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King Crimson - The Road to Red CD (album) cover

THE ROAD TO RED

King Crimson

 

Eclectic Prog

4.04 | 61 ratings

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Man With Hat
2 stars Vroom Vroom

The Road To Red is the second massive boxset released by King Crimson to celebrate a highly revered mid 70s album, after the fairly remarkable Larks' Tongues Complete Recordings box of the previous year. As the band infamously broke up after Red was released, there was no tour to properly commemorate the album. Luckily for fans, parts of the album were road tested before the band went into the studio. This set chronicles the North American tour King Crimson undertook in the spring and summer of 1974. This set more than doubles the number of live shows presented (either in part or in full) than the previous box, and really does make one feel as if they were on tour with the red beast during this fertile and frustrating time of their existence. And while this box doesn't compile every show from this tour, it certainly doesn't feel underwhelming.

First the positives: The improvs, the joy of each King Crimson performance, and honestly the main reason I had interest in this set. Improvising since this lineup's inception, all four are nearly telepathic with each other at this point, and as a result some of Crimson's best improvs are here. The Golden Walnut, Is There Life Out There?, A Voyage To The Center Of The Cosmos, and Asbury Park are the highlights, but all the longer improvs are wonderful. To further this point, everyone in the band is consistently firing on all cylinders. The four headed beast growls, groans, shrieks, and roars at will, painting every landscape in a beauty and horror that only the Crimson King can do. There are a total of 15 new improvs over these live sets, and while some are short (in a more 'tuning-up' type mode), others dig in a bit more. Unfortunately, this set also has some limitations. The sound quality, while better than the previous box (by a longshot), is still pretty variable, at times definitely more than acceptable, but at other times just clearing the low bar. Tapes once again drop out at inopportune moments, leaving various songs and improvs as incomplete. There are 17 incomplete recordings in total on this set, some of them only minor, with others considerably greater amounts of music are lost. Aside from the improvs, the setlists are (unsurprisingly) fairly standard, although there are variations within each song. That said, getting 20 versions of Easy Money and Lament isn't exactly a huge boon for this set, IMO. However, perhaps the biggest issue with this collection is that seven of the shows have been released previously, whether as a piece of The Great Deceiver, The King Crimson Collector's Club or, in the case of the Asbury Park gig, a stand alone release. (Additionally, having two versions of the Asbury Park show is an odd choice.) Combine that with the album proper and the DVD/Blu-Rays, 11 of the 24 discs are, at least in part, superfluous. Perhaps a couple of the shows that were left off this release would have made more sense to add, instead of some of these repeated releases. (If we count shows released as downloads only, this set drops to only 4 unreleased shows, with four (fairly short) unreleased improvs.)

All in all, this is a fascinating glimpse into the window of existence for King Crimson. Shortly after this tour ended, the band would record Red and then go on hiatus until the 80s. Some would argue that the Crim was never mightier than it was in the mid 70s, with Bruford pounding the skins, Wetton abusing the bass, Fripp strangling his guitar, and Cross' potent mellotron & violin combination. From that perspective, these mega boxsets of the 70s albums are a godsend. From a general prog fan perspective, this one in particular is slightly less necessary than the other two, given the sound quality, incompleteness, and duplication present. For the Crimson fanatic, this would probably be about a 4 out of 5. On my personal scale, I'd give this a 2.5-3.0, for progarchives purposes, I'll round down to 2/5.

Man With Hat | 2/5 |

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