50 Greatest Live Albums of All Time

Rolling Stone ranks the 50 best live albums ever, from Jimi Hendrix at Monterey to Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison

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John Coltrane, 'Live! At the Village Vanguard' (1962)

15. John Coltrane, 'Live! At the Village Vanguard' (1962)

The four nights in November, 1961 that John Coltrane and various lineups of his group were recorded at a Manhattan club yielded a lot more music than the three tracks here — most of his subsequent album, Impressions, was drawn from those gigs, too. But Live! At the Village Vanguard is an argument as much as it is an album. At the time, the jazz world was bitterly divided over whether what John Coltrane's extended, discursive soloing was brilliant innovation or, as one review called the album, "musical nonsense...being peddled in the name of jazz." When DownBeat magazine asked Coltrane to defend himself upon its release, he patiently explained that "the main thing a musician would like to do is to give a picture to the listener of the many wonderful things he knows of and senses in the universe." The music on Live! At the Village Vanguard puts it more bluntly: We are the train to the future, and you'd better chase us. Douglas Wolk

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