1st I must explain the reason for the "Live at leeds" reference and why it fits. The reference is to the Who's first album after the phenomenal impact of their masterpiece "Tommy" which was all studio. The Who were always working to be best known for their live performances while so many "name" bands were "selling" for their studio performances , but proving to be *weak* for their "put-up-or-shut-up" live performances with the Beatles & the Stones topping that list as "live" mediocrities at the time. This is why "Cream" and the "Hendrix Experience" made such a turning point impact as they clearly separated the "manufactured" Brit studio pop bands from the genuine "virtuoso's".
I'll go so far as to say that Hendrix would *not* have made the sensation he initially acheived had he not gone to the U.K. *first* , been influenced by the new wave of muscianship virtuosity converging in London at the time, and thus drawing energy and direction from his accomplished Brit bassist and drummer..
So the Who just *had* to release a live album to prove to their new found expanded "Tommy'" audience that they weren't just studio "hothouse flowers". With "Live at Leeds" as one of *the* best live rock performance recordings yet they kicked every pretender's butt and proved that they were every bit peers to the newly raised-bar standard set by Cream & the *UK*Hendrix Experience .
Now this musicianship virtuosity was always the case for Keith Emerson with his lesser known founding band "The Nice" where he was already proving himself as the Hendrix of the keyboard and which he still is.
With this reference as context we get "Welcome Back My Friends..." . I could also compare this to the other triple LP masterpiece of a "Live" document that *preceeded* ELP's triple LP; namely the 1973 release of "Yessongs".
All that said, in this ELP afficianado's seasoned opinion , the most improtant performance piece on this entire album is the "Tarkus Suite". Yes the opening "Hoedown" at twice the original tempo "live" definitely smacks upside the head and makes damn sure you're paying attention , but it's the 'Tarkus Suite" this is ELP's true tour de force performance piece here.
When first released "Tarkus" was more known and taken notice of more for the sophistication of its composition as a workpiece. The signature Hammond B3
jazz-fusion work was dead-on as was the drumming and Lake's powerful and profoundly clear voice, but the then revolutionary Moog that made such a sensation with the epilogue solo to "Lucky man" was still weak here. With the studio "Tarkus" the final instrumental was done with the poorest choice of Moog voicings ,a kind of synthesized oboe that sounds more like Donald Duck on helium at times, and just ruined the Sci-fi gravitas that this pre-Brain Salad Surgery piece potentially possessed.
This glaring flaw was just left out there to hang until atlast it was magnificiantly *corrected* with this live "Tarkus Suite" as it really turns this composition into the Sci-fi tour de force it always deserved to be ( it 's intensity makes the "X-Files" theme sound like downright wimpy "sightings" while Emerson's Moog is *the* voice of mothership by comparison. With X-files theme "the Truth is still out there". With the Tarkus Suite Live, the alien Truth "has landed".....right between yer ears. ( and right in your lap if you ever saw it performed "live" in its entirety. )
I mean just this powerul composition , now performed to highlight the Moog , alone was pure Sci-Fi in and of itself because of the elecronic orchestra of voices of the instrument , but then further it was further advanced by its Jules Verne/H.G.Wellsian appearance with its arrays of blinking lights and bristling with patch chords. ( ELP *crystalized* this Sci-Fi theme in "Brain Salad Surgery" with the equally brilliant choice of H.R.Giger's album cover art which perfectly set the mood for the "Karn Eval 9 Suite " and gave ELP their Sci-fi personnae.) Thus in live performances Emerson's Uber-Moog just looked like something right out of Dr. Who, but then the Doctor Keith awoke and let loose that Uber-Moog's far more powerful *unearthly" voice and it is with the "Tarkus Suite" that you really hear him "ride her to the stars" as he makes it roar and wail like some alien mothership . ( Here it's far more profound and dramatic than that silly accoustic instrumental duet John Willaims composed for "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" when the scientists musically communicated with the mothership and it answers with tuba , french horn,and clarinet and all the while in front of this even more amazing A.R.P. uber-synth playingjust those 5 little notes. It's a joke to this day.
I've often imagined what it would've sounded like if Keith Emerson were let loose to play the incedible A.R.P cathedral synthesizer to commune with the mothership. It would've been apparent that he was more familiar with the language of the mothership in the *voice* of the mothership; fluent in electronically pure "Synth"
Anyway, the entire "Tarkus Suite" is a perfromance masterpiece , is *the* best version of Tarkus anywhere ever, ( except for the powerful intro on the "Live at Albert hall" album ) , and is the best reason have this live performance in one's collection. It makes the original studio version sound like a demo. I kid you not. This is the one to hear with the lights out. I'll let the reviews of the other songs, of varying excitement ( hence no 5 stars ),stand , but with this review the "Tarkus Suite" was something I felt required a little more special attention . If one composition can capture the essense of ELP It is this piece *Live* as it is *pure* ELP virtuosity, bravado, and power of *presense*.