Live At Leeds may not be the best live album of all time, but it certainly ranks near the top. Following the release of Tommy, it catches The Who at the height of their powers.
The original LP was released in 1970 and contained six tracks. Live At Leeds has been released a number of times in CD form and I also have the edition with 14 songs on the first disc and most of the songs from Tommy on a second. The following review is for the original vinyl LP release. This was the context that God and Pete Townshend intended for this album.
The Who had just finished a world tour and had amassed many hours of tapes. Pete Townshend ignored all this material and scheduled two concerts in early 1970 at venues in Leeds and Hull. If the Hull taping system had worked I might be reviewing Live At Hull instead of Leeds.
I still have all the extra material contained in the original album release, with a gatefold jacket. Among the items are lyrics, a photo, and even a poster which graced my dorm room wall for a short time. Today these pieces of memorabilia are actually more collectable than the record.
“My Generation” and “Shakin’ All Over” are two songs that represent the best of The Who. Keith Moon’s drumming and John Entwistle’s bass playing are turned up and share equal billing with Pete Townshend’s guitar. The 14 plus minute extended version of “My Generation” is just a tour de force and shows what rock ‘n’ roll is all about.
It’s tough to beat Eddie Cochran’s original interpretation of “Summertime Blues” but The Who come close. This is a song where you can almost picture Townshend playing in his frantic guitar style. This version is dense and powerful while Cochran’s is clean. Which is superior depends on your taste.
“Magic Bus” was a Who career concert staple for years. Townshend and Entwistle show superb interplay on this track. Now that Entwhistle is gone, I can’t help but think that he was the rock upon which The Who built their sound.
“Young Man Blues” and “Substitute” are the other two songs contained on the original release and actually are the first two songs on the album. They are my least favorite tracks but are still better than average. They serve as vehicles for Pete Townshend. The sound is a little poorer, at least to my ear, than the rest of the record.
Live At Leeds is raw and energetic rock ‘n’ roll. I learned early on to play it with my head phones on. I still listen to it on a somewhat regular basis as it never grows old.
Rolling Stone Magazine named it to their list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. I can’t argue.