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King Crimson - USA CD (album) cover

USA

King Crimson

 

Eclectic Prog

4.01 | 332 ratings

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Cygnus X-2
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The "final" King Crimson release (of the 70s that is) as it was intended was a live album that came out after the group was defunct but was recorded at the height of their final tour in that lineup consisting of Robert Fripp, David Cross, John Wetton, and Bill Bruford, with Eddie Jobson as a special guest on two tracks. I'll be reviewing the new version of the album that features 3 extra tracks, and the three added on couldn't be much better as both Fracture and Starless are added on. Although the audio is a bit underwhelming the fantastic musicianship and the stellar setlist make up for it and then some.

Opening with a flourish of sound from the Walk On... No Pussyfooting segment that would open up their shows, they immediately go into Larks' Tongue in Aspic Part II. The crushingly heavy riffing is great here and the dynamic performances from all across the board. It may not be the best live version of the song that I've heard, but it's arguably my favorite King Crimson song so any version of it in my opinion is a great one. Lament is one of the more out there pieces created by the group, as the melodic introduction is met by a zany middle section with kooky riffing from Wetton, but none the less it's a good rendition. I'll also mention that Eddie Jobson performed the violin and keyboards on both of those tracks and the rest are by David Cross. Exiles is another great track, but I think this may be my least favorite version of the track, still it's pretty damn good for what it is. Asbury Park is the improvisational piece added to the album, and it may be one of the best improvisational pieces King Crimson ever commited to record. It's so well played by all fronts that it actually sounds like a tightly rehearsed piece and there's no hint of improvisation at all in the musicianship. And you'll only find it here as well.

Easy Money may be the most overrated song from this era of King Crimson, as every live album King Crimson released from this era had this song (albeit with slightly skewed and more humorous lyrics) on it and I can't say that this version is better than any other one. The original album ended with a rollicking version of 21st Century Schizoid Man, the only problem with it is that Wetton's voice doesn't really sound that good when distorted. There are better versions of this song from the same era as well. Fracture may as well be one of the most technically challenging pieces ever written, and Robert Fripp extends that sentiment even when they play it live. I have to say that the version on The Night Watch was better (as it would end up on the Starless and Bible Black album without the live track in it). Sonically this song is an assault on your ears in the later sections, and every time you hear it it's more and more worth the listen. The remastered version ends with a ripping version of Starless, with Cross's violin replacing Fripp's lead guitar in the pre-verses. The unfinished lyrics also sound a bit awkward in these early live versions of it. My only problem with it is that there is around 3 minutes worth of closing fanfare to close it, so those who are under the impression that the song if 15 minutes long will be upset to learn that it's only around 12 with 3 minutes of crowd cheering.

In the end, USA would be the only live reference of this era of King Crimson until the early 90s when The Great Deceiver was released and then later with The Night Watch. While the Great Deceiver was a more comprehensive live set that included many different shows, this one is more concise with the stronger pieces and doesn't have nearly as many improvs on it. I do believe The Great Deceiver was a better collection in the end, though. If you want the cheapest live album of this incarnation of King Crimson, look no further. If you're willing to spend a bit more, go with The Night Watch, and if you're willing to shell out a large sum of money (around 60 dollars American) you can get The Great Deceiver. Highly recommended. 4/5.

Cygnus X-2 | 4/5 |

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