Led Zeppelin and Cream Make Best Live Albums Of The Rock Era List

08/05/2011
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(Gibson) Defining the 10 best live albums of the rock and roll era is no easy task especially since measures like the intensity and durability of performances, the key considerations here, are subjective. But taking a shot at that Herculean task requires revisiting greatness, and that's always a pleasure. Here are a couple of highlights:

10. Led Zeppelin, How the West Was Won (2003): This release doesn't carry the same historic weight as the others on the list, since it came after Zeppelin's breakup, but this three-disc set is arguably the most fiery portrayal of one of he world's greatest rock bands caught onstage. Cut during the group's potent 1972 tour of the States in Long Beach and Los Angeles, California, Gibson Les Paul giant Jimmy Page, singer Robert Plant, bassist John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham are in peak form on the heels of Led Zeppelin IV's release. Everything from the scalding pairing of "Immigrant Song" and "Heartbreaker," which starts the set, to an incendiary "Since I've Been Loving You" to the closing stomp through the Sonny Boy Williamson II hit "Bring it on Home" crunches with brutal power. How the West Was Won does nothing less than define the sound and power of hard rock in the 1970s.

1. Cream, Live Cream (1970): The band had been gone nearly two years when this collection of live recordings from San Francisco and New York City concerts was released, but it captures the on-the-fly creativity of the greatest improvising group in blues-rock. Eric Clapton was laying into Gibson Les Pauls, Explorers, SGs including his psychedelic painted "the Fool" SG and an ES-335 during his tenure in Cream, and the potency of humbucker-decked Gibsons paired with Marshall amps rockets out of these tracks, which helped to define that durable combination. And Gibson EB-3 legend Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker remain one of the most dynamic rhythm sections on the planet. Plus, Live Cream is where in-concert envelope pushing in blues begins and the set still stands in testament to the genre's flexibility and durability. more on this story

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