Essential Series - 2019 Unsung Albums (Live) Vol 2

DaveTDaveT Buenos Aires, Argentina
edited November 2020 in Essential Series


For a long time now, discussion has happened about live recordings and whether they are actually worthwhile or not. My view is that live albums are as a form of art as their studio counterparts are.

For performance and interpretation are the key elements in the live setting instead of songwriting and studio production; while human feel and groove naturally occur in a live settlement, doctoring and overdubbing aside.

On this second volume of rarely mentioned albums, the selection criteria is the same than the first one. Only this time, we'll introduce the exception that proves the rule.

Without further ado, let's shed some light on these obscure live releases.


The Albums


David Cassidy - 1974 Cassidy Live!

Recording Date and Location: May 1974 during UK leg of world tour.

David Cassidy was a surprisingly mature and seasoned performer at only 24 boosted by a solid, deep-rooted rock 'n' roll band with loud guitars, prominent female background vocals and rock solid basslines. He delivers not only playing the hits, but on the Beatles cover of 'Please Please Me' among others, and in an energetic rock & roll medley as well.

Recorded during the peak of his popularity in the UK on the last dates before his announced retirement from touring, surrounded by teen hysteria (a fan was tragically crushed to death at White City Stadium in London on May 26, 1974), perhaps the audience wasn't listening and they just succumbed to the hype and looks. But in the end, the incessant cheering is the only thing out of place in this vibrant live recording.


David Cassidy - Rock Medley


Michael Stanley Band - 1977 Stage Pass

Recording Date and Location: October 22, 23 and 24, 1976 at the Agora Ballroom, Cleveland, OH.

A masterpiece of working-class Heartland Rock by basically a bar-band that nonetheless packed large venues and set attendance records in their native Ohio.

From acoustic passages to hard-edged ones and from the more reflective songs to the harder rocking ones, mastermind Michael Stanley, singer, songwriter, guitarist Jonah Koslen and keyboard player Bob Pelander drive you on a trip through the deep 'Midwest Midnight', the spirited 'Real Good Time', the silky pop of 'Nothing's Gonna Change My Mind', the folk leanings on the Carole King original 'Will You Love Me Tomorrow' and the sing-along party anthem encore 'Strike Up The Band' just as a few examples, for all the songs have a unique appeal.

Before they took the AOR route, the MSB closed their first phase going out with a bang on this Stage Pass.


Michael Stanley Band - Nothing's Gonna Change My Mind


The Runaways - 1977 Live In Japan

Recording Date and Location: June 5 and 6, 1977 at the Tokyo Koseinenkin Kaikan. June 12, 1977 at the Shibuya Kokaido.

This one has all the features live albums are measured against in my book: fun, energy and rebellion. The Runaways were huge in Japan, and their only official live testimony was originally released in the land of the rising sun and just a few other countries as well, but not in the US. In hindsight, who wouldn't have bought into a band that gathered Joan Jett and Lita Ford, sponsored by Kim Fowley?

Overdriven amplifiers are on the verge of blowing up through the recording with this mixture of Hard Rock, Punk the American way and Bubblegum Pop melodies. No extended solos, no medleys, just 41 minutes of live rock. The '1, 2, 3, 4' intro to the last song 'C'Mon' just reasserts how Punk in attitude these four ladies were, a bunch of teenage girls back then, rocking Japan to the ground. Paraphrasing Joan Jett's rant before 'I Wanna Be There Where The Boys Are', they didn't need to follow the boys. They were unique in their own way.


The Runaways - Queens Of Noise


Teaze - 1978 Tour Of Japan

Recording Date and Location: Fall of 1978 at the Tokyo Nakano Sun Plaza.

If you asked me about 70's metal, I would just play the opening one-two salvo of 'Rockin' With The Music' and 'Lady Killer' to you and then proceed to follow with the primal background vocals on 'Come On Hold On', and so on.

Galloping basslines upfront, metallic bright and sharp vocals by one Brian Danter, dual guitar harmonies and an epic vibe even in the quiet moments plague this seminal yet obscure collection.

A formidable live album registered during a triumphant 10-day tour of Japan in the fall of 1978, following the footsteps of KISS and Cheap Trick, few recordings capture a band in its prime playing as hot as Teaze. And it was primarily recorded just to monitor the band's performance and, heaven forbid, it was not intended to be released at first!

Teaze are back together in this very year of 2019, thank goodness.


Teaze - Lady Killer


Thundertrain - 2004 Hell Tonite!

Recording Date and Location: February 1, 1979 at the Summit Club, Peabody, MA. Broadcasted on February 7, 1979 on WCOZ Playback, hosted by Leslie Palmiter

Mach Bell is known as the singer on Joe Perry's 1983 'Once A Rocker Always A Rocker'. However, before that he was the frontman of Boston's pride, Punk-tinged Hard Rock combo 'The Legendary Thundertrain' . Their music leaned towards Slade melodies, Aerosmith twin-guitar work and MC5 rawness with bits of Alice Cooper thrown in.

The ferocious 'Hell Tonite!', recorded for a radio broadcast, is their most perennial legacy, featuring the Slade-inspired title track and a cover of 'Mama Weer All Crazee Now', plus fan-favorite 'Hot For Teacher! and the unforgettable 'I Gotta Rock' (with maybe the most genuine 'Disco sucks' rant ever, although censored by the radio station).

Unfortunately, they did not taste the honey of success, but they contributed to the survival of rock in the mid to late 1970's with their constant playing, fiery attitude and this thunderous live document rescued in 2004.


Thundertrain - I Gotta Rock


Good Rats - 1979 Live At Last

Recording Date and Location: July 4, 1979 at My Father's Place, Roslyn, NY.

Long Island cult favorites Good Rats, dubbed 'the world's most famous unknown band' by Rolling Stone Magazine, recorded their last album with their classic lineup live in 1979.

Led by the Marchello brothers Peppi (singer, songwriter and producer) and Mickey (guitar and vocals), they were a powerhouse in the live environment fed by the double-bass pounding of Joe Franco and the tasty licks of guitarist John 'The Cat' Gatto with his cat-shaped instrument surrounding Peppi Marchello's muscular vocals.

The music was quality hard rock mixed with bits of jazz rock and progressive with a particular, acute sense of humor in the lyrics. With good songs such as 'Tasty' and 'Taking It To Detroit', fine harmonies and musicianship; this is the recommended starting point to dig into their discography.


Good Rats - Taking It To Detroit


Riot - 1989 Riot Live

Recording Date and Location: April 19 & 20, 1980, Hammersmith Odeon, London, UK. August 16, 1980, Castle Donington Monsters Of Rock, UK.

Initially released in 1989 solely in Japan, this recording documents Riot's April of 1980 UK tour supporting Sammy Hagar with the classic lineup that would record 'Fire Down Under' the following year; as well as their return to the UK that same year to be part of the first Monsters Of Rock festival ever, with Riot playing second on the bill after Touch.

Legendary DJ and NWOBHM promoter Neal Kay was also an enthusiastic Riot sponsor whose introduction of the band to the Hammersmith audience was immortalized as the first track on the record (and later included as part of the song 'Flashbacks', from 'Fire Down Under', dedicated to Kay).

The showcase of energy is beyond belief, with all songs from Hammersmith Odeon being highlights due to the sheer impact of the contagious performance (I wouldn't have wanted to be in Hagar's shoes after Riot left the stage on fire), while an amazing rendition of 'Warrior' and a fast-paced 'Road Racin' are my picks from the slightly more distant yet moving recording of the Donington concert.

This is the only official live release of Riot with Guy Speranza on vocals, making it a must for fans; and should not be confused with the 1982 EP of the same name that featured Rhett Forrester.


Riot - Road Racin' (Live At Hammersmith Odeon)


Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band - 1981 Nine Tonight

Recording Date and Location: June 15, 1980 at the Boston Garden, Boston, MA. October 7, 1980 at the Cobo Hall, Detroit, MI

The exception to the rule I set on album-selection criteria, this is a well-known release by a renowned band. On the other hand, it has usually been underrated, obscured and maligned when compared to the seminal 'Live Bullet' for the wrong reason, with that being the fact that 'Nine Tonight' contains Seger's biggest hits.

Critics and music fans at large cannot sometimes stand success and hit songs, as if they were jealous and afraid that a band no longer belongs to them. That's not a sign of sell-out or lack of quality in all circumstances, and in this case it's just the other way round.

Like a good ole rock 'n' roll bar-band playing in your living room, Bob and the Bullets keep the intimacy and move it to the large arenas setting without losing a single drop of charm in the process. Just listen to the groovy renditions of 'Trying To Live My Life Without You' and the emotional 'Against The Wind' for proof.

'Nine Tonight' is every bit a standout as the aforementioned 'Live Bullet', only at a different stage in Seger's career: his mainstream years.


Bob Seger - Trying To Live My Life Without You


Johnny Van Zant - 1997 King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents

Recording Date and Location: June 30, 1985 at the Florida Theatre, Jacksonville, FL.

The youngest of the Van Zant brothers and then-future Lynyrd Skynyrd singer playing his hometown with his longtime band and touring behind his most relevant album for the AOR fan. How about that?

The resulting live album is an AOR wet dream as a good deal of that 1985 self-titled album is performed and enhanced with the best songs from his previous solo releases plus the unreleased gem 'Rock Survivors'.

The KBFH has released many great live recordings over time, and this is one of the best regarding the setlist and performance-wise. The sound is crystal clear, the guitars and drums are deafening and the singer enjoys his time driving and involving the audience throughout the set. A true AOR live experience, still a fairly easy to find and affordable CD to buy these days. What else could you ask for?


Johnny Van Zant - KBFH Full Album


Mark Free - 1998 The Gods '93 Live

Recording Date and Location: October 3, 1993. The Ritz (currently 'O2 Ritz'), Manchester, England.

The very first Gods of AOR festival was held on the weekend of October 2 and 3 of 1993 at Milton Keynes' Woughton Centre and Manchester's The Ritz, respectively. The songs on this album, a bonus CD on the 1998 reissue of 'Long Way From Love' , were taken from the Manchester gig.

This is a raw recording, the bass drum suffers from poor miking and is barely audible, and the guitars have too much mid frequencies. Why should I bring out this album then?

Because Mark's performance is simply staggering, while a band that only had a couple of days to learn the songs is right on the money. In addition to that, the setlist comprised Signal, King Kobra and Unruly Child goodies besides songs from his solo album. And there are also six worthy studio bonus tracks included.

Backed by the then-unreleased Swedish band Snakes In Paradise with the addition of vocalist Diana DeWitt and keyboardist Robin Randall (a duo that would later record as Venus & Mars), you should just 'drop your guard and your weapons' as Mark sings in 'Only The Strong Will Survive' and surrender to the magic of the one and only Mark Free, currently Marcie Free after his gender change.


Mark Free - Wake Up You Little Fool

In Summary

The art of making live albums is becoming more and more forgotten in current times.

And this fact adds an even more mysterious halo to fairly obscure in-concert albums at the time of revisiting them. Without trying to be preachy about it, I still like my fair share of live recordings; for they capture a one-off, unrepeatable moment in time.

Looking for the right videos to illustrate the selected ones was not an easy task, and the outcome is less than desired in some instances. It is what it is.

Thanks to David Shaw (a.k.a david) and Dave Reynolds (a.k.a reyno-roxx) for their help with 'Riot Live' and the juicy anecdotes they shared about those times.

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