I was just reading a review of Flaming Lips’ and Colorado Symphony’s collaboration on The Soft Bulletin over at audiophilereview.com. It got me thinking about the similarities and differences between live and studio recordings and what my preferences are between the two. In general, my preference is for the studio version of songs unless there is concert video to go with the live recording. I don’t think live recordings sound as good and in general I would rather hear the music than people screaming. This preference generally holds even in “ideal cases” - for lack of better term. For example, Steven Wilson in both his solo work and when he was leader of Porcupine Tree has established a track record of producing audiophile-grade recordings. His studio album work sounds phenomenal. One would think that would translate to his live recordings. And maybe his live records are technically good for what they are, it’s just that what they are isn’t as good, IMO. His “Home Invasion” concert recording does sound really good and engaging on blu-ray in surround with video to go with it, but the 2-channel version is lacking. Give me the studio versions of the same songs all the time every time. Another example is Rush’s Time Machine concert - great on blu-ray, but the 2 channel audio-only recordings of those songs do not compete with the studio versions, IMO.
So, what’s your preference and why? No wrong answers. I know some really like live albums and I would love to hear your thoughts.
A couple caveats I’ll throw out too. Most symphonic/orchestral works are live recordings and that’s just what they are. That’s not what this question is about. There are some iconic live recordings too, such as Metallica’s S&M record or Cheap Trick’s “I Want You to Want Me”. This question is about when there are popular and directly comparable versions of both live and studio for the same track. Thanks to all in advance!