Editor’s Note: The Albumism staff has selected what we believe to be the 50 Greatest Live Albums of All Time, representing a varied cross-section of genres, styles and time periods. Click “Next Album” below to explore each album or view the full album index here.
VARIOUS ARTISTS | Wattstax: The Living Word
Selected by Jesse Ducker
When Stax Records decided to hold a benefit concert in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 1972 to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the Watts Riots, they pulled out all the stops. An estimated crowd of 112,000 witnessed the Wattstax concert, during which one of the most staggeringly talented label rosters in music spent five hours tearing the proverbial house down.
Wattstax is a double-album featuring some of the concert’s best moments, focusing on the soul, blues, and funk artists that performed that day. This included, among others, the Staple Singers, Albert King, the Soul Children, and Carla Thomas. Isaac Hayes was the headliner, and he certainly dazzles with the album closing marathon cover of Bill Wither’s “Ain’t No Sunshine.”
However, fellow legends like Rufus Thomas and the Bar-Kays come close to stealing the show. Rufus Thomas brings infectious energy and boundless charisma to his performances of “The Breakdown” and “Do the Funky Chicken,” while the Bar-Kays get down and dirty with the unique mix of Black Rock and funk on songs like “Son of Shaft.”