At Long Lost Live?

In search of the historic double live album . . . who started it, and who finally finished it off?

Some things don't change. Neil Diamond always records live albums at Los Angeles' Greek Theater and poses for each cover as if he's determined to pass a cheese sandwich through his nose hairs. And on each progressive live version of "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show," a gravel-voiced Neil sounds more like a cross between Dana Carvey's "Grumpy Old Man" character and Linda Blair in The Exorcist, just after the pea soup started to flow.

Love at the Greek includes one of the strangest duets in history with Neil warbling "Song Sung Blue" with none other than Henry "The Fonz" Winkler. Still, the Diamond one's most dubious live moment comes just before "Morning Side" on Hot August Night with the most lugubrious introduction ever mumbled into a Shure microphone: "This is a fantasy, pure fantasy. It's a dream about an old man who dies alone and leaves a gift behind and it is a fantasy." Hello again? Hello?

First One-Hit Wonder Double Live Album:
Bloodrock
Bloodrock Live (1972)

Even the Iron Butterfly had enough decorum to relegate their one-hit set to a single slab of vinyl. Uni-song act Bloodrock spread its special brand of filler over four sides. But hey, that one singular sensation of a song is "D.O.A.," the slow and painful nine-minute epic about a body just oozing life. Yet our chatty plane-crash dummy is eloquently able to describe every fiber of clothing, every red and white blood cell grinding to a halt. "I try to move my arm but there's no feeling/And when I look I see there's nothing there," singer/drummer Jim Rutledge emotes. Unlike Def Leppard's Rick Allen, one-armed Jim decides right there and then "there's no hope for me." Guess the white sheet thrown over his face helped steer him toward reaper madness.

The best part about this album is hearing the rousing chorus ("I remember we were flying along and hit something in the air") followed by sirens which set off a Pavlovian chain of whistling and cheers. Unfortunately, Bloodrock lost its drawing power once people realized that the average air-show disaster could satisfy their bloodthirsty glee--only with real fatalities!

First Double Live Album Where No One Gets Laid
After the Show:
The Osmonds
Live (1972)
Around the World--Live in Concert (1975)

Okay, so they were minors for the first one, but that didn't stop the Runaways. Even on their second live offering, when they come of age and throw Jimmy and Marie into the mix, no one's getting lucky! Quite a far cry from KISS Alive!, that other big double live album from 1975! You betcha there was some fiery contention in Provo, Utah, as to who the "REAL HOTTEST BAND IN THE LAND" was, because it's hard to imagine Ace Frehley and his exploding guitar approaching the virtuosity of "Merrill's Banjo Medley." When the middle Osmond cranks out "If You Knew Suzie" and "Just One of These Songs," you can hear them little pubes in the audience ovulating Country Time Lemonade right there and then!

Having to wait an entire minute for their idols to come onstage, the announcer (who sounds suspiciously like Joe Pesci) taunts the crowd and makes them count down from 60 ("Can you wait that long? Can you wait that long?"). What cruelty! Such child abuse! Mercifully, the Osmonds bum rush the show toot sweet to reclaim their glam-metal crown with "Crazy Horses," the song Joe Perry most assuredly ripped off for his equine-whinnying "Back in the Saddle" and which Poison duly ripped off for their "Back to the Rocking Horse."

But the honest Osmonds are quick to acknowledge their own debts to rock's screamworthy past. There's a "Donny & Marie Medley," filled with covers of pre-Beatle teen-idol pap, a "Jimmy Medley" where the littlest Osmond pays homage to Joe Cocker and the Jacksons, as well as a "'50s Medley," a "Stevie Wonder Medley"--is there no music made by man or beast that these crafty Mormons cannot truncate into a four-minute medley? No sir, you gotta bellow aloud!

Guess whose sleeve credits read "Keyboards, Synthesizer, Hysteria and other electronic paraphernalia too numerous to mention"? None other than the resident Wizard of Osmond himself--Donald. Proving why he was the heir o' parent to Pat Boone, Donny even finds the words in Loggins & Messina songs too offensive. "My mama don't dance and my daddy don't rock and roll," he croons, because it's not nice to disparage other people's parents. And, uhh, yeah, no mention about "hoppin' into the back seat where you know it's nice and dark," either. Never has one rock group thought less about fornication! Never has one rock group's rider contained so many "thou shalt nots!"

The Longest Set Ever by an Opening Act:
REO Speedwagon
You Get What You Play For (1977)

This record proves that even the most pedestrian double live album can distinguish itself. Today's music biz bean counters would be on REO's ass faster than stench on a shit factory, but these Midwestern clods were allowed to record seven studio albums without scoring a single Top 40 hit.

After watching Peter Frampton (who released four hitless studio efforts of his own) strike gold with a double live album and also noticing how guitarist Gary Richrath would sometimes be mistaken for Frampton in airports, an REO Speedwagon double live set full of no hits was commissioned by Epic. Of course, there's not enough coke in the record industry to allow that to happen now.

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