First Visit 1971 is an illicit two-CD title that will undoubtedly be placed among the ranks of the Beatles' Ultra Rare Trax, Bob Dylan's Guitars Kissing & the Contemporary Fix, or Led Zeppelin's Revenge of the Butterqueen. Each of these bootleg CD releases accurately recaptures some of the most exciting and unspoiled performances from excruciatingly low generation professional soundboard/mixing desk source tapes. However, there are several notable differences between the often bastardized and sonically over-processed "product" that major labels and media conglomerates choose to glut the market with, when compared to packages such as this. First Visit 1971 contains a complete performance featuring Elton John during the final show of his first Asian tour. This includes a seven-song "unplugged" solo set before bassist Dee Murray and percussionist Nigel Olsson join Elton for a rowdy electric conclusion. Elton's prolificacy during this era is practically unfathomable by the standards of any other recording artist. At the time of this show (October 1, 1971), Elton John had issued three studio albums, as well as one live and one soundtrack disc -- all in less than two years. Additionally, his fourth studio release, Madman Across the Water, was due to be released the following month. The set list reflects material not only from every one of the long players, but a few rarities including the 45 rpm-only "It's Me That You Need" -- which kicks off the proceedings. "Rock Me When He's Gone" was originally donated to Long John Baldry's It Ain't Easy LP -- which Elton co-produced with Rod Stewart. Although presented here as a solo piece, a band version was recorded during the Madman Across the Water sessions -- which was eventually released in 1992 on the two-CD odds-and-sods compilation Rare Masters. Although he would abandon 80 percent of these songs during future live performances, this set list is as powerful to listen to as the running order intimates. Even "Your Song" -- presented here in its original arrangement -- sounds fresh and innovative after 30 years. Another bonus is the extra verse of "Holiday Inn." Although it was eventually edited out of the released studio version, it is included here. Once the album was issued, the band quickly altered their performance sans the offensive lyrics -- which had been judiciously excised. Other welcomed rarities include two cuts from the Friends original motion picture soundtrack -- the title song as well as "Can I Put You On." The latter had also been featured on 11-17-70 -- a hastily assembled live album issued as a deterrent to the reams of bootlegs turning up in head shops throughout North America. This followed Elton's November 11, 1970, live remote broadcast from A&R Studios in New York City. The show was simulcast on WABC FM and recorded by opportunists throughout the five boroughs. In fact, over half of the same material that Elton and company had performed during that show continued as part of their live repertoire is heard here. The flawless stereo image and superior sound quality of this bootleg set can only be faulted when considering the vocals are mixed a tad loudly in contrast to the instruments. However, this is a very minor observation when confronted with such an overwhelmingly powerful performance. Although the Luxembourg-based Midnight Beat label placed First Visit 1971 into the hands of eager collectors in 2001, it has become hard to find. Enthusiasts are encouraged to make whatever concessions necessary to obtain this show, and should likewise be aware that that there are a number of spin-off titles that boast the same date, but do not include the entire performance.
AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer