The 11 Best Live Albums of the ’70s


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The 1970s was an era that produced some of the greatest live albums in history. In the previous decade, artists and producers took great pains to make studio albums sound as spotless and pristine as possible, but in contrast, the live albums of the 1970s showcased artists in their natural element –  onstage.


The guitar might have been a little out of tune, the drummer’s tempo may have wandered, and the singer may have had a cold, but those things only added to the “you’re there in the audience” excitement of the best live albums of the 1970s. That realism helped artists bring the concert experience to the listener in as raw and unrefined a form as possible. Here are our 11 picks for the best live albums the Me Decade ever produced.

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1. ‘If You Want Blood You’ve Got It’ by AC/DC (1978)

Several albums made in the 1970s have been declared “the greatest live album of all time.” AC/DC’s 1978 opus “If You Want Blood You’ve Got It” comes up frequently in such discussions, and with good reason. The performances are uniformly furious, and the Glasgow crowd is appreciative, vocal, and rowdy. If you’ve only heard this band’s radio hits, check out this live album and hear firsthand how easily this band could whip up a crowd.

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2. ‘At Fillmore East’ by The Allman Brothers Band (1971)

“At Fillmore East” by the Allman Brothers Band also gets called “the greatest live album of all time,” but the similarities to “If You Want Blood You’ve Got It” end right there. Recorded over two nights at the storied Fillmore East in New York City, this album is a jam lover’s dream, and it leaves every studio recording by this band in the dust. Guitarist Duane Allman, who sadly passed away later in 1971, is at his absolute best here, effortlessly blurring the lines between blues, jazz, and rock.

Image Credit: The Allman Brothers Band by Kris Olin (CC BY-NC-SA).

3. ‘Made in Japan’ by Deep Purple (1972)

“Made in Japan” by Deep Purple is also widely considered one of the greatest live albums of all time. If there’s a middle ground between AC/DC and the Allman Brothers Band, this British hard rock group resides there comfortably, turning out energetic performances of songs like “Smoke on the Water” and “Highway Star” and then stretching out in improv epics like “Strange Kind of Woman” and “Child in Time.” If you have only 76 minutes to find out what this band was capable of at their height, invest in a copy of “Made in Japan” immediately and without delay.

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4. ‘Band of Gypsys’ by Jimi Hendrix (1970)

“Band of Gyosys” [sic] is culled from performances that Jimi Hendrix played at New York City’s Fillmore East in January 1970. Hendrix sadly passed away later that year, but if this album is anything to go by, he was getting tired of the limitations of pop music and beginning to branch out into such other musical forms as jazz, R&B, and blues. The performance is a little wobbly at times, but overall, this excellent record shows Hendrix in a moment of stylistic transition, making us all wonder what he would have accomplished had he lived.

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5. ‘Unleashed in the East’ by Judas Priest (1979)

There has been much speculation about how live Judas Priest’s “Unleashed in the East” actually is. Many rumors have circulated that the recordings used for the album underwent a lot of surgery in post-production to fix whatever problems there were, a common practice for many live albums by many artists. While that can all be filed under “idle gossip,” the fact is that this record is a banger from start to finish, and some of the songs, such as “The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown)” and “Victim of Changes” are vastly superior to their studio counterparts, so if any studio trickery was used to create this album, that’s fine with us.

Image Credit: Judas Priest by dr_zoidberg (CC BY-SA).

6. ‘Alive!’ by KISS (1975)

KISS was on life support prior to the release of their first live album, “Alive!” Their first few records had not led to a breakthrough with audiences, and if something didn’t start selling in huge numbers soon, they probably would not have been able to continue. Luckily, “Alive!” was received rhapsodically by both their existing fans and new ones, in part because the audience participation added an extra element of hard-partying raucousness that their studio albums didn’t capture. The rest is history. 

Image Credit: ALIVE KISS by Jet Boy Free (CC BY-NC-ND).

7. ‘One More from the Road’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd (1976)

If you’ve ever seen a band perform and people in the crowd keep yelling out for “Free Bird,” you can blame this record. The performances are culled from tour dates that the band played in Atlanta, and it’s no exaggeration to say they play as if their lives depend on it, resulting in very energetic readings of beloved songs like “Sweet Home Alabama.” But the version of “Free Bird” that rounds out the album is the definitive one, with monstrous guitar playing. The only drawback is that some idiot brought an air horn to the concert, and you can hear it throughout the entire thing.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

8. ‘Double Live Gonzo!’ by Ted Nugent (1978)

Ted Nugent is a polarizing figure whose political views and personal conduct have made him as welcome in certain circles as a herpes outbreak. Having said that, he has always been a world-class guitar player, and “Double Live Gonzo!” is the best argument for that. Whatever you think of guns, hunting, and the pursuit of underage girls by men in their 30s, it’s impossible to listen to any portion of it without conceding that he could really, really play. Also, if you listen to it and decide to investigate his catalog further, we urge you to tap out before 1981’s “Intensities in 10 Cities” album, which features such songs as “Jailbait” and “I Am a Predator.”

Image Credit: Ted Nugent by Joe Haupt (CC BY-SA).

9. ‘It’s Alive’ by the Ramones (1979)

The Ramones’ “It’s Alive” was recorded at London’s Rainbow Theater on December 31, 1977. In addition to the band’s furious performance, it also captures the crowd’s undeniable energy, culminating in audience members throwing ten rows of seats at the stage. The band performs 28 songs in the album’s 54-minute running time, which means the average song length was one minute and 56 seconds. If you need a break from the 30-minute exploratory jams that appear on many of the 1970s’ live records, this is the perfect antidote.

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10. ‘All the World’s a Stage’ by Rush (1976)

This concert recording from early in Rush’s career is a rarity in their catalog because the sound quality is not up to the audiophile standards their diehard fans expect. It has a rough and unrefined sound, but the performances are all flawless, and what comes through in all of it is the sound of a young band with a lot to prove. There isn’t a single weak spot in its entire 79 minutes, and they even shave a few minutes off of their epic suite “2112,” bringing it from a bloated and indulgent 20 minutes on the studio version to a tight and compact 16 minutes.

Image Credit: Rush by Mike Bieke (CC BY-NC-ND).

11. ‘Yessongs’ by Yes (1973)

“Yessongs” is a divisive entry in the Yes catalog. Like Rush fans, Yes fans expected every release from their heroes to achieve a certain audiophile standard, which this 1973 set doesn’t. However, the somewhat subpar sound quality doesn’t diminish the power of the performances, and this three-LP set is full of excellent readings of the songs. If you’re familiar with just a few of the band’s recordings, “Yessongs” is also the closest thing you can get to a comprehensive collection of their best material.

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