In the vibrant 1960s LA music scene, LOVE's debut self-titled album LOVE was a pivotal moment, featuring the iconic lineup of Bryan MacLean, Arthur Lee, Alban “Snoopy” Pfisterer, Johnny Echols, and Ken Forssi. This album, released in 1966 on Elektra Records, not only marked their beginning but also left an enduring impact on the music landscape of the era.
Inspired by the likes of the Byrds and the burgeoning folk-rock sound echoing from the hills of LA, LOVE's music served as a wellspring of inspiration for many other local groups. Among them was none other than Jim Morrison of the Doors, who regarded LOVE as a significant musical influence. Songs like 'Softly To Me' and 'No Matter What You Do' on Side One of the album unmistakably resonate with the Doors' vibe, creating a fusion of sounds where Doors meet the Byrds.
LOVE's connection with the Byrds goes deeper, as Bryan MacLean, vocalist and guitarist of LOVE, had previously worked as a roadie for the Byrds. This collaborative atmosphere and shared musical influence are what made the 1960s LA music scene so iconic. Recorded in January of 1966 at Sunset Sound Recorders in Hollywood, California, LOVE's debut album encapsulates the spirit of that era.
While some may argue that LOVE's later albums are superior, (check out Forever Changes) their debut album is a valuable piece of Laurel Canyon history, taking you on a flashback journey to the heart of the LA music scene. Notably, the album's track "No Matter What You Do" found its way onto the 'Echo in the Canyon' soundtrack, released in 2018, solidifying LOVE's enduring legacy in the world of music. Discover the roots of LA rock and the sounds that shaped an era with LOVE's debut album.
Live albums have a magical ability to capture the raw energy, electric atmosphere, and unfiltered passion of a live performance. They allow fans to relive the thrill of a concert experience and provide audio documentation of a past moment. Over the years, several live albums have transcended the boundaries of music, achieving monumental success and etching their names in music history. In this article, we dive into the world of live music and unveil ten must-have live albums for your vinyl record collection.
1. Eagles Live - Eagles Kicking off the list is the iconic American rock band Eagles with their 7x platinum album Eagles Live. Released in 1980, this album captures many of the band's stellar performances from their "Hotel California" tour. With classics like "Hotel California" and "Take It Easy," this album remains a timeless gem in the rock and roll universe.
2. Live Bullet - Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band Bob Seger's raspy vocals and heartland rock sound come alive in Live Bullet. Released in 1976, this multi-platinum album captures Seger's electrifying performance at Cobo Hall in Detroit. With tracks like "Turn the Page" and "Old Time Rock & Roll," Seger's live prowess is on full display.
3. The Rolling Stones' Rock and Roll Circus - The Rolling Stones The Rolling Stones' Rock and Roll Circus is a one-of-a-kind live album that encapsulates the essence of the 1960s rock scene. Recorded in 1968 as part of a film project of the same name, the album was released in 1996, and features not only the Stones, but also an array of legendary artists like The Who and John Lennon. It's a true time capsule of rock history.
4. Frampton Comes Alive! - Peter Frampton Peter Frampton's Frampton Comes Alive! is not just an album; it's a cultural phenomenon. Released in 1976, this live double album skyrocketed Frampton to superstardom. Featuring the unforgettable talk box-infused rendition of "Do You Feel Like We Do," this record is a must-have for any rock enthusiast -recorded in part at the Marin Civic Center in San Rafael, California.
5. Live/1975-85 - Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band When it comes to live performances, few artists can match the energy and charisma of Bruce Springsteen. Live/1975-85 is a comprehensive collection of Springsteen's live recordings from 1975 to 1985. From anthems like "Born to Run" to a heartfelt "Thunder Road," this album is a historical journey through The Boss's live evolution.
6. Live at Wembley '86 - Queen Queen's larger-than-life stage presence is perfectly captured in the double-album Live at Wembley '86. Recorded during the band's Magic Tour, the album (currently awaiting vinyl release) showcases Freddie Mercury's unparalleled showmanship and the band's ability to command a massive audience. From "Bohemian Rhapsody" to "We Will Rock You," Queen's live legacy lives on.
7. MTV Unplugged in New York - Nirvana Nirvana's MTV Unplugged in New York is a hauntingly beautiful testament to Kurt Cobain's songwriting genius. Recorded just months before Cobain's tragic passing in 1994, this album strips away the grunge sound to reveal the raw emotion and vulnerability behind Nirvana's music. The unplugged album is often included in Top 100 Best Albums of All-Time lists.
8. Live in Cook County Jail - B.B. King B.B. King's soulful blues guitar and heartfelt vocals shine in Live in Cook County Jail. Recorded in front of an enthusiastic audience of inmates in 1970, the album captures the essence of King's emotional connection with his music and the power of the blues and ranks in Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Albums of All-Time.
9. Live at the Fillmore East - The Allman Brothers Band The Allman Brothers Band's improvisational prowess comes to life at a classic venue in Live at the Fillmore East. Recorded in 1971, this album showcases the band's unique blend of Southern rock, blues, and jazz influences. With extended jams and virtuosic guitar solos, this record is a testament to musical craftsmanship.
10. At Folsom Prison - Johnny Cash Closing our list is a live album that goes beyond the music, transcending into a cultural milestone. Johnny Cash's At Folsom Prison is a powerful and poignant recording of Cash's legendary performance at the Folsom State Prison, California in 1968. Cash's connection with the inmates and his emotionally charged delivery make this album a must have timeless classic.
Keeping with the #Oppenheimer vibe, I recently pulled a handful of albums from our record collection with #albumArt featuring atomic #explosions. Bellow are three #atomic classics representing the best of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s.
#3 - Jefferson Airplane, Crown of Creation (1968) -The cloud on the cover is not the only mushroom-influenced element of this psychedelic album on Victor RCA by San Francisco’s preeminent acid rock band, Jefferson Airplane. The cover image has often been misattributed to the Hiroshima bombing (including on the album credits). The front image photo was taken at a series of atomic tests held in the Nevada desert during the summer and fall of 1957, known as “Operation Plumbbob.” The specific image used for the album was from the “Fizeau” detention in September and was provided by the United States Air Force. A psychedelic photo of the Jefferson Airplane is fittingly superimposed onto the mushroom cloud high off the ground. The album was released in August of 1968 at the height of the Vietnam War and two months after the assignation of presidential hopeful Robert F. Kennedy, Sr. #2 - KISS, The Originals (1976) - Nothing says rock and roll like a nuclear blast. No other band is known for their explosions and pyrotechnics like the rock group KISS. The cover of their 1976 three-vinyl album The Originals features the faces of the four group members transposed within an image of a nuclear explosion. The album combined KISS’s first three studio albums and was prophetically promoted as “the albums that touched off a Rock & Roll explosion.” Casablanca Records had just released KISS’s now famed Destroyer album four months prior, and when The Originals hit record store bins, the band’s status as rock and roll stars exploded.
#1 - Count Basie, Basie (1958) - Released in March of 1958 on Roulette Records by the King of Swing, this album is as great as the brilliance of its’ cover. Influenced by the period, the album cover photo was also taken at the atomic test “Operation Plumbbob” held in the Nevada desert during the summer of 1957. A true atomic age recording! This album was Basie’s third studio release as a solo artist and is known by three different titles; Basie, The Atomic Mr. Basie, and the stereo release version E=MC2. The album itself ranks in the top 25 of the 1950s greatest overall and is a must-have for any atomic record collection.
The Record Plant studio in Sausalito, California, was one of America's top-of-the-line music recording facilities. Opened in 1972, Record Plant was known as the "resort studio," just across the Golden Gate Bridge in Northern California and away from the big city. One of three studios, the first Record Plant was opened in New York City in 1968 by Chris Stone and Gary Kellgren. The second studio in Los Angeles opened in 1969, followed by the third studio in Sausalito. San Francisco Bay Area-based radio station KSAN FM hosted live studio broadcasts from the Sausalito studio. With its nautical-inspired interior wood artistry, the building known as the "Plant" had a groovy aesthetic that drew in some of the most iconic musical artists of all time, including Fleetwood Mac, Bob Marley, the Grateful Dead, Sly and the Family Stone, Prince, Tom Petty, Metallica, Santana, Aretha Franklin, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Dave Matthews Band, and many more. Katiana Giacona, a Marin County native, was resident DJ at the former Sausalito Studio location when it was a spa and yoga event center called Harmonia. For Record Plant, Sausalito Studio she has assembled a collection of discography and photographs from the studio as well as interviews from former receptionists, managers, audio engineers, producers, and staff. Ken Caillat was the producer of Fleetwood Mac's Rumours album, one of the greatest rock and roll albums of all time.
AVAILABLE AT AMAZON .COM AND SELECT BAY AREA RECORD STORES. #MusicHistory
Record Plant, Sausalito - Historic Nor-Cal Music Studio SAUSALITO, CA
June 26 2023 ! The Record Plant Sausalito Studio Book will be out!
Sausalito Historical Society member Katiana Giacona has put in a lot of work into this book and it includes many old old photos from the opening party in 1973. The book contains interviews with Arne Frager, producer, engineer, and former owner of The Plant Studios, and Ken Caillat, producer of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, one of the greatest rock and roll albums of all time recorded at this studio. It is a great collection of information, photographs, documents, and interviews from former receptionists, managers, engineers, producers, and staff.
Legendary recording studio Record Plant, Sausalito located in Marin County, California.
The former studio site at 2200 Bridgeway holds credits on dozens of gold & platinum recordings including five of the top 50 best-selling albums of all-time. The short doc features commentary from 3x Grammy Award-winner, Record Plant recording artist and Marin County resident, Narada Michael Walden, as well as Darin Chace, longtime manager of Watts Music in Novato, (Marin County’s oldest record store established 1979). Walden’s work as drummer on the Rick James 1981 album Street Songs and producing Grammy-winning records for Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston at the Record Plant are just part of this legendary locations rich history. “We all knew that working at the (Record) Plant, you were working at a place of history,” says Walden. “Because of the artists that had worked there; Stevie Wonder, Sly Stone, Prince’s first album… Fleetwood Mac.”
In 1976, Fleetwood Mac recorded much of their Grammy-winning classic, Rumour’s album at 2200 Bridgeway. Rumour’s became the 10th best-selling album of all-time. “We could sell this (Rumour’s) album everyday if we had enough copies,” states Darin Chace of Watts Music. “We’ve sold a lot of records made at the Record Plant in our forty years... It’s a legendary place.” A diverse group of artists from Sly Stone and Bob Marley to Van Morrison and Metallica recorded successful projects at the Record Plant, Sausalito until this historically significant location officially closed its doors in 2009. The nearly fifty-year-old building has changed relatively little since it’s initial construction. As of 2021, a group, which includes Fleetwood Mac, Rumours co-producer & engineer Ken Calliet, have purchased the former studio and plan to preserve the site with a future eye on recording, history and education. It is now known as the #SausalitoRecordFactory and is celebrating 50 years at 2200 Bridgeway, in Sausalito, California. 1972-2022
Somewhat lost in the crowded list of albums recorded in Marin County, California over the decades, is the 1963 Fantasy Records release of Vince Guaraldi — In Person, a live album recorded at the Trident lounge located at 558 Bridgeway in Sausalito. The venue (formally known as the Yacht Dock) was purchased by Bay Area folk group Kingston Trio in 1960 and hosted live jazz music nearly every night of the week for fifteen years. The Trident is the location of numerous live jazz recordings during the 1960s, including albums by Bill Evans, Jon Hendricks, Denny Zeitlin, The Don Scaletta Piano Trio, and Vince Guaraldi in December of 1962.
"What Vince has got in his playing is feeling. This is a quality that money can't buy, practice cannot make perfect and technique tends to defeat rather than enhance." - Ralph J. Gleason, San Francisco Chronicle Jazz Critic, 1963
Following a two-week run (ending in November 1962) billing with the Ramsey Lewis Trio at the famed Blackhawk jazz club in San Francisco, Vince Guaraldi and his group began a yearend run of performances across the Golden Gate Bridge at The Trident club in Sausalito. Six months earlier, Guaraldi's breakthrough album Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus and its' somewhat surprising hit, "Cast Your Fate to the Wind," had been released on San Francisco-based Fantasy Records. By December 1st, "Cast Your Fate…" had entered Billboard magazine charts at #127 and was climbing. Looking to take full advantage of Guaraldi's budding commercial popularity, Fantasy Records set up recording equipment at the waterfront club on December 4th, 1962, to capture Guaraldi in his element.
Vince Guaraldi considered the Trident in Sausalito home turf, having played there since it was known as the Yacht Dock Jazz Club. After the Kingston Trio purchased the venue, more high-profile patrons and artists began calling the Trident home. Guaraldi would ultimately perform at the club for over a dozen years. Soon after the location was rebranded from the Yacht Dock to Trident in 1961, Guaraldi said, "This is one place a jazz musician won't have to work pianissimo to keep from breaking the customers' glasses. The only place we couldn't get complete acoustical control is on the speakers outside, on the yacht deck. On foggy nights we'll have to compete with the Alcatraz fog horn. I feel bad about it. The seagulls really dig us."
On Tuesday, December 4th, 1962, the material for what would become Vince Guaraldi - In Person was taped live at the Trident. Guaraldi’s quintet featured himself on the piano, Colin Bailey on drums, Fred Marshall playing bass, Eddie Duran on guitar, and Guaraldi's former Cal Tjader bandmate, Bayardo "Benny" Velarde, on scratcher. The group recorded several songs that night and ultimately settled on nine for the album, with only one Guaraldi original included; Side Two, track 3: "Freeway." The album captures a unique time and place while hinting at things to come (think of the yet-to-have-been-written "Skating" from Charlie Brown Christmas when listening to "Jitterbug Waltz"). On some tracks, such as Side 1, Track 3: "Miserlou," you can hear the Trident patrons talking and milling about the club that evening. Longtime San Francisco Music Journalist Ralph Gleason commented in the album's liner notes: "Vince looks forward to… trying to be a good musician and making the best album he can, every time. That's what you hear in Vince Guaraldi"in person." He's in there, trying every minute."
The minutes started to move much faster for Guaraldi after that December 1962 evening at the Trident. In Person was released on June 10th, 1963, a month after Guaraldi won his first Grammy Award for "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" -which had held its' own on the Billboard charts all spring long. "Zelao" and "Jitterbug Waltz" were released as singles during the summer, and within 24 months, millions of children would be introduced to jazz music for the first time, thanks to his association with the Charlie Brown and Peanuts Gang franchise.
Guaraldi's future creative output is stylistically revealed in the pianists' interpretations of the compositions captured on In Person. And while live albums recorded at the Trident, Sausalito have not captured as much acclaim or notoriety as albums recorded at the club's San Francisco counterparts El Matador, hungry i, or Blackhawk, In Person is the only one to capture a slice of West Coast Jazz History before it was Joe Cool.
“Vince Guaraldi — In Person” 1963, Fantasy Records Recorded Live at The Trident, Sausalito, California December 4th, 1962 Vince Guaraldi - piano Fred Marshall - bass Benny Velarde - scratcher Eddie Duran - guitar Colin Bailey - drums Cover Photo - Chas Weckler (credited Jim Weckler)
Sources: “Anatomy of a Hit; 1; The Serendipity Groove.” 1964. NET. Library of Congress, American Archive of Public Broadcasting Gleason, Ralph. Vince Guaraldi In Person, Liner Notes, Fantasy Records LP 8352, 1963 Bang, Derrick. Vince Guaraldi at the Piano, McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. North Carolina, London. 2012
Sly and The Family Stone Last Album on Epic Records
Thelen Creative reached out to three Grammy-nominated recording artists who worked on the last Sly & The Family Stone album with Epic Records, Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I'm Back, (1976) to get their thoughts on making a record with the funk legend during one of the most tumultuous periods of his life.
“Oscar-winning filmmaker Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson directs his sophomore feature documentary follow-up to ‘Summer of Soul,’ examining the life and legacy of Sly and the Family Stone, the groundbreaking band led by the charismatic and enigmatic Sly Stone. This film tells the story behind the rise, reign and fadeout of one of pop music’s most influential artists and, in doing so, tells a very human story about the cost of genius.”
with Anecdotes from the last surviving member of the Cal Tjader Quartet, drummer, Al Torre.
The historic Blackhawk jazz club (1949-1963) was formerly located at 200 Hyde Street on the northeast corner of Turk Street in the heart of San Francisco's tenderloin district. The smoky neighborhood nightclub launched the career of Johny Mathis, helped Dave Brubeck find an audience, and gave numerous national artists such as Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk a musically intimate space to experiment and record quality live albums. Arguably though, Bay Area vibraphonist Cal Tjader (pronounced Jay-der) was the most synonymous name associated with this historic jazz club.
Cal Tjader first came onto the San Francisco jazz scene after returning from U.S. Navy service and meeting future jazz great Dave Brubeck while each was attending San Francisco State (University) in the early 1950s. Over the next decade, the two future Grammy award-winning artists would navigate successful jazz careers as part of a young trio, then as individuals, with the Blackhawk playing a significant role in their development and popularity. Cal Tjader would ultimately record five live albums at the historic venue and was the featured entertainment during the Blackhawks' final two weeks of operation in July 1963.
True jazz lovers, young and old, went to the Blackhawk for great music. The dank and dusty 200-person capacity Blackhawk was a great-sounding room, although better seen in the dark. The club had a reputation with patrons and authorities. San Francisco city officials tried numerous times to shut the Blackhawk down, conducting police raids on at least two occasions, but to no avail. The club was one of the few in the city to allow minors, albeit behind a wall of chicken wire separating them from the club's adult patrons and a full-service bar.
According to B. Rose on The Cal Tjader Sextet A Night At The Blackhawk liner notes from 1958, "The Tjader audience is a curious amalgam of Jazz, Latin and dance fans. They range from youngsters just barely old enough to use their own I.D. cards in a night club to grey-haired oldsters."
Cal Tjader's first live album, Jazz At The Blackhawk was recorded at the end of a month-long run of shows the combo did at the club, culminating on Sunday, January 20, 1957. The group consisted of Tjader on vibraphone, Vince Guaraldi of later Peanuts fame on piano, future Dave Brubeck bassist Gene Wright, and Al Torre on drums. "We played six nights a week at the Blackhawk," recalls Torre, now 92 and living in Southern California. "We were the "home band" for the club. The night of the recording was just another night but with more wires.”
The Blackhawk Sound
The evening of January 20th, 1957 was "under the personal supervision of John Noga and Guido Cacianti with incidental assistance from S. W. Weiss and J. W. Easton." -as stated in the credits of the May 1957 Fantasy Records mono (red vinyl) LP 3241 album liner notes. Noga and Cacianti were owners/proprietors of the Blackhawk, with Weiss having an interest in Fantasy Records. The recorded performance that night has become one of the Blackhawk's most notable live albums. "What you hear on the record is exactly what we did that night," says Torre. "Tjader never had a set list; he'd just start playing, but was a stickler about the group sound.” And the Blackhawk was known for its' sound. “I saw Miles Davis there too, incredible sound. The room had no echo. There was cloth hanging on the ceiling, which helped absorb the noise. It was just good acoustics. The Black Hawk had good acoustics."
According to longtime San Francisco Chronicle Jazz Critic Ralph J. Gleason, who was present during the recording of Tjader’s album, "Fantasy's recording engineers set up the tape machines in the Blackhawk's No. 1 dressing room, rigged the bandstand for sound, and went to work." Tjader later said his group had "never been recorded better." Following Jazz at the Blackhawk, the venue would house a "Stereo 6 channel mixing panel cross-mixed to an Ampex 350" better capturing the clubs' unique acoustics and natural reverberation and giving later live albums by Miles Davis, Shelly Manne, and Dave Brubeck the Blackhawk sound.
A Night In the Life
As for Blackhawk proprietors John Noga and Guido Cacianti, their roles were to keep “the bells” from ringing during the Sunday night business-as-usual recording session, mainly the phone and the cash register. The two men "supervised operations from behind the bar," Gleason notes on the album. "During the recordings, it was Guido's responsibility to make sure the telephone bell didn't ring, and with the exception of a single goof, he performed this task admirably. John Noga was responsible for making change quietly and not ringing the cash register whose shrill tone, while music to some ears, clashes with the overtones of the vibraphone." However, despite the Blackhawk being known for one the strictest shut-up-and-listen policies among the Bay Area performance clubs, you can still hear the patrons talking, the glasses clanging, and "the bells" ringing, most notably, twice on Side Two, Track 2; "I've Never Been In Love Before," -sonically capturing the Blackhawk as a working 1950s jazz club (note: these “atmospheric” sounds were removed from the later remastered CD version).
The atmosphere of the scene is what Al Torre recalls with vivid senses the most. "During intermission, I would step out and get some fresh air or go up Hyde Street to the Lafayette Hotel Cafe and get a burger. The chef looked like Boris Karloff, but he made the greatest hamburgers in the world. I had to get out and clear my lungs. There were about 75 different types of cigarette smoke and poor ventilation. They would smoke the crowd out (of the Blackhawk) in between sets.” Although it was just another night to some, the evening is noted as a “great success” which Ralph Gleason attributed to the “liveness of the group sound, the good acoustics of the club and excitement of recording before a jazz audience,” with the quickly developing technology of portable tape machines “making it possible to bring the studio to the musicians in their natural habitat."
More than sixty-five years later, the long-darkened Lafayette Coffee Shop neon hangs a few doors up from the parking lot at 200 Hyde Street where only diminishing memories of the smokey club remain. The former location of the “Center of West Coast Jazz” was marked with a plaque in 2012 -the only hint of the sites significance. Fortunately, live audio recordings, such as Jazz at the Blackhawk from 1957, offer more than just a hint of memory to the culturally pivotal moments and historic places lost to music history.
Q: Where Was the Jazz at the Blackhawk Album Cover Photo taken? According to Cal Tjader drummer, Al Torre, “The album cover was taken when we got off a plane at Burbank Airport. We flew in and were met by a representative of Fantasy Records and photos were taken outside a building. So now you know, the cover was taken somewhere at the Burbank Airport.”
Jazz at the Blackhawk - Cal Tjader Quartet Released: May 1957, Fantasy Records, San Francisco, California Recorded: January 20, 1957 @ The Blackhawk, San Francisco, Calif. Cal Tjader, vibraphone; Vince Guaraldi, piano; Gene Wright, bass; Al Torre, drums.
“The fine sense of dynamics and vivid imagination displayed (on Jazz at the Blackhawk) make for excellent listening.”Billboard, 1957
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Sources: Torre, Al. Jazz at the Blackhawk, drummer. Phone Interview by Geo Thelen. Thelen Creative, March 2023 Gleason, Ralph. The Cal Tjader Quartet - Jazz At The Blackhawk, Liner Notes, Fantasy Records LP 3241, 1957 Rose, B. The Cal Tjader Sextet - A Night At The Blackhawk, Liner Notes, Fantasy Records LP 3283, 1958 Bang, Derrick. Vince Guaraldi at the Piano, McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. North Carolina, London. 2012 San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library, Uptown Tenderloin Historic District Thelen Creative Collection
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