Live Albums - How Many Actually Are Live?


Discussing with a friend of mine at the weekend the issue of how many live albums are actually well - live? The focus was the realisation early on that Live and Dangerous by Thin Lizzy was overdubbed throughout and there are no doubt countless other examples. One of my earliest favourite live records was Free Live which was untouched - I was able to ask Simon Kirke in person at an evening with him at the Roundhouse - and another classic Just One Night by Eric C is untouched as I was similarly able to ask Henry Spinetti (the drummer) at the indulgence hifi show back in 2017, in fact on that one on Double Trouble you can actually hear the amps humming. Mark Knopfler has also commented that both Alchemy and On The Night are untainted. I can’t make up my mind about Jeff Beck Performing This Week at Ronnies an absolute favourite.

I guess there are degrees to this, mixing to ensure that there is a balance across the spectrum is reasonable enough, and perhaps correcting the odd wrong note but actually adding in extra bits in would seem to me to be cheating.

What’s the evidence folks? What do people think?

Best regards,


I am aware the Live In The City Of Light by Simple Minds has some post recording production on it.
The most surprising part was that the band asked Derek Forbes, their former bass player, to overdub some live basslines played by John Giblin, the guy who replaced him.

Live albums are funny things.
You want to be able to hear the band and the music the way you like to hear it, but you also want the energy of the LIVE performance delivered as fully as possible.
Many bands, especially Rock/Metal bands, love to give the vocals on popular songs, especially catchy choruses, over to the audience. This doesn’t make for a great recording, unless you’ve mic’d the venue. (I believe some bands have been known to do this, Shinedown for instance) it doesn’t make for a great record.
I personally think Rush have done both really good live recordings (Clockwork Angels for instance) and some truly terrible ones (Live Rio springs to mind).
To get the best of both (Performance and Live experience) requires an outstanding sound engineer and a band who can really bring it to a live show. Iron Maiden Book of Souls Tour is a great recording of a mediocre studio album, as is Supertramp Paris. Bruce Dickinson told the audience at the gig I was at, that their young sound engineer on that tour was the best they’d ever had. It just shows what a great sound engineer can bring to the party and not just in the arena.
I am sure that many live recordings are tweaked, but the best ones always make you want to go back and do it again😊


Frank Zappa’s ‘Sheik Yerbouti’ has an awful lot of post recording overdubs. It sounds completely different to the 3CD set ‘Hammersmith Odeon’. Both releases were sourced from the same 1978 shows.

Happen to be listening to one of the best live recordings I have. Not sure about overdubs but it sounds mighty fine.



For me, the live album that seems to come closest to the experience of actually being there, truly sounding like a live capture, is Humble Pie’s Performance: Rocking the Fillmore.

Since Frampton left the band at the end of the tour after falling out with Marriott it seems unlikely that there was much studio fiddling with the sound and indeed the album is made up from the “best” of each number from the four sets at the Fillmore.

Britsh blues rock at its visceral best played by a band at the peak of form with time and space to stretch out on stage.

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Deep Purple’s Made in Japan - AFAIK - is genuine. It was originally a Japan Only release - then became a ‘budget’ release elsewhere. Doubt much extra was spent. Some of the cover pics are of the Rainbow - not in Japan, at all.

How about Cream’s Wheels of Fire - disc 2 ? Doesn’t sound like much was done to it.

Quen’s Live Killers - another cheap release - that apparently the band where not happy with.
Expense - spared…?

Live is of course very variable in how it is captured, from a single stereo pair of microphones at some point in the auditorium, to multiple mics mixed down afterwards, to direct feed from the main desk outputs, to fully recording from every mic and instrument input. All could be described quite legitimately as live recording , however much mixing there may be afterwards. So could splicing together bits from different gigs, as long as not described as being a single concert recording. But I feel that mixing in studio contributions is quite unacceptable unless made very clear.

Personally I have not been a great fan of live recordings, often to me sounding very poor, though there certainly are exceptions.

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Hawkwind’s Space Ritual is meant to be pretty much as is. Having seen them around the time it was recorded it sounded pretty similar to a live show. But how much post-production was done, who besides the band and engineers truly knows?

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I seem to remember the box set release of The Song Remains The Same is untouched, unlike the original release.
I’ve bought a couple of CD albums on the way out of gigs which are the show you’ve just attended. I remember a PiL one where you had to download the encore and burn it on to the provided CD-R when you got home. Doubt there’s any dubbing going on there.

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A great album - page forward 15 years and Steve’s Pack of Three is playing my local venue in Folkestone - Steve comes on to a very sparse audience and says were is everyone in the bar? Alas no, me and about half dozen were stood front of stage and that was about it.


Dire Straits’ Alchemy is the only live album I know of which has an explicit statement about this:

“This is a recording of excerpts from one Dire Straits performance. As it contains no re-recordings or overdubs of any kind, there are occasional stage ‘buzzes’ “

That said, most sources contradict this by stating that it was, in fact, recorded over two nights, though I’ve seen no evidence provided for it. The above statement was given on the original 1983 LP but is not replicated on my 1996 remastered CD. I wonder if this omission is significant?



That’s a great shame.

Many years ago Steve played the Torrington in North Finchley, just round the corner from where we lived at the time.

For some reason now forgotten (probably we were away caving) we thought we would catch him next time he played there. He died a few years later without returning.


When Twelfth Night originally released the album Live and let live, I think it was a straight compilation from two shows on successive nights at the Marquee Club in London. Many years later, they released a new versiin called the “Definitive edition”, expanded with other tracks. That was remastered with some tweaking to get the best sound, and included some studio recording because IIRC, the major additional track had never been recorded live - all explained in the release notes.

At the other extreme, I think I can be pretty certain that King Crimson’s Earthbound was not tinkered with in any way before being released as an LP – and it was the worst sound quality of any album I have ever heard. In my view, it should never have been released, and I was highly disappointed at wasting my money. The only track remotely listenable was 21st century schizoid man, where the distortion in part fitted the track.

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This live album is completely unedited – recorded off the desk with a hall mic feed added to provide a bit of atmosphere. The only edits are some short fades at the end of each side of the vinyl version. Other than this it is completely untinkered with – no overdubs or edits whatsover. I know, believe me!


IMO: The Who Live at Leeds best live recording ever, put on Magic Bus….


Is a great album but overdubbed.

Somewhere I heard a story that Live at Leeds was the only album Jimmy Webb could hear over the sound of his Shelby Cobra engine.

Can’t find reference to that but looks like Jimmy had a Cobra so sounds plausible and it is a loud album.


Yes, Deep Purple “Made in Japan” was first released in Japan as “Live in Japan” on LP and much later also released as CD in the rest of the world. The CD edition includes all three concerts that Deep Purple performed in Japan.


Some of them do sound rough, for sure. I’ve found a few more streamed, or now available on CD that aren’t slick products. Many of these sound good - a bit more authentic if that’s not too debased a word these days- but I’ve got some that are frankly c**p.

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