Dave asked a question: Is there an act that actually comes out better on live releases than studio ones?
First, let me say…overall I’m more of a record guy…I usually like the studio version of songs but yes there are some bands that can come off better. I would say The Who, Allman Brothers, Cream, The Grateful Dead, Aerosmith, The Stones (1969-1972), and Bob Dylan’s “1966 tour.” However, there is one condition to this.
I think you have to take into consideration the era you are talking about with each band or artist. If we are talking about the peak years then yes. The Rolling Stones for instance…for me it would be 1969 through 1974. When they had Mick Taylor on guitar…they had a huge raw sound live they haven’t had since. With Dylan, the 66 tour for me was the top and I could listen to those versions all day. The Who it would be 1969 through 1976 when they were untouchable live. But I’m not saying I don’t like other years with these artists…but those are known as the peak years.
When the Who took Tommy on tour I think the live recordings beat the studio album by a long shot. That leads me to…my favorite live rock album of all time.
From Classic Rock website ranking Who albums: “We usually don’t include live albums in our rankings, but ‘Live at Leeds’ is no ordinary live album. Like ‘Live at the Apollo,’ ‘At Fillmore East,’ ‘At Folsom Prison’ and a handful of other classic concert records, it transcends the genre, turning a quick record-company cash turnaround into a statement of purpose.”
The Who: Live at Leads. If you are a rock and roll fan, a rock fan, or even a heavy metal fan…everyone can find something on that album. This is guitar rock at its best. Listening to the sound of that record, it’s no telling how loud they played. They weren’t the loudest in the Guinness Book of World Records for nothing! When Pete hit a power chord you could almost feel your eardrums retract in and out like a speaker.
It’s not being loud though that makes it so great. Personally, I’ve never heard a band as tight as they were during this tour. They wanted to release a live album and soundman Bob Pridden had 38 shows taped. Pete wanted Pridden to go through all shows and tell him which one was best. Because of constant touring Pridden could never get through all of the shows. The day came and Pete asked him ok…which shows. He couldn’t give Pete an answer.
They had a show at Leeds and Hull coming up on the schedule. In a move he’d later label “one of the stupidest decisions of my life,” Townshend told Pridden to burn the tapes so that they’d never wind up in the hands of bootleggers. So, instead of more shows from that era…we have very few.
So…now the tapes were burned and the Leeds and Hull concert was coming up. They had a lot of pressure to get it right for the live album.
Pete Townshend: “I played more carefully than usual and tried to avoid the careless bum notes that often occurred because I was trying to play and jump around at the same time. The next day we played a similar set in City Hall in Hull. This was another venue with good acoustics for loud rock, but it felt less intense than the previous night.”
They played most of the Tommy album and their “oldies” on this tour, which was songs only around 5-6 years old. The original Live at Leeds didn’t have any Tommy songs on it. This album was like a marker for the pre-Tommy Who coming to an end. The deluxe re-released version had the complete show full of Tommy material
The recordings had a few clicks in the tape and Townshend tried to maneuver around them.
Townshend tried slicing out the clicks with a razor blade and quickly realized it would be impossible to get all of them. But subpar-sounding bootlegs were flooding the market at this time, so the band just added a note to the label saying the clicks were intentional! The album cover was a faded stamp reading “The Who: Live at Leeds” on brown paper, mirroring the look of illegal vinyl bootlegs of the era. Later on, Aerosmith had a similar live bootleg album cover.
What impresses me is the only overdubbing on the album was the backup vocals because they were poorly recorded. John Entwistle and Pete did the backup vocals in one take in the studio to stay true to the live album. What you hear on the album is what the good people at Leeds heard that night. No massive overdubbing to tighten anything up.
By 1970 The Who had been touring almost non-stop since 1964 and it showed on this album. After the album, the band didn’t tour as much as before. They worked in the studio on more complex albums Who’s Next and Quadrophenia. Their tours were not the marathon tours of the sixties.
This was before Won’t Get Fooled Again, Baba O’Riley, and Quadrophenia’s complex music that required backing tapes live. This album was The Who as nature intended… a very loud tight rock band and possibly the best live rock album.
BTW…Bob Pridden worked as The Who’s soundman until 2016 when he retired.
Here are three examples. Young Man Blues. Listen to Moon and Entwistle intertwine with each other. You also have Summertime Blues and A Quick One, While He’s Away.
The Who : Maximum R&B at it’s best.