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King Crimson - Earthbound CD (album) cover


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

2.45 | 378 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
3 stars How to salvage a mess

When I first heard this live album in the mid-70's, I went back to the record store to exchange it with another copy, as I was sure it was obviously a bad pressing. You can imagine the visible amusement of the vendor's face and gently explaining me that this was indeed as the album was released. Indeed, Fripp & the boys tried to stop Island Records to release this sore excuse for a live record (a cassette used as a master), but it came out anyway. This was probably one of the worse-sounding album ever released (along with Grand Funk Railroad's Live album, but that was intentionally bad), and I never dared return to it after getting rid of the album in the used vinyl circuit, until recently I fell upon the 30th anniversary remaster version and decided to see how precise were my (bad) memories of it. All I can say is that I didn't find the sound nearly as bad as I did back then, but that's easily explainable with modern technology to clean up badly recorded music. What a job Fripp did with this Live album, one that he disowned for over two decades.

Actually behind the eternal Schizoid Man (not the best version), there is little else material that is present on studio albums, if you'll except Sailor's Tale (from Island, the album, not the company) and even that one is quite different (instrumental) than its original form. The rest of the albums are some improvisations that Crimson was getting famous for, even though the next line-up (Bruford/Wetton) would become famous for. Indeed Peoria is an improvised blues-rock with Burrell singing & scatting over a steady rhythm, while Collins blows a solo or two and Fripp remains mostly rhythmic. Not fascinating, but interesting, even if the fade-out leaves wondering how they could end it. Similarly Sailor's Tale starts on a fade-in, obviously in the middle of a wild and fast improv, but then one recognizes the tune when the group slows down, especially with the two mellotrons. Earthbound is another one of these improvs, one that fits well the mould of this album, but definitely not on par with the future improvs of the next line-up. The flipside opens on the rare Groon (this was the flipside of the Cat Food/Groon single and not available on an Lp), where the improv seems to be the continuation of Peoria, but it gets lost into individual solos (including the inevitable drum solo) and even goes dissonant for a while.

If the sound was not so awful, this would've probably been a great record back then. It is a real shame that the sound quality did not improve as much as I would've hoped (probably expecting too much, I guess) as this got finally released to CD's but I guess there is only so much one can do to an original cassette . When one thinks that Genesis did not agree with their label releasing their live album in 72 because of recording quality, this leaves you perplexed how this one got out in the store's bins a second time, especially when Fripp is soooo keen on quality. If progheads, want to investigate into that era live Crimson, there are some fine releases in the Crimson Collector's Club with much better sound quality, but the one I have is Groon-less. Paradoxically Earthbound is rather interesting enough for those Crimson lovers into their improvisations: this one is loaded with them, even if mostly blues-derived.

Sean Trane | 3/5 |


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