Live vs. recorded


I'm wondering if others of you have a strong preference between live tracks or studio recorded versions. Obviously the quality of the recording plays a role. But for me, I would rather listen to a mediocre recording of a a live track than a higher quality studio track.
tmhouse0313
There are very few live recordings I would prefer to hear versus the studio versions.
Perhaps you go to a lot of live gigs? It is quite rare that a live album is well recorded, mixed and mastered. When they are, they are a real joy to listen to but I'll still prefer the studio versions when it comes to the listening experience. Having said that, I have around 500 live albums on CD, so I can't dislike them that much!
It depends on the band. Pink Floyd's live gigs, for example, sound pretty much note-for-note as the studio-record counterparts. As the studio versions are better recorded and mastered - it's no contest. The Dead and Allman Brothers obviously are a live (vs studio) act and it's no contest. Live's the only way to go.
Allman bros. live at the Beacon Theatre
the Band "last waltz"
these are not that bad
Aren't most 'live' recordings doctored in the studio after the fact? (well can't do it before eh?).
I have a 'skiffle sessions' cd with Van the Man and Lonnie Donegan that was recorded live, it sounds superb, I do not know if it the real thing warts and all or not.
I much prefer live recordings. The Blu-ray of Tom petty at Soundstage is awesome quality - both video and sound is 10 out of 10.
From my perspective, there are no hard and fast rules governing a live recording. For example, my favourite live album is Renaissance's "Carnegie Hall", which I prefer to all their studio albums. That's not to say I don't like the latter - on the contrary, I love all of them from 1972-77. It is beautifully recorded and sounds fantastic. Conversely, my favourite Grand Funk album is the "Live Album" and that is a sonic train-crash, albeit an exiting one!
I suppose it helps if your brain (and ears) are attuned to the dynamics and soundstage of the concert hall. A recording made on the stage will sound vastly different to that of one made in a studio. There will be differences in tonal quality and of soundstage and quite likely some factors that would otherwise be deemed intrusive - building characteristics and audience participation notwithstanding. A lot of those factors will be seen as a positive boon to those that love the concept of the live recording and studio made performances may be seem stilted and contrived. Of course one needs a system that will reproduce, to the listeners satisfaction, and as far as is possible, the sonic signature of the concert hall.
Personally I like a balance, both of studio and live but also of the different sonic characteristics that are presented. I love both the excitement and immediacy of a live recording just as much as a beautifully crafted studio recording.
I'm with Shadorne - maybe because our musical taste overlaps a fair bit. My favorite rock/pop/funk musicians are types that meticulously craft their songs, but manage to add that rock n' roll edge that suggests that it might all fall apart at any moment (think Richard Thompson to Lindsey Buckingham to Kid Creole). That tension is a real trick to pull off and the studio records only hint at the potential of a live performance where (for one thing) solos are extended and song structures break down.

These bands tend to emphasize the potential for chaos when playing live (relative to their studio recordings). For me, the trade-off in SQ is a small price to pay. But I do agree, the SQ is almost always a bummer.

Marty
I like them both for what they were intended to be. Think Sarah Mclachlan Surfaceing & Mirrorball. You can feel the artist thriving on the crowd response during the Live performance while the studio sessions are so technically wonderful. Eric Clapton Unplugged! Neil Young Live at Massey Hall! Don't get me started on all the live jazz I own. One of Harry Pearson's (TAS editor) best sounding, most recommended recordings is the live album "Jazz at the Pawn Shop". Both types of performance are entertaining.
Studio over live all ways.

I buy live music for the "many" variations the artist comes up with during a performance, not for it's sound quality. Some performances are better than others.

You can tell an artists commitment to their music by how well/often the play live. One of the best live rock performers is JAY FARRAR. His studio and live recording are exemplary.
live venue over studio and live-recording
To paraphrase the Duke - There's only 2 types of 'live' and studio recordings, good ones and all the rest! I could easily come up with a list of great 'live' recordings and just as easily make a list of the 'dogs' I've heard!
The Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers Live Anthology box set (4 CD's) proves that live can sound just as good as a studio production.

I suspect that many pop/rock bands simply cannot deliver the carefully crafted, dubbed and over-dubbed polished performances that you get on their overproduced studio productions.

I also suspect there is some essence that is lost when stuff is overdubbed or people play in separate sound booths. Perhaps it is only me - but I hear something better when people are actually playing live.

For example, the overproduced Steely Dan stuff just leaves me stone cold - don't get me wrong - it is still great stuff and sounds ever so slick - but it feels lifeless to me.

I am not sure why but something different occurs when people play live together - either it is in the acoustics or the way musicians play off each other - little mistakes perhaps - is this is why Sheffield Direct to Disc were so good?

Probably for the same reason, I hate drum machines.

Anyway, I can't put my finger on it but I definitely hear something and I wish that more live music was better recorded.
The thing I can't stand with live recordings is the clapping between tracks. It always seeems to be much louder than the track itself. Get rid of it!!! Mind you, I also don't like the sound of tea being poured. Okay, I'm a weirdo!
Weirdo! How can you not like the sound of tea?
Shadorne, Steely Dan is a perfect example of a band trying as hard as possible to play and record straight " on the beat". Jazz ( real jazz anyway) and blues players play a little off or behind the beat which creates a swing or a sense of soul in the music. Some of the current New Orleans folks play "in the cracks" between straight and swing. Playing live lets musicians stray a little bit without some idiot in the control room " correcting" the variances. Also, it may be less likely they will pitch correct the vocals which lets you hear all the nooks and crannies of a real human voice in a real world setting. JMHO - Jim
Many studio recordings are over polished. All the humanity has been scrubbed off them.

Some of them never had any life, they were recorded in different studios at different times by studio musicians who have never met just doing a job.

Some are computer generated.

I have to go on a case by case basis for both live and studio recordings.
I have to ask Tomcy6, what sort of music do you listen to because that's not my experience. Is it with Jazz perhaps?
Re: Steely Dan

Get the Two Against Nature DVD and listen to the live at Sony Studios material. I believe it predates the Storytellers show by a few days - I think it's superb.
Here is what I mean.

This poor quality audio youtube clip is just awesome (to my mind)

Dave Garfield

I enjoy this kind of jammin' much more than the same slick song on the studio album. So call me crazy but I really like the "live" sound.
Jim,

I think you may have hit the nail on the head - live musicians have the freedom to vary things and the little twists and nuances are perhaps what I enjoy so much (or not if the band does not groove well).

Perhaps this explains the appeal of live music to others too?
Consider this...whether a live recording or a studio recording, the renditions of the songs will likely differ, but the performances are forever locked.

If what one enjoys about live performances are the variations, then doesn't this novelty go away after the first listen to a recorded live performance, since the performance always remains the same...exactly as the performance remains the same on a studio recording?

To me, listening to and enjoying live music does not correlate to listening to a live recording over and over again.

This is why all things considered, I'd rather have the studio recording free of the artifacts of the live recording.

But, that's just me.
Hi Niacin, I'm not trying to start an argument. If you read my post I said "Many studio recordings", which means there are also many that haven't been overpolished.

Jazz, at least the jazz i listen to, is more likely to have been recorded live in the studio and not be overpolished.

An example of what I am referring to that is familiar to us all is Tom Petty. His studio albums are fine but I'd rather listen to his live set, but that's just me.
I prefer live recordings. Even the clapping, screaming (although I don't like it) can be what the performer responds to, making it a more emotional, dynamic presentation in my room. If the performance is good, and there's a connection with the audience, that's when I get the goosebumps.
"But for me, I would rather listen to a mediocre recording of a a live track than a higher quality studio track." I agree.
Gato Barbieri, Van Morrison, Otis Redding, Aretha, Ray, Rhassan...
Tom - my question was relating to your comments regarding musicians that come together for the recording only, not regarding recordings that have too much polish. And as an aside, I never did find Steely Dan too polished, as others have mentioned, but they did get blander as they got "more professional". Both "Aja" and "Gaucho were sterile in many ways.
Interesting comments from Tvad about the live recording losing its spontaneity once you have listened to it a few times. Very true but that's rather the allure for the better live albums, as long as the performance is different to that of the studio version. It's nice to hear a band's take on music post recording of the original. Some artists just don't alter the music enough on stage, perhaps they are not comfortable with improvisation. It reminds me of John Cipollina - he would rehearse his guitar solos note for note and never vary them. It's why Quicksilver bootlegs offer little interest to me.
Earlier, I posted that I prefer live recordings, but this thread got me thinking about a specific situation.

For the last couple of years I've had the same two CDs in the #3 and #4 slots of my car's CD changer:

#3 holds Lindsey Buckingham's "Out of The Cradle"
#4 holds Buckingham "Live at The Coach House", a bootleg recording of the tour he did in support of "Cradle".
The song lists aren't identical, but there's a lot of overlap.

First off, Cradle is just about my all-time favorite record and, typical of Buckingham (a Brian Wilson disciple), it's a monster studio production - immaculate in every detail - although I'm sure it's overproduced for some tastes.

The live record features mediocre sound quality. Some of the brilliant song craft on "Cradle" is jettisoned in favor of pure R'n'R energy. I've heard these variations a million times over the last 2 years and the energy is still compelling.

If I had to pick one, I'd have a hard time, but I'd pick "Cradle" - so I guess there really is no easy answer. At their best, both types of record have their charms.

Marty
Marty...

"For the last couple of years I've had the same two CDs in the #3 and #4 slots of my car's CD changer:......"

For two years? Do you only own four CDs or something? :)
Some on this thread have said that many jazz recordings are done in group sessions and live audience performance. This is true and I believe it is because much of jazz is by nature improvised. Superb improvisers like Parker, Gillespe, and Monk have to lead groups of musicians that are equally adept at making the music work 'in real time'. It would be almost impossible to improvise in the vacuum of an overdub (Charles Mingus did overdub his bass line on "Bud Powell Live at Massy Hall" with disastrous results).

As for recorded live performances losing their novelty I do disagree. You can't recreate performances and groups of performers from recordings like Newport Jazz Fest 19xx and others. On those cuts it might have been the only time or one of a few times those cats ever played together. They are historically novel. Even if I have memorized the performance it is still thrilling in the context of the whole and I listen as often as the perfomance occurs to me.

As far as listening in a live venue. I guess if someone really liked Beethoven's 9th and experienced it dozens of times by dozens of symphony orchestras it would make each experience novel but I would rather spread my available music dollars around to include other performances. I do not say this with a strident voice JMHO.
Niacin,

Last count was app. 5,500 CDs and +/- 1,200 LPs.
The other four slots in the car get rotated every week or so, but I tend to be a tad obsessive about Buckingham.

Marty
Marty - you don't say !!!!!
I prefer live recordings. It shows the real talents of the performer(s) mistakes and all.
Take Taylor Swift. Sorry, she is not my cup of tea, but when she performed with Def Leppard with all of her off key singing and screaming it actually became one of my favorites.
Through the years I have recorded many live TV/Cable/Sat broadcasts onto DVD's and then to CD's and I quite enjoy them.
I agree though that many live recordings have sound quality problems and many were not recorded well.
But, there are some that really stand out.
It seems to me that studio recordings often suffer from being over-produced. On the other hand, live recordings often suffer from being under-produced. In light of that, my personal preference is for a studio recording that could be mistaken for a live recording or a live recording that could be mistaken for a studio recording.

IMO, live recordings sound best when they emulate studio recordings, i.e., when they pay attention to microphone placement, track cleanliness, and mixing precision. Conversely, studio recordings sound best when they emulate live recordings, i.e., when they pay attention to acoustical setting, performer interaction, and a feeling of improvisation.

The best live recordings give you the feeling that the musical event you are hearing is happening now, and will never happen again. The best studio recordings give you the feeling that you have the perfect seat for the musical event. To have both feelings at the same time is a special experience. Hence, I like studio recordings that sound live or live recordings that sound “studio.”

Bryon
I have really enjoyed reading this thread. For me, I find an emotional connection to live music that I don't always feel from studio recorded tracks, even very well recorded ones.

Oddly, many of the artists who are well known for the quality of their studio works are the ones I enjoy listening to live the most. Diana Krall, Ella, the Eagles, Springsteen, Niel Young, Lindsy Buckingham, Muddy Waters among others. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy the studio versions these artist produce and listen to them often but, if given a choice I would listen to Niel Young sing "Helpless" on "The Last Waltz" vs "Deja Vu."
I have really enjoyed reading this thread. For me, I find an emotional connection to live music that I don't always feel from studio recorded tracks, even very well recorded ones.

Oddly, many of the artists who are well known for the quality of their studio works are the ones I enjoy listening to live the most. Diana Krall, Ella, the Eagles, Springsteen, Niel Young, among others. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy the studio versions these artist produce and listen to them often but, bottom line, I get a stronger emotional reaction when listening to Niel Young sing "Helpless" on "The Last Waltz" vs the sound I hear on "Deja Vu."
I almost always prefer studio recordings. To me, they're a more accurate representation of the artists intent; and to my tastes, they sound better. On the occasions that I do like live recordings, it's usually because the recording was able to capture a special vibrancy in the performance that I attribute to a bonding with the audience.
Shadorne said "I suspect that many pop/rock bands simply cannot deliver the carefully crafted, dubbed and over-dubbed polished performances that you get on their overproduced studio productions. I also suspect there is some essence that is lost when stuff is overdubbed or people play in separate sound booths. Perhaps it is only me - but I hear something better when people are actually playing live....I am not sure why but something different occurs when people play live together - either it is in the acoustics or the way musicians play off each other - little mistakes perhaps - is this is why Sheffield Direct to Disc were so good?"

I say that you are absolutely correct sir, and much more so than you realize!
A lot of jazz is recorded that way, too.
Live.

I work in live music. I do 100 to 200 shows a year. Just love the soundstage of good soundboard recordings--capture the air of the venue and the energy of band when everything is right.

Most official live albums are crap. Still, some bands are releasing non-compressed discs that have a special energy. I applaud Pearl Jam for releasing every 2000 tour date under simple mix conditions (200 plus shows)and Tom Petty's recent foray into Blu Ray.

I know of many live bootlegs that are superior to the band's best studio efforts. I have incredible discs by Midnight Oil, NIN, REM, the Replacements, the Clash, Bruce Springsteen and U2 that just crush the studio versions. These discs are always on heavy rotation because they remain fresh in my mind.