10 Great Electric Blues Live Albums

10 Great Electric Blues Live Albums
Russell Hall
Gibson Lifestyle

It’s not surprising that many of the greatest-ever blues albums were recorded in front of a live audience. As is the case with folk music, the blues springs from communal traditions, with the artist often feeding off vibes given off by those gathered around him. Many great blues-rock albums – most notably the Allman Brothers Band’s At Fillmore East – were likewise recorded in concert settings. For the purposes of the following list, however, we’ve stuck mostly to the electric blues in its purest form.

Muddy Waters: At Newport (1960)

For many music fans, this album served as a wondrous initiation to blues music recorded in a live setting. Backed by a sensational band that included Otis Spann, James Cotton, and Pat Hare, Waters imbues classics like “Hoochie Coochie Man” and “Tiger in Your Tank” with an energy that outstripped, by far, their studio counterparts.

B.B. King: Live at the Regal (1965)

It’s no wonder this album is widely regarded as one of the best blues albums ever made. Recorded at the height of King’s career, the performance finds the legendary guitarist offering up stinging vibratos, incredible sustain, and pitch-perfect bends on his beloved Lucille in ways that tear at the soul.

John Lee Hooker: Live at the Café Au Go-Go (1966)

John Lee Hooker borrowed Otis Spann and other members of Muddy Waters’ band for this riveting, spooky performance. Hooker’s hypnotic one-chord guitar grooves dominate throughout, giving the set a primitive aura that exudes palpable mystery. A reissue version of the disc adds four tracks from a performance staged by Hooker at Soledad Prison in 1972.

Albert Collins: Frozen Alive! (1981)

Over the course of a decade – from 1977 to 1986 – Albert Collins recorded six sensational albums for Alligator Records. This 1981 live disc is the best of the bunch. Renowned for his “icy” guitar style – which was centered on cool, dark tones and unusual phrasing – Collins delivers some of the most inspired solos of his career.

Johnny Winter: Live - Johnny Winter And (1971)

This staggering disc – culled from live performances at Fillmore East and at Pirate’s World in Florida – captures Johnny Winter in his early prime. Highlights include a searing interpretation of the Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and a rip-it-up rendition of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.” Winter’s trusty Firebird was never put to better use.

Buddy Guy: Live – The Real Deal (1996)

This disc illustrates beautifully why Eric Clapton cites Buddy Guy as his favorite blues guitarist. Reinvigorating the vintage Chess Records sound, Guy spurns rock-based solos in favor of blues guitar reminiscent of that featured on albums by his mentor, Muddy Waters. As a bonus, legendary Chuck Berry piano man Johnnie Johnson provides fine keyboard support.

Son Seals: Spontaneous Combustion (1996)

Son Seals may have started out as a drummer, but this disc shows he was paying close attention during his touring stints with Albert King and other great six-stringers. Sporting a hard, nasty guitar tone, Seals delivers explosive solos framed by a revved-up rhythm section. Blues rarely gets more incendiary than this.

Howlin’ Wolf: Live and Cookin’ at Alice’s Revisited (1972)

Despite the fact that he was in failing health, the Wolf sound invigorated and inspired on this 1972 disc. Guitarist Hubert Sumlin is also in superb form, his gritty solos and snappy grooves dovetailing perfectly with Sunnyland Slim’s dazzling keyboard work.

Freddie King: Live at the Electric Ballroom (1974)

Amazingly, this incendiary performance sat in the vaults for two decades before seeing the light of day. Tackling such classics as “Dust My Broom” “Key to the Highway,” and “Sweet Home Chicago,” King shows why such gifted peers as Mick Taylor and Eric Clapton have cited his influence. Reissued in 2006, the updated version includes King’s only known acoustic recordings as a bonus.

Lonnie Mack: Attack of the Killer V (1990)

Lonnie Mack’s roadhouse blues style has had a deep impact on a wide range of contemporary players. Recorded at a small club in Chicago, this disc finds Mack unleashing spectacular sounds from his signature Flying V. Even his most intricate and dazzling solos sound effortless.

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