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5 stars The hottest of all hot dates so far on this King Crimson tour.

Which tour is that? Why, the 2014/2015 nostalgia tour, of course, whereby North America as well as other continents will be touched down on by a truly on-fire incarnation of this band. A band that is no doubt too intimidating to open for, let alone to follow....

Oh, did I say nostalgia? Because that's what they're doing this tour, playing the greatest tunes of the 70's, the ones that put King Crimson on the map as the ultimate juggernaut of Progressive Rock during the first half of that decade.

Mr. Fripp ("one of the guitarists in King Crimson") said such a thing would never come to pass, but it has, and it's wonderful thing for hungry ears to behold. This is basically the group (Jakszyk/Fripp/Collins/Levin/Harrison) that recorded "A Scarcity Of Miracles", plus two extra drummers (Rieflin/Mastellotto); but, unlike the band that recorded "Scarcity", this beast's reason for living is to give the vast 70's catalog of this group another lease on life. Fripp himself sounds as good as ever on guitar, and certainly tears through the solos in a lot of these songs, especially in "The Letters", with great vigor and renewed energy. And if not multiples of times before, then unquestionably now, Mel Collins' presence also adds fire to the band and its performance of the classics.

Collins is a storm of activity on this record, helping to reinvigorate more recent works as well to rejuvenate older ones. "Vrooom", "Level Five," and "The ConstruKction of Light" all get Mel's unique treatment, and it certainly makes them sparkle in a way they never did before. "Red" profits as well from his canny, jazzy contributions. "Level Five" even starts to sound like the "21st Century Schizoid Man's" rowdy nephew; and it's worth noting that the new instrumental "Radical Action" really showcases Mel's ability to burn down the house.

The classic tunes , among them "Lark's Tongues in Aspic Pt. I," "Sailor's Tale" and the usual suspects from the KC debut "In The Court..." sound very much as you might expect; but then, hey, what is this? The sound is also crisper than ever before. Indeed, the Crims have never come through with more crystalline clarity than on this recording. This is a very nice sounding concert, and that's whether you buy the article mail order or download it via (yeah, you're welcome, Uncle Bobby) in FLAC lossless audio.

I think I would recommend this as an introduction to the group to just about anyone, and that says a lot. But it mainly says that the boys have gone a great way towards making themselves accessible. Yeah, accessible - not something you think of immediately with King Crimson, is it? Some have questioned the value of having three drummers, and perhaps "Live At The Orpheum" from 2014 didn't showcase the advantages of this approach clearly enough. But it works very well indeed on this recording.

If you are a fan of the group, you really owe it to yourself to at least purchase the download. You won't be sorry.

Report this review (#1591617)
Posted Tuesday, July 26, 2016 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#1602793)
Posted Sunday, August 28, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars Forgive my skepticism, but I have to ask: why bother releasing a live album recorded less than one month before the more comprehensive "Radical Action" CD/Blu-ray package, and featuring an almost identical song list? It looks like pure, mercenary redundancy, but after hearing it the reason should be obvious: on a chilly autumn evening in Toronto, the Crimson King put on a red-hot show.

Consider this one the undoctored live flipside to the 'virtual studio album' of "Radical Action", with all the arena ambience missing from the "Action" tapes restored, including the pre-concert No Photos request, very politely extended by Robert Fripp himself in a recorded announcement. It's hard not to smile when hearing the 69-year old gentleman rocker from Wimborne invite the audience to "please join in and have a party with King Crimson", like he's introducing a Parliament-Funkadelic dance act or something.

What should be immediately apparent, in contrast to the more perfectly mixed "Radical Action" set, is the raw energy of this recording, totally appropriate to the Beat the Bootlegs motivation behind it. The rhythm section is especially loud, almost to the point of audio distortion at times, hardly surprising with three drummers attacking their kits in precise unison and/or counterpoint (all of them ace players, but it still seems like a gimmick).

I won't repeat the commentary/chit-chat/criticisms of my parallel review on the "Radical Action" ProgArchives page (it's only talk, after all)...except to note again how close the older songs stick to the original studio versions, sadly without any uncharted digressions, a Crimson hallmark in its glory days. Nostalgia is back in style for the new band, as heard in the walk-on tape for this gig: the old "Islands" album coda, with a young Fripp directing the string orchestra at Command Studio in London. That rose-colored intro sets up the nervous opening notes of "Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part One", a juxtaposition that would have been more shocking in 1972 but still holds a lot of residual power in 2015.

A convincing argument is made in that first track: even with its cutting edge dulled by age, the new Crimson King sounds pretty darn sharp. The set-list is mostly Golden Oldies, but the performances are tremendously vital, and the songs themselves more relevant than ever (yes, even "The Letter"). Note the dramatic transition from the instrumental alarm-call of "Red" to the passionate eulogy of "Epitaph", together functioning like a musical barometer for our troubled times. And the 45-year old "Pictures of a City" has never sounded quite so urgent, rising to a climax approaching Holy Sh!t levels of intensity.

In the end your own preference for this set or "Radical Action" will likely depend on how polished you expect a live album to sound. Or, on an even more basic level, which album you happen to hear first. Either way, it's a vital snapshot of a surviving Progressive Rock giant flexing a few timeworn but well-toned muscles.

Report this review (#1705160)
Posted Sunday, March 26, 2017 | Review Permalink
5 stars I started listening to King Crimson my sophomore year in college 2006-07 and by then there was no active Crimson and wouldn't be for quite a while longer. Certainly, I never thought that any future lineup would give an airing to the classic 70s material, but when this band formed, it was one of the most pleasant of surprises. Having three drummers adds even more texture to material that was already rich and complex. I've seen them live in person twice and it neat to see how the drummers trade lines, play off each other, and accentuate unusual beats and patterns. I love it how Pat Mastelotto has picked up where Jamie Muir left off in 1973 with all the unconventional percussion in addition to the regular kit. This album focuses on the 70s material, though I appreciate a nod to the underappreciated 2000s lineup with Level Five and The Construkction of Light (though I wish they hadn't cut out the vocals on the latter). The return of Mel Collins on sax and flute was really exciting, and it's especially interesting to hear him interpret songs that were originally recorded without winds, like VROOM and Level Five. Also nice that they didn't just play the hits, and instead dived into the catalog and gave great readings to a couple really great tracks from the Islands album, Sailors Tale and The Letters. See this band live if you get the chance.
Report this review (#1824391)
Posted Saturday, November 18, 2017 | Review Permalink

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