50 best live albums of all time

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September 29, 2020
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50 best live albums of all time

There's something different about listening to a live album. The between-song banter, the roar of a crowd fueled by an epic guitar solo or a poignant song, and the buzz of energy can’t be captured on albums created in a studio.

Stacker compiled data on the top live albums of all time according to Best Ever Albums, which ranks albums according to their appearance and performance on 40,000 editorial and data-based charts (e.g., Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Billboard, etc.). The Best Ever Albums score is derived from a formula that weighs how many charts an album has appeared on and how high it was on each of those charts, then awards points accordingly. For a more in-depth methodology, click here. This list represents data as of Sept. 14, 2020.

Whether it’s Johnny Cash singing about prison life while surrounded by a group of inmates behind prison walls, the Ramones' final album as an original quartet, an extended guitar solo, or an acoustic jam session on one of MTV’s greatest shows (back when MTV was still “music television”), these albums encompass the joy of the live experience.

They cross genres and eras and feature everything from new wave to swing to country. They represent albums recorded as far back as 1938. Live albums were career-makers that proved bands had what it took to reach the top. They were also raw, messy, and often featured blemishes, because playing live didn’t offer the control of an album recorded in the studio. What it did offer was an honest and multidimensional listening experience, one that allowed fans to see a different side of their favorite artists and bands.

Maybe you’ve been to some of these concerts and experienced the magic yourself. Maybe you remember the first time you heard one of these albums. To see if your favorite made the list, join Stacker as we take a look at what makes a truly astounding live album.

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#50. 'It's Alive' by Ramones

- Best Ever Albums score: 473
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 77
- Rank in year: #57
- Rank in decade: #575
- Year: 1979

Punk-rock band the Ramones’ first live album, “It’s Alive,” drew its name from either the famous line from 1931’s “Frankenstein” or the 1974 horror film of the same name. The two-LP set, featuring fan favorites “Rockaway Beach” and “Teenage Lobotomy,” was recorded at the Rainbow Theatre in London on Dec. 31, 1977. The album, the last to feature all four original band members, saw a 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition released in 2019.

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#49. 'Where The Light Is: John Mayer Live In Los Angeles' by John Mayer

- Best Ever Albums score: 473
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 80
- Rank in year: #49
- Rank in decade: #595
- Year: 2008

Recorded on Dec. 8, 2007, John Mayer’s album is divided into three distinct sets: an acoustic performance, a blues set with the John Mayer Trio, and one featuring Mayer's full band. The multi-Grammy-winning artist performed hits like “Gravity,” “Daughters,” and “Waiting On the World to Change” at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles. The live performance was part of the promotional tour for “Continuum,” Mayer’s third studio album.

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#48. 'The Concert In Central Park' by Simon & Garfunkel

- Best Ever Albums score: 535
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 77
- Rank in year: #50
- Rank in decade: #448
- Year: 1982

The first live album by Simon & Garfunkel featured the reunited folk duo performing a 1982 free public concert to help in the restoration of New York City's Central Park. The performance drew a massive audience to the park and featured not only the duo’s greatest hits but selections from their solo careers as well.

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#47. 'I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings' by Radiohead

- Best Ever Albums score: 551
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 78
- Rank in year: #53
- Rank in decade: #520
- Year: 2001

This live Radiohead album featuring only eight tracks received mostly favorable reviews, with an overall score of 76 on Metacritic. It was recorded on the band’s 2000-2001 European and North American tours and features songs from their albums “Kid A” and “Amnesiac.” Some of the best moments on the album come when the band takes chances, like they did when they put a new spin on the normally studio-centric song "Like Spinning Plates," turning it into an eerie piano ballad.

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#46. 'Seconds Out' by Genesis

- Best Ever Albums score: 558
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 76
- Rank in year: #47
- Rank in decade: #507
- Year: 1977

“Seconds Out,” Genesis’ second live album, was released in October 1977 as a double album and featured drummer-turned-frontman Phil Collins. The album was recorded in Paris in the same year, while the band was on the road promoting the “Wind & Wuthering” album. It was also the last album to feature guitarist Steve Hackett, who left the band in 1977 but who is set to play the album on his Seconds Out + More! World Tour, which was rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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#45. 'The Song Remains The Same' by Led Zeppelin

- Best Ever Albums score: 594
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 77
- Rank in year: #45
- Rank in decade: #485
- Year: 1976

Not only was Led Zeppelin's "The Song Remains The Same" a live album, but it was also a concert film of the same name. The English rock band recorded it at Madison Square Garden over three nights in July 1973 during the band's tour for the studio album "Houses Of The Holy." One of the most definitive songs on the album is an almost 30-minute-long version of "Dazed And Confused."

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#44. 'Nighthawks at the Diner' by Tom Waits

- Best Ever Albums score: 655
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 75
- Rank in year: #44
- Rank in decade: #459
- Year: 1975

The title for Tom Waits’ live album comes from the well-known 1942 Edward Hopper painting “Nighthawks,” which depicts people sitting in a diner. Recorded in four sessions in a Los Angeles studio set up to look like an intimate nightclub, with a small invite-only audience, Waits’ album is as famous for the artist's between-song banter as it is for his solid performance.

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#43. 'Live/1975-85' by Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band

- Best Ever Albums score: 659
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 81
- Rank in year: #37
- Rank in decade: #375
- Year: 1986

A compilation of recordings spanning over a decade of Springsteen shows from 1975-1985, the album features 40 songs on five LPs. Writing for Rolling Stone, David Fricke praised the box set’s “raw power, lyric honesty, and spiritual determination.” The album features epic performances of “Born In The U.S.A.," "Seeds," "The River" (prefaced with a poignant story about Springsteen, his father, and the draft), and Edwin Starr's "War."

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#42. 'Weld' by Neil Young & Crazy Horse

- Best Ever Albums score: 660
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 76
- Rank in year: #33
- Rank in decade: #454
- Year: 1991

Godfather of Grunge Neil Young went on the road with Crazy Horse in 1991 to promote their album “Ragged Glory.” “Weld” was recorded on this tour and featured Young favorites "Like a Hurricane" and "Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)." Originally the album was released with “Arc,” a single 35-minute track featuring beginnings and endings of songs with feedback sprinkled throughout.

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#41. 'The Famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert' by Benny Goodman

- Best Ever Albums score: 667
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 73
- Rank in year: #1
- Rank in decade: #55
- Year: 1950

Benny Goodman took the Carnegie Hall stage for the first time in 1938. It was an epic concert that marked the first time jazz was performed with a racially integrated band in its hallowed halls. The concert caused quite a stir and included a group of amazing musical guests like Count Basie and Cootie Williams, who joined The King of Swing on stage.

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#40. 'Live At The Old Quarter, Houston, Texas' by Townes Van Zandt

- Best Ever Albums score: 696
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 79
- Rank in year: #42
- Rank in decade: #440
- Year: 1977

Country singer Townes Van Zandt's career didn't take off until his live album, "'Live At The Old Quarter, Houston, Texas," which revealed a side to the artist that his listeners had yet to hear on any of his studio albums. Over five nights in a single room filled with 100 paying customers, Van Zandt proved he deserved a place among the country crooning elite. In just 90 minutes with 26 tracks, the singer found the success that had eluded him for years.

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#39. 'Waiting For Columbus' by Little Feat

- Best Ever Albums score: 713
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 78
- Rank in year: #42
- Rank in decade: #435
- Year: 1978

Recorded in London and Washington D.C. in August 1977, Little Feat’s first live album became their bestselling album ever. The album and band, whose eclectic sound included rock, R&B, country, and blues, inspired Phish to perform “Waiting For Columbus” for their 2010 Halloween show.

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#38. 'Live At The Star-Club, Hamburg' by Jerry Lee Lewis

- Best Ever Albums score: 714
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 79
- Rank in year: #10
- Rank in decade: #201
- Year: 1964

The controversial Jerry Lee Lewis nearly ruined his career when he married his 13-year-old cousin. This live performance came years later and proved Lewis was still a formidable performer. The live album features piano-pounding Lewis cornerstones “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” and “Great Balls Of Fire,” as well as covers of “Hound Dog” and “Money.”

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#37. 'Roseland NYC Live' by Portishead

- Best Ever Albums score: 717
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 78
- Rank in year: #48
- Rank in decade: #427
- Year: 1998

The album recorded at New York City’s now-closed Roseland Ballroom features tracks from 1994’s "Dummy" and 1997’s "Portishead" and includes “Sour Times,” “Only You,” “Glory Box,” “All Mine,” and “Roads.” A guest brass section and orchestral arrangements provided by the New York Philharmonic—dressed in street clothes—accompany the trip-hop trio consisting of vocalist Beth Gibbons, drummer Geoff Barrow, and guitarist Adrian Utley.

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#36. 'MTV Unplugged' by Alice In Chains

- Best Ever Albums score: 722
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 78
- Rank in year: #45
- Rank in decade: #423
- Year: 1996

After the band’s two-and-a-half-year break from live shows, Alice In Chains graced the MTV Unplugged stage for a mind-blowing acoustic performance of their grunge-metal hits, including “Rooster,” “Down In A Hole,” and “Angry Chair.” It also marked the penultimate public performance for frontman Layne Staley, who was struggling with the drug addiction that would eventually kill him. The setting, an intimate candlelit session with a small audience, and Staley’s quips between songs, created a personal and moving listening experience for fans.

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#35. 'How the West Was Won' by Led Zeppelin

- Best Ever Albums score: 723
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 82
- Rank in year: #49
- Rank in decade: #409
- Year: 2003

Led Zeppelin's live triple album highlights the best of the band from two 1972 performances and features "Black Dog" with a zippy metal intro, as well as an almost 20-minute version of John Bonham’s drumming showcase, "Moby Dick." The album debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 when it was released.

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#34. 'Live at Massey Hall 1971' by Neil Young

- Best Ever Albums score: 762
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 82
- Rank in year: #44
- Rank in decade: #390
- Year: 2007

The two shows Neil Young performed in January 1971 at Toronto, Ontario’s Massey Hall were a homecoming of sorts for the Canadian singer, who had gone off to achieve international fame in the U.S. This solo acoustic performance brought Young back to his roots. The live album was a commercial and critical success when it was released 36 years after it was recorded.

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#33. 'Alive!' by Kiss

- Best Ever Albums score: 791
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 72
- Rank in year: #37
- Rank in decade: #410
- Year: 1975

The double LP was the band's first top-10 album. Featuring band classics like "Strutter" and "Rock and Roll All Nite," the album shot the band into the stratosphere with a #9 chart debut and eventually went gold. "Alive" saved both the band and their failing record label from drifting into obscurity.

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#32. 'Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!' by The Rolling Stones

- Best Ever Albums score: 794
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 78
- Rank in year: #50
- Rank in decade: #408
- Year: 1970

Recorded just before the release of the band's album “Let It Bleed,” “Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!” was created from four November 1969 shows in Baltimore and New York. It marked the first time the Stones hit the road without co-founder Brian Jones, who had died in July. His replacement, Mick Taylor, joined the band and helped color the album's tracks, which included two Chuck Berry covers and “Jumpin' Jack Flash,” “Sympathy For The Devil,” and “Midnight Rambler.”

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#31. 'Space Ritual' by Hawkwind

- Best Ever Albums score: 802
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 80
- Rank in year: #47
- Rank in decade: #405
- Year: 1973

The British psychedelic space-rock band's live double album is 88 minutes long. It was recorded on the Doremi Fasol Latido tour and features songs "Sonic Attack," "Brainstorm," and "Masters Of The Universe." "Space Ritual" was believed by many to be one of the best live albums in its genre and reached #9 on the U.K. charts, giving the band their only top-10 LP.

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#30. 'Strangers in the Night' by UFO

- Best Ever Albums score: 814
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 79
- Rank in year: #39
- Rank in decade: #402
- Year: 1979

The double album by British rock band UFO featured select performances from six of the band's 1978 U.S. dates and spawned hit singles “Doctor Doctor” and “Shoot Shoot." The album marked the end for UFO guitarist Michael Schenker's rocky relationship with his other bandmates, which led him to leave in 1978.

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#29. 'Live!' by Bob Marley & The Wailers

- Best Ever Albums score: 841
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 79
- Rank in year: #34
- Rank in decade: #396
- Year: 1975

The epic live album featuring the seven-minute "No Woman, No Cry" was recorded at the Lyceum Theatre in London. Marley and the Wailers were touring to promote their album, "Natty Dread." "Live!" was a breakthrough LP that popularized Jamaican reggae in the United States to a level that no other record from the genre had done before.

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#28. 'Alchemy' by Dire Straits

- Best Ever Albums score: 863
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 75
- Rank in year: #31
- Rank in decade: #310
- Year: 1984

Recorded at London’s Hammersmith Odeon over two nights in 1983, “Alchemy” features an 11-minute version of “Sultans Of Swing,” with Mark Knopfler performing his signature virtuosic guitar solo. The double album also features 11 songs from the group's four previous albums, “Communique,” “Dire Straits,” “Making Movies,” and “Love Over Gold.” It also features the band’s earliest songs and marks a time before they hit major commercial success with their 1985 album “Brothers In Arms.”

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#27. 'The Bootleg Series Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live 1966, The Royal Albert Hall Concert' by Bob Dylan

- Best Ever Albums score: 919
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 83
- Rank in year: #38
- Rank in decade: #354
- Year: 1998

The second installment in Dylan’s Bootleg Series is also infamously known as the “Judas concert” because an audience member at the show called Dylan “Judas,” referencing the singer's decision to go electric. Fans felt the singer abandoned his folk roots for the glitzy world of rock ’n’ roll. Dylan shot back by delivering an angry and exhilarating version of “Like A Rolling Stone.” 

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#26. 'At San Quentin' by Johnny Cash

- Best Ever Albums score: 969
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 79
- Rank in year: #50
- Rank in decade: #166
- Year: 1969

Not only was the live album “At San Quentin” recorded at the California prison, but it was filmed as well. Recorded as a follow-up to the wildly popular live album Cash recorded at Folsom Prison, the album features Cash hits “Ring of Fire” and “Jackson,” though a cover of Shel Silverstein’s “A Boy Named Sue” became the album’s signature track. Writing for Rolling Stone in 1969, Phil Marsh reflected on the singer’s connection to his audience and Cash’s mission: “Singing inside a prison to men whose spirits are being destroyed by our mindless penal system is Johnny Cash’s kind of revolution.”

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#25. 'The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads' by Talking Heads

- Best Ever Albums score: 988
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 79
- Rank in year: #28
- Rank in decade: #270
- Year: 1982

The new wave rock band's live album is a compilation of various performances recorded between 1977 and 1981 in a variety of locations ranging from the Sun Plaza Concert Hall in Tokyo, Japan, to New York City’s Central Park. Two LPs feature 17 tracks and include fan favorites "Psycho Killer" and "Take Me To The River." In 2004, the album received a CD reissue featuring an additional 16 tracks.

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#24. 'Europe '72' by Grateful Dead

- Best Ever Albums score: 993
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 82
- Rank in year: #36
- Rank in decade: #342
- Year: 1972

The Dead's live album "Europe '72" featured new songs "Jack Straw," "He's Gone," "Ramble On Rose," "Brown-Eyed Women," and "Tennessee Jed," all of which would not be recorded in the studio. Frontman Jerry Garcia croons an unforgettable version of "Morning Dew" to close the show. It was also the last Grateful Dead recording with band member Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, and "He's Gone" became an anthem for him after his death the following year.

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#23. 'Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963' by Sam Cooke

- Best Ever Albums score: 1,011
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 82
- Rank in year: #20
- Rank in decade: #263
- Year: 1985

The tapes from the show at Miami’s Harlem Square Club were originally shelved by RCA and thus weren’t released until 22 years later. Sam Cooke might have been deceased, but with the release of his live album, one that showed a raw side unlike the polished one heard on all his studio albums, he was born again to a whole new generation of fans.

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#22. 'Live and Dangerous' by Thin Lizzy

- Best Ever Albums score: 1,043
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 79
- Rank in year: #31
- Rank in decade: #328
- Year: 1978

"Live and Dangerous" came about because the Irish rock band’s sessions with Tony Visconti, who had cut his teeth working with David Bowie and T. Rex, were delayed. The band's electricity on stage never seemed to translate as well on studio albums, and a live album proved to the world that they were a formidable rock force. The double album featured 17 tracks including "Emerald," "Suicide," "The Rocker," and fan favorite "The Boys Are Back In Town."

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#21. 'Rock N Roll Animal' by Lou Reed

- Best Ever Albums score: 1,058
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 79
- Rank in year: #33
- Rank in decade: #326
- Year: 1974

Reed’s live album features recordings from a December 1973 concert in New York City. It has only five songs: “Intro/Sweet Jane,” “Heroin,” “White Light/White Heat,” “Lady Day,” and “Rock And Roll." The album contains a four-minute instrumental prologue and a 13-minute rendition of the Velvet Underground classic “Heroin."

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#20. 'Live At The Regal' by B.B. King

- Best Ever Albums score: 1,062
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 80
- Rank in year: #17
- Rank in decade: #159
- Year: 1965

Despite 30 R&B hits, B.B. King had barely dented the pop charts. “Live At The Regal” brought King to a wider audience outside of blues aficionados. The album boasted an epic horn section and jazz-filled solos with the help of his black Gibson sidekick named Lucille.

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#19. 'Frampton Comes Alive!' by Peter Frampton

- Best Ever Albums score: 1,180
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 76
- Rank in year: #26
- Rank in decade: #305
- Year: 1976

Originally set to be a single album, A&M Records wanted more, so “Frampton Comes Alive!” became a double LP. Featuring Frampton greats "Baby, I Love Your Way," "Show Me the Way" and "Do You Feel Like We Do," the album was rumored to be the bestselling album of all time. Prior to the success of his live album, Frampton had only achieved moderate success.

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#18. 'The Last Waltz' by The Band

- Best Ever Albums score: 1,228
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 81
- Rank in year: #26
- Rank in decade: #297
- Year: 1978

Based on a concert film of the same name directed by Martin Scorsese, the album featured several musical guests including Muddy Waters, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, and Bob Dylan. Canadian-American rock band The Band held their final concert on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25, 1976, at Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. The concert included a Thanksgiving feast for the 5,000 concertgoers, who had paid a whopping $25 per ticket.

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#17. 'Alive 2007' by Daft Punk

- Best Ever Albums score: 1,310
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 78
- Rank in year: #25
- Rank in decade: #230
- Year: 2007

"Alive 2007" brought the French duo Daft Punk two 2009 Grammy wins in the categories of Best Electronic/Dance Album and Best Dance Recording for "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger." Writing for Entertainment Weekly, Simon Vozick-Levinson noted, "The master DJs blend all their biggest hits into one enthralling, seamless mashup of pumping bass lines, steady drumbeats, and cooing vocoders." It is the band's ability to repurpose and rework songs from across their body of work that sets this live album apart.

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#16. 'Live Rust' by Neil Young & Crazy Horse

- Best Ever Albums score: 1,311
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 81
- Rank in year: #23
- Rank in decade: #290
- Year: 1979

"Live Rust" was recorded during Young’s fall 1978 "Rust Never Sleeps" tour with his trusty band. It was the soundtrack to his concert film "Rust Never Sleeps," which Young directed under the pseudonym Bernard Shakey, a name he still reserves for his film work. The album includes "Sugar Mountain," a song written by the singer when he was a teen, and "After The Gold Rush," a hit from his solo career.

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#15. 'Live/Dead' by Grateful Dead

- Best Ever Albums score: 1,345
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 80
- Rank in year: #39
- Rank in decade: #135
- Year: 1969

The first official live album released by the Grateful Dead, the improv-laden, psychedelic "Live/Dead" was also the first live album recorded on a 16-track console. More importantly, the album may have saved them: After the band released their 1969 album "Aoxomoxoa," they were $180,000 in the hole with their record label, Warner Brothers, and the success of "Live/Dead" helped them dig out.

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#14. 'Ellington At Newport' by Duke Ellington And His Orchestra

- Best Ever Albums score: 1,362
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 81
- Rank in year: #5
- Rank in decade: #28
- Year: 1956

Recorded at the Newport Jazz Festival, the concert and album revived Duke Ellington’s career. Record producer George Avakian noted the transformation of the crowd as the tenor saxophonist Paul Gonsalves belted out an old 1937 arrangement: "Halfway through Paul's solo, it had become an enormous, single, living organism." Indeed, Ellington wound up on the cover of Time and maintained an upward career trajectory that would last until his death in 1974.

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#13. 'Unplugged' by Eric Clapton

- Best Ever Albums score: 1,646
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 77
- Rank in year: #18
- Rank in decade: #217
- Year: 1992

Hearing the high-decibel guitar hero slow things down with acoustic versions of hits “Layla” and “Tears In Heaven” (an ode to Clapton’s young son Conor, who was killed in a fall from the window of a New York City high-rise) enamored fans and was a comeback of sorts for the ex-Cream guitarist. Clapton worked with bassist Nathan East, drummer Steve Ferrone, pianist Chuck Leavell, and guitarist Andy Fairweather Low on the album.

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#12. 'Kick Out The Jams' by MC5

- Best Ever Albums score: 1,756
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 78
- Rank in year: #31
- Rank in decade: #110
- Year: 1969

The angry, expletive-laced command of lead singer Rob Ryner that began with "Kick out the jams" forced record label Elektra to create both an edited and unedited version. The line created such a stir that Detroit, Michigan department store Hudson’s refused to carry the album. The band took out a full-page ad with the words “F--k Hudson’s,” which caused Elektra to drop the band from its label.

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#11. 'Band Of Gypsys' by Jimi Hendrix

- Best Ever Albums score: 2,076
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 82
- Rank in year: #28
- Rank in decade: #203
- Year: 1970

The live album "Band of Gypsys" was the first without Hendrix’s celebrated trio, The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Recorded at the Fillmore East in New York City, the Band of Gypsys featured Buddy Miles on drums and Billy Cox on bass. The album was a reaction to Hendrix's desire to get away from the rock 'n' roll pyrotechnics he'd become famous for and focus more on the music.

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#10. 'The Köln Concert' by Keith Jarrett

- Best Ever Albums score: 2,308
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 82
- Rank in year: #14
- Rank in decade: #186
- Year: 1975

Keith Jarrett was running on little sleep and was in pain, and the piano he requested wasn't available on the evening of this German concert. The concert at the Cologne’s opera house saw Jarrett, who was wearing a brace, nearly fall asleep on stage. In the end, it was worth it, as the double-vinyl record became the bestselling solo jazz and piano album in history.

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#9. 'Made In Japan' by Deep Purple

- Best Ever Albums score: 2,409
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 81
- Rank in year: #19
- Rank in decade: #181
- Year: 1972

English rockers Deep Purple delivered this double live album that was both critically and commercially successful, drawing from their August 1972 shows in Japan. The album featured “Highway Star” and the classic “Smoke On The Water.” The budget for the album was $3,000.

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#8. 'Live At Leeds' by The Who

- Best Ever Albums score: 2,832
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 83
- Rank in year: #23
- Rank in decade: #157
- Year: 1970

Recorded on Valentine's Day 1970 at the University of Leeds, “Live At Leeds” is the English rock band’s debut live album and features only six tracks, though later editions of the album have added the 27 other songs played that night. The band hoped to use recorded material from the Leeds show and another concert the following evening but discovered that the first six tracks from the other show weren’t usable.

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#7. 'Live At The Apollo' by James Brown

- Best Ever Albums score: 3,033
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 79
- Rank in year: #4
- Rank in decade: #72
- Year: 1963

James Brown, the Hardest Working Man in Show Business, knew the value of a live album. Brown’s record label, King Records, didn’t want to finance the recording of a live show, so Brown financed the show himself. The slim 31-minute runtime left fans wanting more, and the album spent 66 weeks on the Billboard charts.

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#6. 'Stop Making Sense' by Talking Heads

- Best Ever Albums score: 4,266
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 82
- Rank in year: #10
- Rank in decade: #60
- Year: 1984

Famed director Johnathan Demme directed the live concert film of the same name. The album, recorded at Hollywood's Pantages Theatre over three nights, features nine tracks from the movie and spent an epic two years on the Billboard chart. The band was joined onstage by Lynn Mabry on backing vocals, P-Funk keyboard wizard Bernie Worrell, and Alex Weir on guitar.

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46 / 50
Universal Music/Polydor

#5. '98.12.28 Otokotachi no Wakare' by Fishmans

- Best Ever Albums score: 4,947
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 89
- Rank in year: #7
- Rank in decade: #72
- Year: 1999

The third and final live album by the Japanese dub band found Fishmans vacillating between many genres including reggae, dream pop, and dub pop. The album was meant to be a farewell to one of the group’s departing bandmates, but three months later, Fishmans lead singer Shinji Sato died, recasting the release in an even more poignant light.

47 / 50
E. Aaron // Getty Images

#4. 'Rust Never Sleeps' by Neil Young & Crazy Horse

- Best Ever Albums score: 5,025
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 84
- Rank in year: #9
- Rank in decade: #100
- Year: 1979

"Rust Never Sleeps" was another of the fruits of Young’s tour of the same name, including a concert film and the album “Live Rust.” Young used the 1978 recordings and added overdubs to both new and existing tracks, and the album was divided into electric and acoustic songs. Writing for Rolling Stone, Paul Nelson said of the album, "For anyone still passionately in love with rock ’n’ roll, Neil Young has made a record that defines the territory. Defines it, expands it, explodes it. Burns it to the ground."

48 / 50
GAB Archive // Getty Images

#3. 'At Fillmore East' by The Allman Brothers Band

- Best Ever Albums score: 5,379
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 82
- Rank in year: #17
- Rank in decade: #92
- Year: 1971

Recorded at Bill Graham's East Village venue in March 1971, the album was released four months later. The double album featured just seven songs comprising extended jam sessions and included the 23-minute long "Whipping Post." "At Fillmore East" brought the band a new level of commercial success.

49 / 50
Michael Ochs Archives // Getty Images

#2. 'At Folsom Prison' by Johnny Cash

- Best Ever Albums score: 6,311
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 83
- Rank in year: #9
- Rank in decade: #44
- Year: 1968

This live album may have been the one to relaunch Johnny Cash’s career, which had stalled thanks to his troubles with drugs and alcohol. Though it was not Cash’s first performance at Folsom, it was his first live recording at the prison—and the one that brought the song “Folsom Prison Blues,” originally released in 1955, to the pop charts. A 50th Anniversary Edition of the album was released in 2018.

50 / 50
Frank Micelotta // Getty Images

#1. 'MTV Unplugged In New York' by Nirvana

- Best Ever Albums score: 12,341
- Best Ever Albums user rating: 86
- Rank in year: #7
- Rank in decade: #31
- Year: 1994

Nirvana’s acoustic performance resonated with an entire generation. The final song on the live album, “Where Did You Sleep Last Night,” originally sung by folk and blues singer Leadbelly in the 1940s, was full of the pained angst only frontman Kurt Cobain could deliver. Cobain died five months after the band’s performance on MTV Unplugged, and almost a year to the date later the live album was released.

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