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King Crimson - Live at Summit Studios 1972  CD (album) cover


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

4.14 | 35 ratings

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4 stars You can always rely on King Crimson to challenge your expectations, even in a 30-year old archive recording from arguably the least popular line-up of the band. If you only know this Crimson from their somewhat austere 1971 album "Islands", prepare to have your eyes and ears belatedly opened, and better late than never.

At this point in the band's history the signature KC spirit of "energy, intensity, and eclecticism" (quoting Mr. Fripp himself) had been all but reduced to just the eclecticism. But this live-in-the-station radio broadcast, recorded in Colorado during their final U.S. tour, offers a candid and surprisingly playful portrait of a group supposedly in disarray, and as a welcome bonus it sounds a heck of a lot better than the sub-bootleg concert tapes on the posthumous "Earthbound" album.

Forget everything you might have read about this being an unhappy quartet of mismatched talents, split by creative frictions: this set captures them in peak form and high spirits. Evidence of the informal nature of the gig can be heard in some of the goofy but affectionate banter between songs, including (in "My Hobby") Ian Wallace doing his best Mr. Gumby impersonation, for an audience not yet acquainted with Monty Python (this from a drummer, keep in mind, who according to band biographer Sid Smith once performed for the goggle-eyed comedian Marty Feldman, while dressed as a duck).

Elsewhere the band's enthusiasm (yes, even from the normally taciturn Fripp) must have been contagious, as more than half of their performance here was clearly unscheduled. The original four-song set opens with a tight, swinging variation of "Pictures of a City" (miles removed from the "21st Century Schizoid Man" plagiarism on the "Wake of Poseidon" LP), and was meant to conclude with "Schizoid Man" itself, here in a more circumspect version played at a somewhat lachrymose pace, no doubt to accommodate the rookie bass guitarist.

But just as the studio host begins his closing acknowledgements and thanks, an irrepressible Ian Wallace starts a spontaneous drumbeat and the band kicks into another impromptu jam. "...Looks like we're gonna get an encore", drawls the DJ, and not for the last time that evening. There are at least two more false endings before the true final number: a long freeform arrangement of the Leon Thomas / Pharaoh Sanders composition "The Creator Has a Master Plan".

The variable mix of this track suggests it might have actually been a pre-show microphone check. After 15 minutes the whole thing finally unravels (with unaccountable tape splices spoiling the continuity), but not before another surprise, when the upbeat melody suddenly breaks into a filthy blues riff, inspiring even Fripp to throw his guitar (all too briefly) into some unlikely sonic contortions.

The unexpected and wholly American blues-funk flavor of this line-up still doesn't sit well with doctrinaire Crimheads, and was never quite to Fripp's own taste either. The guitarist himself is often the odd man out here, but it's fascinating to hear him beginning to move away from the jazzier sound of earlier KC albums toward the harder, more aggressive style soon to reach fruition only a few short months later with the "Larks Tongues" crew.

Some tantalizing hints of that uncompromising musical future are already evident. At the end of the "Summit Going On" improv you'll recognize what would become the opening motif to "The Night Watch", and the guitarist can later be heard test-driving some of the white-lightning riffs of "Larks Tongues In Aspic, Part One", almost daring the rest of the band to follow him ("I wonder how we would have played it..." muses Wallace in his entertaining CD notes).

It's hard to believe this show never saw the light of day until the year 2000, and (still) only as mail-order purchase through the DGM web site. Every other incarnation of the band to date has had its official retrospective live CD release, and without exception each of these has helped redefine its particular line-up. Some of this show would later appear on the haphazard "Ladies of the Road" collection, but the entire set, warts and all, might go a long way toward rehabilitating the undervalued reputation of this Crimson. And for diehard fans in particular it's close to a five-star necessity, filling in the blanks of an only half-sketched and long neglected chapter in the ongoing King Crimson biography.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |


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