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


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4 stars I got this about 6 months ago, maybe a year, and I've not had it off the stereo really...I've listened to Crimson since I was about 15, but it's always been the early stuff, basically everything up until "Red". I knew the band was a bit more modern sounding now, so I decided to get this as a sort of introduction to it.

The first CD is an absolute corker. Every song is complete genius, every band member is pure talent. The only gripes I have are the slightly cliched lyrics to "Dinosaur". Best song on it is "Indiscipline" (which is the best version I have heard of the song), which gloriously fiddles with beats and rhythms, builds up tension for about minute and half, then bursts into a neurotic headf*ck. The way it is sung reminds me of really good (but disturbing) novels, the actual words are more like a really good short story than they are traditional style lyrics, but since when have Crimson done anything by the book? The guitar solo on this song is also fantastic. You can just picture Fripp sat on his stool, playing this evil solo with all the techniques thrown in, not moving a muscle.

The rest of the songs are equally fantastic, all showing a complete and sincere creativity that no other band has. Not that any other band could play these songs anyway.

The second CD is in comparison a bit of a let-down. The songs are all there, all the late- 60's/70's classics, but the production is sadly lacking on some songs, which really puts me off. To be honest, I've had the first CD on countless times, but the second CD only about twice. It just seems silly to follow that with something of what is really just bootleg quality. This really is worth buying just for the first CD, and it's not too expensive, so there's no excuses. If you are after pre-1980 live stuff though, look elsewhere.

Report this review (#15545)
Posted Thursday, June 10, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is my favorite live cd from King Crimson. It is a mix of the new and old of King Crimson and it is really cool to see how their style has developed over the years and to still see them out playing live after all these years. Robert Fripp still has it, man!
Report this review (#15546)
Posted Friday, June 25, 2004 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#60069)
Posted Sunday, December 11, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is a truly dynamite compilation. I got it as my introduction to live King Crimson (as the title suggests). Before this I had only been familiar with the studio albums. Needless to say I am now completely hooked on live King Crimson because of this recording.

I held off reviewing it until I knew more live Crimson. After the Epitaph and Great Deceiver box sets and countless Collectors' Club releases being added to my library, I can openly say that Cirkus is an A+ compilation.

Disc 1 is the 1981-1996-present incarnation of the band. I'm not going to go into every individual song, but I will say that "Dinosaur", a double trio favorite of mine, really shines in its sped-up version on this album; the "Sleepless" on this CD is without a doubt the best version of it I have heard by any KC release. The "Neurotica" is shorter but packs a lot of punch. Overall it is a perfect spread of the 80s and 90s band's live output, with the sound quality impeccable.

Disc 2 is where the problems start for many. Complaints about bad sound quality mostly. However there are barely any recordings of the earliest band, and if this is the best we can get, take it and be happy. The opener, "Schizoid Man", is incredibly intense, especially the second half. Mel Collins's sax solo isn't as good as his solo on Earthbound, but this sound quality is much better, and his ornamentations during this song are classic. The other songs are well produced, at least better than a lot of their 1969-1972 material.

"Easy Money" is probably my favorite song from this compilation. The performance is incredible, with a great solo and really intense buildup to the end of the song. Also, they get 200 prog points for the Mellotron flute on "Fracture".

I would have given this 5 stars, were it not for one glaring problem. The version of "Larks' Tongues in Aspic pt. II" is by the double trio. Don't get me wrong, the performance is mindblowing, but it's just the wrong lineup for this CD. If Fripp wanted to put "Talking Drum" segueing into "Larks' Tongues" with both songs by the 1996 lineup it would have been great on the first disc, but this has a Talking Drum from 1973 then shooting ahead 23 years in the span of a second. For continuity's sake they should have included a performance by the original Larks' Tongues lineup.

Even if you have all their live material, it's great to have this CD set. Great for in the car, around the house, wherever. Spans all the incarnations of King Crimson (except no songs from "Lizard").

Report this review (#135725)
Posted Saturday, September 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is a compilation of live Crimson recordings, ranging from across the band's lengthy but fractured career, released in 1999. It follows the same sort of line as the much revered studio "Young Person's Guide", in that it is a "taster", albeit a detailed one, of the band's wares and an invitation to explore further.

The first CD deals with the Adrian Belew era, and many might be surprised to learn that it is, to these ears, far better, certainly in terms of the lush production and also musicianship. There are some absolute gems here, right from the pounding and energetic opener Dinosaur (one of the best tracks they ever put out) to the weird and wonderful Elephant Talk which closes proceedings. Thela Hun Ginjeet is awesome, but the absolute highlight for me is the exceptionally heavy and tightly played Red. The studio album itself is my favourite Crimson release, and this gem proves that the title track was always going to be the one that translated best into a new era. I also love the Coda: Marine 475 which shows an outfit as comfortable with experimentation live as it is possible to get. Three Of A Perfect Pair is, again, hugely enjoyable, and there are only rare moments when it all gets too much on this CD, for me these being the more "out there" tracks such as Neurotica, VROOM VROOM, and Heavy ConstruKction. They are not bad, but somehow very sameish and forgettable.

There. If I were to end the review at this stage, an easy three stars, verging on the excellent. The live sound of a venerated band moving majestically and loudly into a new era, and justifying, in the main, Bruford's famous quote that one day, all music will sound like this (I paraphrase).

Regrettably, the first part of the second CD absolutely drags proceedings down. Firstly, let me state that I purchased the debut Crimson LP in 1978, and fell in love with the band. I have everything the "classic" era band have, and still, to a degree, thoroughly enjoy their music. Without doubt, Crimson, and Fripp at their head, were one of the major art rock, prog rock, call it what you will, outfits the world has seen.

But my, oh my, when the 1972 version of 21st Century Schizoid Man hits the speakers, all you hear is an undiluted mess, a cacophony of sound that is as majestic as a lorry smashing against a wall. The studio original, when it announced itself to the world, was unlike anything heard before. This live version is the same, but in a completely negative way. Things don't get any better with Ladies Of The Road, the studio version of which is incredible, but this live one sounding as if the band were performing from a deep cast coal mine. Very forgettable and painful to listen to.

The 1969 and original version of the band get two outings. A Man And A City is okay without being remarkable, but I do enjoy tremendously this live version of In The Court..., especially with the adept use of the remarkable sounding mellotron and Greg Lake sounding as if he he is enjoying every second.

The following four tracks are taken from the much loved The Great Deceiver boxset, and were recorded in 1973/74 with my personal favourite incarnation of Crimson - Fripp, Cross, Wetton, and Bruford. The CD reasserts itself here in spades. Fracture is incredibly well played, with moments of sheer beauty amongst the more improvised sections. Wetton sounds especially imperious on bass guitar, and Fripp seems to be enjoying himself tremendously, which is surprising really given that he halted the career of the band not long afterwards.

Easy Money is perhaps the highlight of the entire two CD's. When you listen to this magnificent performance, with Wetton at its absolute heart, you realise that when he said the band could have been as big as Floyd, he wasn't far wrong. Stunning and absolutely vital, a lesson in how bass guitar can lead a live performance. The improvisational piece, Besancon, is one and a half minutes of throwaway stuff, which leads into The Talking Drum. It's undeniably eccentric and eclectic, but is played very well and still stands up after so many years as being relevant, if epitomising everything which music writers less than three years later would hate about the genre.

Larks Tongues...Part II returns us to a Belew incarnation performance from 1996 - the same as that which performed Red on CD one. Again, the difference in production is hugely noticeable, and the band carry off a complicated piece of music with aplomb. A brilliant performance.

The final track returns us to the heady days of 1974, and my favourite Crimson track, Starless. Listen to the wonder of David Cross on violin, the incredible percussive performance of Bill Bruford, Wetton's slightly understated bass guitar and lovely vocals, together with the magnificent guitar of Robert Fripp, all rounded off with perhaps, no definitely, THE signature performance of mellotron of all time by both Cross & Fripp. A staggeringly good version of a staggeringly essential composition. You are left breathless at the close.

So, how to rate this? Well, as a taster it works, by and large, very well. Listeners should absolutely move onwards to purchasing The Great Deceiver, and might wish to buy one of the many newer live sets by Crimson or The ProjekCt, although I actually think that the representation on this CD is enough in itself.

There are many highlights here, but the low moments are, I am afraid, enough to move me to rate this album as good, but non-essential. When I say good, I mean that, because the highlights are more than enough to justify the legendary status of this great band. Just try your best to ignore, or skip, those passages which so let it down as a definitive compilation.

3.5 stars if we had such a rating.

Report this review (#441863)
Posted Monday, May 2, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Welcome to the Cirkus!

This is another of my favorite live albums, it was some of the first King Crimson discs I ever listened to, so I have a special love for it. The difference here is that despite being a two-CD live album, it is not exactly a live album, I mean, an entire concert recorded and released, no, it is a compilation of various shows given throughout the band's long, unique and successful career. What I like about it is that it comprises representative tracks that fans surely love, and that "Cirkus" was released as a double-CD album. This is "The Young Person's Guide to King Crimson Live", so have a seat, relax and enjoy the music.

Ironically, the first CD does not feature old line-ups songs, so it is not a strictly chronological album. Here, we can appreciate songs from the Belew era,with Levin, Mastelotto and company, taken from shows performed from 1984-1998 in places such as Mexico, Canada, Japan and USA. The name of this first CD is "Neon Heat Disease" in which we will find songs such as "Three of a Perfect Pair", "Dinosaur", "Thela Hun Ginjeet" or "Elephant Talk", songs perfectly recognized and love by fans of the band, and especially of the Belew-era. Here we can also listen to a great performance of the old and classic "Red", and some improvisations as they usually do.

While in the second CD entitled "Fractured" we can listen to older performances from their first albums, comprising the different eras before Belew, though the performance of "Larks Tongues in Aspic" was taken from the 1996 Mexico City show, being this the only exception. The other live tracks were taken from older performances that took place in USA or Amsterdam, back in the 1969-1975 period. So besides Fripp, the names totally change here with musicians such as John Wetton, Mel Collins, Ian Wallace, Greg Lake, etc., what an outstanding quantity and quality of the musicians that have shared their grain of sand to this unique and fortunately still live band. The songs that one will find here are classic such as "21st Century Schizoid Man" "In the Court of the Crimson King", "Starless" or "Easy Money", excellent performances from I bet memorable shows.

So this live guide is really useful if you want to know the band's different eras, you will listen to their distinctive sounds, but after all you will always know that you are listening to King Crimson. My final grade will be four stars. Get it, you won't regret.

Enjoy it!

Report this review (#530645)
Posted Saturday, September 24, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Getting to know King Crimson's studio album catalog is one of the most rewarding goals a progressive rock fan can pursue, but you need to be open to a lot of different dynamics and musical styles to fully appreciate it. Jazz or classical, pastoral or heavy metal, composed or improvised, it is tough to name a musical domain on which Robert Fripp and Co. have not touched. Given that you have plowed through (and already relish) their studio works, it is essential to seek out and enjoy their live material too, since King Crimson have always been primarily creatures of the live stage. But where to start exploring the vast body of what is available from their live catalog? That could be daunting without a proper guide....

Cirkus: The Young Person's Guide to King Crimson Live is a considerably better-than-adequate, two-disc sampler to provide a jumping off point into that ocean. It sources an excellent and representative cross section of the band's history (1969-1998) and the audio is fairly consistently good throughout. Performances of "In The Court Of The Crimson King"and "Pictures Of A City" (aka "A Man A City") document quite well the energy and fuzz freakouts of the early Crim concerts. We get "Ladies Of The Road" and the Islands-era group performing an intense version of "21st Century Schizoid Man", as well as hearing some stunning versions of classic material from Larks Tongues In Aspic (though, sadly, not part I). Also the classic title cut and a rousing, complete version "Starless" from Red are present -- all impeccably performed.

Needless to say, we cannot do without certain essential cuts from the 1980's King Crimson, namely "Elephant Talk", "Sleepless," and "Three of a Perfect Pair". Especially good however - with a light, syncopated rhythm section intro that dumps off into loads of fiery intensity - is a version of "Indiscipline" from KC's Japan tour in 1995. The open-minded listener may want to lend an ear to the four improvs on this collection, including '1ii 2' by ProjeKct One and a rip-roaring "Deception Of The Thrush" by ProjeKct Two. (These ProjeKcts being the famous late-1990's "fractalisations" of the band) Some folks will immediately recognize "Deception..." as apredecessor to 2003's "The Power To Believe III"; and truly, tracking that tune's evolution through the years is actually one of the peak joys of delving into live King Crimson.

All in all, this sampler is a bargain in terms of getting a lot of band history in a very little bit of space. Or, I suppose, you could think of it as a "Greatest Hits Live". As such collections go, however, this one requires some deep study, and probably should not be digested all at once unless you would like invite a 2-hour-plus, almost relentless sonic assault upon yourself!

Report this review (#1565986)
Posted Monday, May 16, 2016 | Review Permalink

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