Maybe I've just aged myself, but the word album means different things to different people and age groups.
For me an album is a slab of wax, a piece of vinyl, or extended to the music itself, a grouping of songs or pieces put together as to make a whole. Albums were released by artists as a whole (sure, there'd be singles from the album) with each track placed specifically on the album.
Live music isn't any different. When putting together a live show for an album or a concert, the band tries to arrange the songs in a pleasing order. They hook you with a great opener and pull you under so you won't stop listening. Some live albums capture the crowd's energy, while others strive to provide a crystal clear sound. There are a few that manage to do both. I tend to like raw performances, ones with warts and all--that's what I like about some of the Sinatra recordings, he's putting on a show, cracking jokes, changing words, forgetting words at times, but making it awesome! I'm so happy they didn't screw around with those to get rid of those things.
Here is just a sampling of live albums that I enjoy in no particular order.
Frank Sinatra, Sinatra At The Sands, 1966 -- Perhaps my top Sinatra live album. He's with the Count Basie Orchestra, conducted by Quincy Jones. A great selection of tunes and great banter throughout.
Rush - Exit...Stage Left, 1981 -- While I love all of Rush's live albums this one hit at the right time for me as I'd just discovered Moving Pictures and to hear them recreate live what they're able to put on album was amazing. I also loved the live video released not long after.
Iron Maiden, Live After Death, 1985 -- Iron Maiden wasn't on my radar until this album was released. I was fifteen and that album cover demanded attention. Hearing Bruce Dickinson wail away while the guitars played in harmony with the bass lines thundering and galloping along with the drums was overwhelming and I was a fan from the opening. They lead with a stirring recording of Winston Churchill, ending with, "...we shall never surrender" and they rip into Aces High, it still gives me chills.
Led Zeppelin, The Song Remains The Same, 1976 -- what can I say about this one that hasn't already been said or written? Well, I love this one for how raw it is, and sure they may overindulge on a few tunes, but I'm sure heroine and alcohol had nothing to do with that--I mean Jimmy Page and John Bonham would never partake of the stuff, right? I prefer this over the strange live video, though I'll watch that from time-to-time.
Judas Priest, Unleashed In The East, 1979 -- I threw this one on here for a couple of reasons, one, back in high school (this is the mid-80s) there were a few people who thought I resembled Rob Halford. The first album I owned by Priest was Defenders of the Faith, but I quickly went back to their older stuff and this live album--though some people don't like how they overdubbed in the studio to present a cleaner and more upfront sound with I'm guessing fewer mistakes as well, I like this album a lot. Rob Halford hits some crazy high notes and the music is heavy! Priest was not only heavy metal back then, but their heavy by today's standards.
Here are a few more I like, some mentioned during a Facebook exchange:
Pink Floyd, Pulse, 1995
Kiss, Alive II, 1977
Peter Frampton, Frampton Comes Alive!, 1976
Triumph, Stages, 1985
The Rat Pack: Live at the Sands, released in 2001, but from a show performed in 1963
Ozzy Osbourne, Tribute, 1987
I could list many, many more--there's Genesis, Peter Gabriel, The Who, and so on and so on...
Name some of your favorites!