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King Crimson - Lark's Tongue In Aspic (the complete recordings) CD (album) cover


King Crimson

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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars Difficult to give a fair rating for such an artefact, because it's of a very limited interest for most anyone, but of a maximal value for a very few. Indeed this monster boxset about a single studio album must be a record of some kind. The boxset includes up to 15 disc of different mediums, such as DVD (1) , Blue Ray (1) and CD (the 13 left), but very sadly not the vinyl, which is kind of shame given the shape of the boxset and the amount of space left inside the box: its thickness could've easily allowed it. In such a package, most of the little bonuses are totally useless, such as a domestic tour programme reproduction, the studio album release annoucement flyer, an envelope containing five separate individual photos of the protagonist and a cardboard page representing the front and rear cover. Wowie Zowie!! There is load of powder thrown into your eyes. Of greater interest is the solid booklet featuring an especially-made for this boxset David Singleton interview, an excellent Sid Smith essay and a very interesting piece (courtesy of Declan Colgan) about the state of mind of the industry and the way Crimson managed to salvage its legacy in a much better fashion than 99% of the recording artistes of the last 50 years. The hole booklet featuring plenty of archives pictures and a reprint of the famous Crimso diaries (first appeared in the Young Person's guide to KC compilation) for an almost two years period (Jan-72 until Sept 73).

Ok, enough about the package, let's move on to the contents. To be honest, most of the discs' contents are of little interest for most anyone, but the most unconditional Crimson fans. The others might just be well advised to find (or keep) their 30th anniv remastered version, or 'settle' for the two-discs 40th anniv digipak package, which includes 95% of the essential stuff that's included in this boxset. While not being the most practical packaging (the booklet slips out too easily and fingerprints are a pain), the 40th anniv might just be what might be the best solution, with the DVD containing the visuals and 5.1 mix. In this monster boxset, we get the exact duplicate of the DVD and the Blueray.

The 15 discs are stored in triple-folded cardboard sleeves by sets of three, each featuring the five heroes' individual faces. The first one bearing Wetton's, the second with Fripp's and the third with Cross' are featuring restored live bootleg tapes (some already available in the KCCC series), all of them predating the album's studio recording sessions. But don't hold your breath: most of the results are still in such disputable sonic state, that one wonders how Fripp might actually let these out, since he's usually so uptight about the quality of products bearing the KC name. To be honest, only the improvs of those six discs are of any interest (and there is at least one of them over a disc), but one has to suffer ear-wise to ingest them. You might be surprised to find out that Fallen Angel (on the Red album) already existed this early in the band's history. Honestly a lot of these early improvs are really not all that good, and certainly not matching those found on the previous Nightwatch and Great Deceiver boxsets or even the Asbury ark of the USA live album. Indeed, a good deal of it is rather messy 'n'importe quoi', but I supposed it is 'de rigueur' to hold them in high esteem and laud their greatness despite disputable sonic and artistic qualities. Some fans might be advised to compile these improvs on one CD-r and get rid of the monster box. So, there was only so much Mr Wilson could've done with such poor quality sources. The real question is whether this was worth the work and is the result honestly marketable?

Onto the last two 'Studio' cardboard sleeves containing the last six discs, of which two of them feature the DVD and BR contents. The Bruford-adorned triple cardboard sleeve is probably the least interesting one, especially if you chose to own the two-disc 40th version. And even the disc 10 featuring the very dispensable 'keep that one, Nick' studio drops or cut-out montages. The Muir- faced cardboard triple sleeve is of little more interest, since only disc 13 featuring a different mix proposed and restored by Steven Wilson of the studio album tracks is of interest (but a real one, because: there are a few pleasant surprises on it) to those that opted for the two-disc version, the rest is being included.

So what to make of this very un-essential boxset? Outside the useless bonuses and the absence of the vinyl, the booklet is very interesting, most of the live material is of inferior sonic quality and the improvs are not yet showing what the band would do afterwards, and from the 'studio' stuff, you'll find the most essential stuff on the little brother two-discs version. Personally, I could cram everything I found interesting from this 15-disc boxset into two CD-r discs, and find a way to include these inside the two-disc 40th anniv digipak version. There would still remain the problem of an equitable ProgArchives rating: 'For Fans Only' is surely the comment that applies best to it, but it merits a tad bit more stars, given the thoroughness of the job delivered by Steven Wilson. But to 90% of Crimson fans or 95% of the progheads, the two-disc digipak affair is all they will need.

Report this review (#1129557)
Posted Monday, February 10, 2014 | Review Permalink
Man With Hat
Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team
3 stars The Cheerful Insanity Of King Crimson & Jamie Muir

In 2009, King Crimson started a series of re-releases to celebrate 40 years of existence. Naturally, this started with their debut album, In The Court Of The Crimson King. However, that release (especially in hindsight) was a sad party, mostly filled with endless repetition of the album, with the occasional alternative take and a handful of live songs (none of which were previously released). For me, the true celebration of the anniversary of the Crimson King starts here, with a mammoth box set, dedicated to the seminal Larks' Tongues In Aspic. Taking the concept of the MegaBox to new heights, this collection take a lineup that produced about 45 minutes of music and existed for a blink of an eye, and presents nine discs of live material, a studio workout disc, an alternate take disc, as well as two versions of the original studio album (and a DVD/Blu-Ray as an added bonus). Prior to this box's release, this was easily the most under documented version of KC. After this box's release, some people will say the is lineup is over documented (given some of the sound quality issues of the material). But this was a fairly unique time in Crimson's history and Muir was the madman that added the bulk of the chaos (who influence would be felt long after he would unceremoniously leave the court of the crimson king). From a fan perspective, gaining insight into this period of the band is a godsend, especially with how singular an event it was.

One of the most appealing aspects of this lineup was it's focus on improvisation. While the mid 70s version of Crim always had a penchant for such musical mayhem, it was the five man lineup dived the deepest into that particular ocean. As a result, while the number of 'traditional' songs played by this particular version of the band was rather small, the improvisation was ample, and each show became its' own event, with it's own merits and it's own atmospheres. 16 separate improvs are presented across the 9 live discs, with an average running time of approximately 15 minutes each. Additionally, the unpredictable nature of Muir's objects, allsorts, and percussions gives even the more established numbers an edge of unpredictably. All of this makes this boxset, one of the most alluring pieces in the vast King Crimson catalogue.

Unfortunately, this would also have to be classified as one of the most frustrating additions to the vast King Crimson catalogue. Clearly, the majority of these sets were not meant for general public consumption. The sound quality varies between sets, but is rarely better than acceptable (the live in studio (disc 3) is, not surprisingly, the best sounding of the lot). This causes a lot of subtlety to be lost, whether it is the quieter sections which get swallowed up in the ambient noise or really loud sections that gets muddied together like a incredibly thick stew. Adding insult to this injury, is that Muir is certainly the one that gets lost the most, as his contributions can be anything from a bag of leaves to a pulsating chimes to metallic blasts. Additionally, while some shows are presented in full, others have tapes ending at inopportune moments, leaving songs jarringly incomplete. Magic definitely abounds, yet, irritatingly, there are many moments throughout the set, that leave me feeling cheated and/or teased. (From a formatting standpoint, having two version of the studio album is at least one too many, and the DVD/Blu-Ray is nice enough, but having both seems superfluous.) All that said, there is some lovely music presented here. Nearly all of the improvs are worthy of your time and ear strain. The band locks into some great grooves and solos with the deft hand that Crimson always does. I love Larks' Tongues Part I, so having it appear throughout copiously is a personal joy (especially with the rarity of the song played live). The studio companion disc (Keep That One, Nick) is a fairly fascinating adventure into Crimson's studio odyssey, with many fun and enjoyable moments (and is certainly the best sounding thing in the box, for what it's worth). And finally, the booklet is healthy, insightful, and pleasing to read.

All in all, this is certainly an amazing exploration of the five man early to mid 70s Crim. Even though there are more downloads available of this lineup available from the DGM website (which could theoretically be added to this set, but presumably weren't due to sound or similar issues), this collection feels like the definitive expression of Muir with King Crimson. There are bumps along the way but also some gold. Given the brevity of and scarcity of releases from this lineup, a lot of the minuses of the set can be overlooked or at least reasoned away. That said, this is certainly a compendium for the hardcore fan, particularly of the early to mid 70s lineup of the mighty Crim. For hardcore fans, I would rate this as a 3.75-4.00. For the general fan, this would be closer to a 2.00. I'll compromise and give Larks' Tongues In Aspic - The Complete Recordings three out of five stars. Cautiously recommended.

Report this review (#2201782)
Posted Saturday, May 11, 2019 | Review Permalink
4 stars As well as providing the album itself in its original mix and in the updated mix by Steven Wilson and Robert Fripp (a fairly tasteful, light update which doesn't mess too much with perfection), this continues the run of Crimson boxed sets which come stuffed with live sets from the relevant lineup.

This box is hampered somewhat by two factors: Jamie Muir really wasn't in the band that long, disappearing shortly after the studio album was done, and the band didn't do many soundboard tapes during this era (the Guildford Civic Hall gig being a happy exception). That means that most of the live sets here hail from audience cassettes, which are somewhat varied in their quality as you might imagine.

Some of them are pretty good - with the Zoom Club and Hull Technical College tapes at least sounding better than Earthbound, and offering full sets. (It helps a lot that the chaotic music that Crimson presents here suffers less from a lo-fi presentation than, say, the material that the Islands-era lineup were performing.) And the Beat Club tape is a live- in-the-TV-studio affair, so that sounds great.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Glasgow Green's Playhouse and Portsmouth Guildhall tapes are really not good - to the point where even the high quality of the music itself couldn't save them as it did with some of the other audience tapes. Still, overall the good outweighs the bad in this collection, and it's well worth it if you love the Larks' Tongues material, want some really massive improvs featuring that lineup, and have a tolerance for sometimes dodgy sound quality.

Report this review (#2247380)
Posted Saturday, August 31, 2019 | Review Permalink

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