The Who

Live at Leeds [Bonus Tracks] [Remastered]

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Review

Rushed out in 1970 as a way to bide time as the Who toiled away on their sequel to Tommy, Live at Leeds wasn't intended to be the definitive Who live album and many collectors maintain that the band had better shows only available on bootlegs. But those shows weren't easily available whereas Live at Leeds was, and even if this show may not have been the absolute best, it's so damn close to it that it would be impossible for anybody but aficionados to argue. Throughout the '70s, the album was seen as one of the gold standards in live rock roll, and certainly it had a fury that no proper Who studio album achieved. Here, they sound vicious -- as heavy as Led Zeppelin but twice as volatile as they careened through early classics with the confidence of a band that finally achieved acclaim but had yet to become preoccupied with making art. There is no better record of how this band was a volcano of violence on-stage, how they teetered on the edge of chaos but never blew apart. This was most true on the original LP, which was a trim six tracks, three of them covers ("Young Man Blues," "Summertime Blues," "Shakin' All Over") and three originals from the mid-'60s ("Substitute," "My Generation," "Magic Bus"), none of them bearing a trace of their mod roots. This pure distilled power was all the better for its brevity, but as the CD reissue boom exploded in the '90s Live at Leeds was expanded twice, first as a 14-track expanded single disc containing excerpts of their Tommy performance from that February 14, 1970, gig along with all the non-Tommy cuts and then, in 2001, as a double-disc deluxe edition containing the entirety of the show. It's a treat to hear more (or all, depending on the edition) of this great performance, all in remastered sound, but there's something to be said for the original LP, which packed a lethal, lean punch quite unlike any other Who album. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

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