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King Crimson - Earthbound CD (album) cover

EARTHBOUND

King Crimson

 

Eclectic Prog

2.47 | 403 ratings

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The Mentalist
3 stars I felt compelled to write this after reading a recently submitted review. I can see all too well where the reviewer's coming from and why he felt obliged to give it a zero rating. But, as it happens, I really quite like this album. Therefore I feel obliged to redress the balance and replace the negative with the positive. Yin and Yang and all that stuff? First of all I must emphasise how poor the sound quality is on this recording. It is, unfortunately, of semi-bootleg quality. Secondly, let me alert you to the fact that 'Earthbound' captures King Crimson in a process of heavy mutation. By the time it was recorded (1972) the band had shrunk to a four-piece, and a strange one at that. The most striking thing about the line-up is the rhythm section, consisting of Bass player, Boz, and drummer, Ian Wallace. Together they form the funkiest rhythm section in Crimson's history. Wallace is an excellent drummer, and he's given a lot of space on this recording to groove-out, as all of the tracks, bar 'Schizoid man', are extended improvisations. He plays a great drum solo too, if you like that kind of thing. As I said, the bass is played by the, infamous, Boz, who, as legend has it, apparently couldn't play the bass. Listening to his playing on this album, all I can say is the stories about his lack of bass playing skill must be apocryphal, for unless he's miming, he's definitely playing it on this album, and rather well at that. The sax and mellotron duties are handled by the excellent Mel Collins. Collins gets ample opportunity to express himself, too, treating us to some very soulful and frenzied soloing. Fripp is fantastic as always. The album opens with what is, in my opinion, a far superior version of 'Schizoid man' than the one released on 'U.S.A'. In some ways the overly distorted sound actually enhances this gutsy in-yer- face rendition of Crimson's most famous song. Boz's vocals are suitably distorted and deranged. In fact, everything is suitably distorted and deranged. Fripp's guitar solo is fantastic; much more manic than the tame U.S.A. version. There's a wonderful tension about this performance, especially the moment when Mel Collins tentatively begins his sax solo after the all-out warfare of Fripp's guitar solo. The tricky unison passages are all played with the precision expected from Crimson. Once more I say, if Boz couldn't play the bass, then, by a sheer fluke he hit the jackpot on this song. 'Peoria' is a great, funky jam featuring Mel Collins on sax, and Boz on funky "scat" vocals. (in this instance "scat" doesn't stand for "shit" although some might argue otherwise)The truth is, this track doesn't really sound like King Crimson at all. Even Fripp keeps the decidedly un-Crimson-like tune going by playing an uncharacteristically funky, wah-wah guitar solo. The Sailor's Tale' from 'Islands' produces some good guitar playing from Fripp, and some not-so-good mellotron playing from Collins. 'Earthbound' starts off as another funky un-Crimson-type tune with yet more sax and "scat" vocals. However, Fripp plays a solo that is unmistakably Fripp, and suddenly the tune sounds like King Crimson again. PHEW! 'Groon' is yet another extended jam featuring Mel Collins. It ends with the aforementioned drum solo. I know this isn't Crimson's best album by any means. Indeed, it might even be their worst.(although I admit to preferring it to 'Three of a perfect pair') But despite the poor sound quality, it does capture King Crimson at a very unusual and transitory phase in their development. Whether or not anyone cares is another matter.
The Mentalist | 3/5 |

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