One idea afoot in the online prog world I’ve only encountered since I began writing here is the thesis that live recordings shouldn’t be on reviewers’ “best of the year” lists. As I understand it, the basic idea is that live albums are: a) a different breed of cat than studio albums, and; b) not usually recorded in the year they’re released, so they’re not really from the year in question. (Commenters can certainly enlighten me if I’m misreading the idea, or have other reasons the thesis is valid.)
Two arguments I’d have against this idea are: 1) my Top Favorite album of 2017, King Crimson’s Live in Chicago, was released the same year it was recorded (and, since it was the best rock gig I’ve ever seen, deserved a “best of” listing), and; 2) given record companies’ release cycles, most studio albums from the first half of a given year were probably recorded during the year before anyway.
But it’s true that live albums are usually meant to be different than a studio album: a momento or snapshot of a band performing repertoire from their studio output, caught on a given night, nights or tour — Robert Fripp’s “hot date” as opposed to a more considered “love letter”. And live albums from an archive (be it a band’s or a corporation’s) are definitely more akin to a reissue than to new music.
Anyhow, without necessarily conceding the point, my favorite live recordings released in 2018 (separated out in their own post) follow the jump. But first, a graphic tease: