Biscuit Matter

Securing the rights to release live concerts by top-name rock acts is a daunting process. As a result, current King Biscuit releases are generally by second- and third-tier artists. Still, many of the concerts are great and some are historic. Each collection has extensive liner notes with a complete artist discography, though it should be noted that, in many cases, the self-aggrandizing prose contains its fair share of inaccuracies.

Then there's the sound. Recorded using 16-, 24- and 48-track remote studios, the King Biscuit series represents some of the highest-quality live reproduction available. Even though rock concerts have notoriously lousy sound, KBEG founders knew radio programmers wouldn't tolerate poor production. After recording several nights of a tour, the best performance was mixed, often by the artists or producers or both.

Not surprisingly, the 40 King Biscuit CDs now available include both standouts and worthy Frisbee substitutes. Listed below are a few of the best:

Renaissance, Parts I and II -- This two-disc set, recorded in October 1977 with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, includes a stunning live version of "Scheherazade." Annie Haslam is one of rock's finest vocalists, and her vocals here are magnificent, as is the band's musicianship. The pronounced amplifier hiss only makes it more lifelike.

Emerson, Lake and Palmer -- Recorded in July 1974 and November 1977, this double-CD package showcases one of the great stadium behemoths at its bloated, overblown best. The version of "Still, You Turn Me On" is a highlight. Disc two features a CD-ROM program with rare video from live concerts and interviews.

The Waitresses -- Okay, so they're an acquired taste, but this quirky performance from one of rock's quirkiest bands is still great fun. Recorded in February 1982, it's their only live release.

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