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King Crimson The Night Watch  album cover
4.46 | 354 ratings | 26 reviews | 55% 5 stars

Essential: a masterpiece of
progressive rock music

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Live, released in 1997

Songs / Tracks Listing

CD 1 (40:47)
1. Easy Money (6:15)
2. Lament (4:14)
3. Book of Saturday (4:09)
4. Fracture (11:28)
5. The Night Watch (5:28)
6. Improv: Starless and Bible Black (9:13)

CD 2 (43:46)
1. Improv: Trio (6:09)
2. Exiles (6:38)
3. Improv: The Fright Watch (6:03)
4. The Talking Drum (6:35)
5. Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part Two (7:51)
6. 21st Century Schizoid Man (10:30)

Total Time 84:33

Line-up / Musicians

- Robert Fripp / guitar, Mellotron
- Bill Bruford / drums
- David Cross / violin, Mellotron
- John Wetton / bass, vocals

Releases information

Discipline (Global Mobile) DGM-9707
Recorded live at the Concertgebouw (1973)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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KING CRIMSON The Night Watch ratings distribution

(354 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(55%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(39%)
Good, but non-essential (6%)
Collectors/fans only (0%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

KING CRIMSON The Night Watch reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
4 stars Released in 97 a few years after the four CD box set the Great Deceiver, I waited quite a long time to decide between those two, not being able to make a choice. Then came a stroke of lucking scoring this for next to nothing. This was therefore not a choice, but an opportunity, dictated by lady luck and mister chance;-).

The interesting fact about this live release is that it is taken from only one night at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw in 73 just after the release of the SABB album, and the sound is simply fantastic. If most of the first disc is concentrating on SABB tracks with one improv from that album, the second disc is definitely more axed towards L'sTIA and gets my preference. Lovely to hear Exiles and Talking Drum live, as well the two tile tracks. Two improvs are also including still drawn from SABB tracks and unfortunately lack the impact and energy of USA's Asbury Park. However the first disc ir IMHO weaker because of a greater presence of weaker tracks (IMHO) like Book Of Saturday and Lament. The obligatory Schizoid Man being just average.

I still do not know, if I have made the right choice, but I think that as a fanatic, the ultimate choice is to ALSO get the Great Deceiver box-set.

Review by Neu!mann
5 stars If I had to choose one King Crimson album to take with me into the hereafter, this might well be it. Never mind the studio stuff: Crimson was and always will be at their best on stage, and this 2-disc live set from the Amsterdam Concertgebouw vividly captures what many fans consider to be the band's best line up at their creative peak, in late 1973.

There's a good chance you've already heard a lot of it elsewhere: on the "Starless and Bible Black" album (which not many people knew at the time was in large part a concert recording), on Disc 4 of the "Frame by Frame" retrospective box set, or on one of the many bootlegs from the original radio broadcast of the gig.

But hearing the show in its (more or less) uninterrupted entirety, and with a reconstructed sound that shames most contemporary live recordings, is nothing less than a revelation. Even better than "The Great Deceiver" box, this one performance belatedly sums up all the awesome power and ingenuity of the Bruford-Wetton-Cross- Fripp configuration, and unlike most mid-'70s Prog Rock is no less challenging today than it was over 30 years ago: proof that the band was (and still is?) ahead of its time.

If there's a single weak moment on the entire 2-CD set, I have yet to find it. Every song is dramatically superior to its studio counterpart, from the first sudden downbeat of "Easy Money" to the final crescendo of "Larks Tongues in Aspic Part II". Listen to the band working its way through the spiral groove of "The Talking Drum", gradually shifting gears upward into overdrive with near telepathic precision. Or breaking into a funky mock-rock 'n' roll stomp during the acerbic "Lament", with Fripp soloing all over the auditorium (unlike his tame sustained fuzz on the later album version). Or sidestepping an unexpected technical glitch with textbook grace under pressure, after David Cross' mellotron audibly short circuits mid-way into the second verse of the title track. A quick thinking shift to electric piano alters the entire chemistry of the song, for the better in my opinion: adding a touch of delicacy sometimes lacking in the faux-string arrangements.

And even the most cerebral post-modern critical analysis would have to conclude that the "21st Century Schizoid Man" encore kicks serious butt.

However, it's the group improvisations that have always defined the various Crimson Kings, and on this night the band was certainly firing on all cylinders, despite the claims of chronic tour burnout quoted by more than one band member in the CD booklet. You can perhaps hear their fatigue in the way each of the three improvs begins from a point of zero energy and absolute silence. But the act of spontaneous music making must have had a galvanizing effect, judging by how each one develops.

"Trio" is an oasis of calm in the often discordant sea of classic Crimson noise and fury. "Starless and Bible Black" gradually builds into a mind-frying jam of epic proportions, propelled by the Wetton-Bruford rhythm section at full steam. And in "The Fright Watch", meant as little more than a prelude to "The Talking Drum", John Wetton coaxes sounds from his bass guitar that need to be heard to be believed, reminding me of a slumbering subterranean dinosaur slowly emerging from some ancient primordial swamp.

The first two improvisations were both featured on the "Starless and Bible Black" album, but hearing each of them in the context of a complete show puts the music in an entirely fresh perspective. (Audiophiles take note: the "Starless" improv still has the same sudden edit that appeared on the album, when the band slams together in dramatic unison near the end of the track. It always sounded like a cued moment, but CD sound wizard David Singleton admits in his notes that it was a splice. Maybe the tape ran out in mid-jam, not unlike the similar but more obvious break in "The Law of Maximum Distress", from "The Great Deceiver" box set.)

Robert Fripp has been generously releasing a lot of archival live recordings from older Crimsons over the last several years, mostly under the KC Collector's Club banner. Crimhead completists can spend long hours happily debating the merits of each and every performance, but I can't imagine any one show, over the whole long history of the band in any of its various incarnations, matching the same, consistent level of power and invention (and did I mention the superlative sound quality?) as this one.

It is, pure and simple, beyond criticism, and the next best thing to having been there in Amsterdam on that late November night.

Review by erik neuteboom
5 stars I've waited so many years for these recordings from our capital Amsterdam, I only had some poor bootleg tapes. This is King Crimson at their heyday, it's such a progressive powerhouse: the howling and biting guitarplay from Mr. Fripp, the agressive basswork and strong, very distinctive vocals from John Wetton, the dynamic and inventive drums from Bill Bruford and the spectacualr violin sound from David Cross. And, last but not least,THE MELLOTRON!! Not every track is my cup of tea, some sound too experimental and too fragmentic, but most compositions are pivotal progrock, so captivating and compelling featuring a constant tension between the mellow (feminine) parts and the agressive (masculine) pieces, you can read about that in Edward Macan's excellent book "Rocking the classics".
Review by Eetu Pellonpaa
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This is my most favorite King Crimson release, as it captures the live concert from their best line-up, which also had their best drive going on when this was recorded, the sound quality is superb, and the audience remained silent in the quiet parts of this show. Some tracks of this evening were originally released on their "Starless and Bible Black" album, which became more or less obsolete after the release of this double CD.

"Easy Money" works much better on this album than the original studio version, as it has much more power and the true, reactive playing of the band members. Both versions are interesting though. Performances of "Lament" and "Book of Saturday" are decent versions of these songs, but the true highlight comes after these songs as the band plays their best version ever of their magnificent "Fracture". "The Night Watch" begins beautifully, but the version is bit duller as Cross's mellotron gets a malfunction during the song. It still an interesting thought of these guys doing this song in Amsterdam's Concertgebouw hall, as the Rembrandt's painting from which this song is about, is being kept at a museum quite near at that place. The following batch of improvisations is also very powerful. "Starless and Bible Black" paints fearful and strong abstract elements, and it has a wonderful collective trick in its ending, as Bruford's straight drum riff triggers a rehearsed coda for the chaotic improvisation. "Trio" is then a quiet, beautiful improvised piece, and Bruford decided professionally not to play anything over it. "Exiles" which follows is only an average version of this beautiful ballad, but the following batch of "Improv / The Talking Drum / Larks' Tonques in Aspic: part two" is truly marvelous. Also "21st Century Schizoid Man" is probably best version this band has ever managed to do from this tune.

This recording of a great musical event has been packed up with a neat booklet, and there are fine samples for PC and Mac computers about Fripp's DGM label's releases. Truly a masterpiece.

Review by Mellotron Storm
5 stars 4.5 stars.This was recorded live from one show in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw (November 23rd.1973). As Mr.Fripp says, the album "Starless And Bible Black" that came out the next year (1974) used around 26:50' of material from this live recording. Including the two improvs "Trio" and "Starless And Bible Black", as well as "Fracture". So although the concert goers heard material from "Starless And Bible Black" before it was released, this live recording wasn't released until 1997 ! I don't think there is any question that KING CRIMSON sounds better live then on their studio releases. Fripp has said that himself. And you'll notice three improvs on this double disc. "Trio" ,"Starless And Bible Black" and "The Fright Watch". To quote Mr.Fripp "...the live Crimson in 1973/4...increasingly needed improvisation to stay alive : this was it's life blood. It went places where other musicians of that rock generation mainly avoided.This team looked into the darker spaces of the psyche and reported back on what they found.The 1969 Crimscapes were bleak and written : the 1973/4 Crimscapes were darker, and mainly improvised".

Things get started with "Easy Money". Wetton's vocals come out of the heavy intro.The mellotron 2 minutes in is fantastic ! Some scorching guitar 4 minutes in and the bass is relentless. Wetton's back singing. What a song to open with ! "Lament" opens with reserved vocals and mellotron. Nice. Aggressive vocals come in with the whole band 2 minutes in. This contrast continues. "Book Of Saturday" has some good vocals and violin. "Fracture" is next. I like the way Fripp's guitar notes rise out of the void. The song turns heavy and so this contrast continues. Some powerful guitar before 8 minutes, and check out the bass solo from Wetton ! Screaming guitar after that. "The Night Watch" has some good violin and a scorching guitar solo. A flood of mellotron after 4 minutes. Wetton's vocals and the lyrics shine on this song. "Improv : Starless And Bible Black" slowly builds to a climax. Check out Fripp ! He's a genius ! His guitar is screaming out in pain as the waves of mellotron flow. The song settles down, then gets heavy again.

On disc two "Improv : Trio" is up first.This is a beautiful piece with violin, guitar and bass only. Cross said that the band was tired from waiting around until late to play this concert, because there was a classical concert earlier in the evening. So when they got on stage it felt like all their energy was gone. When they started to play this song song Bruford leaned forward on his kit and held his drumsticks folded across his chest throughout.They later called this tune "Trio". "Exiles" has mellotron, violin and guitar, and it sounds gorgeous ! Good bass 5 minutes in on this amazing song. "Improv : The Fright Watch" opens with various sounds as mellotron comes in.The melody is exhilarating 5 minutes in. This song blends into "The Talking Drum". It has a good rhythm of bass and drums as Fripp and Cross have some fun. They are smoking 6 minutes in ! "Larks' Tongues In Aspic(Part II)" is another famous CRIMSON song. It contrasts the brutally heavy with the tranquil passages so beautifully. "21ST Century Schizoid Man" has some amazing drumming in the intro. Some great interplay as well between Bruford and Wetton as Fripp brilliantly comes in with some slowly played guitar melodies.

You need to find this recording !

Review by fuxi
4 stars "We shall now tune our mellotrons and attack Culture once again": Robert Fripp addressing the audience during this magnificent Amsterdam concert. All 'Crimso' aficionados ought to get a copy of THE NIGHT WATCH, and if you're new to the band, but curious what this incarnation sounded like in a live context, I can think of no better place to start.

Some of the same classic Crimso tunes are present as on the 'USA' album (which was originally released more than two decades before THE NIGHT WATCH) but they're performed more poetically, less grimly, and presented in a somewhat more palatable sequence.

Where USA included (in 'Asbury Park') one of the two most beautiful KC improvisations ever, THE NIGHT WATCH features the other, simply entitled 'Trio' because Bill Bruford took no part in it. Superbly accompanied by Fripp on mellotron, David Cross gets to shine on violin, in what must be his best King Crimson moment.

'Starless and Bible Black' (no relation to the 'Starless' ballad) is another superb improvisation, far darker in tone than 'Trio'. Just put these four guys on a stage and tell them to start inventing - I could listen to them for hours!

Review by Atavachron
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars What a special thing it is to hear this band perform. So much has been written on these men, the classic line-up here of Cross, Wetton, Bruford and Fripp, that a reputation precedes of such magnitude one wonders if the music will satisfy in its raw form. To the delight of fans everywhere, it not only satisfied but is a set of songs that virtually defines this group. And they in turn define Progressive Rock with capital letters as demonstrated on this 2-disc package taken from an evening in Amsterdam, November 23rd 1973. The pound of 'Easy Money' and Wetton's mournful wailing get right to the matter, and the band rocks alive. Fripp's jazzy side and a mellotron ease open 'Lament' and features a small taste of their penchant for spontineity, a watery guitar for 'Book of Sanctuary' has David Cross' sensitive viola, and this first half is highlighted by the powerful 'Fracture', a mainstay of heavy works, awkward angles from Fripp and precise but joyus playing. Not to mention a brain-burning middle improv section. 'Night Watch' drags a bit but the creepy 'Improv: Starless and Bible Black' abandons all sense of time and finishes the first disc with style. The sounds of the Orient are featured in the pretty and romantic 'Improv: Trio', more a work of modern chamber music than rock, and deep string sounds pull apart 'Exiles' on the open and moody disc 2. Less distracted a performance than, say, 'THRaKaTTaK', this is live King Crimson at both its most glorious and digestable, though the intriguing 'Improv: The Fright Watch' may cause drowsiness. But 'Larks Tongues' Part lll wakes us up and is calmingly familiar after the din, and the crazed sea chanty '21st Century Schizoid Man' ends this essential document from an essential band. Dynamic, unorthodox and mixed perfectly, if you like the mid-era Crims you will love this and for those virgins to this band's true potential, it is a real find.
Review by Prog Leviathan
4 stars Not only is "Night Watch" a fantastic live album, with plenty of personality and improvisation from the studio material, it might just be one of the better Crimson albums out there. The recording quality is top-notch given its age, and the band plays with a certain gusto that is sometimes absent from the original versions of the songs. The opening track, for example, thunders with more excitement here than one could ever crank out of the studio release. More importantly, the subtlety of rhythm and textures that is the hallmark of King Crimson has no difficulty carrying over in this live recording, so the listener will still be able to distinctly pick up the most delicate improvisation as well as the songs' eventual climatic climaxes.

Setlist 3 Instrumental Performances 4 Stage Energy 4 Live Experience 5

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The 90's were a great decade for King Crimson fans. There was not only the new studio album Thrak but also an unstoppable flow of superb live material. The 1973 Night Watch concert easily ranks among the best of those releases and serves as the perfect companion for the 1974 USA live album.

The setlist largely overlaps with USA, but the renditions vary a lot. First of all in sound, Wetton isn't as dominant yet as he would become, resulting in a concert that has a better balance between all instruments. Again, the entire band is really on fire and sounds crisp and tight. Crimson always improvised a lot; the standard song material was interpreted differently every night, making each Crimson live album a worthy addition to your collection. With Starless and Bible Black and Fracture, The Night Watch features two songs that would be selected for the 1973 'studio' album Starless and Bible Black. They are more effective within their proper live context here.

With a setlist that can easily serve as a best of 1973 Crimson, this album is my preferred buy. Also 21 Century Schizoid Man is real fun, maybe even better then the USA version, a bit less powerful but more subtle.

The Night Watch is the first King Crimson album to feature artwork from PJ Crook. It would be the start of a long-standing relationship and numerous tasty album covers. Die-hard fans might prefer the 4CD Great Deceiver box (or re-issues), but as an alternative for King Crimson's rather cold 1973 studio albums, this is another live album that comes with the greatest of recommendations from me. 4.5 stars

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars This double CD live recording was taken from a 1973 concert in Amsterdam, where the band was preparing songs for the upcoming Starless And Bible Black album. In fact, some of this performance was used as the base tracks for that album (I like that approach - Zappa used to do that all the time as well).

The concert was actually quite good. The improvs flowed quite well, and the song selection, despite only coming from two album (plus the obligatory Schizoid Man) is nice and varied. Especially good are Fracture and The Talking Drum. Lament at this point sounded underdeveloped (although the song never sounded complete to me anyway), and Larks' Tongues In Aspic - part Two is lacking a bit in power. But otherwise, this is a very good concert recording of the premier prog band of the seventies.

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Since King Crimson has always played a significant part of my music collection it was only right for their debut album to receive the honorary place as my 100th review. Now it is time for The Night Watch to follow in its footsteps and receive honorary title of becoming my 600th review!

Recorded at the Concergebouw in Amsterdam on November 23rd 1973 and released almost 25 years later, The Night Watch is an amazing live recording by a band at the top of their game. First and foremost, I really have to emphasize the magnificent sound quality that I have not heard on any other live recording from the '70s! It's very crisp and every single instrument is highlighted perfectly without spotlighting any of the performers more than the others. This release really has to be experienced on a good surround-sound system in order to fully appreciate the great mixing job that this performance has undergone.

The material for this performance comes from the two first '73-'74 era album's and in some cases these performances would later serve as the backbone for the album Starless And Bible Black. My all-time favorite composition Fracture sounds even better here then it did on the studio album even though the source recording is still identical. The same goes for the lengthy improv that would later become the title track of Starless And Bible Black. All the small details that I failed to recognize in the past are depicted here very clearly and add a whole new layer to my enjoyment of the material.

Even studio takes of compositions off Larks' Tongues In Aspic are greatly improved upon in these live renditions. Book Of Saturday and Exiles have always been big favorites of mine but there is really no question, for me, of which versions I happen to prefer more. There's just so much more groove in these performances that clearly show that the band had found that perfect balance in their live approach to these pieces and they do it with such ease! The only instance that feels a bit out of place comes in the middle of the second CD during the performance of a very loose improv number titled The Fright Watch. I guess it wouldn't have made sense to leave it out of this complete concert performance but other than that I would have skipped it entirely. Luckily the highly energetic versions of The Talking Drum and especially Larks' Tongues In Aspic, Part Two make up for this minor inconvenience and the encore performance of 21st Century Schizoid Man finishes the live gig on a high note!

Even though this is probably one of the most expensive albums in my collection, since I paid around $50 for this 2006 2-CD re-release, it was definitely worth it especially since the colorful and very informative 20 page booklet really adds a lot of depth to this performance. An album like this cannot be rated anything below the essential rating that it truly deserves!

***** star songs: Lament (4:14) Book Of Saturday (4:09) Fracture (11:28) The Night Watch (5:28) Improv: Starless And Bible Black (9:13) Exiles (6:38) Larks' Tongues In Aspic, Part Two (7:51)

**** star songs: Easy Money (6:15) Improv: Trio (6:09) The Talking Drum (6:35) 21st Century Schizoid Man (10:30)

*** star songs: Improv: The Fright Watch (6:03)

Review by tarkus1980
4 stars Despite the legendary reputation of the concert that this live album captures, it took me a long time to come around to this album as much as I did. The odd thing is, though, that while my initial rating for this album was lower than it is now, I nonetheless don't entirely disagree with my original reasoning for rating it how I did. The biggest potential knock on the album comes from the redundancy of its contents. Three tracks from Starless and Bible Black are taken straight from this concert: the improvs "Starless and Bible Black" and "Trio," and the version of "Fracture" that would ultimately close that album (the opening of the SABB version of "The Night Watch" also comes from here, though some recording difficulties forced the band to record the bulk of it as a proper studio track). The album also contains five of the six tracks from Larks (leaving off "Larks 1"), and while three of them ("Easy Money," "Exiles," "Talking Drum") clearly match or exceed their studio counterparts, the other two are just about on par with their studio versions. Add in a version of "Lament" that sounds like basically every other version of "Lament" out there, and the way that the closing "21st Century Schizoid Man" sounds pretty average as far as live versions of this go (as with "Larks 2," the version found on USA seems closer to a definitive live version, if such a thing exists, than the version here), and the way that the one remaining improv ("The Fright Watch") is a disorienting directionless mess if considered on its own, and the case for giving this album a middling grade seemed pretty solid to me for years and years.

All of these considerations still strike me as accurate, more or less; the key factor in prompting me to bump up the rating, though, is that most of the negative points no longer strike me as especially pertinent. Regarding the "redundancy" issue of the material that ended up on SABB: rather than whine about having identical versions of these tracks in two different contexts, I instead find it better for me to admire the sheer balls and musicianship needed to walk out on stage, declare that you are going to use recordings from this show on your next album, make up fifteen minutes of it on the spot, use another twelve minutes for one of the gnarliest and most precise pieces in all of prog rock ("Fracture"), absolutely nail all of it in one take and not require overdubs. Furthermore, even if I may not love every minute of "Starless and Bible Black," the fact that the band could immediately switch gears from the hellish noise of that improvised piece into the delicate improvised beauty of "Trio" (so named because Bill Bruford was able to restrain himself from joining in on drums and possibly ruining it) shows that it had a command of its collective abilities that borders on terrifying. If there's any redundancy to be found in regards to these tracks, then it's ultimately SABB that's the redundant case (and I'm not saying that it is, just that a better case can be made in that direction); hearing these tracks in context cannot help but increase my admiration for this incarnation of the band and its general approach considerably.

The Larks material contributes a lot of greatness to this album as well. Ok, so "Book of Saturday" isn't really the kind of track that has the potential to explode into something greater in a live setting, but it still sounds nice in this context, and along with the softer beginning part of "Lament" and the bulk of "The Night Watch," it helps give an effective gentler balance to some of the set's rougher material. This rougher material includes the opening "Easy Money," which practically explodes through the speakers in the beginning, and where Wetton's slurred wordless singing has much more intensity than before, and the mid-song instrumental passages make it clear that the band is in a special place that night. Later, near the end of the set, is a terrific rendition of "Exiles," where Wetton's vocals provide a ton of emotional resonance, and where Fripp's noisy meanderings have more of an impact than in the original (where it seemed like a noisy piece was in active battle with a more conventional one). And finally, there's the band's performance of "Talking Drum" and "Larks 2," immediately preceeded by a noisy improvisation in "The Fright Watch." Originally, I couldn't stand "The Fright Watch," and I considered it a nusiance of bass *thwonks* and guitar *squals* and improvisatory "spooky" mellotron that had to be endured in order to get to a great version of "Talking Drum" that was followed by a so-so version of "Larks 2." Now, though, I consider the three performances inseparable, and that's probably the way it should be: maybe "The Fright Watch" is fundamentally just a way to rev up the band for "The Talking Drum," but it absolutely succeeds in that regard (the sound of the bass and drum parts coming out of the mellotron is one of the great moments on the album), and the band is able to go from *TENSION* to *UNBEARABLY IMPOSSIBLE TENSION* by the time "Talking Drum" goes into "Larks 2" (in contrast, the studio version was the band just going from *nothing* to *TENSION*). As for "Larks 2," I've come to realize that there isn't really anything wrong with it here; it's a typical "Larks 2" performance (which means it's great) that sounds a little sub-par just because it followed such a great version of "Talking Drum." Anyway, do yourself a favor and don't try to think of this as three separate tracks, even if that's how it's listed: these absolutely need to be listened together, and together they make for one of the great wacky adventures of the King Crimson catalogue.

Finally, "21st Century Schizoid Man" may not be one of the all-time great versions of the track, but then again this wasn't a regular part of the band's setlist at the time, so a little bit of leeway is in order here. As with "Larks 2," it's good to take a step back and recognize that "Schizoid Man" is just the kind of track whose very nature is such that, unless something goes horribly wrong, there's going to probably be enough good stuff in there so it can be terrific even if it's not one of the very best renditions out there. Fripp is the clear star of the show here, with a little bit of solo time given to Wetton and little to Cross, but Fripp does plenty of noisy stuff that will please most fans of the band. I guess it would be better if Wetton's vocals were distored a la USA or the original, but that's just a small nit-pick.

Overall, while this album may have enough small issues to keep me from wanting to rate it as an all-time great live album, it nonetheless strikes me as an essential purchase for anybody who considers themselves a King Crimson fan. Yes, this album puts the more "difficult" aspects of the band, the aspects that found their basis in free-form jazz and related musical styles, in close proximity to the more "conventional" music of people who want their King Crimson a little more structured and math-rock-ish, but that should be considered a point in favor of the album, not one against it. Even if I don't love every individual aspect of the album, I still can't help but appreciate this as a great performance from a clearly great band.

Review by Warthur
5 stars A large number of high-quality live releases have been put out documenting the King Crimson lineup that existed from Larks' Tongues In Aspic to Red; one wonders whether Fripp went out of his way to make sure that live shows were recorded to perfection after the whole Earthbound debacle. Why, then, should you pick The Night Watch over any of the others?

Well, for starters it presents a complete show from start to finish without any edits or overdubs that I can detect, unlike the abbreviated and mildly touched-up USA. Likewise, as a double CD set it's a far less overwhelming prospect than the gargantuan Great Deceiver boxed set, and obviously has less redundancy than that box because it only covers one show instead of half a dozen.

Secondly, it's a show with particular importance to the band's history - parts of it were extracted and touched up in the studio (and, on occasion, fused with studio tracks) to yield much of the material on Starless and Bible Black. This does mean that if you have Starless you've already heard some of the material on here, but the raw material and the engineered product are obviously very different propositions and there's enough material that wasn't issued elsewhere on here to be of interest even to those who already own S&BB. The mid- 70s incarnation of King Crimson put improvisation at the centre of their performances (one improv here, the excellent Fright Watch, hasn't been issued on any other KC album), and so there's not only original material here but also unique renditions of classic King Crimson songs that are often startlingly different from their studio versions. The only pre-Larks' Tongues track on offer here is the closing rendition of 21st Century Schizoid Man, which is at once instantly recognisable and on a par with the debut album's version, but at the same time is quite different as the heavier, rawer, more aggressive King Crimson of 1973 tear into the song and absolutely make it their own.

But the best reason to get this album is simply that the band were on fire on the evening in question. This is a scorching, heavy, loud as hell performance from the group, who to my mind prove themselves to be superior to any earlier King Crimson lineup with this set. At the very least, they blow the material from In the Wake of Poseidon up to Earthbound completely out of the water, so I think the decision to remove all of that material from the live setlist entirely was the sensible and right choice. The ghost of In the Court of the Crimson King had haunted the band for three years before Fripp decided to stop trying to make a followup to it and to take the band in a completely different direction; it was performances like The Night Watch that exorcised it.

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5 stars Review #41 This is good stuff! When I reviewed the "Starless and bible black" album I only gave it three stars so it's actually kind of weird that I consider this an absolute masterpiece since almost the whole Starless album is performed here, but there are two important differences that give ... (read more)

Report this review (#2480588) | Posted by Uruk_hai | Friday, November 27, 2020 | Review Permanlink

3 stars "The Night Watch" by King Crimson is a live record from a gig in Amsterdam back in 1973, featuring the classic Wetton-era line-up. Most of the reviews I've read describes this work as a masterpiece, a definitive gem of King Crimson live material: I agree to some point, finding all tracks on cd1 v ... (read more)

Report this review (#260098) | Posted by Malve87 | Saturday, January 9, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars ***Live Progressive Rock Masterpiece*** This is coming from a huge KC fan, but it's not like they made gold everytime. This particular show is amazing, I would give anything to have been there. Let's just say I was gona be on a stranded island and for some strange reason could only pick one ... (read more)

Report this review (#241672) | Posted by smuggledmutation | Saturday, September 26, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I generally tend to steer away from live recordings as these usually lack the electricity and ambience of being at a show in person and because of logistical problems that present themselves in capturing the musical moment faithfully. Mr. Fripp's highly insightful (some might say inciteful) lin ... (read more)

Report this review (#151726) | Posted by LARKSTONGUE | Monday, November 19, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars The only misfortunate aspect of this Crimson performance in the Netherlands is that it is not complete as some of the tapes were lost, damaged or they just ran out of tape. Crimson shows were quite lengthly during this era and the latter is quite possible. The beauty of the Crims to this day ... (read more)

Report this review (#89511) | Posted by Vibrationbaby | Tuesday, September 12, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Now this is one heck of an album. Nearly all the songs are excellent choices and performed better than on album. What I like most of this album is that it's more of a hard rock/metal feel to it - which I'm pretty sure is the sound Robert Fripp mainly was going for. CD 1 is the best of the two ... (read more)

Report this review (#88785) | Posted by Rosescar | Saturday, September 2, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars KC's best-recorded live album in this era. We can clearly hear John's bass, sometimes much better than on 'The great deceiver' box set (what another great pack!). I only miss 'Larks tongues Part 1' and the complete 'Starless and bible black', but 'The fright watch' is also a great improv. If w ... (read more)

Report this review (#65276) | Posted by | Tuesday, January 17, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This live album, is "the definitive live statement" of the Wetton-Bruford-Cross era of King Crimson. Live albums don't get any closer to perfection than this. Everything is fantastic, the setlist, the musicianship, composition, and the atmosphere are all incredible. For those who did not like ... (read more)

Report this review (#54895) | Posted by gok22us | Sunday, November 6, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I always found "Starless and Bible Black" disppointing and this album goes a long way to explaining why; many of the tracks on SABB were recoreded in concert, then overdubbed/re-mixed; here, on this album you get the original concert material, and it's just so much better here. One of the few ... (read more)

Report this review (#36743) | Posted by Phil | Friday, June 17, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars A truly fantastic live recording.Previously I had only heard USA which is a joke in terms of sound quality and made worse by annoying rowdy people shouting in the more gentile sections.I saw Crimson a few years ago and I enjoyed it but this concert catches them in what I feel to be one of thei ... (read more)

Report this review (#36482) | Posted by | Tuesday, June 14, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Definetively this is the best line up they ever had. John Wetton is far less pompous than Greg Lake and I donīt like at all Belew (not much really) so it is a pleasure to hear the violin of Cross and the jazzy drums of Mr. Bruford. I have never been to a concert of this particular band in my enti ... (read more)

Report this review (#35298) | Posted by steelyhead | Sunday, June 5, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This is one of my favorite live albums by the phenominal King Crimson. Many of the songs on here, I think are even better than the actual versions on the albums. So yeah, this is a great a live collection from King Crimson and I would reccommend it to anyone who enjoys great prog rock. ... (read more)

Report this review (#15518) | Posted by | Friday, June 25, 2004 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Simply fantastic album with great sounds, great production and great musicians. The second disc is a little bit harder than the first, but that's not a problem...:) One of my favourite live album ever, the King Crimson's "Made in Japan" ... (read more)

Report this review (#15516) | Posted by | Wednesday, April 7, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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