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King Crimson - Epitaph, Volumes One & Two CD (album) cover

EPITAPH, VOLUMES ONE & TWO

King Crimson

 

Eclectic Prog

3.77 | 132 ratings

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tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer
4 stars If you're one of those people that thinks the only true King Crimson was the very first incarnation (hang your head in shame if that's true), then this 2-CD archive release is a necessity (there's actually a 4-CD version directly available from DGM, but it appears to be just more of the same). Featuring a complete show on the second disc (the last this incarnation ever did) and recordings from a few places on disc one, this may not have the best audio in the world, but it's a good overview of the power the band was able to produce on stage. Plus, it has three versions of "Schizoid Man," all with Fripp attacking the solo with much more reckless abandon than in the studio (it's funny to read the liner notes and see Robert ripping on his own guitar playing in the studio version), and more "Schizoid Man" is almost always better "Schizoid Man."

One thing that keeps getting stressed in the liner notes is that, as good as it might have been, Court didn't totally capture the intensity of the band's stage performances, and these performances definitely show a lot of sonic and rhythmic power (the tradeoff, though, is that the stage didn't have as much precision from the mellotron). Aside from multiple renditions of the big three epics of Court (no "Talk to the Wind" or "Moonchild" here), there are two renditions each of "A Man, A City" (later "Pictures of a City") and "Mars" (later "The Devil's Triangle"), and they're a freaking blast. "A Man, A City" might go slightly overboard with the jazzy mid-section, but I enjoy it just fine nonetheless, and the 'main' sections of the song rule as much as they would in the studio version. My definite favorites of this set, though, are the two renditions of "Mars," which do an incredible job of pounding that steady menacing rhythm into my head while the mellotron does its atmospheric thing. So help me, I'm a sucker for a good crescendo, and while the band would have great success in later years with "Talking Drum" and "Dangerous Curves," I'm not totally sure it ever surpassed the sheer grandeur of its live "Mars" performances for head-pounding build-up.

There are also a number of tracks that didn't make it to any studio album, and they're of, um, mixed quality. "Drop In" would later have some of its music reworked into "The Letters," and it's okayish, though it's easy to see why it was relegated to rarity status. "Get Thy Bearings" (which I first heard on Ladies of the Road) isn't very impressive, "Mantra" has completely passed me by every time, "Travel Weary Capricorn" sounds like a bad outtake from In Search of the Lost Chord (not in lyrics, but definitely in music), and "Travel Bleary Capricorn" shows that King Crimson had a long ways to go before it could produce effective improvised jazz rock (I'm not a huge fan of the improvs from the '73- '74 incarnation, but on the whole they're way above what's here).

Overall, then, this isn't a must-have for any King Crimson fan, but as I said, a big fan of the first era would do well to hear this album at some point. Giles is a little less precise than in the studio, as is McDonald, but Lake is mostly spectacular on vocals, Fripp sounds fine, and overall the band gels into something incredibly special. Hearing this album, if nothing else, makes it even more clear why King Crimson became such a huge sensation in such a brief period, and from the historical document angle, that makes this worth seeking out. Don't get it before Court or Poseidon, though.

tarkus1980 | 4/5 |

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