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7 Live Albums Made Up Entirely Of New Songs: Neil Young, Frank Zappa, And More

by Joey DeGroot   Oct 5, 2014 10:48 AM EDT

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A typical live album serves as a greatest hits album of sorts, compiling live performances of an artist's best-known songs. These seven live albums, however, took a different approach, including songs that had been previously unreleased, basically making them studio albums that just happened to be recorded in front of an audience.

1. MC5 - Kick Out The Jams (1969)

MC5's debut (and most famous) album was 1969's Kick Out The Jams, which was recorded live over two nights at Detroit's Grande Ballroom in Oct. 1968 and serves as the most exciting recorded document of the punk pioneers. Though the band would go on to record two proper studio albums following the release of Kick Out The Jams, none of its eight songs were ever re-recorded in the studio.

2, 3, 4. Neil Young - Time Fades Away/Rust Never Sleeps/Arc (1973/1979/1991)

Neil Young has released over a dozen live albums during his career, and three of them were comprised entirely of new music. His first live album, 1973's Time Fades Away, compiles eight previously unreleased songs performed on tour in 1973, while 1979's classic Rust Never Sleeps features seven live tracks and two studio recorded ones. 1991's Arc, however, is quite different, a 35-minute noise composition created out of live feedback recordings.


5. Frank Zappa - Roxy & Elsewhere (1974)

Frank Zappa was a famously exhaustive archivist, recording nearly every live performance of his career, so he could have released hundreds of live albums if he really wanted to. One of his best live albums was 1974's Roxy & Elsewhere, which was mostly recorded at Hollywood's Roxy Theatre over three nights in Dec. 1973. Other than reworkings of two old songs ("Song of Orange County" and "More Trouble Every Day"), every song on the album is a brand new composition.

6. Jackson Browne - Running On Empty (1977)

It would be more accurate to call Jackson Browne's Running On Empty a "tour album" rather than a proper live album. Though half of the album was in fact recorded live in front of an audience (including its two most famous songs: the title track and "The Load-Out/Stay"), the other half was recorded backstage at concerts, on Browne's tour bus, and in various hotel rooms. None of the songs had appeared on any of Browne's previous studio albums, and were never recorded in a studio for his subsequent albums.

7. Hüsker Dü - Land Speed Record (1982)

Like MC5, alternative rock pioneers Hüsker Dü recorded their debut full-length album Land Speed Record live, but unlike any other entry on this list, all of the songs were compiled from a single performance on Aug. 15, 1981, as opposed to various performances across a number of concert dates. Of the album's 17 songs, just two, "Bricklayer" and "Let's Go Die," where re-recorded in the studio later on.

What are some other live albums made up of new songs? Let us know down in the comments section!

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