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King Crimson - Live At The Orpheum CD (album) cover

LIVE AT THE ORPHEUM

King Crimson

 

Eclectic Prog

3.02 | 98 ratings

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Syzygy
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Well this one is a conundrum wrapped up in an enigma. After announcing his retirement from music, Robert Fripp went on to record and release a Crimson ProjeKct with Jakko Jakszyk and Mel Collins, and then to relaunch King Crimson with an expanded version of the Scarcity of Miracles line up and set out on tour with a front line consisting of 3 drummers. The set list leaned heavily on the late 60s - mid 70s, with a smattering of 90s and noughties material but bypassing the 80s material altogether. Then came the inevitable live album - a 2 disc set, with the same 41 minutes of material on CD and DVD (audio only). At this point even the most devoted Crimheads were scratching their heads and muttering WTF?

Taken at face value, it's actually a pretty good live album. The 3 drummers work together well (with Bill Rieflin occasionally downing sticks to play keyboards), and there's all the intricacy, subtlety and depth that you'd expect from King Crimson on stage and firing on all cylinders. The opening soundscape includes an old snippet of Fripp counting in the orchestral players from (I assume) the Islands sessions, before the septet roars in playing One More Red Nightmare in a completely different time signature and tempo. This is the least successful track, although Jakko belts out the lead vocal with gusto and the band give it maximum Crim; somehow, the whole is not quite the sum of the parts, and they come across more like a competent tribute band than the real thing. Then we get a brief percussive interlude (credited to Gavin Harrison) which could have escaped from The Power To Believe tour, or from Lark's Tongues in Aspic. This leads into the instrumental part of The Construkction of Light. Mel Collins plays some jazzy flute and later sax over the interlocking guitars of Jakszyk and Fripp, and the piece takes on an interesting new character. Then we're back to the 70s with two selections from Islands, both given fresh vitality and a 3rd millennium makeover with a frisson of free jazz. Rounding things off is a superb version of Starless, which Crimheads will have on repeat for weeks.

The track selection seems a bit random. The 2 tracks from Islands have both been included on other live albums - Ladies of the Road is a particularly good document of the 'Islands' line up - and The Construkction of Light is a live staple of recent line ups that was included on Heavy Construkction. The two songs from Red, on the other hand, have never been played live before, and we also get two new fragments. Set lists from the American tour included two songs from a Scarcity of Miracles, as well as improvs, so there was the opportunity to include some more fresh material, as well as a few more old favourites. Having said that, it's beautifully played and recorded and it is interesting to hear the contemporary KC getting to grips with some of the more neglected parts of their back catalogue.

Is it worth buying? I don't regret buying my copy, and I have listened to it extensively over the last few weeks. It's not much use for a newcomer to King Crimson, and indeed there are plenty of good collections that give an overview of their whole career, not least the 'Elements' double CD released to coincide with the tour. It wouldn't make much sense for anybody who is mostly familiar with KC's studio work; good live recordings exist for every line up, mostly double sets with two hours' worth of live and steaming Crimson goodness. If you're familiar with the live releases, this provides a fascinating footnote to what has gone before, although I suspect that there will be a more comprehensive release from this line up in the not too distant future. Two stars, then; as good as it is, this is really one for fans and collectors.

Syzygy | 2/5 |

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