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King Crimson - The Night Watch  CD (album) cover


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

4.46 | 319 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars A large number of high-quality live releases have been put out documenting the King Crimson lineup that existed from Larks' Tongues In Aspic to Red; one wonders whether Fripp went out of his way to make sure that live shows were recorded to perfection after the whole Earthbound debacle. Why, then, should you pick The Night Watch over any of the others?

Well, for starters it presents a complete show from start to finish without any edits or overdubs that I can detect, unlike the abbreviated and mildly touched-up USA. Likewise, as a double CD set it's a far less overwhelming prospect than the gargantuan Great Deceiver boxed set, and obviously has less redundancy than that box because it only covers one show instead of half a dozen.

Secondly, it's a show with particular importance to the band's history - parts of it were extracted and touched up in the studio (and, on occasion, fused with studio tracks) to yield much of the material on Starless and Bible Black. This does mean that if you have Starless you've already heard some of the material on here, but the raw material and the engineered product are obviously very different propositions and there's enough material that wasn't issued elsewhere on here to be of interest even to those who already own S&BB. The mid- 70s incarnation of King Crimson put improvisation at the centre of their performances (one improv here, the excellent Fright Watch, hasn't been issued on any other KC album), and so there's not only original material here but also unique renditions of classic King Crimson songs that are often startlingly different from their studio versions. The only pre-Larks' Tongues track on offer here is the closing rendition of 21st Century Schizoid Man, which is at once instantly recognisable and on a par with the debut album's version, but at the same time is quite different as the heavier, rawer, more aggressive King Crimson of 1973 tear into the song and absolutely make it their own.

But the best reason to get this album is simply that the band were on fire on the evening in question. This is a scorching, heavy, loud as hell performance from the group, who to my mind prove themselves to be superior to any earlier King Crimson lineup with this set. At the very least, they blow the material from In the Wake of Poseidon up to Earthbound completely out of the water, so I think the decision to remove all of that material from the live setlist entirely was the sensible and right choice. The ghost of In the Court of the Crimson King had haunted the band for three years before Fripp decided to stop trying to make a followup to it and to take the band in a completely different direction; it was performances like The Night Watch that exorcised it.

Warthur | 5/5 |


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