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King Crimson, 'Live at the Marquee, 1969'

Live at the Marquee, 1969  (1998,  71.29,  Collectors' Club 1)  ***½/TTT½

21st Century Schizoid Man
Drop in
I Talk to the Wind
Epitaph
Travel Weary Capricorn
Improv
Mars
Trees
King Crimson, 'Live at Jacksonville, 1972'

Live at Jacksonville, 1972  (1998,  60.30,  Collectors' Club 2)  ****/TTT

Pictures of a City
Cirkus

Ladies of the Road
Formentera Lady
The Sailor's Tale
21st Century Schizoid Man

King Crimson, 'The Beat Club, Bremen, 1972'

The Beat Club, Bremen, 1972  (1999,  44.36,  Collectors' Club 3)  ****/TTT½

Improv: The Rich Tapestry of Life
Exiles

Larks' Tongues in Aspic (Part I)
King Crimson, 'Live in Central Park, NYC, 1974'

Live in Central Park, NYC, 1974  (2000,  74.05,  Collectors' Club 10)  ****½/TTT½

Walk on... No Pussyfooting
21st Century Schizoid Man
Lament
Exiles
Improv: Cerberus
Easy Money
Fracture
Starless
The Talking Drum
Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part 2
King Crimson, 'Live at Plymouth Guildhall, 1971'

Live at Plymouth Guildhall, May 11, 1971  (2000,  95.36,  Collectors' Club 14)  ****/TTT

Cirkus
Pictures of a City
Sailor's Tale
The Letters
Lady of the Dancing Water
Cadence and Cascade
Get Thy Bearings
In the Court of the Crimson King
Ladies of the Road
21st Century Schizoid Man
Mars
King Crimson, 'Live in Mainz, 1974'

Live in Mainz, March 30, 1974  (2001,  58.11,  Collectors' Club 15)  ****/TTTT

Improv: The Savage
Dr Diamond
Improv: Arabica
Exiles

Improv: Atria
The Night Watch
Starless
Lament
Improv: Trio
Easy Money
King Crimson, 'Live in Detroit, 1971'

Live in Detroit, MI, December 13, 1971  (2001,  91.51,  Collectors' Club 18)  ****½/TTT

Pictures of a City
Formentera Lady
Sailor's Tale
Cirkus

Ladies of the Road
Groon
21st Century Schizoid Man
Mars
In the Court of the Crimson King
Lady of the Dancing Water
King Crimson, 'Live at the Zoom Club'

Live at the Zoom Club, October 13, 1972  (2002,  115.11,  Collectors' Club 20)  ****½/TT

Larks' Tongues in Aspic (Part I)
Book of Saturday
Zoom
Improv: Zoom Zoom
Easy Money

Improv: Fallen Angel
Improv: Z'Zoom
Exiles
The Talking Drum
Larks' Tongues in Aspic (Part II)
King Crimson, 'Live in Hyde Park'

Live in Hyde Park, July 5, 1969  (2002,  62.11,  Collectors' Club 12)  ****½/TTT

21st Century Schizoid Man
In the Court of the Crimson King
Get Thy Bearings
Epitaph
Mantra
Travel Weary Capricorn
Mars
Band reunion meeting
21st Century Schizoid Man (instrumental version)
King Crimson, 'Ladies of the Road'

Ladies of the Road: Live, 1971-1972  (2002,  103.06,  Collectors' Club Special Ed.)  ****/TT

Pictures of a City
The Letters
Formentera Lady (abridged)
The Sailors Tale
Cirkus

Groon
Get Thy Bearings
21st Century Schizoid Man
In the Court of the Crimson King
Schizoid Men 1-11
King Crimson, 'Live in Orlando, FL, 1972'

Live in Orlando, FL, 1972  (2003,  79.09, Collectors' Club 23)  ***½/T½

Pictures of a City
Formentera Lady
The Sailors Tale
Cirkus

Ladies of the Road
Groon
21st Century Schizoid Man
Earthbound
Cadence and Cascade
King Crimson, 'Live in Guildford, 1972'

Live in Guildford, November 13, 1972  (2003,  42.39, Collectors' Club 24)  ****/TT½

Larks' Tongues in Aspic (Part I)
Book of Saturday [Daily Games]
Improv: All That Glitters is Not Nail Polish
Exiles
King Crimson, 'Live at Fillmore East, 1969'

Live at Fillmore East, 1969  (2004,  62.07, Collectors' Club 25)  ****/TT

The Court of the Crimson King (fragment)
A Man, a City
Epitaph
21st Century Schizoid Man
The Court of the Crimson King (fragment)
A Man, a City
Epitaph
21st Century Schizoid Man
King Crimson, 'Live in Heidelberg, 1974'

Live in Heidelberg, 1974  (2005,  58.06, Collectors' Club 29)  ****/TTT½

Improv: Heidelberg I
Dr Diamond
Exiles
Improv: Heidelberg II
Starless
The Night Watch
Lament
Easy Money

Fracture
King Crimson, 'Live in Brighton, 1971'

Live in Brighton, October 16, 1971  (2005,  103.59, Collectors' Club 30)  ***½/TTT

Cirkus
Pictures of a City

Formentera Lady
The Sailors Tale
The Letters
Islands

Ladies of the Road
Groon
21st Century Schizoid Man
Mars
King Crimson, 'Zoom Club, 12th April 1971'

Zoom Club, 12th April 1971  (2005,  77.03)  ****/TTT½

Cirkus
Get Thy Bearings
In the Court of the Crimson King
Lady of the Dancing Water
21st Century Schizoid Man
Pictures of a City
The Sailor's Tale

Cadence and Cascade
The Devil's Triangle
King Crimson, 'Asbury Park, June 28, 1974'

Casino, Asbury Park, New Jersey, June 28, 1974  (2006, in The Collectable King Crimson, Volume One,  77.26)  *****/TTT½

Walk on
Larks' Tongues in Aspic Pt II
Lament
Exiles
Improv: Asbury Park
Easy Money
Fracture
Starless
21st Century Schizoid Man
King Crimson, 'Apollo, Glasgow, Scotland, October 23, 1973'

Apollo, Glasgow, Scotland, October 23, 1973  (2006,  96.29)  ****½/TT

Sharks' Lungs in Lemsip
Larks' Tongues in Aspic Pt I
Announcement
Easy Money
We'll Let You Know
The Night Watch
Fracture

Lament
Book of Saturday
Tight Scrummy
Exiles
Improv IV
The Talking Drum
Larks' Tongues in Aspic Pt II
Peace - a Theme
Cat Food
King Crimson, 'Live in Denver, 1972'

Live in Denver, March 13, 1972  (2007,  73.14, Collectors' Club 35)  ***½/TT

Formentera Lady
The Sailors Tale
Cirkus

Ladies of the Road
The Letters
Groon
21st Century Schizoid Man
Cadence and Cascade
King Crimson, 'Penn State University, June 29, 1974'

Penn State University, June 29, 1974  (2007,  71.37)  ****½/TTT½

Walk on
Larks' Tongues in Aspic Pt II
Lament
Exiles
Improv: Is There Life Out There?
Easy Money
Improv: Its for You But Not for Us
Fracture
Starless
King Crimson, 'Augsburg, Germany, March 27, 1974'

Augsburg, Germany, March 27, 1974  (2007,  58.23)  ****/TTT

Dr Diamond
Lament
Easy Money
Fracture
The Night Watch
The Great Deceiver
Starless

Improv Augsburg
Exiles
Larks' Tongues in Aspic Pt II
King Crimson, 'Live in Kassel, 1974'

Live in Kassel, April 1, 1974  (2007,  57.47, Collectors' Club 36)  ****/TTT½

The Great Deceiver
Improv I
Dr Diamond
Improv II
Exiles
The Night Watch
Lament
Starless
Improv III
Easy Money
Fracture
King Crimson, 'Live in Boston, MA, March 27, 1972'

Live in Boston, MA, March 27, 1972  (2009,  67.23, Collectors' Club 40)  ***½/T½

R.F. Announcement
Pictures of a City
Formentera Lady
The Sailor's Tale
Cirkus

Groon
21st Century Schizoid Man
Improv
Cadence and Cascade
King Crimson, 'Live in Zurich, Nov 15, 1973'

Live in Zurich, Nov 15, 1973  (2009,  99.45,  Collectors' Club 41)  ****½/TTTT

Walk on ... No Pussyfooting
Improv: Some Pussyfooting
Larks' Tongues in Aspic: Part I
RF Announcement
Lament
Peace: a Theme
Cat Food
The Night Watch
Fracture
The Law of Maximum Distress: Part I
Improv: The Mincer
The Law of Maximum Distress: Part II
Easy Money
Exiles
Improv: Some More Pussyfooting

The Talking Drum
Larks' Tongues in Aspic: Part II
21st Century Schizoid Man
King Crimson, 'Community Theatre, Berkeley, CA, June 16, 1973'

Community Theatre, Berkeley, CA, June 16, 1973  (2009,  58.39)  ***½/TT½

Dr Diamond
Larks' Tongues in Aspic Pt I
RF Announcement
Easy Money
Improv Intro to Exiles
Exiles
Improv I

The Talking Drum
Larks' Tongues in Aspic Pt II
21st Century Schizoid Man
King Crimson, 'Live in Toronto, June 24, 1974'

Live in Toronto, June 24, 1974  (2011,  88.39)  ****/TTTT

Larks' Tongues in Aspic: Part II
Lament
Exiles
Improv - The Golden Walnut
The Night Watch
Fracture
Improv - Clueless and Slightly Slack
Easy Money
Starless
21st Century Schizoid Man

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

In 1998, Fripp decided to dive headlong into the archive market by starting the DGM (later King Crimson) Collectors Club, a subscription-only series of releases from the band's history. I suppose it's a slightly moot point as to whether or not these can be considered 'official' releases, since they're unavailable in the shops (truncated Japanese boxed-set versions aside), but as anyone with a bit of spare cash can subscribe, I tend to fall on the side of 'they count'.

Its inaugural release, Live at the Marquee, 1969 was, unsurprisingly, an early London Marquee show (date uncertain) with a bonus track from Croydon a few months later. Despite David Singleton's sterling efforts, the sound quality is, er, 'a bit rough' (read: some of you may find this unlistenable), but the disc contains some historically fascinating performances, so quality be damned! What on earth can you expect from a thirty year-old audience tape, anyway? Opening part of the way through Schizoid Man lets you know from the off that you're in 'reconstructed bootleg' territory, with a truncated Epitaph proving the point. 'Tron rarities are (at last!) a live I Talk To The Wind, with slabs of strings and only one noticeable dropout, a few chords in the rather earnest Travel Weary Capricorn, a couple of notes in the lengthy improv piece and the Croydon track, the previously unknown (at least to me) Trees, a lovely little ballad in the same area as I Talk To The Wind, with a lengthy jam at the end which ended up as the middle section of A Man, A City/Pictures Of A City. The abbreviated Epitaph is as you'd expect, while Mars opens with what sounds like some 'Tron flute pitchbend doodlings before shifting into one of the most intense versions of the track I've heard, though maybe the inherent distortion adds to the effect...

Second release Live at Jacksonville, 1972 features Crimso Mark 2, and opens with Fripp and Mel Collins getting their twin M400s in tune with each other before Pictures Of A City with minor 'Tron string interjections. Cirkus, on its first official live outing is phenomenal, opening with a delicate Pianet part before the crushing 'Tron brass in the 'chorus'. The brass also appears, more subtly, in the second verse, before more brass and strings in the second chorus. Strings again in the middle section, then arpeggiating flutes in verse three; basically, a 'Tron fan's wet dream, with possibly some cellos thrown in to complete the inventory of their 'Tron sound library. Stupendous. This looks like a fairly typical Mark 2 setlist, with several Lizard and Islands pieces, including a fair-sized chunk of 'Tron on The Sailor's Tale (strings and brass again), segueing from Formentera Lady, as was their wont at the time. A superb release; shame it isn't more widely available.

The series developed chronologically, with Club 3 being the very first Mark 3 gig, with Jamie Muir on board, The Beat Club, Bremen, 1972, otherwise known as the band's famous German 'Beat Club' performance, part of which (Larks' Tongues I) I've seen on TV. It'd be nice to be able to see the whole thing sometime, assuming it was all filmed. Crimso bravely open with the longest improv piece I've heard by them; nearly half an hour of The Rich Tapestry Of Life, named in honour of Muir, who only lasted a few months before disappearing to a Scottish monastery. The first few minutes of the piece are fairly funk-based, but with Mellotron strings and flutes drifting in and out, mostly from David Cross, while Fripp extemporises on guitar. About two-thirds of the way through, it becomes evident that someone is playing flute. Who? Turns out it's Cross, who also played it (uncredited) on Larks' Tongues. All in all, a pretty cool improv with loads of 'Tron. Exiles is fairly much as you'd expect, although rather than reaching a crescendo à la the USA version, it just gently peters out. Larks' Tongues I is, as always, 'Tron-free, but a great performance anyway, including the long percussion build-up as on the album. Another essential!

The next several Club releases mostly featured later lineups, although Club 9, Live at Summit Studios, Denver, March 12, 1972 (***) is a bit of a shocker, being a full-length early Crimson set with no Mellotron, although both Fripp and Collins are credited with it in the booklet. Listening to Sailor's Tale again, at one point all you can hear is guitar, bass and drums; it's possible that the Mellotrons never made it to the broadcast mix (this is from a radio show), as the lack of any Mel Collins contributions at this point seems a little strange. Thoroughly bizarre, and noted in drummer Ian Wallace's sleevenotes. Pictures Of A City is the 'Tron-free version, too; maybe they didn't have them with them that night? Christ knows. It's not the most inspiring set, either, so don't go too far out of your way for this one.

Live in Central Park, NYC, 1974 is another matter, however. Having already released Mark 3's first gig through the Club, this is their last, and is another stormer. Fripp describes it in his sleevenotes as "Angels descending from heaven on chariots of fire blowing trumpets of gold in your ear", so I think it's safe to assume he thought it was a good one too. The band are, er, 'blowing' after a lengthy US tour, especially the rhythm section, who were, by this point, rather drowning out David Cross; violin vs. Wetton/Bruford. Hmmm. Cross and Fripp were, by this point, using the white/black colour scheme (instruments and clothes) that rather pointed out their personality differences; Fripp couldn't have looked more satanic had he been sporting horns and a forked tail. While a great album, capturing this classic band on a great night, Central Park is slightly less essential from the 'Tronic point of view than most of the Club CDs, if only because most of the 'Tron tracks are available in similar versions elsewhere, chiefly on The Great Deceiver. The exception is the rocking improv Cerberus, with some ripping strings from Mr. Cross under Fripp's searing lead work (review cliché no.14), shifting into some orchestrated flute work in the 'funkier' section (that is, Crimsoid funk, which has little in common with James Brown et al.). As a result, killer performance but 'Tronically inessential.

Live at Plymouth Guildhall, May 11, 1971 is a double disc set from Crimson Mark 2's first UK dates; in fact, only their fifth gig full stop. It shows a very confident outfit playing material old and new; I was amazed that both In The Court and Mars were played at this juncture, although both had bitten the dust by the band's next tour. Arrangements are very different to what they would become; Sailor's Tale is markedly longer than later versions, with a solo flute spot in the middle, and when the Mellotron finally comes in, it's mainly brass, as against the strings of the later studio version. Actually, there's surprisingly little Mellotron to be heard on the 95-minute set; four tracks only, two of which are the previously-mentioned hangovers from Crimso Mark 1. In the Court is superb, proving (to my ears) that the MkII 'Tron fetishism displayed by some players is precisely that; a fetish. The strings sound great, with none of the supposed 'thinness' that some listeners claim to be able to hear; fascinating to hear this performed by a different band. Mars is quite cataclysmic; rather than one MkII, you're hearing two M400s, one on strings, one on brass, with the all-important distinction of two players, i.e. four hands, not to mention Pete Sinfield's rather intrusive VCS3, 'played' from the desk. So; while not an essential Club recording, well worth a listen if you can get hold of a copy.

Crimson 1974, from 'Live in Mainz'

Live in Mainz, March 30, 1974 is a slightly odd one; much familiar material, not all played familiarly. Starless, in particular, has a very odd arrangement, with electric piano and stray Mellotron chords. Actually, apart from a few flute notes in the brief improv Arabica, like the Central Park disc, there's nothing Mellotronic here that isn't available elsewhere, although it's another great performance. Oddly, Trio is still labelled 'improv', although it's similar to the previous year's Amsterdam version that ended up on Starless and Bible Black, though with maybe a little more 'Tron flute.

I've seen Live in Detroit, MI, December 13, 1971 heralded as 'the best Collectors Club CD yet', and would you know, it almost is? Crimso Mark 2 were seriously on form that night, with absolutely standout performances of Pictures Of A City and an extended Cirkus, to name but two. There's also a hysterical In The Court Blues, triggered by audience cries for 'the old stuff'; the song we all know and love put to a 'Mannish Boy' verse, and a bizarre guitar reworking of the chorus, which explains why such a famous 'Tron Track isn't highlighted... It's interesting how Crimso used to do different versions of their standard repertoire at any given point, particularly with regard to their Mellotron use. This set has the 'Tron version of Pictures Of A City, as does Jacksonville, whereas Plymouth doesn't. You'll find the same thing with the Mark 3 band, where (for example) both Fracture and The Talking Drum have 'Tron and non-'Tron versions. Anyway, other Mellotron use here is on Sailor's Tale, another cataclysmic Cirkus and the usual stuff on Mars, which I'd guess was one of that piece's last outings.

Live at the Zoom Club, October 13, 1972 documents Crimso's return to the venue where they introduced their Mark 2 lineup to... introduce Mark 3. Although only an audience recording, the double CD is a fantastic document of a new band finding its feet in public, improvising its way through much of the gig, while playing no material from its previous lineups. As it says in the liner notes, many audience members would've seen them at the same venue a mere 18 months earlier, also debuting a new lineup, but this band bore very little relation to that one. Crimson are known for building up the improvisational percentage of gigs as a lineup matures, but this release proves that the incendiary Mark 3 version of the band were in there from the beginning; in fact, once they found their feet, they settled into a more stable repertoire.

Opening with Larks' Tongues I was an inspired move, as Jamie Muir's tinkling percussion and Fripp's incidental guitar slowly build up to David Cross' violin part before all hell breaks loose. In fact, that phrase would probably describe most of the gig; the improvisation now entitled Zoom features Fripp on guitar overload, cutting loose all over the shop, although the extraordinary lengthy (over 40 minutes) Zoom Zoom is rather less focussed, although it has plenty of worthwhile moments. Don't get your hopes up on the Mellotron front with this track, though; it only has a few seconds of strings at the beginning, although Easy Money features a unique 'Tron flute intro, completely different to any other available version. In fact, the song has a completely different arrangement to the one with which we're familiar, followed by a piece retrospectively entitled Improv: Fallen Angel, backed by the guitar riff that was exhumed for the track of the same name on Red. Exiles, again, is an early arrangement, with less Mellotron, while Wetton's all over the place on Larks' Tongues II. So; a fantastic document of a formative lineup, but a little disappointing on the 'Tron front, although a few seconds of cellos on Larks' Tongues II, and its closing strings are a bit of a one-off.

Live in Hyde Park was originally scheduled as Collectors' Club 12, back in '99, but after unspecified legal hassles, ended up finally appearing late in 2002. Well, it was worth the wait. An excellent performance in front of a huge crowd gathered in Hyde Park to watch the Rolling Stones play their first post-Brian Jones gig that turned into a eulogy when he died mere days earlier. Crimso more than rose to the occasion, tightening their set up from their club appearances, letting rip particularly on Travel Weary Capricorn, which may be the best version of the piece yet released. Also, I've never noticed the riff in Mantra that became Exiles over three years and two lineups later; time to go back to Epitaph and give it another blast... Ian McDonald's Mellotron work is restricted to the three numbers on which this first lineup of the band always used it; The Court Of The Crimson King, Epitaph (great version) and an excellent, though very abbreviated Mars without most of the initial buildup, but with extra added air-raid siren 'played' from below the stage by Dik Fraser and David Enthoven. To bulk out the disc, Fripp has added edited highlights of the chat between all the original members and crew at the launch party for the Epitaph box in '97, plus an instrumental outtake of Schizoid Man from the first album sessions, both of which are worth hearing, although they mean that the actual gig is only just on 40 minutes long. Still, it's some of the best 40 minutes you'll spend all year. Buy.

Ladies of the Road: Live, 1971-1972 is a Collectors' Club Special Edition, whatever that means; I presume it's available in the shops, for once - it has a DGM catalogue number, unlike all the other Club releases. Basically, disc one consists of performances from across the Mark 2 band's career, including their lead-off gigs at the Zoom Club in '71, while disc two is no more or less than nearly an hour of superb Schizoid Man guitar and sax solos edited together to make one continuous piece, which you'll almost certainly either love or hate. None of the selections is individually credited, so it's hard to say where and when any of them are from, or even whether or not we might have heard them before, but they're some of the best Mark 2 performances I've heard, which figures, I suppose. The one exception to this is the crudely truncated version of The Court Of The Crimson King, which is basically 'Court Blues', presumably from Detroit 1971. An incendiary (that word again!) Pictures Of A City gives you a good kicking before an unusually fragile The Letters, with the faintest hint of 'Tron, er, something in the intro. I don't know if Formentera Lady and The Sailors Tale are even from the same gig, but they segue seamlessly in time-honoured fashion, with Robert's 'Tron strings and Mel Collins' 'Tron brass under the guitar solo, before the massive 'build-up' section at the end. Phenomenal. But not as phenomenal as Cirkus, which is one of the best versions of this 'Tron monster I've yet heard, or am likely to hear; at last Fripp's got some live Mark 2 stuff out in the marketplace, and not before time.

Live in Orlando, FL, 1972 (KCCC 23) is a fairly typical Mark 2 set from that tour, strangely spread over two discs when it would've just fitted onto one. Odd. Anyway, highlights include particularly incandescent versions of Cirkus and Schizoid Man; note that Earthbound, on disc two, is the same version you've already got on , er, Earthbound. Only three 'Tron tracks: the 'Mellotron version' of Pictures Of A City, though only just, with strings and brass on The Sailors Tale and the usual total overkill on Cirkus. A decent set, but probably not the best you can get from that period.

Live in Guildford, November 13, 1972 is the third Jamie Muir-era show to appear, and has a structure in common with the first, with a couple of shorter tracks surrounding the lengthiest improvs the band seemingly ever played. In this case, Larks' Tongues In Aspic I, Book Of Saturday (then still entitled Daily Games) and Exiles coexist with the 25-minute Improv: All That Glitters is Not Nail Polish, clearly titled retrospectively. Larks' Tongues is far wilder and longer than the studio version, despite losing its percussion intro, Daily Games/Book of Saturday is pretty much as you'd expect, and Exiles cuts off three or so minutes in, the rest of the set being lost to posterity. The reason you'll want this disc, though, is the improv. Not only is it long, manic and experimental, but there's a fair bit of Mellotron to be heard, with several-minutes of Cross' mad, polyphonic cello work, Fripp's flutes over the latter part, themselves being underpinned by strings from Cross again, and all within the first six minutes. Nothing else until the expected cellos and strings in the truncated Exiles, but although good, the 'Tron work isn't the main reason to buy this disc.

Live at Fillmore East, 1969 (KCCC 25) is presumably the nearest we're ever going to get to a 'complete' record of Crimso's two nights at that legendary venue, 21st and 22nd November 1969. The sharper-eyed (or brained) amongst you will've already noticed that most of the surviving recording from the first night have been available for years on the first disc of the Epitaph set, but Robert's presumably decided to make them available again in this form. Added to the original three tracks, we now get a fragment of The Court Of The Crimson King, McDonald's 'Tron present and correct on the final chorus, with the usual parts on Epitaph. The second night's Court... cuts in at almost exactly the same place, strangely, although the sound quality's marginally better, with the same (expected) Mellotron parts as on the previous night's set. Not essential if you already own Epitaph, but completists will doubtless go for it.

Live in Heidelberg, 1974 (what, no date?) opens with a relatively gentle improv, before another version of the never-recorded Dr Diamond, and a great take on Exiles with a several-minute runup to its expected intro. Wetton and Bruford are on form here, with Wetton playing with his phrasing and Bruford getting all Muir-like on the percussion in Starless. Cross also plays the Pianet at one point on the track, before switching to Mellotron for the closing section. The usual 'Tron suspects, of course, with Exiles, Starless and Easy Money, amongst others, doing their thing, but there's also a nice (gentle) 'Tron duel towards the end of the second Heidelberg improv, with Cross and Fripp warbling away on strings and flutes, segueing nicely into Starless. Only three minutes of Fracture have survived, so it's not known whether it was a 'Mellotron version' or not, but this is another good addition to the ever-growing Crimso library.

Live in Brighton, October 16, 1971 is chiefly notable for containing the only live recording I know of Islands, although it's far from being the best recording of the Mark 2 lineup. Amusingly, it opens with a spoken treatise from Fripp on people who shout 'Wally', which I remember hearing was a popular pastime back then. No, I don't know why, either. Actually, Fripp has quite a bit to say this night; sadly, although the music is relatively clear, his spoken interludes are muffled to the point of near-inaudibility, so his witticisms are largely lost on me. Anyway, typical versions of Cirkus, Pictures Of A City etc., with a grotesquely over-extended Groon being the low point, and Islands the high. Mellotron on the expected pieces, with the usual brass/strings/flutes mayhem on opener Cirkus, while Pictures Of A City is the 'Mellotron version', although it's only just audible, and The Sailors Tale and Mars do their usual things. Where this disc diverges from the norm is in a rarely-heard strings/brass part in The Letters and, of course, the beautiful strings in Islands, making you wonder why this didn't make the grade live, when The Letters and the tedious Formentera Lady did.

When the Collectors' Club started, I was a subscriber, receiving fairly expensive discs, some of which I've only ever played once (mid-'90s rehearsals, anyone?). After the format changed, I bought several 'Mellotron-era' releases, but how many King Crimson live albums do you really need? I'd like to be able to review everything relevant that Fripp chooses to put out, but even allowing for the current dollar/pound exchange rate, I simply can't keep up. As a result, although there haven't been that many relevant CDs, a yawning gap has opened up in my coverage. Just to add confusion to lack of funds, DGM have made a whole load of shows available as downloads only, but as they can still be said to've been 'released', they've been added to the list. Do you need more confusion

The very first download-only concert was Zoom Club, 12th April 1971, the first of the band's four nights at the venue (the other three are available, but I haven't heard them). We get a fairly manic set, highlights including Fripp's crowd chat regarding an audience conductor and possibly the most out-there version of Mars (credited here as The Devil's Triangle) I've yet heard, Sinfield's VCS3 mimicking a series of battlefield noises. Oddities include some serious tape-wobble and not, for once, from a Mellotron, while I presume it's a missing section of recording that causes Cirkus to cut straight into Get Thy Bearings, which includes the drum-solo-through-VCS3 that was later included in Groon. The expected Mellotron parts turn up in opener Cirkus and In The Court..., plus an exceedingly brief string part in Pictures Of A City, Fripp's quite mental brass on The Sailor's Tale, morphing into strings near the end, under Collins' (real) flute and horrendous Mellotron abuse in The Devil's Triangle, which, oddly, never quite breaks into the iconic flattened fifth riff.

There are now three volumes entitled The Collectable King Crimson (we're not going to go there re. the no less than ten volumes of The Collectors' King Crimson), each of which doubles up two releases. No big deal, until you realise that Volume 1 pairs the already-available Mainz gig and the original version of Casino, Asbury Park, New Jersey, June 28, 1974, better known as the source gig for USA. Eddie Jobson's overdubs are nowhere to be heard, Cross is back in the frame, and the whole thing's in the correct running order. Hurrah! This is, unsurprisingly, an absolute stormer; Fripp didn't choose it back in '75 for nothing... Given that it doesn't seem to be available on its own, if you don't already have the Mainz set, buy this double, especially as it's available at Amazon and other online retailers. Stacks of Mellotron too, of course. Essential. If the improv titles on Apollo, Glasgow, Scotland, October 23, 1973 look familiar, it is, of course, because a large chunk of the gig's been available for ages on The Great Deceiver. It's good to hear the whole thing, though, in the correct order, previously-unheard highlights including excellent takes on Fracture and Exiles, not to mention a ripping Talking Drum. Mellotronically, we get the usual parts on Easy Money, The Night Watch and Exiles, plus the tiniest smidgeon of Cross' strings on Fracture. Incidentally, note that the Peace - A Theme/Cat Food encore was extremely unusual for the band at this point and also incidentally, couldn't we have lost the entirely unnecessary six minutes of crowd noise that follows Larks' Tongues II?

Six months before the Mark 2 lineup dissolved, the band sound like they were having a whale of a time the night Live in Denver, March 13, 1972 was recorded. Ladies Of The Road has Boz Burrell introducing "Fingers Fripp, playing his blues licks", while various members are laughing too hard to sing their backing vocal parts. The rest of the set is at least played properly, but is a case-book study as to why Fripp eventually tired of their approach. Apart from the evergreen Schizoid Man, the only tracks that really stand out here are, coincidentally, the two containing Mellotron, with a fine The Sailors Tale and a ripping Cirkus. It's a great shame Fripp threw the repertoire baby out with the bathwater for his next version of the band, as that lineup would've more than done the song justice; on the other hand, dropping Groon and its interminable VCS3'd drum solo did the music world a massive favour.

Fragments of Penn State University, June 29, 1974 escaped on The Great Deceiver, but once again, it's great to hear the whole gig, if only as a download, not least for Fripp's piss-funny onstage story concerning Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera. A ripping set, with two excellent (if already available) improvs, Is There Life Out There? and Its For You But Not For Us, while Fracture is present in a particularly coruscating version. What's more, there's at least a little Mellotron on every damn' track bar opener Larks' Tongues II, with Cross' faint string part during the intro to Lament, the usual parts on Exiles, Easy Money and Starless, more Cross strings (so to speak) and what sounds like rare Fripp flutes on Improv: Is There Life Out There?, not to mention flute and string parts from Cross on Fracture. Augsburg, Germany, March 27, 1974 is a fairly standard '74 tour set, in other words, a blinder, certainly in comparison with most other bands touring at that time. Highlights include opener Dr Diamond and a slightly different arrangement on Starless, my only real criticism being the relative brevity of the set, although that's partly due to an early tape run-out truncation. Plenty of Mellotron again, although the handful of string chords on Lament and the rather surprising flutes on Fracture and The Great Deceiver are pretty minimal, leaving Easy Money, Starless and Exiles as the usual top Mellotron tracks.

Live in Kassel, April 1, 1974 is anything but an April Fool; a slightly unusual set for the time, featuring four Starless & Bible Black pieces, and another Dr Diamond (so why didn't they record this for Red, anyway?), with only two from Larks' Tongues, although it's truncated a few minutes into Fracture, probably missing a closing Larks' Tongues II. Has Fripp run out of suitable improv titles? Previous Club releases have diligently given retrospective titles to thirty year-old jams, but all we're given here is Improv I/II/III. I is essentially an extended intro to Dr Diamond and II performs the same function for Exiles, only more extended, leaving the brief guitar/violin duet III as the only one of the three worthy of particular mention. A reasonable helping of 'Tron, with the customarily short flute part on opener The Great Deceiver and the standard segments on Exiles, The Night Watch, Lament and Starless. Before you get too excited, Improv II isn't one of their Mellotron improvs, sadly, and its 'Tron part is only really the first few cello notes to Exiles, included in the previous track due to the disc sequencing.

After innumerable download-only releases, 2009's Live in Boston, MA, March 27, 1972 is a welcome return to a real, hold-in-your-hand CD issue, although I've absolutely no idea why Mr. Fripp's opted to release this particular one 'properly'; superior sound quality? Everything's relative. Anyway, it's another typical early '72 set, albeit one with an especially cataclysmic version of Schizoid Man; Fripp was clearly on fire that night. Minor Mellotronic input from Collins and/or Fripp on Pictures Of A City, the usual parts on The Sailors Tale and Cirkus, so no real surprises here.

Collectors' Club 41, Live in Zurich, Nov 15, 1973, is yet another full version of a (pleasingly lengthy) gig plundered for The Great Deceiver, another ripping, improv-filled set more than deserving of its semi-legendary status, other highlights including a killer Larks' Tongues In Aspic: Part I and another Peace - A Theme/Cat Food. Mellotronically speaking, we get the usual string parts on Lament, The Night Watch, Easy Money and Exiles plus occasional flutes on Fracture, while on the improv front, there's a major Fripp string part on The Law Of Maximum Distress: Part I, less of the same on The Mincer, flutes on The Law Of Maximum Distress: Part II and superb Mellotron duet Some More Pussyfooting, featuring some radical pitchbending from Cross. All except The Mincer are on The Great Deceiver, but they're worth hearing in situ, not to mention in their correct running order.

The relatively brief Community Theatre, Berkeley, CA, June 16, 1973 is one of the murkiest post-'69 recordings here, actually sounding like a bootleg, for once (he says, like this is a good thing). A short-yet-potent set, highlights include Dr Diamond and Improv I, essentially an intro to The Talking Drum, although the sound quality makes it less essential than many. We get the usual (albeit rather distorted) strings on Easy Money and Exiles, plus cellos on Improv Intro To Exiles and dissonant flutes and strings on Improv I, making for a relatively low Mellotron quotient, too. Live in Toronto, June 24, 1974 is the last of the complete versions of Great Deceiver material, featuring a particularly strong The Night Watch and Starless, while The Golden Walnut is the better of its two improv pieces. Most of the set features the Mellotron to one extent or another, with the usual parts on Lament, Exiles, The Night Watch, Easy Money and Starless, plus occasional flute and string parts on Fracture and a distant string part from Cross on The Golden Walnut and cellos on Clueless And Slightly Slack on the improv front.

To attempt to sum up the Club releases; all the above are worth hearing, but some are more worth hearing than others! I'd say go for Beat Club, Central Park and Detroit first, then all the others. Recently, the Club has changed its format, with individual releases all now available via the website, so it would appear it's no longer a subscription service. Fripp has said that if interest dies off, they'll have to cancel the Club, which would be a great shame, so get out there and buy some of the discs!

STOP PRESS: Well, sort of... In 2005, Fripp elected to provide paid-for downloads on the DGM site, which has added mucho confusion to the band's catalogue. My friend Nick Hewitt has kindly compiled a list of the relevant titles, which has been added to the Albums list, taking Crimso's Mellotron 'albums' up to a rather shocking close to fifty. At least one download-only title has now been released on CD, just to add to the confusion. I have no idea when I may get to hear any of these, but they may be added to this page at some point in the indefinite future.

links

Official King Crimson site

See: Main Crimso releases | Giles, Giles & Fripp | John Wetton | Trey Gunn Band | 21st Century Schizoid Band


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