A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.
The best copies have Live Rock and Roll Energy like you will not believe. The band is ON FIRE. These are the A List players of the day and they gell like a band that’s been together for years. The sonic treats include multiple horn players (David Sanborn KILLS on almost every track, and the baritone sax and oboe are rendered beautifully ) and multiple percussionists, all-male chorus background vocals, the seering fuzzed-out guitar leads of Earl Slick, piano and Mellotron by Mike Garson, the amazing Herbie Flowers on bass — the list goes on.
Why the critics don’t give this album the respect it so obviously deserves is completely beyond me.
One of the two GREATEST LIVE ROCK AND ROLL RECORDS ever made. The other top live album is of course Waiting For Columbus, and the two have much in common. Most importantly, the songs played live on both albums are CONSISTENTLY better than their studio versions. (This is especially true on the Little Feat album. Little Feat was not a studio band and their live arrangements (with the Tower of Power horns!) just murder the studio ones.)
But back to David Live. Have you ever heard a good sounding Diamond Dogs? But David Live is FULL of great sounding material from the album. 1984 is much better here than on the original album. Rebel Rebel, Sweet Thing and Rock & Roll With Me also come alive in performance. They rock!
Bad Pressings, or Were They?
Like the Crime of the Century listing we did today, this album has been tried and tried, coming up short over and over again. I’m a big fan so no matter how many times we failed we just kept at it. All we were hearing was grain, grit, and surface noise — we could not get the sound we were looking for on even the best Robert Ludwig original pressings, and the British pressings were even worse, with smeary, drab, dub-tape sound. But thank goodness things change. As we wrote for COTC:
Things Have Changed
As we never tire of saying, in audio THINGS CHANGE. With better cleaning technologies, better playback, better all the other stuff we talk about on the site, records that used to be practically impossible to get to sound right can suddenly — if years of hard work and experimentation can be considered “sudden” — start to come alive and show us the MAGIC that’s been locked away for all this time inside their grooves.
Who can say what allowed David Live to take its rightful place among the best recorded live concert albums in the world? It’s there now and we are glad it is.
AGAIG Side One! The Blanket Has Been Lifted.
This side is AS GOOD AS IT GETS! I have been listening to this record for more years than I care to think about and let me tell you this copy is KILLER! No other copy had a side one that was more clean and clear, more open up top, or more rich. It’s EVERYTHING YOU WANT on this album. The top end is sweet and extended; gone is the grit and grunge of the past. (Where it went I don’t know or care.)
This was the most transparent side one we heard in our shootout. You hear the sound bouncing off the back wall of the Philadelphia Theatre and hear crowd noises and off-mike band members that you never heard before. With all the rock and roll WHOMP, vocal textures, and you-are-there presence, this side handily took Top Honors.
With this side you are getting 3-D sound — it’s wall-to-wall! The sweetness of Bowie’s voice really sets this one apart. All of the vocals — lead and background — are breathy and present. There is plenty of extension on both ends here as well. It was very close to the best we heard.
This side was really hard to beat. It is breathy and textured with highs that extend beautifully. The bass is well defined and tight; you can follow every note. Whoever cut this bad boy cut it very clean; there’s no grit and the clean cutting results in separation of the instruments that is truly superb. Everyone is arrayed three dimensionally on the stage, not an easy effect to achieve on a live recording. But here it is.
This A Double Plus side four has amazing transparency; the soundstage is wide and clear. The vocals are breathy and warm with a nice silky top. It doesn’t have all of the whomp of the best, but the mids and highs are correct and the energy is really lively.
…along these lines can be found below.
Click on this link to find more records and commentary about the low end whomp factor we discuss above.
Transparency, the other side of the Tubey Magical Richness coin, is key to the better pressings of this album as well as many of our other favorite demo discs.
This is another example of a record that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.
Here are more records that will help you avoid listening for phony detail when evaluating equipment or tweaking your system.
The most important advice on the site can be found under the heading The Four Pillars of Success.
Record shootouts are the fastest and easiest way to hone your listening skills, a subject we discuss often on the site and directly address in this commentary from way back in 2005.
Here are more entries in our ongoing Shootout Advice series.