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King Crimson - Live In Toronto CD (album) cover


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

4.58 | 67 ratings

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5 stars "WOWOW!" -- Japanese label, which released this Live album in UHQCD format.

This review is for Japanese Mini LP 2 UHQCD release compared to Regular 2CD version. "UHQCD (Ultimate High Quality CD) is an upgraded version of HQCD, a high fidelity CD format developed by Memory-Tech, Japan. [Idea is to use one more CD layer of] Photopolymers in the liquid state are able to penetrate into the tiniest corners of pits on the stamper so that the pattern of the pits is reproduced to an extremely high level of accuracy".

From the beginning I listened UHQ full version. Musically, it is 5-star performance with a lot of energy and inspiration. First of all, this 7-piece band with Robert Fripp, Tony Levin on bass, Mel Collins on saxophone and flute, and vocalist and guitarist Jakko Jakszyk gives you an idea what to expect. On top of it, they have not one, but three drummers - and that makes a big difference.

Old songs sound familiar, but different from the previous versions with new arrangements and extended instrumental passages, adding more twists and turns. Vocal was surprisingly penetrating. I like Greg Lake vocal and always thought - nobody can replace him, but Jakko was very good in his own way. His vocal settled higher level for the rest of the band. Reinforced by triple drumming, they delivered their best, showing the audience what Crimson still can do. The impression was: each song was polished to perfection. If you like it raw and rough, look somewhere else.

And the sound quality was at the same level of performance. I liked it a lot, but I could not say, without comparison, whether new format affects sound quality. Speaking ahead, it does.

If you will check how Hong Kong UHQCD Limited Numbered Edition series was named, you can see: 'Superior Crystal Sound'. I cannot describe it better than that. It was way "Superior", and it was "Crystal [clear] Sound" - that's only I can say.

Bass and Dynamics: I have bass oriented system and I can say: Tony Levin's bass guitar and kicking drums from three sets produced tremendous bass. Track #7 'Hell Hounds...' is a less than 4 minutes triple drum solo track divided into 5 short parts. I'm always very cautious with drum solo tracks - in most cases they're overdone. Not here: everything was done so tastefully, so masterfully good and in a right measure. Channels separation and mix was stunning. Regular CD showed speedy clean bass and low mid, but UHQ was even better - clearer. Dynamics was equally excellent in both versions. I cranked the volume on this track to really high level - no distortion at all. Right after triple drum solo track instrumental Track #8 'The CostruKtion of Light' started with bass guitar and intense solo guitar interplay with heavy drumming and flute, and (later) sax. It was a killer bass there. My first thought was - it is the best dynamically recorded track - so clear it was sound, when I went up to 65dB. It was solid joy to listen to. Track has an excellent stereo mix, I'd say "triple drumming" mix with a bit of delay - you can hear the first speaker while standing at the another one, but being in the middle, you are getting into the liquid smooth surround sound that is putting you in a front seat. Regular disc sounded on the level with my best Reference and Demo discs. While UHQ was on the level of my reference SACDs with better separation and especially clarity.

Trebles: UHQ clarity of the trebles over the regular disc was obvious. However, UHQ is not a "silver bullet". In some places, where I caught a tiny bit of brightness in vocal, UHQ didn't fix it.

Separation and Soundstage: The improvement in this field was an exemplary in the Track #4 'VROOM'. It's an instrumental track with a big variety of the instruments and sound, which jumps from heavy to gentle back and forth. This composition started with heavy guitar and tenor sax in its lowest register. Then was sharp change to gentle solo guitar plus flute and quiet bass guitar joined in and sudden jump to heavy sound again. The airiness of the sound and separation between the instruments, I was looking for, were there. So was such a thing in the Track #5 'Radical Action'. It's a heavy sounding track, but thanks to great separation, it did not sound as messy noise, rather easy on ear sound with a flute on a top. Track #6 'Meltdown' started right on, without any break with striking clarity of vocal, fast and un-distorted kicking drums in the middle and clean solo sax in the end. Did I mention deeper soundstage? All these three tracks were enjoyable experience with superior sound quality over the regular CD. They passed so quickly that I started them over again with a great pleasure.

Disc 2: Again, whatever track I tried UHQ disc sound substantially better in terms of Transparency of the sound first of all, then Separation and Soundstage presentation. Entire Live album was on a heavy side. But it was not irritating noisy heaviness, it was accessible and enjoyable heaviness due to amazing transparency of the sound - very rare thing.

Overall, result of this comparison was: obvious improvement in the Transparency, Separation and Soundstage. How big this improvement was? I would say: 15-20%.

I'm sure that Robert will reissue DVD-A + UHQCD version of Crimson entire catalog. And, when I was writing this review JVC Japan announced new release of two KC 40th Anniversary albums in UHQCD format.

I like this triple-drummer incarnation of the band. It is something... Special. And I like this new 2UHQCD Live album a lot and sound quality of it helps me to get into the King Crimson music even deeper. In one word: WOWOW! I want to thank everyone who was involved in this new release... Those who dare to push an industry forward.

toilet_doctor | 5/5 |


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