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King Crimson

Mr. Fripp, Can I Have Your Autograph?

Introduction
In The Court Of The Crimson King
Epitaph 
In The Wake Of Poseidon
Lizard
Islands
Earthbound
Lark's Tongues In Aspic
The Night Watch
Starless And Bible Black
Red
USA
The Great Deceiver
Discipline
Beat
Three Of A Perfect Pair
Absent Lovers
VROOM
THRAK
B'Boom
THRaKATTaK
The Construkction Of Light
The Power to Believe
 

The Lineup Card 1969-2002

* Robert Fripp (guitars, mellotron, electronics)*

Michael Giles (drums) until 1971

Peter Giles (bass) 1970

Greg Lake (vocals, bass) until 1970 later of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer

Ian McDonald (sax, keyboard) until 1970 later of Foreigner

Peter Sinfield (lyrics, etc.) until 1973 later lyric writer for Emerson, Lake, and Palmer

Gordon Haskell (vocals, bass) 1970-1

Mel Collins (sax, flute) 1970-1

Keith Tippett (piano) 1970-2

Andy McCulloch (drums) 1971

Boz Burrell (vocals, bass) 1972 later of Bad Company

Ian Wallace (drums) 1972

John Wetton (vocals, bass) 1973-1974 later of Asia and U.K.

David Cross (violin, mellotron) 1973-4

Jamie Muir (percussion) 1972-3

Bill Bruford (drums) periodically since 1973 also of Yes, Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, and Howe, and Genesis

Adrian Belew (vocals, guitar) since 1981 also appearing with Frank Zappa and Talking Heads

Tony Levin (bass, stick) periodically since 1981

Trey Gunn (stick) periodically since 1994

Paul Mastoletto (percussion) periodically since 1994 formerly of Mr. Mister

I've got this strange thing about Mr. Robert Fripp, founder, guitarist, and resident musical professor extraordinaire of the longest-running progressive rock project ever, King Crimson. See, the dude's this complete smug, prissy, pretentious, eggheaded English twit, or at least he chooses to come across this way in public. And more than that (the preceding description pertaining to possibly the entire musical population of the 1970's prog rock movement), he's a real asshole to his audience. Here are these perfectly nice folks who come down to support this marginally known band (more a cult band than anything), and the typical response to a 'Hello, Mr. Fripp' or autograph request is either A) being ignored, as if one isn't there; B) a wordless gesture of rejection; C) Fripp turning tail and running (!); or, if you're lucky, D) 'No, thank you.' (Informational source: check out the archived Fripp postings on the Elephant Talk KC message board at www.elephanttalk.net, REALLY funny stuff). And when you call him on his strange fan interaction technique, he first expresses his right to privacy, which is admirable and understandable, but then proceeds to tear down said fan by means of playful, but not necessarily kindhearted, insults. All of this lends itself to Fripp coming across as something 'higher' than the rest of us hairy masses, and I'm not even going to go into how Bobby talks (and I mean vocabulary, but his accent is something else entirely). He also makes a big deal about being photographed at concerts (confiscation of cameras is one thing, stopping the show to catch a sneaky fan snagging illicit snapshots is another), and he performs sitting down and in near darkness. I mean, this is truly a singularity in the world of popular music: a musician who truly doesn't give a fuck what you or anyone else thinks of him.

On one hand, this is laudable when he applies it to his approach to art. Robert seems to truly respect the music above all else (above personnel, sales, popular opinion, etc.), and demands the same of his collaborators. King Crimson and popular conceptions of what KC should be rarely cross each other, and the pursuit of experimentation (within a somewhat limited KC musical palette, anyway...these guys aren't Throbbing Gristle) takes all precedence over any pursuit of meaning or accessibility. Fripp is probably one of the least 'sold out' rock musicians ever, in other words.

But this sort of musical seriousness leads to some big drawbacks for us on the other side of the monitor system. For one thing, experimentation in the Crimson world frequently means atonal, arhythmic, unstructured jamming of a nasty, pointless nature, and even when they're doing songs, either the lyrics are puffed up pretentiousness of the worst kind (the Sinfield period), or just pure meaninglessness (the rest of the time). KC are about the feel of the music, its form, process, and construction (or 'discipline' to make use of a Frippism)  and the pursuit of art and production as abstractions. Sound eggheaded? Well it is.

A little background for those of you who would be laughed off of the ET messageboard for being 'imprecise' (for some reason, this is another favorite Frippism that gets bandied around over there quite a bit). Crimson sprang from Giles, Giles, and Fripp, a late sixties Folk/Rock/Art trio that released one decidedly non-Crimsonish album (The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles and Fripp) which I've never heard, but which isn't supposed to be too bad. This trio morphed (with Michael Giles continuing on drums) into King Crimson. Oh, yeah, if you don't know, The Crimson King is a euphemism for Satan, (hence the Great Deceiver' box set title. But that doesn't explain all the 'Larks' Tongues in Aspic' stuff, does it?). Anyway, this band lasted only a year or so, and was then replaced by a series of musicians and singers, with Fripp as the only constant, but retaining the same jazzy prog sound, more or less.

The second big phase of KC began in 1973 with the addition of Bill Bruford and John Wetton. This marked a change in the sound to a more focused, louder, 'prog-metal', but with still some traces of the ol' jazz stuff. This one lasted less than two years and four albums, and Crimson was put on ice for the remainder of the 70's only to return, in 1981, with Bruford and notables Adrian Belew and Tony Levin. This band, however, was quite far stylistically from the 70's band, relying on new wave and electronic music far more than the jazz/classical/metal of old. Again, the group lasted only until 1984, after which the members drifted off to wherever it is aging prog rockers go when they're not with their marginally well-remembered bands....

...only to return, again, in 1994, with all the '81-'84 era musicians plus a couple new guys. This group seems to tie metal/alt rock into the '80s-style, but not particularly well. But they're all fantastic musicians and performers! They just can't write songs! Anyway, this version of Crimson remains in a state of 'flux', where the same cast of musicians is drawn on for different projects, but not all at the same time. Eh, it all sounds pretty much the same anyway...and we can assume it will continue on this way for some years to come, or at least until Fripp finally snaps, leaps into the crowd at a gig somewhere, and eats some camera-wielding audiencemember's face clean off his skull. 'I told you NO PHOTOGRAPHS!!!!'

Oh yeah, I made a chart above that, to the best of my ability, shows the massive number of changes in the KC lineup through the years, particularly in the early 70's. I thought about making the 'face chart' like on my Yes page, but (besides never being able to find a face shot of most of the people on the list), I decided to respect Fripp's protectiveness of the use of his image by his fans. Oh, and I was just going to use a picture of a donkey's ass, anyway.

The great big honkin' advantage here for us Neolithic pit-scratchers, beyond all this egghead bullshit, is that Crimson has the ability to rock when it wants to (and Fripp can prove himself to be a fairly hefty guitar player, at least when his barometer reads 'fear', anyway. He's truly vicious at such moments.) or can alternately wow you with instrumental passages that sound like they were written for 50 players, not 5 (or 3). And in the best of all moments, the two are combined into a monolithic power surge that is hard to rival in the rock world.

Or they can just wank for 40 minutes. You takes your chances, see. Fripp's in control here.


In The Court Of The Crimson King - Atlantic 1969

There's no way I'm going to contest the fact that Crust of the Solyent Green more or less invented progressive rock music all by it's big-nostriled and bad-breathed lonesome. It took some elements from bebop and, particularly, free jazz, added a dash of Hendrix/Cream style heavy rock, some Moody Blues classical ballad stuff, and that was that. But then again, that doesn't take into account the seriousness by which King Crimson approaches making this kind of music. They have a goal to make music that sounds huge, overwhelming, and neck-snapping (but yet, not really violent...they were Crims, not Sabs, and their evil was always more in the camp of 'if you meet me, have some sympathy' than 'satan laughing speads his wings') and then proceed to knock all of these elements into place starting from the odd Mellotron-warming-up sounds that precede the opening '21st Century Schizoid Man'. The song itself smashes in with the everything-including-the-watermelon unison celebration of the main 'passage' (can't quite call it a riff, can we?), then switches gears completely into a sort of proto-industrial 'wonk! wonk! wonk! wonk!' presided over by the voice-of-the-Iron-Man-on-amphetamines vocals by none other than Greg Lake. The lyrics, like most of Peter Sinfield's 'work' are pretentious and essentially meaningless, but they sound good bashing against your eardrums, and the 'TWENTY FIRST CENT-RY SCHIZooiD MAAAAN!' hook cleans my apartment out. We then progress into some spirally unison passages that sound like Miles Davis, some lightning free-jazz solos that sound like John Coltrane, and a destruction at the end that sounds like Ornette Coleman undergoing shock treatment. '21st Century Schizoid Man'? Recommended.

But making these sorts of Marshall Stack Bebop wasn't this band's only trick, oh no no no. In fact, it's the only song on the album faster than 'epic scale lope', and also the only one that really shows us what Fripp can do. From now on, his most outrageous contribution is limited to tasteful commentary on the melody line, so pleased pack your Hendrix comparisons and the next one shows us just how fey this band can get. 'I Talk To The Wind' is sweet and melodic, sure, and I give Giles some credit for keeping the beat going...I could just imagine how this song could fall apart without it. Why? The lyrics are light as air ('I talk to the wind...my words are all carried away...I talk to the wind...the wind it does not hear. The wind cannot hear!' My, what a revelation. And your dog can't mix a Black Russian either, so don't waste your time asking.) and without that insistently groovy tippy tap, well add a wildly tasteless piano solo and we'd have an ELP song, wouldn't we? 'Epitaph' is the third major epic on here (they all are, expect for that 'Moonchild' nonsense. Hell, there's only four songs, really.), this time a loping, grieving funeral march type of thing, and now firmly in rock/classical fusion territory. Someone could really get wrapped up in the scope of this one, and I have to hand it once again to Greg Lake, who proves that his voice (and Peter Gabriel's) is probably the archetypical prog singer...he's strong, tuneful, and emotional, and never once makes me think that he's either gay or a fruit. Score for Lake. Don't worry, though, this album is definitely the peak of his singing career.

Total bummer comes on the massively long, clink clank avant garde fuckabout called 'Moonchild', of which no more will be said because there's no other words to describe what is happening there. What could've possessed the band to put such an obvious non-effort on here, just as a blood sacrifice to the god of Artsiness, is beyond me. And to make it fucking 12 minutes long is just a personal slap in the face from Mr. Fripp and Co. to yours truly. It's such an obvious blight, however, on an otherwise strong record, that the '>>' button is not just an option, it's a necessity. And then we have, in the title track, a full-blown nine-minute Epic of Epics...with instrumental passages, starts and stops, the whole pantyripper of Progressive Multiparters, but it sounds so natural coming from these guys, and never once lets up on the Satan and His Mischievous Minions vibe, that you'll not once feel the length, I guarantee. Just power, force, well-written melodies that wouldn't have sounded odd coming from your local symphonic orchestra, and by the time the album is finished you know these guys have pulled out all the stops for you.

 Now, this album ain't perfect, and it's not the best prog record ever made. In fact, its really not all that representative of the rest of prog at all, just as Freak Out isn't particularly representative of the rest of psychedelic music, or Ramones of punk rock. Oh, so Ramones is representative of punk rock? Well slap my dolphin and call me Starkist Tuna, but you'll find a rule for every exception, and you'll definitely get the whole, serious prog feel from Clemson Klink, fully developed pretentiousness, never cracking a smile and starting a tradition that carries on through Yes and ELP and creeps right on up through serious electronic music today. The big difference between this and its successors is that you just don't get much 'rock' in there, not in the headbanging Yes style, anyhow. It's heavy, deep music, but one gets the impression that Chuck Berry isn't necessarily on Fripp's immediate listening schedule...think Liszt or Wagner instead. One excellent effort, when the effort is applied.

Capn's Final Word: Invented prog. Well. Except for 'Moonchild', which invented me falling over a chair and bumping my head in an effort to hit the 'skip' button fast enough.

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Nathan Harper  nator9999@comcast.net   Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: Moonchild has to be THE greatest fuck-up in the history of rock music. Even worse than Funkadelic's Wars of Armageddon. That's all I'm gonna say about this one.

Vladimir Mihajlovic vladimir_gilmour@hotmail.com    Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: This might be my favourite Crimson album together with In the court of the Crimson King. When I first heard this,I really didn't like it.It sounded too strange to my ears wich weren't used to this kind of electronic sound.
When I gave it another try I realised how great it is.Just the sound of this record is so original and I really can't relate it to anything I have heard before.The playing is more than amazing.Such a rhythm section.Bill Bruford at his best.I love Indiscipline so much.Bill shines on this track.The guitar playing is exciting and intense.Just listen to Thela Hun ginjeet.So intense.Adrian Belew and Fripp are extraordinary players.And it wouldn't be far from truth if I say that Tony Levin is one of top ten bass players ever. Althoug almost everything is based on power here Crimson slows down for a really beautiful ballad Matte Kudesai.Just so gentle and amazing vocal preformance from Adrian.This is A+


Epitaph - DGM 1997

Fripp never plays any of the very first lineup's tunes any more (and not after 1973, except maybe for a '21st Century Schizoid Man' once in a blue ball, and 'Cat Food' even rarer) and you know why? Because they never sounded so darned melodic again! He knew playing this old stuff was poison because it showed just how lacking his newer compositions were! And, well, in 1969 anyway, Crimson was still a democratic sort of band (while after this it became about as democratic as Libya) and songs were written by committee more than via a Fripp-instigated jam session. And on Epitaph, the early band makes a case for itself as the best-ever lineup of Crimson...listen to them nail 'Epitaph' and 'In The Court...' perfectly. Lake's voice often sounds even better than on the studio records, Fripp's solos absolutely obliterate, all the cymbal crashes and Mellotron moans are in the right place...it's an amazing experience. They don't even sound all that impressed with themselves yet, except for some misplaced endless sax wanking on a few tracks, everything is about as long as it needs to be for prog rock. Just suffice it to say that this King Crimson left very little trace on the latter incarnations of the band. They just never sounded anything like this again (oh, maybe in '70-'71 they held some resemblances, but we only have the poop-slathered Earthbound as evidence, so how can we prove that without shelling out $40-$50 for some ripoff Fripp mailorder reissue? Okay, you do it and write me a nice informative email about it.) This live smorgasbord actually has a good reason for existing, in other words...if only in its widely available 2-CD form, NOT its con-artist 4-CD expansion mailorder set. Jeez, that Fripp sure likes taking your money, doesn't he? No qualms about that, I guess.

So about the songs and the almost compulsive tendency to overlap in the track listing: Three 'Schizoid Man's and 'Epitaph's, two each of 'In The Court', 'Mars', and 'A Man A City', so if you don't like hearing the same songs played over and over again in much the same manner but with differing sound quality, don't bother listening to more than the second disc, which contains more or less a complete show. The first disc is a Frankenstein's monster of parts from three different shows (I think, anyway...the first one sounds really good, the middle one sounds echoey but passable, and the third one is just plain shit), and while one can argue whether the superfast parts on 'Schizoid' are better on the first or second versions, there's lots more aimless jazz-jammy flopabout called things like 'Travel Weary Capricorn' (toke up, man!) and 'Get Thy Bearings' (which, incidentally, are one and the same bad song, with only minor changes, and even bears the message 'let's all get stoned' without a hint of Dylan irony. Whatever, all of it deserves the status as 'hippie bullshit crap left off of Poseidon'). It's sorta neat when Fripp plays the Spanish guitar intro to 'Bungalow Bill' on the 'Travel Weary Capricorn Improv', before entering into some wearily deconstructive Spanish business of his own for a few minutes. Weird stuff for those of us who know this band mostly for Lark's Tongues and Red. So, anyway, bottom line is that Disc 1 isn't too good.

But it's all saved by a superbly wonderful disc 2, which ranks right up there as probably the best live Crimson money can by. It's all from a Fillmore West show and gives us all you really need from In The Court (what? No 'Moonchild'? Retard. Of course, no 'Moonchild'.) as well as some extra stuff that may change your opinion of the early band somewhat. Major revelations: Fripp displays a cute tendency to solo in a manner which sounds just like Sir James Marshall, except, you know, not as life-changing, Lake shows himself to be frighteningly talented but yet nearly as horrifyingly pretentious (hey, at least the guy had it, Boz and that Gordon fool were a couple of puffed-up zeroes in comparison.), Giles is a decent jazz drummer but not much good at bashing, and that Ian McDonald should be relegated to lounge acts. As for the unfamiliar tunes, 'Drop In' is just useless, like Lizard two years early, 'A Man, A City' is pretty powerful but contains TOO GODDAMN MUCH SAX!, and 'Mars' is a brainy and brawny take on the Holst metal-classical piece that would probably make Beavis splew his spew with all the 'duh duh duh-duh-duh-duh' and Mellotron torture that goes on for 9 minutes. Neat stuff.

Capn's Final Word: Way overpadded, but really not as bad of a value as it might seem. Some really fantastic stuff mixed with too much bastardized welfare mother charity case lounge jazz.

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Cole    Your Rating: B+

Any Short Comments?: disc one is indeed from three different sources: the first few tracks are BBC sessions, and the rest are from two different shows. "Get Thy Bearings" is a Donovan song, if you can believe that (I think Lake ad-libbed the "let's all get stoned!" bit). I wish they'd just released disc two by itself, though, as it's a lot more coherent than disc one. oh, and that distorted bass tears!


In The Wake Of Poseidon - Atlantic 1970

Bobby apparently rerecords the debut (even he says so), but I don't really hear that except for the out-and-out quotes. What I do hear is Crimson getting much jazzier and probably a good deal worse. Or at least more unfocused, and when you're dealing with inherently complicated music, that's a bad thing. The basic parts are still here, Fripp's overfuzzed guitar doubled by McDonald's McSax (remember when all McDonald's food came in styrofoam? May have permanently destroyed the earth's ability to defend itself from cancer-causing UV rays, but it damn well kept your burger warm, didn't it? I guess nowadays you can just leave your Big Mac outside for a minute or two and and those extra-crispy sun rays will heat it right up for ya. Those McDonald's guys, always thinking ahead!) and tippy-tap snare drums following everyone's moves like, well, like a motion detector. Or a drummer that can't shut up and stop playing a million beats a second. And Greg Lake's still here! Even though he was one foot out the door at the time he still comes through, and that's a godsend because his replacement, Gordon Haskell (what a name! sorry, dude!), who sings on 'Cadence and Cascade', is a complete washout. Not on 'C&C', though, he does a fair job there. A fair blow job! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Didn't that sound just like Mark Prindle? I should really stop reading his page one of these years. I'm a father and almost 30, for Christ's sake. But can you believe I actually talk like this? No highly-paid yuppie jobs in Manhattan for me, no sirree!

But if this is still basically the same band, why is this album so tuneless and hard to follow? There's a whole lot more childish noisemaking (for the sake of noisemaking) for one thing, and a general lack of interest in making these structured songs, for another. Or if they do have a structure, it's too damned complicated for me and my little tiny medulla oblongata to wrap a dendricle around anyhow. So very little of this record makes a lasting impression, but it's pretty cool to have on while it's going, and that's often enough for me to have good feelings about something.

Okay, songs. The three 'Peace' interludes are silly hippie nonsense, and the title track really does sound like 'Epitaph' in tone, but with far awfuller lyrics (shut up, spellcheck). 'Pictures Of A City' comes from the live-only 'A Man, A City' I should review for the Epitaph live album and place somewhere above this, if I don't forget forever, which is darned likely. It's really pretty cool, though, and flexes the trademark Crimson muscle well, albeit in a really messy way. The real highlights are on side 2 (are side 2, actually, unless you count those retarded 'Peace' things), the career-highlight jazzprog headbanger 'Cat Food', which not only boasts a pretty funky verse part, but also a catchy chorus that's guaranteed to lodge above your sinus for at least 4 or 5 days following your first exposure. Plus some neat guitar noises and hilarious 'off-rocker' singing by Lake, who would later attempt to sing like this throughout his ELP stint, but fail because, for the most part, ELP sucked the donkey off and spat it in your Cheerios. But that's just me. Maybe I'll review them, relisten to their albums, and find I don't really despise their work. Or just review them and let 'er rip like they deserve. We'll see. Anyway, for a band where humor is in dreadfully short supply and has been since 1969, this remains a bright, shining bit of goofiness in the middle of all that. Oh, and 'Devil's Triangle' is some heavy weather song quoting directly from Holst's 'Mars' (which KC also play live on Epitaph), but the effect is rather impressive, with a band going 'duhduhduhduh duh duhduhduh' over and over while various Mellotrons, saxophones, and detuned pianos run roughshod. Interesting, but more than a trifle cheap following the crafted perfection of Court.

In short, you have some real treats here, but in all I feel a lack of effort since the last one. Lack of effort in attempting to vary the sound very much, lack of effort in making instrumental passages go somewhere, lack of effort in keeping the chaos in check...but the entertainment value is still locked in, and we'd better grab as much of that as we can because, at least for a few years, the road gets a bit rocky.

Capn's Final Word: So sure, it's a ways bit worse than Court, but like a heavyweight champ flubbing a punch, it'll probably still drop an unsuspecting motorist to their knees, gasping for air and clutching a broken nose freely bleeding on the pavement. And sometimes Poseidon makes us feel just like that.

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Conner      Your Rating: B+
Any Short Comments?: A very very high B+ (teetering on A-) goes to In the Wake of Poseidon. It's a collection of good enough songs (for the most part), but it really doesn't go anywhere or have much consistency (and although side B is noisy, I can't hear noisy stuff throughout the album, as you suggested it is). "Cadence and Cascade" is a very pretty tune that gets shit all the time for being an "I Talk to the Wind" ripoff, but the melody, structure, and arrangement have little to do with that tune, and I think the general mood and the fact that it comes after the famed "Schizoid Man" ripoff "Pictures of a City" make it seem more of a retread than it really is. The title track is probably Fripp's first attempt at writing his own prog epic, coming off as an ⌠Epitaph kind of thing, but more intense. It generally works, helped majorly by some amazing drumming by Mike Giles (listen to those fills in the chorus!) and gigantic mellotron strings that are more intense and upfront than any mellotron playing on the first album. "The Devil's Triangle" is pretty hard going to these ears, and isn't a direct of a quote from Holst's "Mars" as everyone says (as a matter of fact, the only stuff from "Mars" I can find is the rhythm and a couple of themes.) As for the ⌠Peace things, I pretty much agree with what everyone says (⌠silly hippie nonsense as you put it), except I think ⌠Peace: A Theme is totally worthwhile and memorable, with some great acoustic guitar playing. Taken as a whole, ⌠In the Wake of Poseidon looks bad, but judged solely by its songs, it's a keeper.
P.S.: Your review states that Ian McDonald plays sax on this record, but he actually had departed from the band by now, and unlike the other members opted NOT to play session on this album.

 


Lizard - Atlantic 1970.

Yes, it's different this time around, but doncha go running out to your local crack 'n' juice merchant quite yet, Mr. Caminiti. KC go from big epic monster impress-o-matics to avant-something-or-others completely concerned with how jerky the time signatures are, how many times the snare can tippy-tap in one measure, and how we can cram one more wanky sax solo in there just in case your closet wasn't full of them already. Oh, and Greg Lake is now gone for good, with Gordon 'Eddie' Haskell forgettably misfilling his shoes. It's not enough to say the guy can't sing...he sounds so smug with his awful singing, he sounds just like the jerky native British English teachers I work with. I can just hear how the kidney-pudding sucking fucker's blackened buck teeth are poking into the microphone. Needless to say, 'Happy Family' is rendered into a pile of unloved poop by the man, and no amount of atonal circle-jerking by the band can change that. Oh, did I mention that Robert Fripp's guitar is all but MIA here? Yup, he's all into packing as many grating synths/mellotrons/noisemaking torture devices as he can on every track, and plumb leaves his twanger back in his other pants.

Songwise, the best thing by far is the opening section of the entirely-too-many-part 'Lizard', featuring Mr. Pretention Himself, Jon Anderson. See, this was made when Anderson was mostly known for his fruity pop songs ('Time And A Word') rather than his fruity prog songs (The entire Yes catalog after 1971 and prior to 1980), and this is one of those monsters. I hear a melody! I hear pretty backing music that wouldn't have sounded too far out for Court! I hear my ear canals slowly uncurling themselves from a fetal position!  If they'd have finished that part, banded it, and given it its own track number (yes, the section does have a name, but my pirate MP3 disc just lists the track name 'Lizard', so I don't know what it could be), we'd be in business, but noooooo. Robert the Fey has to indulge his Miles Davis complex by morphing the song into a limp copy of Sketches of Spain. I like Sketches quite a bit, its Iberian jazz/classical hybrid is strong and melodic at the same time, and sure puts some bullfighters and senioritas in my skull, but this is just endless twinkling pianos and 'mesmerizing' horn solos. Pleasant enough for a time, maybe, but it just keeps digging it's grave deeper and deeper until Gordie comes in and the whole thing is lost in a prog mess that just goes on long after my attention has turned to such massively intriguing problems as how old the mayonnaise in the fridge is or whether the Expos will get contracted or not.

Hard to believe, but the first side is often much worse than that. 'Happy Family' is plain-Jane awful and ugly and not worth your dime, 'Lady Of The Dancing Water' allows us to hear Fripp's acoustic guitar for a short while more (very short), but makes us pay for it by subjecting us to Sinfield's medieval masturbation fantasy lyrics. Lots of folks reckon 'Cirkus' to be a highlight, but I personally don't hear it. Oh, sure, it's better than anything else on the first side, but I still think it's just polished tunelessness with some cool Fripp acoustic tacked on for good measure. It holds no power, (maybe a small amount of eeriness...BOO!) and on a King Crimson record, that's suicide. Diving naked into a swimming pool full of broken light bulbs kinda suicide.

Capn's Final Word: Ooh. Where the messiness of the last one drops off the edge and lands jelly-side down. If you want to hear Miles Davis, listen to Miles Davis. If you want to hear bad prog, I can give you a laundry list. Some sections are tolerable (thanks, Jon), but most of all it's one hairy thing to sit through.

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Tom H.     Your Rating: B
Any Short Comments?: Well hell Cap, why pan the shit outta the thing and then give it 'C'?  Naw, the way I see it this is good for how *bad* it is in places and really good in one place: 'Cirkus'.  The coolest and scariest sounding K.C. Mellotron can be found here - and this by the 'Tron heavyweight champeen band of all time.  Yeah, the lyrics are abso-fucking-lutely *deliciously* pretentious - once again good for how bad they are.  So - 'Cirkus' is worth the price o' admission.

 


Islands - Atlantic 1971.

Now featuring the vocal talents of Boz(zy the Bear) Burrell (better than Haskell, but not that much better), this is more unentertaining avant-mess like Lizard, but at least cordoning off it's most obviously bad material in a special Corral Of Avant-Classical/Jazz away from the other stuff, which you can easily skip on your Tour Of King Crimson. As a whole it's much quieter and less rabble-rousing this time, and tends to go more towards the merely boring rather than the ear-scraping. But let's talk about the really bad parts first, because they'll be what you come across first (and last). First off, there's the massively offensive 'Formentera Lady', which comes across like Bob Denver crossed with Swingin' Sixties Bachelor Pad Lite Jazz Makeout Music. For a long time. The badness is so strong I feel myself considering electing a man who will send all these wide-collared, leisure-suited hipsters to the wall where they belong. The closing 'Islands' is more of the same, maybe slightly less stomach-punching and featuring a nice piano rather than, well, whatever it was that made 'Formentera' so goddamn awful, but this stuff is still darned close to what your worst nightmares about something called jazz/classical fusion might be (forget rock...there's no rock here my ears can detect. They do detect quite a level of bullshit though, and my gaydar is off the chart).

So, 'The Letters' is a jarring quiet/loud thing that could equally impress and annoy the living fuck out of the average Mormon, and I hear those Mormons are some pretty tolerant folks, as long as you're not black. Part even resemble the Doors, but not the parts with the free jazz saxophone soloing. That resembles a raccoon being forced into a garbage disposal full of rusty razor blades. But the quieter parts are okay, trust me. 'Ladies Of The Road' is some sort of sexist nastiness not seen this side of Bad Company (which, surprise! Boz Burrell later joined), but I bet you've never heard Robert Fripp mixing his 21st Century Fuzzed Up Tone with some snappy blues licks(!) and an oddly Beatlesque bridge part. Weird, and not totally without something to hate 'till your grave, but interesting. 'Sailor's Tale' is an aimless free-jazz jam you'll probably find about as entertaining as smashing your respective tender bits betwixt a couple of bricks, but Fripp lets his electric guitar out for a few blazing spins around the swimming pool, at least.

Best song, and the only unqualified good song on here? A pure classical piece. Meaning, orchestral only. Odd, huh? But 'Prelude: Song Of The Gulls' is not only pretty, it's memorable, contains no unwanted parts, and is a nifty four minutes long, unlike some classical attempts by such luminaries as Keith Emerson or Pink Floyd I could name, but won't because I forgot what their names were.

This really couldn't go on much longer. For one thing, Fripp's changing bands every album was murder on forming any sort of cohesive writing unit, and there was only so much audience for this sort of obviously masturbatory music. Luckily, this was it for Crimson the Naive Classic/Jazz Experimentalists. Bring on Crimson the Heavy Metal Satanists!

But an I get a really awful live album first? I'm much obliged.

Capn's Final Word: So 'fused' I don't think it'd appeal to much of anybody other than the most rabidly Frippian in the audience. Lacks much connection to rock music, not well performed enough for jazz, and the classical section is way short. And for avant-garde, well, you weirdos be the judge.

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Earthbound - Atlantic 1972.

Quite possibly the worst sounding major label live album of all time, it makes Got Live Of You Want It and Live Kinks sound like 48 track digital masters in comparison. It almost revels in overloaded tape sizzle, indistinguishable noise (is that Robert or just tape hiss making that noise?), and levels rising and dropping faster than Patty Duke on speed. Add in the fact that the Boz-era band was far from being the best incarnation N'Sync ever had, and they only play one song that fails to be an improv jam session, and you may wonder why you should bother. But you know what? You can't bother, because this has been out of print in the Sates so long you'll need to hire a private detective and secure a sizable bank loan before even starting to look for it.

Someone's been listening to Miles Davis' Live-Evil, that's for sure. When did King Crimson turn into the poor Englishman's version of the JB's anyway? The title track and 'Peoria' are these really strangely out-of-character funk tunes featuring whoever on sax and Robert on wah-wah. Ummm....right. Robert and the sax guy maybe do some good solos, or maybe not, I can't really hear. Boz scats like a Tourette's guy undergoing a facial beating, and I can hear that part. Maybe I could deal with this on a really good recording and after hearing some really good news while getting a blowjob, but on here, with this whole vibe that screams out 'unlistenable headache music', I just don't want to know about it. And the closing 'Groon' is so bad I can't even qualify it as being jazz-funk. In fact, the only thing I can tell about it is that there's a drum solo on it. Either that or the drums finally got so loud you can't hear a single note of what anyone else is playing, but I'm willing to hedge my bets. 

Oh, and there's a version of '21st Century Schizoid Man' for 11 minutes. Boz absolutely rules on it, and Robert goes nuts. It tears.

Tears little holes in the tape if you're into specifics.

Capn's Final Word: Don't bother looking for it. I will say it has a really cool 'Schizoid', though, just to piss you off that you'll never be able to find it.

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John Kimbel erfinagerfin@hotmail.com Your Rating: F
Any Short Comments?: Just so you know, they re-released this.  I own the 30th anniversary disc, which is supposedly 'cleaned up' from the record.  Unbelieveable that it's actually WORSE than the copy I own...how you give this a C- is beyond me.  It's actually listenable for humor value more than anything - Boz makes some neat mouth noises!  And "Groon" will clear a room...it goes on FOREVER!

True, "Schizoid Man" kicks ass, but I think you'd like the 2 disc Ladies of the Road much better.  Why he released Earthbound when this stuff was in the vault is incomprehensible - Ladies of the Road is MUCH better sound quality.  Plus, the performances are pretty good...they don't just dick around, they play actual songs!  This incarnation, oddly enough, was the best at Schizoid Man...there's a whole bonus disc there that's a testament to that.

craig steven  craig33steven@yahoo.com   Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: I had a copy from a italian company , the quility was excellent. I have not heard this, but this album, stayed on my player for ages!! sailorstale- groon....man this is the best sounding version of crimson to me.very space-like,with jazz overtones.I belive this is out now by crimson, check it out w/ a hit!!!!


Lark's Tongues In Aspic - Atlantic 1973

Yes it's better, much much better. The 'new look' Crimson, based around talented stoneface John Wetton on smoky vocals and bass (in case you're not familiar, he's the voice of early Asia as well, but he does a lot better on this stuff than he did 9 years later with 'Heat Of The Moment' so it shouldn't scare you off) and babyfaced virtuoso Bill Bruford on drums (who, in typical Frippian style, was notified that 'he was now 'ready for' King Crimson after rocketing to fame with Yes. As if Yes was Crimson's farm team and Coach F was calling up a new pitching prospect. As if Yes doesn't outsell and out-perform Crimson 9 times out of 10. Man, that guy's got no tact whatsoever.) There's also a sax/violin guy David Cross and probably some stuff by weirdo percussionist Jamie Muir, who coined the cool sounding nonsense album title himself, but we all know how important those guys are, really. It's all about guitars, bass, and drums anyway, for this is newly laser-focused hard-as-nails Crimson, and all that mushiness of the Lizard/Islands period is forgotten in a haze of destruction. The new band sounds lean and angry, and able to detonate small buildings at 200 paces. I'll be the first to admit that while this formula seems destined to appeal to my headbanger-at-heart sensibilities, it took me a long time to ever get into this record, and even though I can now enjoy what the thing is all about (we're talking about unchecked aggression here!) I still don't know how much I really understand it's dark, charred little heart. If you're after the true Conradian 'journey into the evil heart of a pretentious 70's English Art Rock band, then here's your bowl of beans and sauce. They're basing almost the entire content of the album on tricky, jam-derived instrumentals, so if you're after cute little pop songs, better hitch a ride on down to Three Of A Perfect Pair, 'cos this stuff is prog, hardcore cumshot prog.

We start proceedings with a true quick-jump 13 minute multipart horror movie title track, consisting of so many different parts that sometimes seem to go together and sometimes seem to mix like beer and ice cream that I'm often just lost. Now, I can dig that whole 3 minute trick-the-listener-into-turning-up-the-sound-only-to-have-his-skull-crushed-by-the-entrance-of-the-guitars-in-the-second-part percussion intro, I think that's pretty cool, and I sure like the way Fripp's guitar comes soaring in over the disco/noise violins, and the brontosaurus breakdance main riff is a real suicide bomber....all that is fine. But what about the prog-ole part in the middle, with the auto-wahed bass and whatnot. Where does that fit in here in post-everything 2002? Well you either dig the half-controlled trickiness of the whole mess or wish you'd bought Papa Roach instead so you could hear some little pissant whine about his parents' divorce some more. But the violin/noise solo (and I mean solo) section gets me down, and only the return of the hints at violent tendencies (over some creepy sounding vocal samples) at about 11 minutes returns me to a happy place, and then the Touching the Face Of God section to end us up, and I'm thoroughly confused.

And it's not like 'Book Of Saturday' helps out much...this sounds like a leftover from the Islands days in it's weak lite-jazzy limpness, though it gives us a decent opportunity to hear both Wetton's voice and some neat backwards guitar soloing. If only I could tell what in the whore he's blabbering about, but there's no hope in figuring those non-sequitirs out. That's your only chance on Lark's Tongues in Assholes to hear a song that's shorter than attention-span testing....everything else is 7 minutes plus, so buckle your headgear and snap down your chastity belt, 'cos we're in for the long haul here. 'Exiles' is a neat return to Court-sounding epic-ity. It seems like Fripp's been saving up those swelling washes of sound for years, waiting for the right band to materialize so these licks didn't sound quite as bombastic as they really are...but pretty affecting, as well, and guess which part I care about. Again, this song makes a Zen's arsehole's worth of sense lyrically (plus the lyrics are all buried beneath enough mush to kill Pat Sajak, so you aren't hearing what they're saying no how), but it sounds profound, dammit, especially the whistley-sounding solo from Fripp that ends it up (he dialed in a sound on his guitar that cut out all of the attacks from the pick, making everything all slurry...it's cool, and shows that he's been learning from his solo forays with Eno). 'Easy Money' is the closest thing to an accessible 'song' on here (not counting 'Saturday', but c'mon, that song's a lame one) despite the sick, murderous samples in the background while Wetton intones over minimal backing...just get up on that funk beat Bruford lays down! It's far closer to Miles Davis' fusion work in spirit than whatever Fripp was trying to fill his last few albums with. I really feel a sense of danger in a lot of this music, and even if Fripp's soloing on 'Money' resembles Jerry Garcia running short of ideas, it's still inspired stuff with all that cool rhythm section work. If only they wouldn't drag it out to maddening lengths in concert...oh well, the second part of 'Larks' Tongues' finally solves the rubik's cube and puts all the good parts of the band out on the floor at the same time, giving us a sweaty heavy metal instrumental based on a round, popping bass and the acid guitar slashes of Mr. F. All of the components work to near perfection, and if they'd later improve on this idea (with 'Red'), here it's still some sort of rush-inducing medicine.

Listen, this stuff is thick, and not only that, it's distorted, cold, and spiky. And it's not friendly...even after such a long time listening to to it as I've had, I still leave it with more questions than answers. I used to look at reviews like this one and say to myself 'cool! I like music that isn't friendly!', but you know what? I really didn't. I liked it hard but accessible, and it took me awhile to admit to myself that music can be 'easy' and just as good, without putting myself through a difficult time. And Larks' Tongues is one of those that quite possibly can be a bit of a chore to listen to all at once. There's no question about their prowesses or the power that they have somehow harnessed...it's just that they tend to use it in a manner that to me sounds quite wasteful and inefficient. Too many songs without a flow, too many jams that sort of reach no resolution, too many nonsensical lyrics for me to hang a synpase on this and say 'Yes, this album is Great'. So, I'm just left saying, 'Well, it's something that's for sure, but I'm just not sure what or for what purpose.'

Capn's Final Word: Just try the damn thing yourself...just the fact that I'm debating myself about it makes it worth a hundred times more than anything since Court anyway, and I don't feel taking a hundred listens to figure out if it is a waste of time. So there, grab this mess and attempt to find a handle.

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Pat Connor     Your Rating: A-
Any Short Comments?: You forgot to mention that menacing monster of minimalism song, The Talking Drum.  It's downright eerie, building and building and building, and then doing some more building, until it literally screeches to a halt.  It makes a great intro for Larks' Tongue in Aspic Part Two.

 


The Nightwatch - DGM 1998

Forever repeating themselves with their live albums, The Nightwatch is drawn from the same shows as the massive Great Deceiver box, so you can see it as a budget replacement for that Goodyear Blimp-sized Frippian assrapeand probably should. But as it is also contains major overlap with the much less expensive and MUCH less demanding (attention span-wise, anyway) USA, I join my voice in with the army of 'So What?'s among us in the vocal community. I personally don't need yet another '73-era live album concentrating on the Lark's Tongues and Starless studio albums (again leaving us without anything from the superior Red), especially seeing that I don't like this era's improvisations at all, and nothing here is otherwise unavailable except for the big baby Jesus fuckup called 'The Fright Watch', which is somehow related to 'The Night Watch' in that they both suck balls for a living. Listen, King Crimson is nothing is not professional, so their straight-edge performances of good stuff like 'Exiles' and 'Easy Money' are clean and easy on the ears, but they're also nothing if not annoying when straying from the melody, so you'd better be really enamored of the Fripp soloing style before signing up. And tolerant of feedback. Come on, you know the drill already, this is just another Crimson live album to take money from fans. 

Capn's Final Word: Unnecessary live archive release that proves that Crimson has about as much reason to release a Grateful Dead-like number of live albums as a stray dog's chance of survival living in an alley behind a Vietnamese restaurant. Not bad, but mighty familiar.

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Jeff Blehar jblehar@mail.nih.gov Your Rating: B

Any Short Comments?: I hate to undermine the premise of your review, but The Night Watch is NOT at all drawn from the Great Deceiver boxed set.  There's nary a single overlap between the two, and I should know since I'm a huge fan of this iteration of the group.  There IS an immense amount of overlap between this album and "Starless And Bible Black," however. In fact, it's not even drawn from the same TOUR as most of the Great Deceiver, which while containing some 1973 material is chiefly focused on the pre-Red 1974 band - they played quite a different setlist than on this tour. I suspect a lot of your confusion comes from listening to MP3 versions of these albums as opposed to the actual CDs.  This is a complete concert from the Concertgebouw which was used in large part for SABB ("Fracture," "Trio," "SABB" and the first half of "The Night Watch" are all taken wholesale from this concert for the album).  Now all of those moments are golden (except "SABB," ugh), but there's just too much overlap to make this a really smart buy. Which is a shame, because there are SUPERB versions of "Exiles" (my favorite Crimson live song from this era...the studio version is weak), "Easy Money," "The Talking Drum," and "Larks' Tongues In Aspic, Part II." Anyone but the committed fan ought to buy either Starless And Bible Black or The Night Watch, but not both.  I'd recommend this live album, as it contains all of the highlights of SABB (save "The Great Deceiver") plus great performances of the Larks' Tongues tracks, and those two intolerably stupid improvisations (plus the one genius improvisation of "Trio," which is nearly all down to Cross and Wetton) for representative balance.


Starless and Bible Black - Atlantic 1974.

Any band, no matter who it is, any band has the ability to put together one passable album over the course of a normal year, not counting major illnesses or lineup changes. It used to be, maybe 1965 or so, that records were 30 minutes long and an artist was expected to pop a new one out every four months or so. If it was loaded with covers and filler, it didn't matter, just as long as there was at least one hit and a picture of the group on the front. Nowadays, we're lucky if a group get around to putting something on tape every four years (though it's been getting better recently), and when they do they make a 70 minute CD, chock full of, surprise, covers and filler! See, but at some point in the 1970's, bands got it just right. An album, according to the Ryan Atkinson Infallible Album Release Axiom, should be just between 40 and 50 minutes in length and should be released with a frequency of 1 a year, not including live albums and compilations. In very few cases has a band been able to successfully sustain a frequency faster than this. Here, Crimson makes an attempt and fails, in a pretty miserable fashion. This album has 'road jams rushed into the studio' written all over it, an attempt to capture some of the momentum gathered while playing the live shows in support of Larks' Tongues. Gosh, this stuff could have been great if some of the more rotten sections had been excised, but as it is we have a exhilarating opening passage of 'The Great Deceiver', about a thousand miles per second of Roxy-esque violins and drums bashing that promises the world, then gives way to a nearly music-less verse part where the first line you hear is 'health food faggot'. Wha? Tweet! Taste penalty on King Crimson, half the distance to the goal and your wack percussion guy gets thrown out of the band. Third down!

And the band never really gets over the fact that they're attempting to be 'arty' on here, either. I dunno about y'all, but if I hear Fripp's guitar begin to feed back just one more time I'm giving up this whole Crimson review thing and move right along to the Turtles or something like that. The whole second side is two goddamn songs! Both of which are looooooong instrumentals! Both of which are more of that 'play one minute of this tricky rhythm, glop feedback and overdriven bass over it, then stop playing that and go into something worse!' Did I just step into some sort of Neo-Nazi pain-threshold experimentation or something? I don't particularly feel like discussing these two 'songs' much, but suffice it to say that they were originally recorded live, and that I feel reasonably certain that the entire band did pass AP Time Signature. What's particularly sad is that even the more traditional 'songs' are not much better than a rifle shot in the kneecaps, either. The 'song' that leads us off, the aforementioned 'Great Deceiver', seems more happy twiddling about in its sandbox than actually putting it together for us, and 'Lament' is just dreadful cock-balladeering...when did Crimson suddenly start writing lyrics that were so accursedly mundane? At least the meandering 'Nightwatch' makes up for it, but that melody is still mighty suspect. Give me more of those 'confusion! Shall be my Epitaph!', not 'here I stand with my guitar' and remember to slap Paul McCartney on the way out for inventing this whole genre of music.

Gosh, but I guess if I took all these words and started deducting grades for each put-down I just voiced, we'd have ourselves an F, and that's just not really what I feel should happen. So let's just puff that score right back up by noticing some positives here. First! There's still large piles of instrumental quality to be dug out from all these piles of garbage, and Bill Bruford especially sounds strong. The guy just wansa boogah, 's all...can't the others just lay down a James Brown backing and let him take it Way Down South for 'em? And 'Trio' shows that Fripp hasn't forgotten that, besides the pedal steel, the Mellotron flute is the most beautiful instrument ever created by hominids. And Fripp does grace us with a lot of his guitar playing....it's just that a lot of it takes about 2.58% of his ability to play. A lot of it is what my father used to call 'that buzzy noise', and I'll tell ya what, all it takes is a plugged in amp and some gritted teeth to make happen.

Capn's Final Word: Lots of unwritten, undeveloped, aimless jams. No really fine songs, and call us back when you fix the problem.

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Patrick Squatriti  jehudas_2@hotmail.com   Your Rating: B
Any Short Comments?: Awwww...don't be unfair..."The Great Deceiver" kicks my hairy butt, in a way that only the intro to "Heart of the Sunrise" or the opening of "Watcher of the skies" does. And "Fracture" is
sheer brilliance. I don't even find it boring! I'll admit to there being too many pointless jams, but it's Fripp, and it's Wetton and Bruford, these guys can jam. Anyhow...the first and the last track are more than redeeming don't you think? The ending to "Fracture" gives me goosebumps. These three guys can raise Hell.
 


Red - Atlantic 1974

Oh my lawdy! It's never been this good before! King Crimson tightened down to the breaking point and focused through a ruby to create a piercing, no-bullshit sound (again, but trust me, this is better than Lark's Tongues). It's also one of the best 'soundtracks for the mind' I've ever heard...each one of these songs provokes a strong visual element, at least in this head of mine. How, if the last album failed so badly at doing anything at all, much less this? Structure. I mean, that title instrumental has no less than 5 or 6 memorable, well-constructed melody lines...and you know what? No jamming. Everything included was written, rehearsed, and planned...and it counts, but just don't think that any of the edginess or 'snap' has been removed because of this...rest assured it's been magnified a thousand fold.  Dig the army of guitar overdubs bubbling and crackling all over each other. Feel Wetton's bass pops as they drill mouseholes in your eardrums. Listen to Bill Bruford at his most commanding....and what's more, the beat never gets lost. And what is it about, other than anger (obviously) and to hear exactly how quickly that army of Fripps can do trills on the guitar? I played this once as an oncoming wall cloud was rolling in ahead of me while driving home to Norman Oklahoma. If you've ever lived in the Midwest, you're probably familiar with the feeling you get, just about 6 pm when, on a previously hot, oppressively barometric day, that cool wind starts blowing and the clouds begin to heave and bellow out of that oddly black-looking entrenchment of cloud in front of you. 'Red' is sort of like that.

I can't say anything else on the record is as evocative and perfect as that, but the dropoff surely isn't felt strongly. 'Fallen Angel' begins with a reversed-distorted violin note and takes us through many stages of a violent encounter with a violent personality...we've got a 'reassuring' verse section where Wetton leads us through the streets of New York, then a 'tense' chorus part with the arpeggios-a-marchin' and the lead guitar all a-screamin' as a flailing trumpet leads the beating. Never once does this album deviate from the sense of fear and dread that the title track introduces, but 'One More Red Nightmare' does a decent job of introducing something that at least looks like sunlight at first glance...it's a fast, breakneck blast through a funk reaction vessel (those handclaps were probably supposed to be ironic, but I even think they're a little creepy, in a good way) that then turns into one of the bands best 'soaring' jams. It's supposed to evoke a nightmare, and this is one case where I don't quite feel the crashing airplane that Wetton does, but I do feel the saxophone solo ripping up the sky on its way past. And is that an electronic drum or is Bruford bashing on a sheet of metal back there? Whatever, it works.

'Providence', if you could call it such, is the single fault of the album. This is a selection from a live jam (from Rhode Island, see? Ha! A-Ha! Minor earth....MAJOR SKY!) from one of the '73 shows, apparently, since Muir still appears in the lineup. It's as formless as most of Starless and Bible Black was, and personally reminds me of the Lizard era too strongly to be quite comfortable at the begninning, but then kicks in at about 5 minutes with a pretty hair-shearing end part courtesy of Bruford's ever-willing four appendages and Wetton's hyperactive fuzz bass. Fripp just stands by his amp, but graces us with a few John McLaughlin lines at the right points. Why can't the guy deem to play like this more often? Why so much gratuitous feedback? Ah well, the questions we could ask with a few free hours and Robert Fripp tied to a chair with needles under his fingernails....

Ahhh...you miss the grace and beauty and sweep of Court? 'Starless' awaits, and shows the true peak (outside of 'Red', that is) of this middle-period Crim. If previously we've seen thunderstorms and street violence and plane crashes, now we have mourning. Wetton leads us with his (best ever?) vocal performance, which I say beats Lake at his own game. Now if all the Mellotrons and stuff don't drown you in tears, the minimalist buildup on the instrumental middle section will. Fripp ever-so-steadily builds the tension, using only one single note, precisely timed and ringing through the halls of your cranial arena until the point...breaks. It doesn't reach the breaking point and stop, it breaks. Obliterates the fucker as the rhythm section hacks along, raping the household. And after the break, the whole song disassembles itself into a fine fucking blather of a free jazz jam...it's hypnotic, and horrifying. This kind of music just does not come along every day of your life, and I suggest that anybody with at least a minor interest in progressive music (or the more 'arty' side of metal, for this album is as hard as any 70's heavy metal, but completely different in form and execution) seek this album out. It's not particularly accessible, and maybe not an album for those happy-go-lucky daisy-tripping days of spring, but it's the most solid musical statement prog ever made, at least from this addled little guy's opinion. Bad for us that this album was actually released 'postmortem', and Fripp decided to pursue his fairly interesting solo career at the expense of Crimson...this is pretty much your one and only chance to get Crim Music of the highest possible quality. Oh yeah, did I mention that much of this was actually outtakes from Starless? Outtakes. From Starless and Bible Black. That album got a C+, and this one a perfect grade. Someone needs a nap.

Capn's Final Word:  Taking a strong conceptual stance (just far enough) with gorgeous structure and the usual head-spinning musicianship leads to an album that belongs on every shelf. Search it out and curse it that this band shut down just as soon as it got warmed up.

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Arindam     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: Brilliant stuff here.

The opening duo of "Red" and "Fallen Angel" set the tone for this album with the pounding, raging crunchiness of the former and the dark, ponderous, yet unbelievably tragic nature of the latter. "One More Red Nightmare" is perhaps not quite as perfect (the saxophone jam in the middle meanders a bit much for my liking,) but the weird handclaps, awesome drumming, and infectious riffs (not to mention Wetton's perfect "careless" vocal delivery) make it worthy of this album. "Providence" is easily the weakest track here, but mostly just in comparison to the others; and besides, the last 3 minutes are still pretty awesome.

And then the godliness that is "Starless." From the depressing opening 4 minutes to the brilliant build up into Fripp's 2 note siren of doom over Wetton's pounding bassline and Bruford's furious drumming into what I would say is among the 3 greatest minutes of music in existence, "Starless" is untouchable.

The divinity present bewteen the first two tracks and "Starless" easily negate any already negligible flaws found in the remaining 2 tracks, and the end result is what I would consider to be my favorite album of all time. Not for the weak of heart, but essential for anyone interested in complex, challenging, and ultimately brilliant music.

 

Conner     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: This here's probably my favorite album. From the crunchy, frontline-assault of "Red" to the layered, moving masterpiece "Starless", this album kicks. Gotta love your description of the latter tune, although you neglected to describe the climax (you know, the part where the mellotron comes back in and Bill does that driving rhythm whilst John thumbs away at that amazing and passionate bassline), which incidentally is my favorite part of the tune. The sax solos on this number show where the proposed touring lineup of Fripp, Wetton, Bruford, and original flautist/saxophonist/mellotronist Ian McDonald could have gone. Why did Fripp end it all (for this lineup, as it would turn out) when he had such a great group and such great magic going? Some questions will never be answered┘

P.S.: This album isn't comprised of outtakes from Starless and Bible Black, as your review states. Recording actually commenced in July '74 A good five months after SABB had been released.

(Capn's Response: That don't mean nothin'. They coulda had those songs practiced out the frig since the SABB album sessions, and just never put them on tape. Either that or they had a pretty considerable inspiration upload in those five short months. Starless and Bible Black sucks.)

Divyang     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: This is the only King Crimson album I have heard and I agree with what seems like everybody that this is a absolute masterpiece,that is,except for "Providence".The song lowers the intensity of the album.Fripp's self indulgence ,that's what it is.Starless is the most majestic piece on the whole album.What struck me about this album is that,all the bands trying to sound scary can take a leaf out of King Crimson's book.Red manages to be more scary than all those black Metal and Death Metal bands can ever be.(the ones with the Satanist lyrics you know,and all those idiotic names like Abomination,Bats out Of Hell and what not.Whole thing sounds like a drum solo,guitars sound like they are coming from far away.)


 


USA - Atlantic 1975

Another live record, the original issue from the mid-70's heavyprog outfit has now been completely supplanted by the enormously bloated Great Deceiver and the more complete single-show Night Watch. Plus! It's Guaranteed Hard To Find (patented, EG Music 1975), so unless you want to be scouring used bins for the next few months, I suggest you just let this one pass through your fingers and from your memory while settling for one of the other mid-period live possibilities. Just skip the next paragraph and move on.

Because if you read this paragraph you'll find out that this album is actually worth searching out, at least to the extent of scouring a used record shop or two. For one, it's a nice bite-sized chunk of 1974-tour tunes mostly harnessed from Lark's Tongues, with one from Starless, a jammed improv tune called 'Asbury Park', and '21st Century Schizoid Man' and (boo!) nothing from Red, which I guess wasn't finished yet. This is quite an improvement over Deceiver, which gives us more than enough structureless, aimless noise jamming to keep even the most toothy industrial fan happy until their untimely demise being crushed under a falling, perfectly tuned Steinway. Fripp, as point of fact, pretty much abandoned revisitation of the first ('69-'71) era of the band forever, so you won't be getting any 'Epitaph's to show you how lame your 'Lament' sounds in comparison, but he still bent low enough to allow a 'Schizoid' to be inserted into his setlist, if you 'penetrate the rectum' of my 'pompous British guitar player', and I think you do. And for live Crim, this stuff keeps it short (more or less), keeps it interesting, and rarely drops into the pit of jerky aimlessness that awaits young Skywalker when his impatience at the slowness of Jedi training makes him rashly question Master Yoda's methods. I mean, do we really have to lift that rock while standing on one arm? Can't I just get to the cool stuff like jarring time signature changes and ugly ugly feedback?

Capn's Final Word: 'Judge me by my size, do you?' just because USA is small and requires a trip to Dagobah to find it, doesn't mean it isn't a pretty efficient little live album.

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Jeff Blehar Your Rating: A

Any Short Comments?: A real beast of a live album, and finally back in print after all these years of utterly inexplicable unavailability!  Even more, with bonus tracks!  A King Crimson album with BONUS TRACKS?  (Actually the next period's albums have some too.)  And furthermore, the bonus tracks are "Fracture" (good, not great) and "Starless" (OH YEAH). Even without those, this is a great live album, and a really great place to start with the band after Red, maybe even concurrent to it.  The version of "Exiles" here damn near definitive; it has SO much power, Bruford has finally figured out what do with his drum arrangement on the song (no pauses this time), Wetton's bass is carving out poignant figures underneath Cross' old-world violin and Fripp's new-world oil-guitar sound, and to top it off you have the interesting spectacle of listening to Fripp and Cross trade places at the Mellotron while the other does his solo thing.  (I love mid-song instrument hopping; it's so ostentatious!)  Just about the only critique is that Wetton's singing is rougher than it was on The Night Watch's version of the song. And the other tunes are well-performed as well.  This is the best version of "Lament" ever (and I like the song, unlike you), the "Larks' Tongues" is credible, and "Asbury Park" is that rarest of King Crimson improvs: one with a backbeat.  The bonus tracks are just gravy. Now that USA is back in print people have no excuse not to buy it.  


The Great Deceiver - EG 1992.

An incomprehensibly long 4-CD box set concentrating solely on the Sandra Bernhard-messy '73-4 era band, already well covered ground indeed. Listen, if you really like Lark's Tongues and want a live album, buy USA. If that's too short and you're rich, buy The Nightwatch. Purchasing this one ought to carry an obligatory psychiatric exam. Same familiar Lark's Tongues and Starless songs over and over and over again. Same solos over and over and over again. Could possibly make you turn on not only Crimson fanhood, but also your family, church, and patriotic feelings. Docked points for the fact that I couldn't ever make it through 2 discs in a row after 4 or 5 attempts, and docked also for making me feel like a chump even though I got a pirated copy and Fripp will never actually see a dime of my money. No words can explain how huge and needless this product is.

Listen, I may confuse many of you with giving overstuffed Dead live albums A+'s while slamming King Crimson for doing much the same thing, but here's the difference: to me, at least, live Dead really is different every time out of the gate. And for sure they take me to many more places over the course of a show than Crimson could ever hope to go. During a Dead show, I may feel jubilant, depressed, angry, scared, nostalgic, or confused, and usually several shades of any of these even during just a single song. Jerry's guitar is extremely versatile, and his presence of mind keeps most jams heading somewhere, and usually somewhere unexpected. Plus, the backing band keeps up with the ideas and can turn on a dime if need be. Crimson, on the other hand, tends to stray towards the 'oppressively dark and evil' corner on every song (and in every era, at least after the first), Fripp's 'normal' solos are technically unmelodic, cold, and hover around the same tonal centers all the time, and the backing band mistakes complication for development. But all that is okay compared to the 'free' sections where the band races against itself to make the most ear-destroying noise possible (something the Dead did at every show, too, don't get me wrong...but it always came at the same time in each show, 'Space', so at least it was predictable). Maybe it's not all that cut-and-dried all the time, and Lord knows the Dead have their share of useless live material (a load of it) and, heck, whole decades of Dead live performances were less than revelatory, but at the end of the day, The Grateful Dead had, at points at least, something King Crimson just never had. And for that reason, I feel that when I buy a Dead concert, I'm geeting something more than when I buy a Crimson one. And, to top it off, Dead concerts are cheap (4-CD live shows for less than $30...beat that, Robert).

Capn's Final Word: Only for the true sucker. Better stay home from the carnival, boy.

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Discipline - EG 1981.

Barring an unlikely cosmic shift in which The Coen Brothers start making Richard Gere films and Stephen King stops repeating himself, this is the last near-excellent King Crimson studio album ever. See, in the six-odd years between Red and Discipline, the former band was dissolved and the ashes shoved so far up Fripp's large intestine that it was beyond the imagination of most in the music world that Crimson, in any shape or form, had any future. It was just another 70's prog band that had burned out, leaving only confusion and a bunch of half-awful Frippertronics solo albums in its wake. But during the intermission, Fripp was busy forgetting all about that highfalootin' jazz poopah he was so hot on, and started listening to his little bald pal (no, not that one) Eno, who was busy trying to turn him onto electronic and post-punk music. Hear those synths! Dig those clean guitars! Texture, not noise! Precision craft, not aimless metallic wanking!

So when Fripp got himself-a-itchin' to play in a band again, he wasn't planning on making it a Crimson project...he was a 21st Century Normal Man now, and his Mellotron had been gathering dust four over half a decade. He wanted to call the new project Discipline, no doubt because you couldn't just totally wank your way through it like he'd done most of his career. But when it formed up, with former Zappaman Adrian (I) Belew (Fripp to get a spot in this band) taking the spotlight seat, Tony Levin (On A Jet Plane) on overactive new wave bass, and a returning Bruford (who still looks like a 9 year old English elementary school soccer team alternate), it was clear that the feel was still something Crim-like. Thing is, the oppressive atmosphere is still there, but the method of delivery is somewhat new: clean, superprecise arpeggio guitars that sound like echo pedals gone mad (but aren't. It took me years to figure out that all those identical-sounding interwinding notes aren't some form of Frippertronic tape-machine parlour trick. It's really Adrian and Fripp playing two similar-sounding guitars that closely n'sync. And they did it live, too. Chew on that, Iron Maiden.) One of your first problems could be that they play pretty much this same sort of thing on every single song on here, thus making this often resemble a Talking Heads or even Tangerine Dream album more than, you know, prog or something like that. But if you can get into it and let those guitars chime around in your capacities for forty minutes or so, I think you'll find this to be some great thinking music. Need to write a chemistry lab report? Put on Discipline.

Okay, quick run of songs: 'Elephant Talk' is one of those Crim anomalies, something that attempts to be funny (but, well, fails)...see, Adrian is one of those 'cutesy' guys, as opposed to Wetton's 'pretentious' guy, and has written a song where he Roget's his way through all the words for talking, and since the backing music is some of the least interesting and most obviously repetitive on the album, it feels like a letdown. Still, placed first, it's an interesting introduction to the new techno-Crim approach. Those elephant noises get on my nerves something fierce, though, and you just know the Crim fans at live shows attempt to make the same damn noises to show their appreciation. Dorks. 'Frame By Frame' is more like it, a Cinemascoped exploration of the new guitar sound, and the finishing instrumental 'Discipline' is pretty similar, but I like the nearly jovial atmosphere of the latter and the great soulful vocals of the former. 'Thela Hun Ginjeet' is the strongest piece on the record, though, a truly powerful flex of instrumental muscle with Adrian spoken-wording some cool story about being accosted in New York...it's a neat re-exploration of the whole 'violence' theme King Cimson have covered before.

For berks, and when I say this I mean Brian, I nominate 'Indiscipline' as the most Starless And Bible Black of all the tracks...Fripp's gotta get his feedback/musicless vocal section in somewhere, or he's going to jam some wireframes into someone's jugular. But it's still structured, it's just noisy and messy as all hell broken loose and causing zits on my face, and hearkens back to bearded Fripp days of yore. 'Matte Kudasai' is a love ballad, or at least sounds like one with it's 'when...when was the night so long?....she waits in the air, Matte Kudesai', and when I notice that the music is beginning to resemble Berlin, it's time to move on. And 'The Sheltering Sky' is fine instrumental atmosphere, but I heard this before on a Talking Heads album, didn't I? Eno album? Tangerine Dream album? God, this weak world-beat with squawk solo stuff has been done somewhere before. Eh, the 'Heads wouldn't have made it 8 minutes and the Dream would've made it 30, so what do I know from bongo drums?

So, in Reynold's Wrap, if you're not paying that much attention, this album rules. It's definitely the least demanding of the good Crim albums, and can easy hypnotize you into repetitive arpeggio heaven if you're not looking both ways. But if you really do take a listen, this part sounds like someone else, this part sounds like a previous song on the album, this part is going on far too long...you get my drift. Plenty of knocks available, but for an album as listenable and exploratory as this one is, I feel like being charitable.

Capn's Final Word: And you can keep reminding yourself how difficult it would be to play all those guitar parts. Or just fall asleep.

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Beat - EG 1982.

Yes, Rocky II and Godfather III willing, it's a weaker followup, and even smells strongly of attempts at radio-friendliness at times. The basic ideas are the same as last time (chiming tidiness) Same lineup soldiers onward, however, for the first time in Lord knows how long no one gets pissed at Fripp and leaves in a huff. He must be getting soft in his old age. Ah, well, if you really liked Discipline, I don't suppose you'd out and out hate most of the modern stuff on Beat, but the MTV touches (the synth solo on 'Neal and Jack and Me', the unironic, beaty Asia love song 'Heartbeat', just to name the first two songs) can twang your sellout nerve a little if you're one of those sorts of people...me, I think the poppier songs are okay, and are certainly no worse than what 90125 Yes or Asia were doing at the same time. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, due to the overstressed nature of my current living arrangement (what country will I be living in in 5 weeks? Fuck if I know!), that Adrian Belew's voice naturally sounds damned close to David Byrne's, and here he affects himself (especially on 'Neal and Jack and Me') to even more closely emulate the man. Why? Who knows, but you're right to feel more than a hint of bandwagon jumping going on. First the guitar sound and now the vocals. They weren't the Talking Heads, though, so what's with all the emulation, Bob? Eh, this side of the 80's band is by far the least odious, though. And 'Heartbeat' is catchier than anything in recent memory by this band. Bummer this tolerable section is only really two songs long.

What bothers me, the humble unpaid reviewer, is that apparently the boys said 'you know what we didn't have on Discipline? A bunch of long, trip-to-the-oral-surgeon-esque aimless feedbacking solo spots!' Yes! A Return to the Scarred and Charred Landscapes of Starless and Bible Black! Adrian is in control of the pop parts, and Fripp of the ear-grinding experimental parts, and neither the tween shall touch. So, in short, you get KC Mark III attempting to scale the wide, stinky gash (no, not Traci Lords) between 1973 and 1982, and never even really attempt to mix the two...it's as if Fripp lost interest in playing the Discipline sound and left all of that stuff to Adrian while running off helter skelter to Avante Gardeland all alone, and the rest of the band is left hanging in the breeze. Starting with the instrumental 'Sartori In Tangier', which sounds like Fripp copying '80 Andy Summers through a midi pedal over the Thompson Twins' rhythm section, and continuing right on through 'Requiem', which is just a load of shit dick noise fuckbaldness, the most part of this record isn't even songs. Okay, so maybe 'Waiting Man' is, but its a second rate Ghosts In The Machine Police song or I'm a Pink Floyd fan. 'Neurotica' is a massive full system failure at reattempting to make 'Thela Hun Ginjeet' more messy, 'Two Hands' is one limp-ass yuppie makeout ballad, and I don't even know what to describe 'The Howler' as, but I know it's not any good as a song. Blecch. The second side of this thing is some sort of rough going unless you really dig poppy rhythm section parts topped by lots of Byrne-esque long notes and pointless noise solos. Could this band ever make two decent albums back to back? This one tries so hard to be 'King Crimson', but it sounds to me more like what others were doing at the time fucked up by Fripp's 'ideas'.

Capn's Final Word: Half early-80's new-yuppie pandering and half early-70's malicious kicks in the balls. 'Heartbeat' is one good #38 hit single, though.

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Three Of A Perfect Pair - EG 1983

Failing to pull a Red and put it back together just in time to break up for another decade (FUCKERS!!!!), Three of a Perfect Pair (of Luscious, Buoyant Breasts) brings us back (at least on the first few songs) to the well-constructed, supertight brainy yuppie music of Discipline rather than the badly constructed superloose yuppie music of Beat. They still enjoy indulging their Talking Heads obsession ('Model Man' sounds so much like the Heads until you get to the chorus, which for some reason reminds me of contemporary Rush...God, am I an acid casualty or what?) but also get around to prefiguring Peter Gabriel's entire post-'82 output with 'Sleepless', featuring a bassline Primus would kill for, and some of that patented dramatism we love The Pointy Headed One so much for. I guess Tony Levin played bass on So, which could explain some of the resemblance, but what I'm really saying is that this sounds like good Peter Gabriel.

And am I a happy little wet-pantied schoolgirl to have Crimson indulging themselves in their usual themes again...madness (title track), nightmares ('Sleepless'), and intrusive open chest-cavity surgery ('Man With An Open Heart'). Fuck that pussyassed mustachioed sissy girly low-testosterone love song crack hair of the last album...I like my Crimson telling me how it feels to be evil and like it. I don't like them acting Woody Allen 'neurotic' like on 'Open Heart', though...you can keep that. And then on one hand we're predicting the sound of later Gabriel, and on another we're shamelessly copping the Security world beat sound (which I don't like) on 'Nuages'. Get it? 'NuAges'? 'New Ages'? 'Yanni Playing 'Hide The Dolphin' With a Terrified 7 Year Old Boy'? You know what I mean, don't make me explain it. Let's just say it doesn't take a pederast to see how much 'Nuages' molests the paperboy. 'Industry', too...this is electronic wank music of the lowest stripe, and copying 'Mars' again...isn't Fripp's major talent never looking back? If you're going to be industrial/noise/Gabriel-fusion, 'Dig Me' at least gets the point across in a shorter, only slightly painful, time, and has a neat (tuneful) chorus part that you only have to wait through 1:15 of asslicking behaviour to hear. 'No Warning' doesn't even have that much to recommend it. And the third part of 'Lark's Tongues' isn't so bad, but it's by far the worst of the parts, besides starting this trend of sequelizing the original every so often.  Why couldn't these guys keep their hands off themselves in the studio? They didn't even wank this much through most of the mid 70's! Then at least they got it all (for the most part) out of their system with one bad record, here they give us three or four decent songs and fill the rest up with this nonsense. Argh...forget it, this band needed to break up. And probably stay broken up.

Capn's Final Word: Another irritating soup that starts out nice and tuneful and together and quickly degenerates into fakey sounding electro-mess. Some songs are really good, and you should probably hear them, but gosh, should I recommend this album? I really can't.

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alex     Your Rating: B
Any Short Comments?: Yeah, this pretty much signals the end of KC for me too. It's very interesting listening on a metro or something, but not as something to put on and get lost in. BTW "nuage" is french for "cloud." The full title to the song (which might not appear on the mp3 if that's what you have) is "Nuages (That Which Passes, Passes Like Clouds)." Fripp was probably going for prissy hipness whatever the interpretation, but the cloud thing fits better with stuff like Sheltering Sky and Walking On Air thematically.

 


Absent Lovers - DGM 1998.

After Epitaph, this is probably the only other really essential Crim live set, and comes from the last show the 80's band played together. So while the 80's band were often less than 100% money in the studio (which Crimson band ever was? But, admittedly, the 80's band had two half efforts while the Wetton band only had one...the 90's band? Erm...) they were one hairy group of monsters live, and could flash Little Mr. Stinky to a group of schoolkids so fast your head'll come off and roll around the classroom. Just how tight was this incarnation of the band? As instrumentally perfect as this combo ever got, without the noisy trappings of the 70's or 90's bands. And they're suitably small to lend some true clarity to what's going on...you really hear every note, which is far more than I can say for the distortion-addicted 90's band. Another new wrinkle in Fripp's forehead is the jam format on this record. Instead of just letting everything deflate into a bunch of broken parts while Fripp gets all noisy on us, here they jam within the structure of the melody. Wow! Just like Clapton and The Who and Judas Priest and Burzum and Anal Cunt. It sure aids MY attention to be able to follow along with those perfectly executed apreggiations while someone goes off and solos...it's great. In fact, all the newer stuff is fantastic on here, it's like an 80's greatest hits package, but more lively. Revel in the perfection of 'Three Of A Perfect Pair', enjoy 'Dig Me' removed from a surrounding of awfulness and enjoying a new role as strange bird in the presence of shimmery clarity, find the hidden (mostly Adrian) charm in 'Indiscipline's violence, despite an electronic drum solo that proves just how limited electronic drums are. Hey, if you're not big on 80's synth-rock, this album is probably not for you, dig?

And its just that the perfection just keeps on coming...to say these songs are performed number-perfect is to rob them of their emotional impact. They put so much effort and heart into the performance that I'm almost totally won over to what they're doing. Listen to the hair-raising 'Sleepless' for a good example of how they beat the stuffings out of an already great song. But it is the 80's Crim, and not all of it was so good. I didn't like 'Sartory In Tangier' on Beat (and really didn't like 'Man With An Open Heart'), and I don't like it here...just read the above reviews to hear most of my opinions about the songs they play. It's just that they play them so well...but you can't make a silk purse out of a KMart Blue Light Special, can you? Now, I'll say this band does the 80's sound to the fullest extent of goodness, but it fails in the attempt to kick ass in a 70's way, it's just not what they do. They play syndrums, for Moon's sake! So when I say that 'Red' is sorta weak in comparison not only with the incendiary studio version, but also with the 90's live versions. But the only evergreens are that and good ol' 'Larks 2' for the bazillionth time, so maybe you can just ignore. And 'Industry' is still just second rate FPS video game music.

Capn's Final Word: So you see that Absent Lovers does exactly what it's supposed to do: present the 80's KC in the best possible light. If only some of the worse songs had scurried under the cabinets as soon as the light was switched.

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VROOM - EG 1994.

If you're going to revive a long-dead, hazily remembered, twice reincarnated prog band, 1994 was probably the best time in recent memory to do it. The desperate retro craze caused just about every post-everything irony casualty to search out corny old 70's bands to make cool again, and Crimson was no exception with their comeback attempt. Yes did it the next year with their Keys to Ascension albums, which were really just a bunch of nostalgic live cuts of their old classics with some pre-wollied originals, but Crimson took the hard road and actually reconfigured their sound to include more 'grunge' elements than the 80's band, but yet still more electronics and qurkiness than the 70's band. And absolutely no relation to the '69-'71 band. At all. Thank Christ. The lineup stayed the same as with the Discipline-era band (Belew and Levin and Bruford all return from their lucrative vacations, and Fripp leaves the mad scientist laboratory for a little sunlight), but with the addition of an extra drummer and Trey Gunn on something called 'Stick'. (Here, I'll explain exactly what the hell that is for those who didn't do a Google search on the matter. You know how Eddie Van Halen plays guitar by tapping the fingerboard with both hands, making those really quick flight-of-the-butterfly twiddles? Well you're supposed to play a Stick just like that, all the time. No plucking, no strumming. Pete Townshend would never play one. They make basses and 'touch' guitars and generally look sorta weird, and I'm still not convinced that they're a good idea in comparison to a nice Les Paul or Telecaster, but oh well. Onward into the future we march.) This makes 6 members, or two power trios, and the idea was that the different members could play together in any combination they chose (called Projekcts) or form like Voltron and play as King Crimson. I think it adds unnecessary confusion to the already dirt-muddied sound, but that's not even the fundamental problem: They need to write better songs to match all their pretentious high-hog thinking they keep doing.

Anyway, this is a six song 'tester' (teste?) mini album that still runs longer than most Beach Boys or Willie Nelson LPs ever did, and shows us that while the new Crim has less of a tendency to offend in the studio than they did on Beat and Perfect Pair, their songs aren't as good as the winner tracks on those two albums either. They sadly fuck up the opening metal-prog instrumental 'Vroom' (flashes of 'Red' and 'Lark's Tongues II' are supposed to appear in your head, but I don't blame you if they don't) with bad riffs and some really tasteless syndrums (in 1994? Why? Wasn't this the time of 'returning to vintage instruments'?), and I for one feel like Bruford has lost it a bit since the '80s, and even then wasn't as mind blowing as he had been in the 70's. Too many indulgent solo albums and not enough whip cracking by Fripp and this is what we're left with. Shit, the guy's old, so maybe I'm being rough. All these guys are old, with the exception of Belew, and he's no rookie spitballer himself...so maybe I'll give them a thumbs up for attempting to keep it fresh,sweaty, and hard to chew in their autumn days...it's far beyond what most similarly aged bands attempt. (Pink Floyd? Pink Floyd!)

'Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream' and 'Cage' shows us that Belew still hasn't entirely gotten over New Wave music, but in a bad way he's become enamored with Primus in the meantime. If 'Sex' had a more memorable riff to hold onto maybe I wouldn't be so bothered, and while 'Cage' is together, it's also annoying (in exactly the same nasal smartassed way that Primus is irritating). This sort of weak funk-fizz wouldn't get you signed if you didn't have the Crim name to draw fans. 'Thrak' and 'When I Say Stop, Continue' (which, for you completists, is not available on Thrak) are obviously Fripp's major contributions (ejaculations) to the record, and I think we all know after 25 years what that means exactly.

Hey! But the last song, 'One Time', Brazilian sleaze-bongo introduction aside, is a really good Belew ballad in the tradition of 'Heartbeat', but yet not. Melodic, anyway, with some pretty neat pre-Radiohead background noises, and some nice Belew singing. So slap my baby and throw my laptop into traffic, but there's at least some merit to this thing. It's also available (minus 'Stop, Continue' and 'Cage', wah.) in another version on the full length Thrak album, so maybe you can just forget this album on your next trip to refill on Cheetoes and Louisiana Hot Sauce to use on the whores.

Capn's Final Word: Made redundant by Thrak, made useless by Red and Discipline. Still, spares us a lot of the true bullshit of Thrak, so perhaps this is a better choice.

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THRAK - Virgin 1995

In a bad marketing move that, to the spectator's delight, simply started a pattern of bad marketing moves by Fripp and Co., this full length LP wipes the need for the mini-sized (but maxi-priced!) album Vroom right off the table with a bunch of redundant track selections. Most bands, you see, are able to come up with enough new material for a quickie EP and an LP the following year, but not Crimson, not after 11 years off, anyway. So maybe the versions of 'Vroom' and 'Eat Drink Sex Sleep Poop Belch Scratch' and 'One Time' are different lengths or result from different sessions, I'll be a Ronald Reagan if I can't tell the difference between them. 'Vroom' still lacks decent riffs for a electro-bazooka stomping guitar instrumental, 'Snort Hawk Vomit Fart Gurgle' is still annoying, and 'One Time' is still one of the best songs on the album. So, forget those we already covered above and onto the rest of the new songs on the album...which already feel awfully familiar if you've heard Vroom. Let's discuss.

See, the sound of the new band is Crimson-y like ultra-simplified Discipline with a bunch of distortion so you can't hear what's going on most of the time. And when I mean simplified, I'm not talking about Red-like precision of attack, I'm talking about two-note riffs that attempt to get over on loudness and tricky drumming alone. This isn't prog music anymore, really, because if prog music had been this dunderheadedly metal, no one would've given a wahoo. 'Dinosaur' is about as good as this new style gets, and the Fripp sliding-feedback solo style finally has a sound to fit into, but c'mon...isn't there something more interesting one can do than play the same two notes over and over again? 'VROOM VROOM' and the 'Coda' part are just more 'Vroom', all bluster and little purpose (and one nasty-tempered 'Red' ripoff included...just listen for it, I promise you'll groan. You all are professional musicians of supposedly the highest calibre...you can come up with more ideas than just cannibalizing yourself, can't you?). At least these attempt some notes, though. 'BBoom' is a tricky drum figure/solo with sloppy feedback noises slobbered over it. Argh! There isn't anything exciting about hearing this! 'People' is more limp distorto-funk in the vein of Primus, 'Inner Garden I and II' is a snippet of nothingness included for a reason not made clear by God or Providence, and 'Radio I and II' are snippets of noise included for malicious induction of pain and vomiting, and al the last stuff mentioned is mixed up in a second side multi-part stew that repeats the worst of Lizard and Islands-era complicated pointlessness.

Gosh, is this stuff really so awful? I'm willing to say that a true fanatic probably would think this stuff shows a heart still strongly ticking (and the real die hard will probably find himself a new favorite album), but I'm left thinking that these guys are really blowing it this time. By attempting to emulate both the best and worst of their history under a sheen of Metal, they end up sounding low on brains and low on technical power. Maybe it's just that I've heard this kind of music done 10 million times better (back on Red, for one example), but even more than that I feel like Crimson is trying so hard to 'kick ass' in a way that's so totally out of character that it comes off sounding forced and put on. Live, this stuff may come off well, but let's see about that when I move on to B'Boom.

Capn's Final Word: Crimson dumb themselves down and end up blustering around with the grace of a drugged mammoth with a gaping head wound.

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B'Boom - Virgin 1995.

How I'm supposed to get enthused by Yet Another Crimson Live Record, especially one from the 90's, which I'm less than enthused about anyway, has not been made clear to me, but at least there's one thing that this Thrak-era document can prove to you: are the new songs any less underwhelming in a live setting? If this question fails to interest you, I can't see there being much in B'Boom for you...in fact, if you're not a big ol' dyed-in-the-wool Crimhead, just pass on. But for the Criminy Jicket with an interest in the new band, this album can be an entertaining diversion somewhat more interesting than Civilization III and somewhat less compelling than a good nose pick. There's only three songs from the 'really old days' ('Red', 'Talking Drum', and 'Lark's Tongues Part II'), they play their 80's favorites with an eye on the final note, and generally save all their inspiration for the new tunes...which, surprisingly enough, really improve in a live setting. Was 'VROOM' always that pretty during the quiet part? Man, I don't remember the the drums kicking that much ass on the studio version. Where was all this energy? Where were the balls on Thrak? I even like 'Cry Eat Poop Play Fight Fuck Grunt Work Die Rot' a LOT. This band is like absolutely different live, they're clear, strong, and bounce off of one another like socks in the dryer. I wouldn't say that the 70's group was anywhere close to being this tight.

Okay, the big bad 70's was a long time ago (and for a right now-oriented band like Crimson, about as meaningful as the Mesozoic) but with the way Fripp/Belew slash through 'Red' like it was Eddie Van Halen's birthday show where the band draws most of its current inspiration from. The guitars crackle, Levin pops his finger joints out, and Bruford pounds. It's still my favorite KC moment, and each time I hear it renews my devotion (except for the limp Absent Lovers version, that one sucked). I miss some of the Fripp finger-twiddling, though. Eh, I know I said that the 80's stuff sounds rushed earlier, but I'm still super impressed that they're able to play this precisely on stage...they sure haven't lost their chops, they just don't quite know how to put them to good use anymore. Listen to those interlocking parts on 'Frame By Frame' and wonder how Adrian is able to play and sing all that at the same time...I wouldn't fault the guy if he used an echo pedal, but I know he doesn't. 'Elephant Talk' isn't so well done, though (Adrian sounds like Mick Jagger half-assing his way through the lyrics like that), and 'Indiscipline' is about as captivating as Sesame Street when played so offhandedly.

Big problem to report: Bruford (or Mastoletto, I dunno which) uses some rembrandt pussyhorse electronic *doink doink!* drum throughout the concert. Didn't those Kenny Loggins-y things go out of style in like 1986? Jeez, I guess Bruford is trying to 'expand his textural palette' or something equally as pretentious, but I'd prefer it if the guy would just stick to wooden sticks and big hollow drums. The guitar players' stable of effects are neat, though, especially that backwards guitar emulator Fripp's got. Other assorted biffs include the pointless 'B'Boom', though the drums are beautifully recorded (and no doink doink, thankfully), 'Thrak' is a yucky bit of cat fighting, and the jam parts, though more neutralized than on some of the older albums, are still here and still queer as Brian May's hair. And while 'Lark's Tongues' is played without mistakes and tight like a woman's buttocks, its a tad plasticky for me.

All in all though, I'd say that this IS much better than that disappointing Thrak sickpuddle, and if meaty prog metal appeals to you at all, this is a fair place to get a taste. Obviously, these guys only release studio albums to have an excuse to tour South America some more, and correspondingly revel in the attention the little brown people give them. Five measly dates on their '95 US tour and months playing places like Buenos Aires. Whatever, Fripp. Break your glasses and then we'll see who the tough guy is.

Just kidding. We all know the top is Levin.

Capn's Final Word: So they're a 'road band', and their live show really is something special nowadays...this is worthy of a fans attention. Non fans may be scratching themselves, though. I know I am. Ahhhhhhh......

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Federico     Your Rating: A-
Any Short Comments?: I don't mind the album. I mean, who cares? They recorded this on tour in Argentina, South America!!! The home of the little brown people!!! Places like Buenos Aires... I mean, who the hell gives a damn about Buenos Aires? Only that stupid Fripp weirdo.
I agree Captain Whatever, KC should have toured just in the US, a little poor country in the north that NOBODY pays attention to and where most rock bands NEVER go!

Ok, enough. Gimmie a break!!! Your "model" country with its "model" society is NOT the only worthy place in the Earth. If King Crimson likes to tour Argentina eat you heart out, but please, don't make that pathetic "The rest of the world doesn't exist" kind of declamations. I don't want to fall into the commonplace that americans are a bunch of ignorant, arrogant and narrow-minded people, but retarded comments like yours make me have second thoughts.

(Capn's Response: Christ, you're a dumb one. I guess they don't teach sarcasm down there in Gaucholand. Ah, well...I'll say it to you directly, without a hint of irony - I don't give a flying fuck about your country. I don't much give a flying fuck about my own, but please think before the next time you get all excited and say something stupid like you've done on an obviously unserious website. You're not setting a particularly good example of your countrymen. Now have a beer and lighten up.)
 


THRaKaTTaK - DGM 1996

Crimson release purposefully unlikeable live album without songs, only their patented noxious noise jams. I say put it on and clear out a party. Put it on loud and watch your houseplants shrivel up and your wife leave you. Makes me wish I'd strangled Fripp in the crib while I had a chance. The absolute pinnacle of soul corroding audience-hating badness.

No.

Capn's Final Word: No, I said!

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matti alakulju     Your Rating: F
Any Short Comments?: Yes, I agree, this is a great album to get rid of unwanted relatives who just happened to pass by and it seems are going to stay until dawn. BUT this album has one of the best "song" titles out there: "Mother Hold The Candle Steady While I Shave The Chicken's Lip". Of course that's not a song but just another inaccessible improvisation. That title can only be compared with some of the goofiest by Mr Zappa. If you had an E on your rating scale, I'd give this one an E, because, you've gotta admit it: It takes some nerve to release an album like this.

 


The Construkction Of Light - Virgin 2000.

Sadly failing to retain any of the 80's original rhythm section guys (that means no more Bruford or Levin) leaves KC a four piece and probably only half as good. I mean, Fripp may be the brains and Belew the personality, but Bruford was the heart of what was still decent about this band. Oh, it's not really as bad as all that, but Mastoletto uses electronic drums (ech!) and is willing to introduce lots more sound effects (bleep! bloop! and that's not even that much worse than the way his 'normal' drum samples sound.) and techno elements into the thang. And I think that's the real point of interest on this album. Not the 'blues' thing, but the fact that Crimson is so happy to copy what everyone else was doing three years prior and 'technoize' (looks like 'terrorize', doesn't it? It should) See, everyone always points to 'Prozakc Blues' and gloobers all over their pants trying to be the first to say how this is the first blues song Crimson has ever done. To that, I say, first and foremost, its a really really awful take on the blues...sorta like blues for people who see the blues as a big joke and can't really play it right, as evidently Adrian Belew and Co. can't. And second, this isn't like the Rolling Stones making 'Miss You' not only a really good disco song but also a smash Number 1 hit, this is Crimson fucking around in the studio due to lack of better ideas. The end result of this being that their ever-shrinking fan base will grab this album on the day of release (like I, admittedly, did), put it on, and go 'My word, they're playing a blues, isn't that just droll...'. Oh, and if you've heard Islands and Earthbound, you've heard Fripp attempt 'rootsier' forms before (notably slide guitar and jazz funk...both badly). Like I said, what I think is notable is the more subtle (and more telling) concessions to electronica and stuff. Not like Crim lives in a vacuum, but while in the 80's they were more or less at the forefront of 'modern post-new wave rock', now they're showing themselves to be followers, and that's a little sad.

And here we go repeating ourselves again...another 'Lark's Tongues In Aspic' sequel? Hey, it forms nearly the entire second half of the record! And really, it's a whole lot more listenable of a side than the first one (shit), in fact, I really enjoy it, right up to the Bono-esque distorto-preaching on the 'I Have a Dream' section. 'Heaven and Earth', For Your Info, is actually done by one of the Projekcts, not the full Crim, but since I don't have the liner booklet handy, I can't tell you who's missing, so just forget I told you that and remain in blissful ignorance. Oh yeah, and I heard one of your close relatives is burning alive in a house fire right now, but I forgot which one it was. Sorry!

OH MY! and there's the title of 'Frakctured', which is personally one area I'd like to have left un-referenced, thanks...oh, it does beat the original to shreds though, mostly because it's a ripoff of most parts of the Discipline album instead of just a large steaming pile of dirty ass dildo drippings. The title tracks? Maybe closer to Beat or Three Of A Perfect Pair than the Big D, but still awfully familiar arpeggiating, this time in slow motion mode, which makes awfully little sense when you've already shown us you can do it a million miles a second. 'Into the Frying Pan', however, is interestingly different, a more complicated bit of grunge-prog than most of their attempts. And 'The World's My Oyster Soup Kitchen...' seals it for me: Adrian Belew must die. His cutesiness is 'bout gonna make me jam this pen right here in the most convenient neck (not that I'm using a pen, but work with me. What else am I gonna say? '...cram this laptop down someone's throat'? Just doesn't have the same reckless ghetto high school violence ring to it, I'm afraid.)

Okay, so, I say that for the most part, this is better than Thrak...it's much less irritating though the songwriting is still half-assed, and Fripp flashes a refreshing cockiness here and there. Adrian is losing it, though, and the best work has the least apparent input from him. Ah well, maybe it's time for a new vocalist, Robbie?

Capn's Final Word: Best when running over old ground, worst when allowing Belew to indulge himself. Eh, it's not horrible.

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The Power to Believe - Sanctuary 2003.

The power to believe I've heard this album before. King Crimson, a band with 35+ years of musical experience behind them, sure seems to be pretty short on ideas. It seems as if you hear Fripp play the same susssssstaaaiiiiinnnnnned sliding lead line a couple of times, hear a snide parody on whatever musical style they decide to pick on five years too late, hear a lengthy incomprehensible instrumental-heavy suite or two, hear plenty of doodly-doodly stereovision guitar interplay, and hear a 'romantic' Belew ballad to flog the dolphin to, then By God, That's a King Crimson Album. I suppose it is, and nobody else does this kind of crystal clear ultramodern relic like ol' Kimminy Christmas does (certainly not Yes, who sound stuck in some tortured mid-70's/late-80's time warp), and I suppose if I were a card-carrying Crimfreek I'd be happy as heel that my band hasn't changed one measurable iota since THRAK came out in the mid-90's. But since I proudly count myself among the members of the species that have, indeed, known the pleasures of a woman, and enjoy my irony with a hint less of a musty mothball smell, I find Power to Believe just about tolerable and not much more. On the more idiotic side, there's this recurring 'Power To Believe' thing, which of course I'm unwilling to burn the ATP trying to tune my ears into since it seems to subsist entirely on Adrian Belew whispering just north of complete inaudibility into a vocal effect most regrettably used in Cher's 'Believe' track back in 1999. Is this in re: to said Cherylin Sarkissian track? And if so, why'd they have to go and make it even more irritating than her own gay anthem? Once again, I feel about the same desire to figure out King Crimson's motives as I do donating my newborn daughter into white slavery, but suffice it to say we still have three more sections of 'Power to Believe' to contend with, and I can't figure out a damn thing Belew says in any of them.

Give yourself three gold stars and count yourself line leader for the day if you figure out that I get the most enjoyment out of the KrimCopyrighted hard-prog guitar instrumentals 'Level Five' and 'Elektrik', which are simply the umpteenth revisions of 'Lark's Tongues In Aspic Part II' and 'Discipline' this band has passed off as new 'songs', respectively. 'Five' is absolutely identical to most of THRAK and that ConstruKction thing that came out five years ago that I completely don't remember at all, but hell...loud guitars playing against each other noisily is always tolerated around here.  I think 'Elektrik' is quite a bit less interesting (though they've not quite rutted this road out the same way) because besides a few more noisy feedback squalls and maybe a few less notes, this really is 'Discipline' all over again. I guess 'Eyes Wide Open' is pretty enough, but, again, Belew's been doing this same coldhearted romantic shit since 'Matte Kudesai' (or however the fuck that's spelled) except back in '81 he had the bright idea to name the song some nonsense phrase instead of after a ridiculous Tom Cruise movie.

Something's gotten into this band on their fucking intros - 'Facts Of Life', a lame industrial bark-bark tune has yet another barely audible one that is just daring you to turn up your stereo really loud just so the BIG LOUD NOTES that start the main song will scare the pee right out of your sweet little puppydog's peehole. Hey! Just like 'Lark's Tongue's' again. Good Christ, is any of this album based on an original thought? I guess 'Dangerous Curves' is more or less original for this band, but to me it's just the soundtrack music to the Bourne Supremacy with more fretless bass (or is that 'Chapman Stick'. For God's sake get these pompous assholes some Stratocasters). And since before they made fun of the blues and industrial music, this time they'll make fun of Marylin Manson on 'Happy With What You Have To Be Happy With', except ol' Marylin's beat them to the punch by making fun of himself since 1995. Here, Belew has the bright, smarmy idea of 'play calling' a song, reciting lines like 'here comes the chorus, I guess we have to have a chorus, I guess I'll repeat the chorus', which I suppose is just a big send up of the pop music structure since, you know, King Crimson's been completely original for its entire existence.

And though I'm treated like a God
This is the way I'll play
The same lines I wrote back on Islands
Get some asshole to sing.
 
Yeah, then I'm gonna have to think of something ironic
We're gonna need something ironic
And this seems to be as good as any other thing to dupe my dorkwad fans
 
And for a second song
Of jealous irony
I'll just make it twice as long
Thanks to ProTools
 
Yeah, then I'm gonna have to think of something ironic
We're gonna need something ironic
And this seems to be as good as any other thing to dupe my dorkwad fans

Capn's Final Word: They may still be able to do it like they used to, but I begin to hate these guys' guts more and more with every new release.

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Capn's Note: Hey! There's more I'm not reviewing, cos I can't stand any more KC right now, doncha know! I personally have (on MP3) a completely useless live compilation called Cirkus, which has the distinction of actually having a song from the Boz-era band on it ('Ladies Of The Road', real nice for you woman haters). I've also got Live at Cafe D'Age 1982, something called On Broadway, 1995, and a widely available Projekcts compilation called Deception of the Thrush. I don't have the recently released VROOM VROOM from the 1995 tour, or Heavy Construction from the most recent tour, and don't plan on getting them unless I can do it for free. There's only enough live Crim one can stand! And that's not even mentioning all the mail order-only stuff.

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