Of all the ELP live shows, The California Jam stands as the largest audience the British prog rockers had ever played for, and a personal favorite performance of vocalist Greg Lake. In the spring following Brain Salad Surgery, the trio’s abilities were at a high for this set recorded at the epic outdoor venue, Ontario Motor Speedway. Because each member started to go his own way around this time, a good share of Live in California 1974 focuses on Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s individual abilities. "Still…You Turn Me On" and the mega-hit "Lucky Man" are performed solo by Lake on acoustic guitar, "Piano Improvisations (Including 'Fugue' and 'Little Rock Getaway')" features Keith Emerson turning in nearly seven minutes of virtuoso piano playing before the rhythm section of Lake and Palmer join in for a tightly executed bebop jazz approximation, and the classic rock staple "Karn Evil 9, First Impression, Pt. 2" segues into a gratuitous, five-minute-long (albeit pretty amazing) drum solo by Carl Palmer. Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends: Ladies & Gentlemen, Emerson Lake & Palmer, and From the Front Row…Live! are much better live documents from this period, but despite sonic imperfections, the firework finale of "Pictures at an Exhibition" captures the ambitious and dramatic spirit of the band nicely.
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AllMusic Review by Jason Lymangrover