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Ky B: The Live Album

I have roughly 75 albums currently in iTunes on my iPhone. I sit in a cube all day at work and the music I have on it really is the soundtrack to my day. Out of the 75 albums I mentioned, three of them are live albums. While it seems like a small portion, I listen to two of those on a weekly basis. I, Kyle Brager, am a fan of live albums. I realize that I am probably in the minority in that. Don’t get me wrong, I love studio albums too but there’s something about hearing the raw performance and having the room for error or alternate riffs/solos/verses that speaks to me in a more intimate level.

Why do bands/musicians do live albums?

I’m sure a lot of live albums are done in a Greatest Hits type fashion. While not wanting to just put out a lazy compilation album by picking hits off past records, they instead decide on a show to record and release or perhaps they have a lot of recorded live footage they’ve accumulated over a period of time that would also suffice. Another reason could be marketing purposes geared towards ticket sales rather than album sales. What better way to promote yourself than by capturing the emotion and feel of your live concert experience? They also could have a unique and artistic idea or collaboration that they’d like to explore as well. Dave Matthews Band has a Live Trax series that’s a pretty good example of a combination of these ideas. From 2004-present they’ve released 2-3 live albums each year that can only be purchased through the band’s website. Volume 27 of the series was just released on Nov. 12, 2013. The songs on each volume are mostly randomly recorded and don’t go in any kind of chronological order of recording at all.

Now, my two favorite live albums:

Dave Matthews Band: The Central Park Concert

This was the first DMB album, studio or live, that I ever purchased. It has 3 discs and actually doesn’t have many of their widely known songs on it except for “Ants Marching.” I love hearing Dave interact with the audience and the music sounds great. I like this album so much that I bought the 2 disc DVD of it too. It really gives you insight and does justice to what it’s like seeing DMB live.

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Metallica: S&M

No this isn’t an album about sadomasochism. Metallica collaborated with conductor Michael Kamen and the San Francisco Symphony on a live performance together. So the S&M in this case stands for Symphony & Metallica. You might think the idea of Metallica and a symphony together is nuts but James Hetfield said that the idea mostly came from their late bassist Cliff Burton’s love of classical music. Metallica’s staple sounds almost better and more beautiful with the symphony accompaniment. They also recorded two brand new tracks, “No Leaf Clover” & “-Human” that haven’t been released other than on Metallica S&M. They even marketed the album cover nicely. The logo is a treble clef made into a S and the M from the band’s trademarked Metallica script. Metallica S&M also has a DVD version of the show. I don’t own that one but I’ve seen it and it is just as amazing as the album. (I really should own it.)

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There are quite a few different reasons why live albums get produced. I for one, am glad that they do. Even though I dislike when some let the crowd sing verses or choruses by themselves, I do enjoy having the sounds of a live performance in my ears while I’m getting through the work day.

Twitter @KyBrage