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King Crimson - USA CD (album) cover


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

4.03 | 489 ratings

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4 stars Until the release of The Great Deceiver box in 1992, this was the only available live document from what is widely considered to be King Crimson's most exciting period. As a live band they easily surpassed their studio output and that's why I don't hesitate to call this essential. Even in its original vinyl form with just 6 tracks it was the crucial King Crimson album from the 72-74 period for me, together with Red obviously.

King Crimson never really toured the Red album, only Starless featured during a number of concerts and Providence was taken from a 1974 live improvisation. So, the setlist of USA concentrates on Lark's Tongues material. With 3 tracks that album is well presented and, more importantly, the performances here easily blow the originals to dust. Lark's Tongues pt ii is very powerful and dynamic, the heavy bass and neurotic violins are nothing short of breathtaking. Also Exiles marks a huge improvement over the original, Wetton's singing is superb, the result of 2 years of intensive touring has transformed his voice from insecure and grating to the emotive croon that is heard during this concert.

Every 73-74 King Crimson concert featured 1 or 2 improvisations, Asbury Park is the improvisation that was chosen for the album and it's easy to see why. It is a very tight jazz rock piece with Wetton's insanely distorted bass in the most prominent role, excellent drums from Bruford and some mellotron and guitars to fill it out. It's no wonder Fripp didn't feel entirely at easy with Wetton's dominating presence during the 1974 tour. You can hardly hear him, this is a bass guitar fest.

Easy Money gives further proof of Wetton's improved vocals. This song featured in about every King Crimson concert during those years but there are few versions that are as commanding as the one here. The original album ended with the astounding 21st Century Schizoid Man. The definite version for me, with Bruford, Wetton and Cross making the neurotic middle section into pure sonic insanity.

The 30th anniversary version is the one to get of course. It adds two of Crimson's best pieces to the setlist. Both Fracture and Starless don't differ that much from the album originals but they are great bonuses.

The Great Deceiver boxset contains other concerts with a similar setlist, which makes USA probably unnecessary for King Crimson fans, but for everyone else that boxset is probably too excessive, making this album the one to get. It's my most played King Crimson album together with Red.

Edit 04/20/2010 : I just got the Collectible Vol2 2CD edition, restoring this concert in its original form and adding another 1974 concert next to it! So I'll have to knock off a star here.

Bonnek | 4/5 |


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