King Crimson - The Night Watch  CD (album) cover


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

4.38 | 221 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars You know what they say - one man's treasure is another man's trash. This is a 2-CD archive release of the November 23rd, 1973 KC concert in Amsterdam, and it's been graced with epithets like "legendary" from the time of the concert through the issue of this album. Obviously Fripp himself holds a major soft spot for this concert - you see, this concert has the distinction of containing 27 minutes of the very takes that would end up on the band's next album (albeit with some overdubs, and the removal of the audience), Starless and Bible Black. This comes in the form of three tracks - two improvs ("Trio" and that album's title track) and one "regular" Fripp composition (Fracture).

Now, you'd think that, faced with the task of assembling a studio album from live peformances, Fripp would make sure to only choose tracks from a show where the band was at the top of its game. Well, all I can say there is that Fripp and myself have different definitions of "at the top of its game" - while parts of this concert are absolutely great, there are also a lot of spots where the band doesn't seem to be firing on all cylinders. By this time, the band had been reduced to a 4-piece - Muir left to live in a monastery - and while Bruford does more than his fair share to fill the void, I get the sense that Muir's manic energy could have helped this performance immensely. Neither "Larks' II" or "Schizoid Man," which close out the show, come anywhere NEAR their studio counterparts - in the former, it seems to me that the band is just more or less going through the motions, and in the latter, the "Schizoid" jam manages to actually be, dare I say it, boring. Fripp doesn't do anything special with his solo to substantially grab the listener's attention, and nobody seems to have the guts to jump in and pick up the slack.

This sense of blase extends beyond those two tracks, unfortunately. "Book of Saturday" is totally pro forma, and "Lament," which would pop up on the next album, is a total disaster, thanks to Wetton's unbelievably out-of-tune vocals. There's also an especially yawn- inducing improv entitled "The Fright Watch" (obviously a "counterpart" to the ballad "The Night Watch," which would also appear on the next album, and function as the lead single), interesting only in the way it sets the scene for "The Talking Drum," which in turn goes into "Larks."

After all this, there are really four reasons to even consider looking for this album. First off, the opening runthrough of "Easy Money" is FABULOUS, with the live atmosphere giving Wetton's slurred wordless singing even more intensity than before, and the band doing a great great job in all aspects. Second, while the already-mentioned "Fracture" has some issues (in my opinion) from a composition standpoint (not too many, though), it's not hard to see why Fripp chose THIS as the album take. Third, "Exiles" is just gorgeous - Wetton's vocals are actually an asset here, giving even more resonance than before, and even Fripp's diddling has more of an impact than before. And finally, "The Talking Drum," despite the boredom bookending it, is spectacular - it doesn't deviate from the original in terms of general structure, but the band manages to build up the tension even further than they did in the studio, and that definitely says something.

Still, that's not a lot of the album. If you're a hardcore, you'll want this for sure, but if you're not, you should definitely give it some thought before you take Fripp's full-hearted recommendation for this at face value.

tarkus1980 | 3/5 |


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