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411 Music Ten Deep 5.16.12: Top 10 Live Studio Albums
Posted by C.A. Bell on 05.16.2012

The List

So, before going into talking about this week's list, I think I should devote some time to describing the process by which I develop these lists. The first thing I have to do is decide on a topic. Typically, I'll go with something that I'm interested in talking about and can immediately think of ten good examples of, off the top of my head (which typically means there are at least another thirty floating around in my collection). Then, I'll pool all of my example together and spend the next week listening to everything. It's good to give everything a fresh listen and see how well the stuff has aged over time. Finally, I'll decide on the top ten and begin the research into each selection and write what you see every week.

So, a few weeks ago I decided to take on the greatest live albums of all time. I knew immediately the topic would be too huge to do without some serious topic narrowing. One of the first things I knew I had to eliminate were all of those pesky BBC and Unplugged albums. I love them dearly, but they seemed to be a different animal to me. A great recording of a show meant for a live audience in a large venue is completely different than playing one in a controlled studio, typically meant for larger TV or radio audiences. So, I paired those off and kept going. The problem was that this topic was still just too big. There was just no way I would be able to listen to every live performance in my collection in just one week. So, instead of putting out something I wasn't particularly happy with, I knew I had to put the topic aside for a few weeks. That still left me with needing a topic for this week. Then, I started looking at those studio performances that I had tossed off. There was a LOT of stuff in there! While the overwhelming majority of great TV performances have yet to be released as records (I'm looking at you Austin City Limits or the French Black Sessions), or have only been released in compilation form (Later...with Jools Holland and the majority of the Unplugged series), there are still a lot of great moments captured forever by some of these outlets.

Now I have my topic. I've taken everything I own from the MTV Unplugged series, VH1's Storyteller series, the BBC Radio vaults, and the legendary Peel Sessions (well, the little of it that has received official release), and put them together to form a top ten list. I'm absolutely sure more than a few of the particularly dim will be utterly confused by the topic (Oh, how I'm going to relish comments about Frampton Comes Alive and KISS' Alive), just as I'm sure that the dividing line is clear for those who aren't developmentally challenged. That being said, let me restate rule number one: if I put it on my own list, then it deserves to be there. That being said, everything here is an official album release recorded specifically for TV or radio in a studio or small, controlled venue. While I just couldn't justify including any of the great Daytrotter Session releases because they are typically no more than five or six songs and don't get official album releases, but I highly recommend checking out the Daytrotter website. A lot of magic happens there. Alright, enough of the talky-talk, let's get to the list'n.

The Honorable Mentions (And Excuses)

Tony Bennett - Unplugged
Jimmy Page And Robert Plant - Unledded
David Bowie - VH1 Storytellers
The Who - BBC Sessions
Rory Gallagher - BBC Sessions
The Pixies - Pixies At The BBC
Belle & Sebastian - The BBC Sessions
Julian Cope - Floored Genius 2
The Kinks - BBC Sessions: 1964-1977
10,000 Maniacs - MTV Unplugged
Cream - BBC Sessions
Faust - BBC Sessions
Mudhoney - Here Comes Sickness
Yes - Beyond and Before
Gong - Pre-Modern Wireless
Steve Earle - Live From Austin, TX
Paul Weller - At the BBC

The Ten

10. The Jam - The Jam at the BBC, 2002.

This band is a true oddity in modern music. In England, anything involving Paul Weller needs no introduction. In America, you say Paul Weller and people start wondering if that is the name of their electrician. The Jam were an English punk rock/New Wave/mod revival band active during the late 1970s and early 1980s. They were formed in Woking, Surrey. While they shared the "angry young men" outlook and fast tempos of their punk rock contemporaries, The Jam wore smartly tailored suits rather than ripped clothes, and they incorporated a number of mainstream 1960s rock influences rather than rejecting them, placing The Jam at the forefront of the mod revival movement. They had 18 consecutive Top 40 singles in the United Kingdom, from their debut in 1977 to their break-up in December 1982, including four number one hits. As of 2007, "That's Entertainment" and "Just Who Is the 5 O'Clock Hero?" remained the best-selling import singles of all time in the UK. They released one live album and six studio albums, the last of which, The Gift, hit number one on the UK album charts. When the group split up, their first 15 singles were re-released and all placed within the top 100.

The band drew upon a variety of stylistic influences over the course of their career, including 1960s beat music, soul, rhythm and blues and psychedelic rock, as well as 1970s punk and new wave. The trio was known for its melodic pop songs, its distinctly English flavor and its mod image. The band launched the career of Paul Weller, who went on to form The Style Council and later had a successful solo career. Weller wrote and sang most of The Jam's original compositions, and he played lead guitar, using a Rickenbacker. Bruce Foxton provided backing vocals and prominent basslines, which were the foundation of many of the band's songs, including the hits "Down in the Tube Station at Midnight", "The Eton Rifles", "Going Underground" and "Town Called Malice".

The Jam at the BBC pools together the band's best performances for the company from 1977-1981. The songs are taken from six performances, half of which with BBC legend John Peel. If you are a fan at all of late 70's 'angry young man' punk (Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, Wreckless Eric), this is one of the finest albums of that genre, and I think the single best live performance collection from the period. I am a huge fan of The Jam's studio work, but they were a completely different animal on stage. You can taste the energy on this album. The band had plenty of strong material to work with. Combine that with the BBC's legacy of perfectly recorded performances and you have a classic album.

9. Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson - Storytellers, 1998.

Now this is a living piece of music history. The careers of Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson will forever be intertwined. As contemporaries, they stood as aberrations of country music in the 60's and 70's. Bucking traditions of the legendarily controlling Nashville system, these two found ways to become national hit artists their own way. Both Willie and Johnny are considered founding fathers of the outlaw country movement (along with Waylon Jennings). In 1985, they paid tribute to that image as members of the Highwaymen with Jennings and Kris Kristofferson. So, on the heels of a resurgence in Cash's career after his successful collaborations with producer Rick Rubin, it made sense to cash in with the recording of a VH1 Storytellers. MTV had experienced a lot of success with Unplugged episodes for other elder statesmen like Tony Bennett, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Eric Clapton (to varying degrees of musical success).

What could possibly make a Johnny Cash performance better? Well, what is Willie doing these days? When these two came together, it was amazing. They could both still perform their biggest hits with all of the life and magic that made them so good to begin with. The songs are empowered by slower tempo acoustic arrangements and the wisdom of age. What really makes this record fabulous however is the banter between Cash and Nelson. There is always a danger in two old-school musicians speak on stage. Too often it comes off as forced and sickeningly cute (think Osmonds variety show banter). But, in this case, you could tell these guys really enjoyed playing together and, planned or not, the back and forth between the two is nothing short of heart healthy.

VH1 Storytellers is the 83rd overall album in the legendary careers of Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson. It peaked at number 25 on the Billboard US Top Country Albums Chart and number 56 on the US Top 200 Albums Chart. Short of Willie's "Blue Eyes Cryin' in the Rain", the album includes every song that passing fans would want to hear. Personally, I love the renditions you'll hear of "Ghost Riders in the Sky" and "Me and Paul", but I can't listen to this without hearing all of the little interstitial dialogue between songs. That is a piece of history that is truly unique to this one-off studio performance.

8. The Jesus & Mary Chain, The Complete John Peel Sessions, 1989.

If you haven't spent at least six consecutive months of your life devoted to the music of the Jesus & Mary Chain, take this as a first opportunity. Brothers Jim and William Reid had been inspired to form a band as far back as 1977, having heard groups such as the Sex Pistols, but it would be the early Eighties before they actually formed their own. William stated, "It was perfect timing because there weren't any guitar bands. Everybody was making this electronic pop music." Before forming the band, the brothers had spent five years on the dole, and in those five years they wrote and recorded songs at home and worked out the sound and image of the band. Originally called The Poppy Seeds, and then Death of Joey, they initially told journalists that they had taken their eventual name from a line in a Bing Crosby film, although six months later they admitted that this wasn't true. Other accounts suggest that the name derived from an offer on a breakfast cereal packet, where customers could send off for a gold Jesus & Mary chain.

The brothers started recording and sending demos to record companies in 1983, and by early 1984 they had recruited bass player Douglas Hart and teenage drummer Murray Dalglish. Early influences included The Velvet Underground, The Stooges, and The Shangri-Las, William stating in 1985, "We all love The Shangri-Las, and one day we're going to make Shangri-Las records." Early demos displayed a similarity to the Ramones, prompting the brothers to add another element to their sound, in William's words: "That's why we started using noise and feedback. We want to make records that sound different." They began playing live in Spring 1984. In the early days Jim Reid's guitar would be left out of tune, while Dalglish's drum kit was limited to two drums, and Hart's bass guitar only had three strings, down to two by 1985; In Hart's words "that's the two I use, I mean what's the fucking point spending money on another two? Two is enough." The band revolves around the songwriting partnership between the Reid brothers. They released a string of albums, singles and EPs between their 1983 formation and their 1999 breakup, and gained notoriety in their early days for short sets and violence that became common at their live shows.

The Complete John Peel Sessions comprises the six sessions the group recorded for the late Radio 1 DJ John Peel on his late night radio show from October 23, 1984 to November 26, 1989. Peel was an early supporter of the band and gave them well needed publicity which they were unable to gain from the majority of other DJs and music programs of the day who concentrated mostly on the synthpop craze sweeping the 1980s. In 1985 (the year of the band's debut release Psychocandy), John Peel show listeners voted them 1st ("Never Understand"), 2nd ("Just Like Honey") and 12th ("You Trip Me Up") in his annual Festive Fifty chart.

I've mentioned Peel a few time already in this column, and I realize that it may be important to take a second to discuss this guy, because I think he may be one of the most important non-artist figures in music history. He was the longest-serving of the original BBC Radio 1 DJs, broadcasting regularly from 1967 until his death in 2004. He was known for his eclectic taste in music and his honest and warm broadcasting style. Peel was one of the first broadcasters to play psychedelic rock and progressive rock records on British radio, and he is widely acknowledged for promoting artists working in various genres, including pop, reggae, indie rock, alternative rock, punk, hardcore punk, breakcore, grindcore, death metal, British hip hop, and dance music. Peel's Radio 1 shows were notable for the regular 'Peel Sessions', which usually consisted of four songs recorded by an artist live in the BBC's studios, and which often provided the first major national coverage to bands that later would achieve great fame. While the overwhelming majority of these sessions have never seen official release, deluxe album reissues are use a Peel Session as the 'go-to' bonus feature to convince fans to cough up those extra bucks. Peel's legacy still exists today in projects like the Daytrotter or Black Sessions.

7. The Yardbirds, Live at the BBC, 1997.

The Yardbirds Live at the BBC compiles 26 recordings made for broadcast from eight different sessions between 1965 and 1968. All the songs feature either Jeff Beck (1965–66) or Jimmy Page (1967–68) on guitar. Eric Clapton left the group shortly before the first recording session represented on the album. The Yardbirds' discography is sick with career compilations, but I think BBC is the single best encapsulation of the band's post-Clapton career. You not only get nearly every important song of the group's catalog ("Smokestack Lightning", "Hang On Sloopy", "Train Kept A-Rollin'", "Shapes of Things", etc.), you also get top-notch BBC live recordings and a truly energetic young group of English bluesmakers. For Zeppelin fans, you'll get to see every step in Jimmy Page's career up to the development of his 'New Yardbirds'. Jeff Beck fans will hear some blistering (though admittedly basic) lead guitar playing. If you are like me however, you really love getting to hear clips of Top of the Pops host Alexis Korner interviewing the boys and introducing the songs. Much like another selection a bit further down the list, Korner provides a lot of character even when he is just shooting a one sentence introduction. Unlike a lot of heritage groups that people say you 'have' to listen to, this Yardbirds collection is actually fun in its own right.

6. Jimi Hendrix - The Jimi Hendrix Experience: BBC Sessions, 1998.

The Hendrix Experience BBC Sessions contains all the surviving tracks from their various appearances on BBC radio programs, such as Saturday Club and Top Gear, recorded in 1967. At a BBC radio 'session', a practice still alive in British radio today, a band is required to record material in a studio quickly, with limited overdubbing, largely limited to and relying upon their live sound. Many groups as part of this tradition choosing to record some songs that are not part of their main repertoire. The album also includes the only two surviving Hendrix UK TV soundtracks (both BBC) Late Night Line Up ("Manic Depression" only survives) and the 1969 Lulu Show (complete).

BBC Sessions therefore offers its own unique example of the Experience sound, and a revealing glimpse of a song from their early repertoire Howlin' Wolf's "Killing Floor" and their only known studio recording of Bob Dylan's "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?". Apart from the "live" in studio versions of well-known Experience songs, there are several unique studio recordings of songs, i.e. "Driving South" (x3), "Hoochie Coochie Man", "Catfish Blues", "Hound Dog", "Hear My Train a Comin'"(x2) and a couple of novelty tracks: the amusing parody of a BBC Radio 1 jingle "Radio One", and a recording with a young Stevie Wonder on drums (a cover of Wonder's own "I Was Made to Love Her"). It also includes the sound track from the band's infamous appearance on Lulu's television show in 1969.

The Top of the Pops references were overdubbed by Brian Mathews onto Top Gear recordings for the BBC produced Swedish (English language) radio show of the same name. The original recordings minus Brian no longer exist. Like the previously listed Yardbirds collection, the Hendrix BBC collection includes plenty of endearing Alexis Korner dialogues, as well as a Korner guitar performance (slide guitar on "(I'm Your) Hoochie Coochie Man"). The recordings are clean and even the partial song fragments make for a fascinating look into the development of on of the greatest guitarists in rock history.

5. Roy Orbison - A Black & White Night Live, 1989.

The story of Roy Orbison's second act in music is one of my favorites of all-time. After being a hit artist in the 60's with hits like "Pretty Woman" and "Only the Lonely", Orbison fell on hard times. He experienced a particularly difficult divorce, retreated into alcoholism, and all but disappeared from the public eye. Then, something happened in the mid-80's. Famous younger artists like Bruce Springsteen and Elvis Costello were dropping his name as an important influence. Filmmakers began using Orbison's classic songs in their movies (most notably David Lynch in Blue Velvet). People began taking interest in Roy Orbison again and he even scored new hit albums with The Traveling Wilburys and the T-Bone Burnett produced Mystery Girl.

Roy Orbison and Friends, A Black and White Night is a 1988 Cinemax television special originally broadcast on January 3, 1988. The special was filmed entirely in black and white. A live album was released following the broadcast. The special consisted of a performance of many of Orbison's hits at the then Ambassador Hotel's Cocoanut Grove nightclub in Los Angeles, filmed on September 30, 1987, approximately fourteen months before his death. Three songs, "Blue Bayou", "Claudette", and "Blue Angel", were filmed but not included in the original broadcast due to time constraints.

Put together by musical director T-Bone Burnett, Orbison was accompanied by a supporting backing band which included many notable musical performers. All were fans who volunteered to participate in the special. Other celebrity admirers of Orbison were in the audience, including Billy Idol, Patrick Swayze, Sandra Bernhard, and Kris Kristofferson. The backing band was the TCB Band, which accompanied Elvis Presley from 1969 until his death in 1977: Glen D. Hardin on piano, James Burton on lead guitar, Jerry Scheff on bass, and Ronnie Tutt on drums. Male background vocalists, some of whom also joined in on guitar, were Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, Jackson Browne, J.D. Souther, and Steven Soles. The female background vocalists were k.d. lang, Jennifer Warnes, and Bonnie Raitt.

The song "Oh, Pretty Woman" from this performance, which features dueling guitar solos between Springsteen and Burton, was nominated for a Grammy Award for best live performance. Re-released as part of a CD bearing the same title as the motion picture, the song won the 1991 Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. The audio from this special was released as an album by Virgin Records in 1989, titled A Black & White Night Live. As a child of seven, I still remember how much of an event this movie was. The collection of talent combined with the strength of Orbison's voice made this record an absolute necessity of the late 80's.

4. Nirvana - MTV Unplugged in New York City, 1994.

I am not exactly sure where I would be in life without the hundreds of hours spent listening, watching, and discussing Nirvana's MTV Unplugged. This record was an absolute watershed cultural event for music, and I think possibly one of the very last we will ever get. Do you know anyone that hasn't listened to at least one song from this record? Nirvana had been in negotiations with MTV to appear on its acoustic-based show MTV Unplugged for some time. It was while touring with the Meat Puppets that Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain finally accepted. The band wanted to do something different from a typical MTV Unplugged episode for its performance. According to Dave Grohl, "We'd seen the other Unplugged [episodes] and didn't like many of them, because most bands would treat them like rock shows—play their hits like it was Madison Square Garden, except with acoustic guitars." The group looked at Mark Lanegan's 1990 album The Winding Sheet as a source of inspiration. Among the ideas the band members came up with included covering David Bowie's "The Man Who Sold the World" and inviting members of the Meat Puppets to join them on stage. Still, the prospect of performing an entirely acoustic show made Cobain nervous. The band dedicated two days to rehearsals. The rehearsal sessions were tense and difficult, with the band running into problems performing various songs. During the sessions, Cobain disagreed with MTV as to how the performance should be presented. Producer Alex Coletti recollected that the network was unhappy with the band's choice of the Meat Puppets as guests ("They wanted to hear the 'right' names-Eddie Vedder or Tori Amos or God knows who", Coletti recalled) and the dearth of hit Nirvana songs on the setlist. Upset, the day before filming was set to take place Cobain refused to play. However, he appeared at the studio the following afternoon. Cobain was suffering from drug withdrawal and nervousness at the time; one observer said, "There was no joking, no smiles, no fun coming from him... Therefore, everyone was more than a little worried about his performance."

Unlike many artists who appeared on the show, Nirvana filmed its entire performance in a single take. The band's fourteen-song setlist included six cover versions. The group shied away from playing its better-known songs; the only hit the band performed was its 1992 single "Come as You Are". Ten songs in, Cris and Curt Kirkwood of the Meat Puppets joined the band onstage to perform three of their group's songs with Nirvana. The set ended with a performance of a traditional song "Where Did You Sleep Last Night" arranged by blues musician Lead Belly. After the band finished, Cobain argued with the show's producers, who wanted an encore. Cobain refused because he felt he could not top the performance of that song.

After Kurt Cobain was found dead in April 1994, MTV aired the Nirvana episode of MTV Unplugged repeatedly. In order to fulfill demand for new Nirvana material and to counter bootlegging, DGC announced in August 1994 that it would be releasing a double album titled Verse Chorus Verse, which was to include live performances from 1989 to 1994, as well as the entire MTV Unplugged performance. However, the task of compiling the album was too emotionally difficult for the surviving band members, so the project was cancelled a week after the official announcement. Instead, Novoselic and Grohl opted to commercially release just the Unplugged performance. Scott Litt, who had produced the performance, returned to produce the record.

MTV Unplugged in New York was released on November 1, 1994. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard charts, selling 310,500 copies in its first week, giving the band its strongest first week sales. Also, It sold more than 3 million copies worldwide within first month. Ben Thompson of Mojo wrote, "The problem with Unplugged albums tends to be that, given that their original identity is as a video, you feel that you are not having the whole experience without something to watch. In Nirvana's case, that is actually an advantage, because this particular whole experience is too intense to have over and over again. Even the colorless, generic aspect of the Unplugged format is vaguely reassuring here." Entertainment Weekly gave the album an A rating. Reviewer David Browne noted that listening to the music in light of Cobain's death was "unsettling"; Browne added, "Beyond inducing a sense of loss for Cobain himself, Unplugged elicits a feeling of musical loss, too: The delicacy and intimacy of these acoustic rearrangements hint at where Nirvana (or at least Cobain, who was said to be frustrated with the limitations of the band) could have gone." Robert Christgau also gave the album an A rating, describing Cobain's performance as evoking John Lennon's on his album John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. By early 1995, MTV Unplugged in New York had surpassed Nirvana's final studio album In Utero (1993) in sales with 6.8 million copies sold. Rolling Stone ranked MTV Unplugged in New York at #311 in its list, The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

"About a Girl" was released as the album's only commercial single in October 1994, backed with the Unplugged version of "Something in the Way" as the B-side. It was released on CD only in Australia and Europe. Promo singles were released for "The Man Who Sold the World", "Polly", "Lake of Fire", and "Where Did You Sleep Last Night". Of the songs on the album, "About a Girl" became the biggest hit, becoming Nirvana's fourth number one on the Modern Rock Tracks chart, and was also a top ten hit in Australia, Denmark and Finland. Currently the album sold more than 4.81 million copies in the US alone by Soundscan. As good as this record is, I still think there was one Unplugged album that was better.

3. Eric Clapton - Unplugged, 1992.

Whenever anyone mentions the MTV Unplugged series, it is the cover of Eric Clapton's Unplugged that pops into my head. It was recorded live in England for the MTV Unplugged series and includes both the hit single "Tears in Heaven" and a heavily reworked acoustic version of "Layla". Clapton performed the show in front of a small audience on 16 January 1992 at Bray Film Studios in Windsor, England. In addition to the final album tracks, the performance included early versions of "My Father's Eyes" and "Circus Left Town" along with "Worried Life Blues." Clapton played a Martin 000-42 acoustic guitar for much of this performance, and in 2004, the guitar sold for $791,500 in auction.

Clapton earned six Grammy Awards for the album including Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, Best Rock Male Vocal Performance and Best Rock Song. "Tears in Heaven" earned three of the six awards. The album reached number one on the Billboard 200, and has been certified Diamond by the RIAA for shipping over 10 million copies in the United States (over twice the copies sold of Nirvana's performance). In 2000 Q magazine placed Unplugged at number 71 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums. In October 2011, the album was ranked number nine (between Iron Maiden's Fear of the Dark and Stone Temple Pilots' Core) on Guitar World magazine's top ten list of guitar albums of 1992. Commenting on the popularity of the album in his 2007 autobiography, Clapton wishes the reader to understand its great emotional toll, and suggests that they visit the grave of his son Conor in Ripley to do so.

The Unplugged performance redefined Clapton's career, taking him from the 80's electric shoulder-pad player of Slowhand back to his roots as a true lover of the old world acoustic Delta blues of Blind Lemon Jefferson and Robert Johnson. The recordings are incredibly warm and, hence, transfer to the album format better than any other episode in the Unplugged series. Every single track is played lovingly, and it shows. Altogether, Unplugged is the absolute highlight of Clapton's career as a solo artist.

2. Led Zeppelin - BBC Sessions, 1997.

Believe it or not, until the release of Led Zeppelin's BBC Sessions, there really wasn't a good official release of the band's live act. Other than the uneven and meandering live film The Song Remains The Same, there actually wasn't any document of exactly how good this band was in front of an audience. Luckily, BBC Sessions had more than enough to offer. It was released on November 11, 1997, by Atlantic Records. This was the first release of new Led Zeppelin material in seven years. Disc 1 consists of material from four different 1969 BBC sessions. Disc 2 contains most of the April 1, 1971 concert from the Paris Theatre in London. A disc 3 was only included in a limited run of album releases and features rare interviews from 1969, 1976/1977, and 1990. Countless bootlegs of these recordings circulated for years before the official release. This release was widely welcomed by Led Zeppelin fans as the first live release since The Song Remains the Same in 1976. Others have criticized the decision to edit some of the songs and drop others that were recorded for the BBC. Most notable are one session from 1969 which included the unreleased song "Sunshine Woman," and about 7 minutes of the "Whole Lotta Love" medley from 1971.

BBC Sessions was a huge international hit for Zeppelin. The album was certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA. It was a Top 40 Record in the US, Japan, Norway, France, New Zealand, Finland, Canada, and the UK. Criticisms about editing aside, the performances on this record are impeccable. The studio recordings provided a wonderful vehicle for documenting the interplay between Robert Plant's voice and Jimmy Page's guitar. For those that claim Zeppelin was little more than a song stealing machine, I challenge you to listen to the improvised playing here and make the same claim. You'll find amazing blues performances from Page on "Since I've Been Loving You" and two versions of "Dazed and Confused". Bonham is on point throughout the record, highlighting tracks like "Black Dog" and "Whole Lotta Love". Plant is more charismatic and frankly likable than on most recordings on "The Girl I Love She Got Long Black Wavy Hair", "Thank You", and "Somethin' Else". Until the 2003 release of How The West Was Won, BBC Sessions was a sole proof of Zeppelin's legendary live performances. Even after, it stands as an absolutely necessary sister recording of just how good this band was from the very beginning of their career.

1. David Bowie - Bowie At The Beeb, 2000.

Much like Zeppelin, before Bowie At The Beeb, there wasn't a good record of David Bowie's live performances in the 70's. Albums like Stage and Live were plagued by uneven performances fueled in some cases by rampant drug use. The film and soundtrack for Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars is recorded so badly, that it is downright unlistenable. Unlike Zeppelin, it looks like Bowie At The Beeb will stand as Bowie's only great live performance on record.While Live in Santa Monica, '72 has since been released, it still suffers from some of the sound problems of Ziggy. Beeb however, is a genuinely fantastic and raw collection of performances.

Four years after the NMC's David Bowie At The BBC: 1969-1972 sampler was issued and then hurriedly withdrawn from sale, another BBC set from EMI called Bowie At The Beeb: The Best of the BBC Radio Sessions 68-72 was released on September 25, 2000. This EMI 3 CD release was made up of the best BBC tracks recorded between 1968 and 1972, and the tracks were personally chosen by David Bowie, unlike the NMC collection. It included the first-ever live performance with guitarist Mick Ronson and Bowie's 1968 session with the Tony Visconti Trio. The first pressing mistakenly included the second (disc 2, track 12) version of the song "Ziggy Stardust" twice on disc two, missing the first (disc 2, track 4) version. EMI declined to issue corrected replacement discs to customers, instead mailing out one-song CDRs of the first version. This compilation also features a previously unreleased song, "Looking For A Friend" (disc 1, track 15), which John Peel says that it would be released as a single by Arnold Corns as a follow-up to the Arnold Corns versions of "Moonage Daydream" and "Hang Onto Yourself", but it was never released, thus making this the only performance of "Looking For A Friend".

From the ten BBC performances this collections pulls from, you will hear nearly everything from Bowie's earliest (and I would claim best) career stage. Though Bowie is clearly on fire throughout the record, particularly on tracks like "Moonage Daydream", I think the birth of Mick Ronson is the true highlight of this fantastic record. Ronson is perhaps the most undervalued lead axeman in rock history, and you will see why I say that on his performances here. "Queen Bitch" and "Suffragette City" are brilliant in Ronson's hands, but the hidden gem is "Let Me Sleep Beside You". This was one of the first times Ronson and Bowie would play together and the magic is apparent on what is honestly an unfinished song. You also get Bowie playing up his Velvet Underground influences with covers of "White Light/White Heat" and "Waiting For The Man" and a spot on dangerous rendition of "Andy Warhol". Bowie At The Beeb ended up being a top ten hit in the UK. Past sales success, I think it serves a more important role as a wonderful historical document. If not for this record, we would not only have proof of how great Bowie could be live, but exactly how he developed into the classic Ziggy character. This is number one because it is everything you imagine a studio live record should be and satisfies on every level.

A Festering Final Thought

"We've arrived at the point where the president of the United States is going to lead a war on traditional marriage." -Rush Limbaugh (3 times divorced)

"While it's great to listen to your kids' ideas, there's also a time when dads simply need to be dads. In this case, it would've been helpful for him to explain to Malia and Sasha that while her friends parents are no doubt lovely people, that's not a reason to change thousands of years of thinking about marriage." -Bristol Palin (Unwed, teenage mother)

"Well, I favor a Constitutional amendment to protect the traditional family and I think we should have such an amendment." -Newt Gingrich (2 times divorced, admitted adulterer, brother of lesbian activist)

"I am not gay!" -Larry Craig (convicted of misdemeanor solicitation of a police officer for sexual acts, bathroom enthusiast)

"I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don't Ask Don't Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I've just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married." -Barack Obama (Married, father of two, President of the United States)

"..." -Jesus Christ (son of Christian God, prophet of Muslim God)

Yes, this is actually a thing that we are still talking about. Well, kind of. If you turn on the cable news networks, you might think the issue of same sex marriage has already been decided. All we have to do now is access the political implications of having an opinion. How is it that even the loudest morons on Fox News and MSNBC can have opinions about everything under the sun, but avoid talking about the actual issue like a plague. Is it possible they still think you can get AIDS that way? Well, I guess that's actually possible at Fox.

It appears that those who oppose equal marriage rights for citizens of all sexual preferences come back to a particular section of the Bible. "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination." (Lev, 18:22) Now, if we are to use biblical text as a basis for modern law, I think we should consider some other rules from the Old Testament:

"If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as menservants do." (Exodus, 21:7)

"‘When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening. Anything she lies on during her period will be unclean, and anything she sits on will be unclean. Anyone who touches her bed will be unclean; they must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and they will be unclean till evening. Anyone who touches anything she sits on will be unclean; they must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and they will be unclean till evening. Whether it is the bed or anything she was sitting on, when anyone touches it, they will be unclean till evening. If a man has sexual relations with her and her monthly flow touches him, he will be unclean for seven days; any bed he lies on will be unclean." (Lev, 15:19-24)

"As for your male and female slaves whom you may have-- you may acquire male and female slaves from the pagan nations that are around you." (Lev, 25:44)

"For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it must be put to death." (Exodus, 35:2)

"But you must never eat animals from the sea or from rivers that do not have both fins and scales. They are detestable to you. This applies both to little creatures that live in shallow water and to all creatures that live in deep water." (Lev, 11:10)

"No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the LORD." (Deut, 23:1)

"Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard." (Lev, 19:27)

"The rabbit, though it chews the cud, does not have a split hoof; it is unclean for you. And the pig, though it has a split hoof completely divided, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. You must not eat their meat or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you." (Lev, 11:6-8)

"Keep my decrees. Do not mate different kinds of animals. Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed. Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material." (Lev, 19:19)

"Then the Lord said to Moses: "Take the blasphemer outside the camp. All those who heard him are to lay their hands on his head, and the entire assembly is to stone him. Say to the Israelites: ‘If anyone curses his God, he will be held responsible; anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord must be put to death. The entire assembly must stone him. Whether an alien or native-born, when he blasphemes the Name, he must be put to death. (Lev, 24:13-16)

"If a man marries both a woman and her mother, he has committed a wicked act. The man and both women must be burned to death to wipe out such wickedness from among you." (Lev, 20:14)

Right, so why isn't there just as much anger about the breaking of these biblical laws as there is about homosexuality? Why aren't there tax breaks for clothing manufacturers of 100% cotton and restaurants without shellfish or pork on the menu? It may sound as if I am being derisive or sarcastic, but neither is intended. I really want to know how these other rules (many from the exact same chapter of the Bible) have fallen by the wayside while sexual preference remains a hotbed issue.

It has since been revealed that this woman suffers from schizophrenia.

There are over 1,000 laws on the books in America that delineate special privileges and rights for married individuals. It effects tax law, inheritance rights, insurance coverage, and labor law. So, disallowing marriage for citizens based on sexual preference is point blank discrimination. There are those that argue tradition dictates we maintain this system or that allowing members of the LGBT community to marry would begin a slippery slope to farm animal marriages. Those arguments are just as applicable today as they were when the country was deciding whether or not people of different races should be allowed to marry. It is a fact that Barack Obama's parents would have been committing a felony crime if they were married in Virginia instead of Hawaii. If the sanctity of marriage is truly so important, where is the uproar over divorce rates in America? Why are non-Christians allowed to legally marry outside of the sanctified faith? Why aren't protestors picketing high school proms to protest pre-marital sex? It would seem ridiculous. I think it is no more or less ridiculous than spending so much time and energy telling consenting adults where they are allowed to put their penis. In the New Testament, you won't find Jesus preaching about the evils of homosexuality. They just aren't there. As a matter of fact, there is a story of Jesus healing a Roman centurion's servant (Matthew 8:5-13), and you might want to look into the history of Roman battlefield slaves to understand that context. While the gay hate is pretty slim, you will find over THREE HUNDRED references to the poor and social justice. Where is the religious outrage when Mitt Romney says he isn't worried about the poor?

"Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. ...Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and with you have withheld, cries out against you; and the outcry of the harvesters has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. (James, 5:1-6)

So, did you know me and some of the other fools that write at 411 also work on an indie music blog? What's that you say? You've been looking for one of those? Well, you should definitely come check us out at Earbuddy.net. Also, make sure to catch the latest columns from my colleagues at Earbuddy here on 411, like Nick Krenn's 3 R's and John Downey's Love/Hate News Report.

No synthesizers whatsoever were used during the writing of this column.

Follow me on Twitter @ChrisBell81 and keep the conversation going on our Facebook page.


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