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King Crimson - Cirkus - The Young Persons' Guide To King Crimson Live CD (album) cover


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

3.84 | 92 ratings

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Black Max
3 stars "Cirkus" is a sprawling review of live recordings from 30 years of Crimson. Unlike most bands, Crimson not only relies strongly on its live performances as benchmarks of what the band is aiming for, but releases tons of material from almost every year that the band was/is in existence. Since the album was released in 1999, none of the post-ProjecKCts material (i.e. the fifth major incarnation beginning with "The ConstruKCtion of Light" and continuing on into the new millennium) is contained on these discs, but Crimson fans can find plenty of live material from the current lineup on other albums.

"Cirkus" has an unusual, non-linear organization, not surprising for this band. The first CD focuses strictly on the 80s and 90s lineups, all featuring Belew as the frontman. While I won't go into track-by-track descriptions, some of the more interesting pieces include a relatively rare recording of 1982's "Neurotica" by the "double trio" lineup and one of the only pieces from the "ProjeKCt" recordings to make it into later KC sets, the gorgeous instrumental "Deception of the Thrush." The sound quality is uniformly excellent, and many of the 95-96 tracks haven't been available to the mass market until this CD. Even fans who have most of these tracks on other live recordings will enjoy hearing different takes of concert and live-recording favorites like "Dinosaur" and "Indiscipline."

The second CD is a different matter altogether. These recordings, except for one, revisit live performances between 69-74. In a lot of cases, the sound quality of these tracks is sorely lacking compared to the DAT recordings from CD 1. Not the band's fault -- we're lucky to even have some of these recordings at all -- but the listener has to grant the limitations of analog tape, some decades old, and bear with the sometimes poor sound quality. The choices are fascinating: two long tracks from 1969, including a rare live recording of the quintessential early KC track "In the Court of the Crimson King," two raw, energetic tracks from the 1972 lineup featuring Mel Collins on sax and flute, and rounding out with five tracks from the famous 72-73 lineup with Cross, Wetton, Fripp, and Bruford. Four of these tracks are readily available in different versions on other live recordings from the period, but the short improv "Besancon" isn't readily available on other CDs. For some inexplicable reason, a 1996 recording of "Larks Tongue II" pops up between the 72-73 tracks; it's a tremendous rave-up version that any KC fan would want, but doesn't fit well sandwiched in between tracks recorded by what was essentially a different band twenty years before.

This double CD set is definitely a smorgasbord of live material, some of which is guaranteed to delight even the casual fan and some only of interest to the diehard Crimhead. It wouldn't be the first KC album I'd buy for someone who might be interested in delving into the dark heart of Crimson music, but for the fan who knows the material and wants to hear alternate versions of familiar songs -- some superior to previously released live versions -- as well as dig into the archives of Crimson past, this is a great addition to what undoubtedly is already a large KC collection.

Black Max | 3/5 |


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