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King Crimson - The Great Deceiver: Live 1973 - 1974 CD (album) cover

THE GREAT DECEIVER: LIVE 1973 - 1974

King Crimson

 

Eclectic Prog

4.52 | 268 ratings

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Cygnus X-2
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Of all the live incarnations of King Crimson, no version was as experimental as the 73-74 band consisting of Robert Fripp, Bill Bruford, David Cross, and John Wetton. Of the various live recordings of this era of King Crimson (and there are 3 official retail releases), I'd rank The Great Deceiver as the best. But the other two, the single album USA (which is the only album that features the stellar Asbury Park improv) and the double album The Night Watch (which was the concert recorded for the Starless and Bible Black album), are still of high quality, it's just The Great Deceiver has essentially all the tracks that those two albums have (except for a couple of improvs) and then some. Throughout the four discs, the listener goes through many different concerts and ultimately is presented with many different songs (although there are a few repeats) as well as a plethora of improvs that really show the experimental nature of the group.

The first disc of this album is taken from a concert from Providence, Rhode Island, and stretches onto the second disc (for the first two songs). The set list is varied and has a stellar version of Starless with David Cross giving a superb violin part. Of the two improvs, which are Providence (which would eventually find its way onto Red with the crowd track cut out) and A Voyage To The Center of the Cosmos, the latter one really shows how the band could play completely improvised music and make it sound like it was well rehearsed and planned out... utterly stunning to put it shortly. Fracture also has a particular kick this time around, with the raw sound quality really coming and making it just a bit better than the other versions. The two songs on the second disc from this show, being 21st Century Schizoid Man (which is good, but the Night Watch version is better) and Walk Off Providence No Pussyfooting (which would act as the introduction and the closer of the show). It's probably my favorite of the set just in terms of set list and sound quality.

The second disc has a couple of rarities in Cat Food and Peace- A Theme as well as some wicked improvs (although they aren't as spectacular as the Cosmos one on the first disc). The version of Larks' Tongue in Aspic Part I is especially biting here with more violin presence. There's also an abridged version of Easy Money as well as another full version on the same disc. Anyway, there's more crowd presence on this disc, which gets a bit bothersome in the quieter pieces like Book of Saturday and Peace- A Theme. Despite that, though, it just doesn't live up to the overall energy and feel (as well as the set list) of the first disc. It's good, just not to that extent.

The third disc has four improvs as well as the only official release of Doctor Diamond (a song that was almost featured on Red but was cut out at the last minute) as well as another stellar version of Starless. Of the four improvs, the final one really is the best of them because of the great interplay between Bruford and Wetton (with Fripp playing excellently as well). This is also the first disc to feature a Talking Drum/Larks Tongues in Aspic Part II segue (with LTiA II being abridged) and for the most part it also comes off rather nicely. This disc also sounds wonderful with a nice overall ambience and a great balance in the instruments.

The final disc is from Toronto's Massey Hall and a show from Switzerland. The opening four pieces range from constructed pieces (Fracture and the Night Watch) to all out improvs. The two improvs here, titled Clueless & Slightly Slack and The Golden Walnut, are a bit longer than the standard improvs on this set, but they are very captivating and really show the overall cohesiveness and intensity that the group was able to convey through their seemlessly complicated and intricate improvisational pieces that sound more like a rehearsed piece than something done completely on the fly. The rest of the disc comprises of 3 more improvs (one actually based on the No Pussyfooting theme) and a two part one titled The Law of Maximum Distress, which is probably my least favorite improv in the collection. Another strong version of Larks Tongue in Aspic part I and a rousing and sudden finale in The Talking Drum are also here, and for the most part they are pretty good.

Overall, of the three official retail live releases from this era of the group, I think The Great Deceiver is the best of the bunch. It has the most diversity, the most improvs, and the most selection of tracks. Despite four versions of Easy Money and three versions of The Night Watch (which seemed to be live favorites), the rest of the album is pretty diverse and there's a lot to offer the listener. The only other problem with this album is its availability. The only place I've seen it for a reasonable price was the Discipline Global Mobile shop (where I got mine) and that was for 65 dollars (American). Still, I think it's worth it and you shouldn't be disappointed at all with this set. It's a near masterpiece live collection, but there are some minor faults that keep me from giving it the coveted 5 star rating. 4.5/5.

Cygnus X-2 | 4/5 |

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