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Readers’ Poll: The 10 Best Live Albums of All Time

Selections include ‘The Last Waltz,’ ‘Live Bullet’ and ‘Live at Leeds’

the who

The Who perform onstage circa 1973.

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

These days, live albums are often just a means to cash in one last time on a highly successful tour. Back in the Seventies, however, a live album was a great way to create a superstar. Acts as diverse as Cheap Trick, Kiss and Peter Frampton were all stuck at one level in their career before a monster live album forever changed their lives. Sure, sometimes they were doctored a bit in the studio, but few people cared. Songs like "I Want You To Want Me" and "Show Me the Way" popped on a concert stage in a way they never could have in a sterile recording studio. Last week, we asked our readers to vote on their favorite live albums of all time. Click through to see the results. 

the allman brothers band

Capricorn

2. The Allman Brothers – ‘Live at the Filmore East’

Seven months before Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident, the Allman Brothers Band played a two-night stand at New York's Fillmore East. The resulting live album captured the original lineup of the band at their absolute peak. "Whipping Post" lasts 23 minutes, while "Mountain Jam" goes well past half an hour – but in both cases the energy never lets up for an instant. Producer Tom Dowd is responsible for the glorious sound and clean mix of the LP. It's impossible to even tell that some songs were shortened, and in some cases he even combined two takes of the same song into one. Last year the group (now down to just two original members) played the whole set at the Beacon Theater in honor of the LP's 40th anniversary. 

the who

Polydor Records

1. The Who – ‘Live at Leeds’

In late 1969, Pete Townshend made one of the dumbest decisions of his life. The Who had been contemplating a live album to chronicle their Tommy world tour. Thirty-eight shows were recorded in pristine sound quality, but Pete didn't feel like going through all of them to find the best one. Instead, he decided to tape two upcoming shows at Leeds and Hull in England. He ordered sound engineer Bob Pridden to burn all 38 shows from 1969. "It was a dumb decision commercially and historically," Townshend writes in his memoir, Who I Am. "Bob faithfully destroyed them in a bonfire in his garden."

Thankfully, the shows at Hull and Leeds were recorded and preserved. The bass didn't get properly recorded at the beginning of the Hull show, so the Leeds show was released. At the time, the group felt that Tommy had overshadowed all their other work. Live at Leeds didn't have a single cut from the rock opera, even though they played the bulk of it at the show. Instead, it featured covers like Mose Allison's "Young Man Blues," Johnny Kidd's "Shakin' All Over" and Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues." Side two began with a 14-minute "My Generation." This was the Who at their absolute peak as a live band. 

In 1995, they released more songs from the show on CD, and then in 2001 they wisely put the whole thing out. 

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