Six live albums from the 1980s you should avoid

Some live albums just don’t work, even if they come from top artists. Some people may disagree with this list but these six are best avoided.
Tom Petty
Tom Petty / George Rose/GettyImages
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Many people just love live albums. They can capture a point in time when the artist was at a peak and performing superbly. At times there's an almost electric atmosphere that you can share and become a part of when you listen. Almost as if you were there. 

Others though hate the whole live album scene. They don’t like hearing different versions of songs when played live. Or perhaps they dislike the artists playing their work almost exactly like a studio version, with no variation or live feel to it. Some will bemoan the use of post-production, overdubbing, and other enhancements which can occasionally go too far. 

I love a live album and can tolerate some of that studio work to pull it all together, especially where it’s been recorded over a couple or more nights. But there can be rogue live releases that for one reason or another just don't work. You can tell pretty early on when listening if it’s going to be a good one. You also get a sinking feeling quite quickly when it's one of the few that just don't deliver as they should.

Six live 1980s albums best avoided

Here are six that I reckon fall into that last category. They just aren't that good as a live record. The six listed here are all from great artists and while the reasons may vary, the fact that these are live albums best avoided remains consistent. Even though they are all from great artists of their time.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - Pack Up The Plantation: Live!

It seems wrong to list a Tom Petty album as one to give a miss to. He was such a great artist over the years. But there is a good reason behind this listing and it’s not over-complicated either. Pack Up the Plantation: Live! just isn’t a good enough live album.

At the time, it was released in November 1985, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers had six studio albums to their name. They had plenty of great material to draw on for this their first live album. The recordings were taken from their 1985 tour when promoting their latest album, Southern Accent, which was released just a few months beforehand. Songs from that do feature quite heavily on the double live album. 

Southern Accent hadn't gone down too well amongst Petty fans. It was a slight change in style and was criticized by many for being a bit too slick. Which doesn't really help when it comes to the live release. There are a couple of songs on it boosted by the presence of Stevie Nicks and her great voice. A regular with Petty and the band on tour, Nicks joins them on “Needles and Pins” and “Insider”. That at least adds something a little different to what is otherwise fairly bland and safe content. 

Pack Up the Plantation: Live! doesn’t excite or stir like a live album should. It’s all a bit too dull even if the songs are competently performed. That in itself is a decent reason to recommend giving this one a miss, an even better one is that if you want to hear Petty and the band on a live album, The Live Anthology from 2009 is a much better option, by far. 

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