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King Crimson - Lark's Tongue In Aspic (the complete recordings) CD (album) cover

LARK'S TONGUE IN ASPIC (THE COMPLETE RECORDINGS)

King Crimson

 

Eclectic Prog

3.84 | 59 ratings

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Man With Hat
3 stars The Cheerful Insanity Of King Crimson & Jamie Muir

In 2009, King Crimson started a series of re-releases to celebrate 40 years of existence. Naturally, this started with their debut album, In The Court Of The Crimson King. However, that release (especially in hindsight) was a sad party, mostly filled with endless repetition of the album, with the occasional alternative take and a handful of live songs (none of which were previously released). For me, the true celebration of the anniversary of the Crimson King starts here, with a mammoth box set, dedicated to the seminal Larks' Tongues In Aspic. Taking the concept of the MegaBox to new heights, this collection take a lineup that produced about 45 minutes of music and existed for a blink of an eye, and presents nine discs of live material, a studio workout disc, an alternate take disc, as well as two versions of the original studio album (and a DVD/Blu-Ray as an added bonus). Prior to this box's release, this was easily the most under documented version of KC. After this box's release, some people will say the is lineup is over documented (given some of the sound quality issues of the material). But this was a fairly unique time in Crimson's history and Muir was the madman that added the bulk of the chaos (who influence would be felt long after he would unceremoniously leave the court of the crimson king). From a fan perspective, gaining insight into this period of the band is a godsend, especially with how singular an event it was.

One of the most appealing aspects of this lineup was it's focus on improvisation. While the mid 70s version of Crim always had a penchant for such musical mayhem, it was the five man lineup dived the deepest into that particular ocean. As a result, while the number of 'traditional' songs played by this particular version of the band was rather small, the improvisation was ample, and each show became its' own event, with it's own merits and it's own atmospheres. 16 separate improvs are presented across the 9 live discs, with an average running time of approximately 15 minutes each. Additionally, the unpredictable nature of Muir's objects, allsorts, and percussions gives even the more established numbers an edge of unpredictably. All of this makes this boxset, one of the most alluring pieces in the vast King Crimson catalogue.

Unfortunately, this would also have to be classified as one of the most frustrating additions to the vast King Crimson catalogue. Clearly, the majority of these sets were not meant for general public consumption. The sound quality varies between sets, but is rarely better than acceptable (the live in studio (disc 3) is, not surprisingly, the best sounding of the lot). This causes a lot of subtlety to be lost, whether it is the quieter sections which get swallowed up in the ambient noise or really loud sections that gets muddied together like a incredibly thick stew. Adding insult to this injury, is that Muir is certainly the one that gets lost the most, as his contributions can be anything from a bag of leaves to a pulsating chimes to metallic blasts. Additionally, while some shows are presented in full, others have tapes ending at inopportune moments, leaving songs jarringly incomplete. Magic definitely abounds, yet, irritatingly, there are many moments throughout the set, that leave me feeling cheated and/or teased. (From a formatting standpoint, having two version of the studio album is at least one too many, and the DVD/Blu-Ray is nice enough, but having both seems superfluous.) All that said, there is some lovely music presented here. Nearly all of the improvs are worthy of your time and ear strain. The band locks into some great grooves and solos with the deft hand that Crimson always does. I love Larks' Tongues Part I, so having it appear throughout copiously is a personal joy (especially with the rarity of the song played live). The studio companion disc (Keep That One, Nick) is a fairly fascinating adventure into Crimson's studio odyssey, with many fun and enjoyable moments (and is certainly the best sounding thing in the box, for what it's worth). And finally, the booklet is healthy, insightful, and pleasing to read.

All in all, this is certainly an amazing exploration of the five man early to mid 70s Crim. Even though there are more downloads available of this lineup available from the DGM website (which could theoretically be added to this set, but presumably weren't due to sound or similar issues), this collection feels like the definitive expression of Muir with King Crimson. There are bumps along the way but also some gold. Given the brevity of and scarcity of releases from this lineup, a lot of the minuses of the set can be overlooked or at least reasoned away. That said, this is certainly a compendium for the hardcore fan, particularly of the early to mid 70s lineup of the mighty Crim. For hardcore fans, I would rate this as a 3.75-4.00. For the general fan, this would be closer to a 2.00. I'll compromise and give Larks' Tongues In Aspic - The Complete Recordings three out of five stars. Cautiously recommended.

Man With Hat | 3/5 |

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