JENNINGS: The enduring appeal of vinyl records

A worker checks a pressed record in 2016 at a vinyl plant in Lodenice, Czech Republic.

I have collected vinyl records for a long time, just around 40 years. I grew up during the arena rock era when your favorite band came to town and played the local hockey arena every year. They were usually promoting a new studio album.

The arena rock era also produced some of the greatest live albums of all-time, including breakout recordings by Kiss, Cheap Trick and Peter Frampton.

Some of my favorite vinyl records are double-live albums. There are a number of reasons I like the longer releases, but the main one is that a good double live album captures the whole concert experience, not just the highlights.

There are some classic single disc live albums, like The Who’s “Live at Leeds” and The Rolling Stones’ “Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out,” which I am sure were released as single albums to keep the cost down.

With the break in concerts, I have been listening to a lot of live vinyl. Two of my favorite double live albums are Little Feat’s “Waiting for Columbus” and Supertramp’s “Paris.” “Waiting for Columbus" is an incredible album, and while many music fans consider The Allman Brothers “At Fillmore East” as the best live jam band record, I think “Waiting for Columbus” is slightly better. They are both must own live albums.

Some local record stores are still selling online for local pickup, and over the last few weeks I have purchased Frank Zappa’s “Zappa in New York” and “Eagles Live.” The Zappa album is unique, and has some great jams and unusual time signatures. “Eagles Live” has a version of “Take it to the Limit” that still gives me goosebumps.

I also replaced my worn-out copy of “Frampton Comes Alive.” It’s one of the highest selling live albums of all-time, and with good reason. There is a rawness about the album, and Frampton had surrounded himself with some great players. One of the best concerts I have ever experienced was when Frampton performed the album in its entirety at Artpark a few years back.

There are other classic live albums I return to from time to time, including REO Speedwagon’s "Live: You Get What You Play For.” REO still had a cult following when that live album came out, and even though the big hits aren’t included on the record it captured the band at an important time in their career.

Then there is Bob Seger, who came out with two amazing double live albums in less than 10 years, “Live Bullet” and “Nine Tonight.” The version of “Bo Diddley” on “Live Bullet” is representative of the band’s live prowess and the energy of a hometown show. The version of “Old Time Rock-n-Roll” on “Nine Tonight” does not have the traditional piano intro, but in many ways it is superior to the studio version.

As for my first double-live album, it was Rush’s first live release, “All the World’s a Stage.” When I was 14, a friend of mine played me side four so I could hear “the most amazing drummer in the world.” That drummer was Neil Peart, and I was able to see him perform a number of times before he passed away.

The main reason I love listening to live albums is because they make me relive some of the best concert moments of my life, or let me experience bands that I did not get a chance to see live. That has taken on new meaning during the temporary shutdown of major live music events. It not only helps stoke fond memories, it makes me look forward to my next concert.


Thom Jennings covers the local music scene for Night and Day.

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