rolling Stone Critic Dave Marsh called it “one of the best live albums ever made.

The main problem was that he simply couldn’t capture the magic of his stage show on in a studio, which is likely why Live Bullet made such a huge impact. His cover of Ike & Tina’s “Nutbush City Limits” got a ton of national airplay, and suddenly Live Bullet was selling like crazy. It was also fueled by “Turn The Page,” a 1973 track about the rigors of touring life that has been a mainstay of classic rock radio for the past 40 years. “We were doing, like, 250 to 300 shows a year before Live Bullet,” Seger said in 2013. “We were playing virtually five nights a week, sometimes six, as the Silver Bullet Band and we just had that show down.”

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Thin Lizzy released ‘Live And Dangerous’ in 1978. Some say it is the best live album of all time. On this day June 2nd  in 1978: Irish hard rock group Thin Lizzy released ‘Live & Dangerous’ on Vertigo Records (UK), one of the classic double-live albums of the ’70s (a decade that was satured with several classic double-live LPs!); the tracks were drawn from concerts recorded in London in 1976 supporting the album ‘Johnny The Fox’ & Toronto in 1977 supporting the album ‘Bad Reputation’, with what is believed to be considerable over-dubbing; ‘Kerrang!’ magazine ranked the album on their list of ‘The 100 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums of All Time’; in 2011, British music weekly ‘New Musical Express’ (NME) ranked it #1 on their list of ‘The 50 Greatest Live Albums of All Time’…

In 1978, the then-red-hot Thin Lizzy decided that they wanted to work with producer Tony Visconti, who had made his name working with fellow glam travelers David Bowie and T. Rex. Time was tight, so a live album was in order: “Live And Dangerous” was the snarling result, a document of a band that took no prisoners even on mellower tracks like “Dancing In The Moonlight.” How exactly the Irish outfit came to be captured so effectively is still in dispute; Visconti has asserted that 75 percent of Dangerous was recorded in the studio in order to smooth out the rough spots, but the band vehemently disagrees. “We are a very loud band,” guitarist Brian Robertson told Guitar Player in 2012, “me being the loudest of all of us. So how are you going to replace my guitar when it’s so loud that it’s going to bleed all over the bloody drum kit

Dead

Live/Dead may not have been the first instance of a band refinancing their studio bills with a relatively inexpensive live release, but it may have been the most successful. The Grateful Dead were $180,000 in debt to Warner Bros. — jacked into the first 16-track mobile facility in early 1969 Recorded over a series of concerts in early 1969 and released later the same year, it was rocks first 16-track live album.. “We were after a serious, long composition, musically and then a recording of it,” said Jerry Garcia. They were also interested in releasing an album more representative of their live performances and actual musicianship, as opposed to the in-studio experimentation of previous albums.

The double-vinyl Live/Dead opens with a side-long “Dark Star,” explores the cosmos further in “St. Stephen” and “The Eleven,” continues with Ron “Pigpen” McKernan’s lascivious side-long take on Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “Turn on Your Love Light,” and brings it all back home with a Rev. Gary Davis blues followed by “Feedback” and an a cappella “And We Bid You Goodnight.” On the greatest advertisement for a band’s in-concert capabilities recorded to date, the Dead proved themselves both serious avant-gardists and impeccable roots revisionists — and spent the rest of their career reaffirming it onstage.

The tracks “Dark Star“, “St. Stephen”, “Death Don’t Have No Mercy”, “Feedback” and “We Bid You Goodnight” were later released (with their entire concerts) on the respective February 27th, 1969 and March 2nd, 1969 discs of the “Fillmore West 1969 The Complete Recordings” box set

Grateful Dead

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Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer are gone. This is completely Bob Marley’s show. And is it ever his show, a triumphant concert July 19th, 1975 at London’s Lyceum Theatre. The new format had been introduced on 1974’s Natty Dread album to great effect. But every note on the live album is as alive as Marley’s flying dreadlocks on the cover photo.

Far more modest in its intentions is this document of Bob Marley & the Wailers’ two night stand (July 17th and 18th, 1975), at London’s The Lyceum. When Live! first arrived on vinyl, the edited version with seven cuts — all from the second evening barely broke 40 minutes. This appropriately subtitled “deluxe edition,” oddly only available on vinyl, leaves that in the dust.

The entire, previously unreleased first night is here, (14 tunes) along with more selections from the second show and full versions of those tunes once edited for time constraints have been restored. The result is a 22 track, beautifully and faithfully packaged triple vinyl package including the tour program, that clocks in at a never boring 2 ¼ hours.

But clearly his music was well known by this rowdy UK crowd who often boisterously sings along, and whose sheer energy helped push the already electrifying Marley to new heights. The band reinvigorates early tunes such as “Slave Driver,” “Trenchtown Rock” and “Stir it Up” in versions that make the already sturdy studio ones sound like cardboard cutouts. The closing “Get Up Stand Up,” here presented in its full 10 minute plus unedited glory, is alone worth the price of admission as Marley channels the positive vibrations that informed his best work, into a performance that feels as spiritual now as it did over four decades ago.

Must-hear tracks “No Woman, No Cry”, doubled in length from the ‘Natty Dread’ studio version, vividly brought the streets of Kingston to the stage of London via Memphis soul worthy of Otis himself.

Bob Marley and the Wailers’ 1975 Natty Dread tour began in America, where some 15,000 fans watched the reggae band perform in Central Park. By the time they crossed the Atlantic, the verdict was in: After two sold-out shows at London’s Lyceum, a Melody Maker cover story pronounced Bob Marley “possibly the greatest superstar to visit these shores since the days when Dylan conquered the concert halls of Britain.” Neither of these gigs were intended to be recorded, but when Island Records founder Chris Blackwell witnessed the madness of the first, he made sure that the Rolling Stones’ mobile studio was parked outside the venue for the second. The result was a song collection of pointed lyrics, political chants and funk grooves enlivened by new guitarist Al Anderson. The seven-minute “No Woman, No Cry” reached the U.K. Top 10 and remains the definitive version of the classic song, eventually appearing as track two of the 15-times-platinum Legend set. Even the mic feedback that echoes over the first verse has become imbued with emotion

The professional recording puts the listener in the audience, making this an essential addition to anyone’s collection and manna from heaven to existing Marley fans who had to suffice with dodgy bootlegged copies … until now.

There is plenty of terrific Marley concert material out there, including 1976’s Live at the Roxy, but this particular stand remains tougher, rawer and edgier. Let’s hope 1978’s phenomenal Babylon by Bus gigs get similar treatment too.

The long-planned deluxe edition with a fuller take on Marley’s two-day Lyceum .

For much of his career, Warren Zevon particular brand of genius relied on A-list Los Angeles session pros and friends like Jackson Browne Linda Rondstadt and Neil Young to help out on his records. But for his first live album, 1980’s “Stand in the Fire”, he called in a group comprised mostly of comparative amateurs.

He enlisted Boulder, a Colorado bar band that had been signed to Zevon’s record label, Elektra Records, and whose debut included a cover of his “Join Me in L.A.” Boulder—who already did some of his songs. After auditioning them solely by running them through Chuck Berry’s classic “Johnny B. Goode,” Zevon hired them and brought along studio ace David Landau to play lead guitar. They then hit the road together for the Dog Ate the Part We Didn’t Like tour.

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Released on December. 26th, 1980, Stand in the Fire was culled from performances recorded during a multi-night stand at Los Angeles’ Roxy in West Hollywood. It’s the most full-blooded rock ‘n’ roll Zevon ever released fully capturing the bar-band flavor of the performances, with two strong new songs “Stand In The Fire” and “The Sin” joining Zevon’s mix of sentimental and sardonic tunes . His earlier albums — great as they are — suffer from the genteel production techniques of the day, but he’s positively unleashed here. The whole thing threatens to come apart on a few occasions, but Zevon manages to hold it all together. “Excitable Boy, Werewolves Of London”  with an aside about Brian DePalma, and a powerful version of “Mohammed Radio”. It helps that he’s egged on by Boulder, who bring out the savage wit of such Zevon favorites as “Excitable Boy,” “Poor Poor Pitiful Me” and, especially, “Lawyers, Guns and Money.” with a rewritten verse to reflect the Iranian hostage situation — is particularly powerful, and “Jeannie Needs a Shooter” and “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” are beautifully bludgeoned within an inch of their lives.

 Must-hear tracks are the medley of Bo Diddleys A Gunslinger and Bo Diddley , which closed the original vinyl version, let Zevon get downright guttural in his homage to a rock ‘n’ roll hero.

Zevon throws no small degree of spontaneity into the equation. He ad libs some new lyrics in “Werewolves of London” to take jabs at friends (“And he’s looking for James Taylor,” “I saw Jackson Browne walking slow down the avenue / You know, his heart is perfect”) and, at the end of “Poor Poor Pitiful Me,” calls out his road manager and best friend George “Gorilla” Gruel: “Gorilla, get up and dance. Get up and dance or I’ll kill you. And I got the means!”

Despite its standing among Zevon fans, Stand in the Fire wasn’t released on CD when the rest of his catalog hit the format. Instead, it was delayed until 2007. But it was worth the wait: Four additional songs from the shows (“Johnny Strikes Up the Band,” “Play It All Night Long” and solo piano renditions of “Frank and Jesse James” and “Hasten Down the Wind”) were added to the mix.

The album was originally dedicated to Martin Scorsese, and it’s a bit ironic considering the live record basically disappeared but around half a decade later Scorsese’s use of the original studio version of “Werewolves of London” in The Color of Money (one of the masters all-time great music in film moments) added some needed bite to Zevon’s name .

On the road in 1978, UFO’s Phil Mogg and Michael Schenker were busy recreating World War 2. Yet they still managed to make one of the greatest live albums ever – “Strangers In The Night”
“Listen to the album. There are some wrong notes on that song. I hate mistakes.” More than 30 years after the event, Michael Schenker still recalls the straw that broke the camel’s back and prompted his exit from UFO. The year was 1978, and the band were holed up in New York’s Record Plant studios, mixing their double live album Strangers In The Night.

Tensions had been building within the band for years. Personality clashes between the loose-cannon German guitarist and his equally wayward British colleagues had already seen Schenker warn the rest of UFO that he would leave the band after the tour for 1978’s Obsession album. But no one expected his departure to be quite so sudden.

Schenker had been at loggerheads with producer Ron Nevison over which version of his showcase song Rock Bottom to use on the live album. The guitarist was unhappy with the producer’s choice of take, and insisted that he either change it or let him overdub it. Nevison refused.

“Michael’s entitled to believe that there were better takes of Rock Bottom that might have been used,” said Nevison  “but a guy like Michael Schenker is only listening for Michael Schenker. As producer I listen to the bigger picture. Michael was never what you’d call a ‘band guy’.”

For singer Phil Mogg, this studio flashpoint provided a moment of unintentional comedy. “I can still see Michael, who was becoming more and more distanced from the band, going out of the studio mumbling: ‘Poor, poor Rock Bottom’,” Mogg recalls with a smirk. “And that was the last we saw of him.”

Chaos has always reigned supreme in the world of UFO, but never more than in the late 70s. The combustible mix of five flamboyant, eccentric personalities – Mogg and Schenker plus bassist Pete Way, guitarist/keyboard player Paul Raymond and drummer Andy Parker – combined with various alcohol and drug-fuelled excesses, was a sure-fire recipe for the worst kind of pandemonium.

Schenker had left his original band, Scorpions, to join UFO in 1973 when he was just 18 years old. Tensions between the German guitarist and his British bandmates were apparent early on, with Schenker and Mogg enjoying a particularly fractious relationship. At times it seemed like the pair were intent on re-enacting World War 2 on a daily basis.

“I always said that I would quit the band if Phil Mogg hit me,” Michael recalls. Inevitably, a physical altercation did eventually ensue – though neither party is clear as to where, or even when, it occurred. “The fight with Phil might have happened in Germany – maybe Strangers In The Night had already been recorded,” says Schenker. According to Mogg the fracas happened years previously, possibly as early as 1974’s Phenomenon album. “There were often times when I wanted to belt Michael,” says the singer.

Such was the bad blood, Schenker had even quit the band once before, around 1977’s Lights Out, only to be talked out of his decision by bassist Pete Way.

Despite all this, by 1978 UFO were on the verge of their big breakthrough. Obsession had added a new-found maturity to their powerful hard rock thunder in the shape of the strings-assisted Looking Out For Number One and Born To Lose, and the album had followed Lights Out into the US Top 50. The time was right for the band to record a live double album. And, unlike Kiss, whose Alive! LP, had been the ultimate shit-or-bust statement, UFO’s live album would capture a band already well on their way to stardom. Strangely, though, not everyone concerned was convinced by the idea.

“I didn’t even want to make a live album,” admits Mogg. “At that point the band was so up and down, depending on who’d been doing what. Wine, women and song was our priority, in that order. Suppose they recorded a dodgy night?”

Drummer Andy Parker agrees that the partying – not to mention the bust-ups – affected the band’s performances. “The intake was astonishing,” he says. “We’d have different types of booze for times of the day, for Christ’s sake. There’d be white wine for the sound check – nothing too heavy – and it would build from there during the gig and afterwards. You’d be up till four in the morning, then get up and do it all over again.”

Schenker insists that he was always in control on stage, though what happened afterwards “is another thing completely”. As well as his extra-curricular activities, Schenker’s problems were compounded by the fact that he suffered from crippling stage fright. To combat this he was taking the same anti-depressants that would kill The Who drummer Keith Moon just a few months later. “It was a very, very bad time for me,” Schenker recalls. “I stopped taking those tablets after Strangers In The Night.”

Phil Mogg is less sympathetic. “The pills made Michael’s face go red as a beetroot,” he says. “You weren’t supposed to take them with alcohol. But back then everybody knew their own personal limits.”

The songs that would appear on Strangers In The Night were recorded on the US leg of the Obsession tour in Autumn 1978. To minimise potential disaster, the band’s label, Chrysalis, hired the Record Plant’s remote unit and dispatched Ron Nevison – who had produced UFO’s previous two albums – to record six shows on the tour. Despite gravel-voiced stage manager Steve Brooks’s opening rallying cry of: “Hello, Chicago. Would you please welcome, from England… U!… F!… O!”, the album was eventually pieced together like an audio patchwork quilt.

“There are some things about that record that Mike Clink [who co-manned the mobile truck and would go on to produce Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite For Destruction] and I still can’t remember,” admits Nevison. “I don’t even recall recording the show in Louisville, Kentucky, but apparently we did so. And then, of course, there’s also some conjecture over the amount of ‘fixing’ that was done.”

The post-production ‘fixing’ he’s referring to has been the subject of much debate over the years. A name-check for Schenker’s eventual replacement in UFO, former Lone Star guitarist Paul ‘Tonka’ Chapman, on the sleeve of Strangers In The Night prompted rumours that Chapman had touched up some of Schenker’s guitar parts in the studio following Michael’s departure from the band. For once, though, on this both Michael Schenker and Ron Nevison are in agreement.

“No bloody way,” says the guitarist. “If that were true you’d be able to hear it.”

“I’ve never even met Paul Chapman,” Nevison says. “No, no. That’s complete bullshit.”

However, certain ‘fixes’ were made. In order to accommodate four sides of vinyl, Nevison was forced to rearrange the running order of the set as it had been played. Two of the songs that appear on the album – Mother Mary and This Kid’s – were also re-recorded in the studio afterwards and overdubbed with crowd noise from the tour.

“Some people will say: ‘Oh, then it’s not a real live album,’” says Andy Parker. “But we set up the gear like we’d have done at a gig and played the damned songs. It really was as live as you could get.”

One thing that no one disagrees with is that the album’s distinctive title was proposed by its producer, Nevison. There is, though, still some disagreement over the identity of the open-mouthed fan pictured on the front cover. According to some, the colourful face is that of the band’s long-time publicist, Joe O’Neil (who died in 2008).

“Are you sure?” says Mogg. “I always thought it was Peter Curzon from [sleeve designers] Hipgnosis.” If the devil is in the detail, UFO are positively angelic.

Despite all the chaos surrounding Strangers In The Night the album would give UFO their biggest ever hit, reaching No.8 in the UK chart and No.42 in the US. In 2009, the album was reissued with the as-performed running order restored, and with two additional tracks in the shape of Hot ’N’ Ready and Cherry. That reissue also exhumed some of Mogg’s previously unheard stage patter. “We’re getting a bit confused up here; it’s your licensing laws,” the singer tells the crowd at one point. “We’ve just taken a vote, and apparently this is something called Natural Thing.”

These days, UFO are still very much a going concern, with Mogg, Parker and Paul Raymond still in the line-up. The guitarist himself talked about putting together a band called Strangers In The Night with UFO bassist Pete Way and former Scorpions drummer Herman Rarebell to perform songs from the album of the same name, along with other choice material from his career. That idea has since been mothballed, but at least Schenker seems to have got over the stage fright that plagued him for so long. “Isn’t it funny? I’ve developed an extreme liking for being on stage,” he says.

More than 30 years on, a surprisingly large number of musicians have spent time as a member of UFO, but it says much about Strangers In The Night to note that many of the songs on that album are still in the band’s live set.

“Strangers is our best album, and I’m blown away that it’s still considered important,” says Andy Parker today. “We made some great studio albums, but to understand UFO you always had to see us live. It remains the epitome of what we’re about.”

“It has a lot of vigour and strut,” adds Phil Mogg. “As a doubting Thomas that hadn’t wanted to do it, I was very, very wrong.”

Nevison himself adds: “Everybody agrees that Strangers In The Night is one of the best live albums ever, so I didn’t do such a bad job. Whatever complaints Michael Schenker might have, he can stuff them.”

After all these years, even Schenker himself has learned to live with what he calls the album’s “mistakes”. “Those notes might have been wrong,” he concedes, “but they became classic wrong notes.”

thanks to Classic Rock

Frampton Comes Alive!

40 years ago today, Peter Frampton released “Frampton Comes Alive!” and it became the best-selling album of 1976.

The ’70s were the era of the live album. the ’70s were the live album’s golden age.

The gauntlet was thrown down in May 1970 by a pair of future live classics released only a week apart. The Who‘s Live at Leeds and the triple live album Woodstock soundtrack brought the show into kids’ bedrooms better than anything that had come before, and both were rewarded with stellar sales and critical praise. A format that was once reserved for contractual filler or stopgap releases was suddenly fashionable. Before the year ended, the Rolling Stones released Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!”; before the decade ended, we had live releases from the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Ted Nugent and Aerosmith. It was a status symbol, an indicator of commercial clout: The bigger you were, the more likely your discography sported a live album.

In the middle of the decade, another pair of live albums changed the paradigm. Both featured artists whose recording careers were floundering but who did well on the road. With one last chance to catch on with the record buying public. The first was the September 1975 release of Kiss Alive! Three months later (and also sporting an exclamation point), A&M Records released former Humble Pie guitarist Peter Frampton‘s concert masterpiece, “Frampton Comes Alive!”

Frampton was a prodigy who counted David Bowie among his childhood friends. By age 18 he’d already tasted success with the Herd and had formed Humble Pie with Steve Marriott . Together they would record four studio albums before jumping on the ’70s live LP bandwagon with another classic live album “Performance Rockin’ the Fillmore” at the end of 1971. It would be Humble Pie’s most successful album, but the band’s hotshot guitarist was gone before it was even released.

At the tender age of 21, Frampton had two successful bands in his rear-view mirror and a limitless road ahead of him. His first solo album, 1972’s Wind of Changeeschewed the muscular boogie of Humble Pie for a more acoustic, singer-songwriter vibe . Songs like the album’s title cut introduced the new, mellow Frampton while “It’s a Plain Shame” and a cover of the Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jump Flash” seemed tailored for his established fan base. In other words, the album was neither fish nor fowl, and sales were disappointing.