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King Crimson - Live At The Orpheum CD (album) cover


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

3.02 | 96 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
2 stars A recent ProgArchives forum discussion posed the question: "How difficult is it for the oldies among us to get into New Prog?" The word 'oldies' doesn't quite register with this aficionado, who as a teenager caught the tail-end of Prog's mid-'70s Golden Age. But it's a useful question, with an answer perhaps implicit in the belated return of one of Progressive Rock's founding fathers.

More so than other classic proggers, King Crimson has always lived on the cutting edge of musical innovation. And this first look at the newly-retooled band once again breaks new ground by presenting a surprisingly disposable live album: their first in an otherwise impeccable career spanning almost half a century. (Say what you want about the bootleg quality of the 1972 "Earthbound" album; it certainly wasn't forgettable.)

There's an attractive mix of new and old blood in the reconfigured septet: the biggest band yet assembled under the Crimson banner, albeit top-heavy with drummers to no real purpose. But the forward-thinking aims of guitarist Robert Fripp were undermined by a mercenary nostalgia in the concert set list, featuring two songs from 1974, a pair from 1972, and a single representative from the year 2000, plus a few throwaway improvised transitions totaling less than three minutes altogether.

The return of old friend Mel Collins is an unexpected dividend, and the delicacy of his flute and saxophone adds some much-needed warmth to the otherwise clinical mathematic equations built into "The ConstruKction of Light". But the rare live appearance of "One More Red Nightmare" isn't as convincing: the song dearly misses John Wetton's husky baritone, and the combined efforts of three ace drummers can't equal one Bill Bruford.

Legitimate complaints have been made about the brevity of the disc, barely adding up to forty minutes, with two-thirds of the concert left on the cutting room floor. Mr. Fripp has always been an outspoken champion of quality over quantity, and rightly so. But where the former is lacking the latter would have been welcome. The live versions here don't stray far enough from the studio originals, and were the various outtakes really not worth sharing? Or was this abbreviated package intended only as a bare-bones teaser for an unabridged future release of the same show?

If so, I'm calling foul. Fripp and DGM usually set the bar for commercial integrity higher than this. As it (currently) stands, there isn't enough substance here to distinguish the new King Crimson from alumni reunion acts like the 21st Century Schizoid Band, or the Levin-Belew Crimson ProjeKct.

So, how difficult is it for the oldies among us to get into New Prog? The answer will vary with the oldie, but re-treads like this can make the transition almost painfully easy.

Neu!mann | 2/5 |


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