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King Crimson - Earthbound CD (album) cover


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

2.45 | 378 ratings

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Symphonic Team
2 stars Earthbound? More like Marooned: The fractured state of the Crims.

This is a genuine misfire on almost every level. The band themselves were in a transitional stage. Gordon Haskell was out replaced by Boz Burrell who does not do the songs justice either vocally or on bass. The saving grace of Mel Collins' sax is at least something to look forward to and one cannot dispute the towering guitar work of legendary prog hero Robert Fripp. Even the set list lacks something with waste of space B side 'Groon' and dull 'Peoria'. The 6:44 edit of 'Groon' on "The 21st Century Guide to King Crimson Vol 1" box set is better and interestingly the box set has an edited 9:47 version of '21st Century Schizoid Man', minus the vocals that is, as they no doubt realised how bad Boz sounded.

The sound is as good as I could get if I had been there at Wilmington, Peoria, Jacksonville and Orlando venues recording on my boom box cassette recorder. Actually scratch that, it is worse as I would not have recorded static feedback and drop outs. At times the sound is low fi and muffled, at other times it eats static, and occasionally it is a notch above tolerable. For some reason this was as good as the band could do, yet in the 70s there were plenty of live albums that bury this in terms of sound quality. It really sounds like a bad bootleg and perhaps should have remained out of circulation to surface as bonus tracks to CDs in later years rather than released as official. Listeners would be more forgiving if they were mere bonus tracks.

In June 9th 1972 when "Earthbound" was released in England, the US Atlantic label actually declined to release it on the grounds that it had poor sound quality. Also that same year King Crimson split up, and the following month of the album's release in July Bruford, Wetton, Muir and Cross reformed the band with Fripp as the sole survivor. When Bruford quit Yes 'Melody Maker' likened it to "Rolls quitting Royce". Nevertheless this record testifies to the fractured state of the band, and it is not a pretty sound.

It is difficult to forgive this quality no matter how much you love the band, it is truly the worst you will hear on an official release. We have a raw whispy gutless sound though the band are so energetic and heavy that I can still sit through most of this. You have to be in the right frame of mind to purposely subject your ears to such a cacophony of noise but King Crimsonites will do so relatively easily. It is the archival nature of the material that holds the interest as this was the early phase of the Crims and is a one off live record. The "USA" live album to follow later in 1975 is a better choice of course but the band were tighter and as a cohesive unit were outstanding musically. Boz is the main culprit here who only learnt bass at Fripp's training in a desperate attempt to quickly replace Haskell. This concert followed in the wake of "Islands" where Boz sounded better and then he was replaced quickly by John Wetton just in time for the awesome "Lark's Tongues in Aspic". Bill Bruford was also a better drummer, streets ahead of Ian Wallace who had replaced Andy McCulloch. Peter Sinfield jumped ship indefinitely so it is clear that there was a lot of tension in the band with all these changes.

It is disappointing that the quality is so under par because the music itself is rather excellent. The brilliant '21st Century Schizoid Man' is certainly one of the best things on it and worth getting hold of. It exists on CD on the box set of King Crimson so it is not worth hunting down "Earthbound" if one already has this track. I was astounded at how bad the sound is and with all the live material available these days the album exists as more of a collector's only item or for archival records rather than an essential purchase.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 2/5 |


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