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Rock albums that beg to be heard in full [Part 1]

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All of the above are from artists that remain active either currently on tour, or prepping for one

About a year or so ago, an interesting trend started up in rock and roll where a band would play an entire record from its back catalog. This wasn’t about performing something that was typically done live, like The Who has done with the rock operas Tommy and Quadrophenia, or Queensryche doing the concept album Operation: Mindcrime, but rather Metallica celebrating the 20th anniversary of the landmark album Master of Puppets by playing the piece in full while on tour overseas.

Artists leapt onto the bandwagon with varying degrees of success. Jimmy Eat World delighted fans with a mini-tour to mark the 10th anniversary of the mega-influential Clarity. The metal gods in Judas Priest brought out the classic British Steel for a string of live dates. Public Enemy took to performing the seminal hip-hop classic It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back at select dates, including last year’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, and then at other select dates.

Some attempts didn’t work out so well though.

Motley Crue decided to honor the 20th anniversary of its best seller, Dr. Feelgood, during last year’s Crue Fest. And while some of the sleaziest and most beloved songs, like the title track and “Kickstart My Heart,” came from the work, nobody really wanted to hear “Sticky Sweet” or “Slice of Your Pie.”

"I can't really remember that song,” Nikki Sixx, bassist and primary songwriter for the Crue told Rolling Stone about the latter as the band geared up for the tour.

And singer Vince Neil confused the two tracks during the same sit down with the magazine. It’s hardly the characteristics of a true classic, when the bandmembers don’t even recall the songs.

Then there’s the case of Aerosmith, who, before all the drama of the past year, were doing its highly successful Toys in the Attic almost in full. But the final track, the ballad “You See Me Crying,” was left off the agenda most of the time, possibly because singer Steven Tyler couldn’t hit the notes required. That leaves the whole thing anticlimactic if you’re a purist or hardcore fan.

The trend continues this concert season, as Roger Waters is once again dragging out the Pink Floyd classic The Wall for a North American tour. Fans are jacked too, evident in the addition of a second show at the TD Bank Garden this fall, tickets for which are currently on sale.

Thrash legends Megadeth, coming to town this August with Slayer, are going to be treating fans to the headbanging classic Rust in Peace.

But there are a bevy of acts out on the road or at least threatening to tour who should be considering playing the best album in its cannon. Here are the first five of 10 albums that need to be given the live treatment stat.

AC/DC – Back in Black

This is a no brainer.

Months after the death of singer Bon Scott, the Aussies bring in Brian Johnson and pull off the biggest coup by delivering both an homage to its fallen frontman and one of the bona fide rock classics.

From the ominous opening bells of “Hells Bells” through the grand slam title track and the boozy closer “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution,” there isn’t a filler track to be found.

It’s been 30 years since Back in Black first stormed the charts, and with the group finding its second wind with Black Ice in 2008, it’s a good time to look back while moving forward.

Van Halen – Van Halen When I told a good friend of mine that I was thinking about doing a column on albums that should be played in their entirety, we both blurted out “the first Van Halen!”

Upon it’s release in 1978, the debut from the Pasadena foursome changed the game forever with the posturing and preening of David Lee Roth, who would become the blueprint for rock frontmen for years to come, and the blistering fretwork from guitar prodigy Eddie Van Halen.

The record itself reads like a greatest hits; “Runnin’ with the Devil,” the audaciously brilliant guitar solo “Eruption,” boldly slotted at number two on the tracklisting, only to lead into a revamp of The Kinks’ classic “You Really Got Me.”

Even some of the lesser known gems, like “Atomic Punk” and the doo-wop inflections of “I’m the One” found their way into the setlists of the recent reunion tour with Roth.

From the looks of things, the band isn’t going to be putting out any new material this century, and while the Roth-era catalog is six full-lengths deep, there would be no better way to celebrate the bombast of the band by revisiting this untouchable introduction.

The Rolling Stones – Exile on Main Street

A reissue of comes out Tuesday, so there isn’t a better time to acknowledge what is one of the few Stones’ albums that doesn’t have a bad track. Only the most hardcore of the band’s fans will disagree with the fact that the Yin to The Beatles’ Yang put out very few front to back solids. Sticky Fingers is a contender for sure, Beggars Banquet and Let it Bleed maybe, but Exile remains the benchmark.

The sleepy horn and piano laden “Let It Loose,” guitarist Keith Richards’ highlight “Happy,” the attitude heavy “Soul Survivor,” the country funk of “Sweet Virginia” and the acoustic ditty “Black Angel” make this one of the greatest of all time.

The best part of all? This one might actually come to pass.

"I have heard a rumor being passed around, but it's in the rumor area," Richards told a London radio show this week. "I have heard the idea being mentioned in passing. Where there's smoke, there's fire, you know?"

Beastie Boys – Licensed to Ill No record bridged the gap between hip-hop and rock like Licensed to Ill. Sampling Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, War and The Clash, the New York City trio simultaneously raised the bar while introducing rock fans to rap fans not with a handshake but with a high-five.

Doing anything but kicking some bass behind closed doors, the Beasties brought in Slayer guitarist Kerry King to drop a metal solo during “No Sleep Till Brooklyn.” And then there’s the frat boy standard, “Fight for Your Right,” which inadvertently led to the downfall of the album in the eyes of the band.

Starting out as gold chain wearing, Budweiser swilling, mustard squirting goofs that exploited women in both videos and on-stage, the group did a complete 180 on its image for the “Licensed to Ill” follow-up, Paul’s Boutique, and basically renounced the party boy image.

This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, because while Paul’s Boutique tanked upon its release, it’s now recognized as one of the greatest hip-hop albums ever put on wax. Unfortunately, that had to come at the expense of “Licensed to Ill,” which is a shame, as there’s a new generation of both rock and hip-hop fans that need to be exposed to “Brass Monkey,” “Slow and Low” and “Time to Get Ill” – in that order.

Def Leppard – Pyromania

One of the UK’s finest exports hit its stride with this one, and it wasn’t because the video for the smash single “Photograph” featured singer Joe Elliot in a sleeveless Union Jack tee and drummer Rick Allen in similarly themed short shorts.

No, the reason this record rocks so hard was because at a time of transition, guitarist Phil Collen, stepping in for the soon-to-be ousted Pete Willis, injected the band with a new sense of purpose, and that included putting out what would become one of the best selling releases of all-time.

Razor sharp guitar lines on “Foolin’” and the funked out “Rock of Ages” cemented the status of Def Lep as more than wannabe Led Zeps. This is the real thing.

Well that’s five. There will be another five tomorrow so make sure to check back on Boston Examiner.

What do you think? Is there an artist out there who should be playing a work in its original framing? Leave your thoughts in the comments and let your voice be heard.

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