Live in California 1974 captures ELP in front of their largest audience and at the height of their success after the release of 1973’s progressive rock classic, Brain Salad Surgery. Unfortunately, Live in California 1974 also finds the supergroup trio buffeted by the vagaries of recording technology. This is clearly not helped by the echoing acoustics of the gigantic California Jam at the Ontario Motor Speedway, and the resulting album sounds decidedly hollow in parts.
Still, ELP were at the peak of their pomp powers in the early ‘70s, and Live in California 1974 still manages to stand as a great example of the enthusiastic and theatrical adventurism that sat at the heart of the band’s success. “Karn Evil 9, First Impression Part 2” tumbles into “Karn Evil 9, Third Impression” off the back of a Brobdingnagian drum solo from Carl Palmer. Greg Lake then dishes out a superb solo version of “Lucky Man” and Keith Emerson tunes in with 10 minutes of keyboard improvisation while “Pictures at an Exhibition” ends on a frenzied blast of spiraling, jazzed-up prog that shoots, rather fittingly, for the stars. Live in California 1974 may well be raw, but its sonic deficiencies are tempered by welcomingly bombastic rock.