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This story has been updated to correct the name of a Metallica song.

For anyone who loves music, going to concerts is a given when you're growing up. In fact, you go to as many as you can afford.

As you grow older, you still love music but the concerts tend to slowly vanish in your life, at least for most. Then you go to a concert and suddenly remember: "Hey, I really LOVE live music."

That's what happened this past weekend at Riverbend. I thoroughly enjoyed Drivin' N' Cryin' on Friday and Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers on Saturday. Heading home from both, I thought, "Why the heck don't I go to more shows?"

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Shawn Ryan

Those answers are for another column, but thinking about live shows led to thoughts about live albums. Some are time fillers between studio albums and touring; some simply fulfill a contract obligation.

Others, though, show artists in their best environment: onstage. That in mind, here's a list of live albums that are among the best out there.

* "Made in Japan." Deep Purple. Seven songs. Four album sides. Full power. For sheer musical muscle, you can't beat this one. The band is ferocious throughout, but guitarist Ritchie Blackmore's solo on "Highway Star" is downright violent.

* "Uriah Heep Live." Prone to being overblown on studio albums, Uriah Heep couldn't reproduce all the overdubs/etc. onstage. Stripping down to bare bones uncovered the band's strengths.

* "Hot August Night." Neil Diamond. Not a joke. Before he became a shiny-shirt Las Vegas act, Diamond was — well, you can't really call him a rocker — but he was more denim and brawny. And he could write the heck out of a song. Only know UB40's version of "Red Red Wine"? Listen to the live version by the man who wrote it.

* "On Your Feet or on Your Knees." Blue Oyster Cult. As part of its promo campaign, Blue Oyster Cult cultivated an "Are They Evil or What?" mystique on their first three studio albums. This live album proved that yes, they were evil. In a good way.

* "How the West Was Won." Led Zeppelin. Yeah, I know, "The Song Remains the Same" was the first live Zeppelin album, but it's lousy. "West" captured the abilities and the confidence that Zeppelin exhibited onstage, including a 23-minute "Whole Lotta Love."

* "S&M." Metallica. Composer Michael Kamen didn't just write bland, take-'em-or-leave-'em orchestral scores here, he made the San Francisco Symphony an integral part of the music. Just listen to the vibrant importance of his arrangements on "The Call of Ktulu" and "For Whom the Bell Tolls."

Email your favorites.

Contact Shawn Ryan at mshawnryan@gmail.com.

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