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King Crimson - USA CD (album) cover

USA

King Crimson

 

Eclectic Prog

4.02 | 457 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Review Nš 52

'USA' is the second live album of King Crimson and was released in 1975. As with its predecessor, their debut live album 'Earthbound' released in 1972, this is also a posthumous live work, documenting the end of other King Crimson's line up. It was recorded in the final of the 'USA' live tour. So, 'USA', became the farewell album of this line up, with Robert Fripp (guitar and mellotron), John Wetton (lead vocals and bass), David Cross (violin, viola, mellotron and electric piano) and Bill Bruford (drums and percussion). Eddie Jobson (violin and electric piano) also appears as an additional musician. The main difference between both albums is with the line up. The line up on 'Earthbound' is weaker than on 'USA'. This third line up is one of the best line ups of the group. For instance, Bruford and Wetton are two of the best musicians of the 70's. And we have also here the presence of Jobson, an artist that I deeply admire.

The original vinyl version has only six tracks. In 2002 the band released the 30th Anniversary Edition, on CD format, with nine tracks. As this is the version that I bought, this is the version that I will review. Almost all the tracks recorded live were taken from two locations in the USA. They were recorded at the Casino, Asbury Park, in 28 June 1974, with the only exception of its seventh track, who was recorded at the Palace Theatre, Providence, in 30 June 1974.

About the tracks, 'Walk On'No Pussyfooting' is a brief excerpt of a track originally recorded on a Fripp & Eno album, '(No Pussyfooting)' released in 1973. This album was the first of three major collaborations between both musicians. On the original live version of 'USA', this excerpt wasn't listed as a separate track and is only audible by a very careful listener. It serves as a kind of an introduction to the album. It has only 00:35 minutes. 'Larks' Tongues In Aspic (Part II)', 'Exiles' and 'Easy Money' were all tracks originally released on their fifth studio album 'Larks' Tongues In Aspic' in 1973. 'Lament' and 'Fracture' were two tracks originally released on their sixth studio album 'Starless And Bible Black' in 1974. 'Asbury Park' is a piece of music, an improvisation, which was never released on any studio album of them. '21st Century Schizoid Man' was originally released on their debut studio album 'In The Court Of The Crimson King' in 1969. 'Starless' was originally released on their seventh studio album 'Red' in 1974. The two last tracks on the album, 'Fracture' and 'Starless', are the two extra tracks that weren't featured on the original release of 'USA' and that only were added for the subsequent release of the 30th Anniversary Edition.

About the live performance, classics like the thunderous "Lark's Tongues in Aspic-Part II", the atmospheric and ominous "Lament", the sheer beauty of "Exiles", with its massive mellotron sounds, as well as the pure genius of "Fracture" and "Starless" are all represented here. So, fortunately we can have in the 2002 Anniversary edition, for the first time, two more of the best King Crimson's songs, 'Fracture' and 'Starless' thrown in for good measure. Both tracks are also two of my favourites, especially the latter of which is easily one of my top five songs of the band. 'Easy Money' was also extended and so the listeners can at long last hear the track as they were meant to be heard. Another enjoyable aspect of the concert is the racy alternative lyrics to this track. An interesting inclusion of "21st Century Schizoid Man" is here as well, as by then the band was trying to move away from material from the earlier albums. A real treat is the track "Asbury Park", a never before released instrumental that is a real fusion workout for the band, with speedy guitar solos, furious bass and drums, and creepy mellotron. Finally and considering that Cross was asked to leave the band during the sessions of Red, some violin and keyboard parts were re-recorded by Jobson.

Conclusion: 'USA', released three years later than 'Earthbound', is a live album much better than 'Earthbound'. The qualitative differences are so huge that it can even be compared to the differences between water and wine. As I wrote before when I made my review of 'Earthbound', several reasons contributed to make 'Earthbound' an atypical and failed King Crimson's album. On 'USA', or these factors simply didn't happened or were completely exceeded. But let's see it more in detail. The decision of to break up the band again, surely doesn't brought demotivation and tension in the band's members, because there was certainly a great intensity, dynamic and musical chemistry between them. I sincerely think that we can feel it all over the album. About the line up, it's very professional and creative, one of the best King Crimson's line ups. About the repertoire chosen, it's diverse and representative and represents some of the best that the group had done until then. The live versions are all very good, having nothing to do with those performed on 'Earthbound'. The last but not the least, the sound quality is simply amazing. So, I consider 'USA' a perfect live album, unfortunately an underrated album sometimes. It really has everything what a great live album must have.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 4/5 |

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