Home Music Music Lists

Readers’ Poll: The 10 Best Live Albums of the 1970s

From ‘Live At Leeds’ and ‘The Song Remains the Same’ to ‘Frampton Comes Alive’

Rob Verhorst/Getty Images

It's hard to know what would have happened to the careers of Kiss, Peter Frampton, Bob Seger and Cheap Trick had they not released killer live albums back in the 1970s. None of those acts had quite managed to capture the magic of their stage shows in the recording studio, and they were all facing oblivion until a single live album transformed their lives forever. The Seventies was the era of the live album, a time when it was practically mandatory for rock bands to release at least one great concert recording. It was also a time when bootlegs were flooding the market and artists felt the need to compete. We asked our readers to vote on their favorite live albums of the 1970s. Click through to see the results. 

Courtesy Epic Records

6. Cheap Trick – ‘Live at Budakan’

Cheap Trick's first three albums are absolute classics, but for whatever reason they failed to catch on in America. "I Want You to Want Me" didn't even crack the Hot 100 and "Surrender" stalled out at Number 62. The good people of Japan had a different reaction to Cheap Trick, and when they came there in April of 1978 to play Tokyo's Budokan they were treated like gods. A live album from the show was only meant to come out in Japan, but when it received a strong reaction they released it in America. "I Want You Want Me" worked better with 12,000 screaming Japanese fans, and a live version of the song reached Number Seven. It helped Live At Budokan sell millions of records, finally breaking the band big in America. 

Courtesy Swan Song

5. Led Zeppelin – ‘The Song Remains the Same’

Led Zeppelin were, without any question, one of the greatest live bands of all time. That was clear when they first began gigging as the New Yardbirds in 1968 and it was clear when they reunited in 2007 for a one-off show. They basically owned the 1970s, playing to enormous crowds everywhere they went and leaving audiences stunned. So it's pretty shocking that it never occurred to them to assemble a proper live album during their heyday. The closest they came was the soundtrack to their 1976 concert/fantasy movie The Song Remains The Same. It was taped at Madison Square Garden in 1973 at the tail end of an extremely long tour. The shows were good by most standards, but the band was worn out and definitely not playing at their best. Still, a weak Zeppelin concert is still pretty amazing and the album sold by the ton. In 2003, Jimmy Page finally sorted through old Zeppelin live tapes and assembled How the West Was Won. It's much better than The Song Remains the Same

Courtesy Mercury Records

4. Rush – ‘All the World’s a Stage’

Rush toured like absolute maniacs from the moment that Neil Peart joined the band in 1974 through their 1976 odyssey in support of 2112. It built them a huge loyal audience that persists to this day. They taped a stand at Toronto's Massey Hall in June of 1976, finally let people that hadn't seen Rush understand what all the fuss was about. Unlike many of their peers at the time, they didn't monkey around with anything in the studio. "It was raw and totally live ," Geddy Lee told Rolling Stone in 2013. "It really bugged us for years that we didn't fix anything." Many Rush fans have a different take, loving the warts-and-all sound of All the World's a Stage

Courtesy Warner Brothers

3. Deep Purple – ‘Made in Japan’

There aren't a lot of casual Deep Purple fans. People are either vaguely aware there's a band called Deep Purple that wrote "Smoke on the Water," or they have a statue of Ritchie Blackmore in their backyard and they light candles at the base of it every day praying he'll come to his senses and return to rock & roll. Many people in the latter category live in Russia, Japan, England or Germany, explaining why they rarely tour America and have yet to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. To the faithful, their 1973 live album Made in Japan remains one of the finest collections of songs ever put down on tape. Like many live albums of the 1970s, it was partially taped at Tokyo's Budokan. Classics like "Highway Star" and "Child in Time" rock much harder than their studio counterparts. It really is the ultimate document of the classic lineup at their peak. 

Courtesy Mercury Records

2. The Allman Brothers Band – ‘At Fillmore East’

Just seven months before Duane Allman tragically died in a motorcycle accident, the Allman Brothers Band played a triumphant three-night stand at New York's Fillmore East. Thankfully, tapes were rolling and they captured a blazing hot set, culminating with a twenty-three minute rendition of "Whipping Post." The group has released the shows on many releases over the years, most notably the 1971 LP At Fillmore East. It remains the definite portrait of the Allman Brothers in their first (and best) incarnation. 

Courtesy Capitol Records

1. Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band – ‘Live Bullet’

Bob Seger had incredible early success in his career with "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man," a garage-rock classic that reached Number Seven on the Hot 100 in 1968. Things took a sharp downwards turn after that, even as he continued to release new music and tour the country at a punishing pace. Many years he barely eked out enough money to keep himself on the road, though the endless one nighters turned him into an incredible live act. Much like Kiss that same year, he played Detroit's Cobo Hall in 1975 and taped the shows for a concert album. Live Bullet hit in April of 1976  and became an instant hit, finally turning him from a regional act into a national rock star. He's never looked back. 

Show Comments