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King Crimson Absent Lovers - Live in Montreal, 1984  album cover
4.46 | 356 ratings | 28 reviews | 55% 5 stars

Essential: a masterpiece of
progressive rock music

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Live, released in 1998

Songs / Tracks Listing

Disc 1: 57:00
1. Entry of the Crims (6:27)
2. Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part Three (5:05)
3. Thela Hun Ginjeet (7:07)
4. Red (5:49)
5. Matte Kudasai (3:46)
6. Industry (7:31)
7. Dig Me (4:00)
8. Three of a Perfect Pair (4:36)
9. Indiscipline (8:12)

Disc 2: 51:59
1. Sartori in Tangier (4:41)
2. Frame by Frame (3:57)
3. Man with an Open Heart (3:45)
4. Waiting Man (6:26)
5. Sleepless (6:09)
6. Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part Two (7:54)
7. Discipline (5:04)
8. Heartbeat (5:16)
9. Elephant Talk (8:57)

Total Time 108:59

Line-up / Musicians

- Adrian Belew / lead vocals, guitar
- Bill Bruford / drums, percussion
- Robert Fripp / guitar, devices
- Tony Levin / Stick, basses, backing vocals

Releases information

Discipline (Global Mobile) DGM-9804

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to LiquidEternity for the last updates
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KING CRIMSON Absent Lovers - Live in Montreal, 1984 ratings distribution

(356 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(55%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(36%)
Good, but non-essential (8%)
Collectors/fans only (0%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

KING CRIMSON Absent Lovers - Live in Montreal, 1984 reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by loserboy
5 stars Recorded live in Montreal at their last concert on the 1984 tour. Here we are treated to an awesomely recorded live show which contains many of their classic tracks. The CD also captures some of the audience dialogue which I find rather amusing and helps give a nice live feel to the music. Songs are also extended slighly and some improvisation (which they were so famous for live) is added. I love the version of "Red" on this cd and think it is the best they ever performed!. It is simply worth the price of admission for this song alone. CRIM heads will need to own this live cd package. CD packaging is also quite excellent and the booklet contains lots of goodies for late night reading.
Review by Neu!mann
5 stars Is it possible there's a King Crimson fan who hasn't yet heard this 2-disc live set from the mid-'80s line-up? Is so, it's time to crawl out from beneath that rock you've been hiding under all these years. This is a stunning show from beginning to end, but more than that it's an essential document from one of the few genuinely progressive (as opposed to Prog) rock bands in a decade otherwise marked by limited ambitions, cookie cutter radio hits, and big hair.

It's hard to believe this was the group's final gig (for another decade, at any rate), but Robert Fripp has always had a gift for quitting while he's ahead, before complacency kills the creative impulse. Not for the first time, King Crimson went out at the top of their game, in this case with a loud and enthusiastic swan song at The Spectrum in Montreal, on July 11, 1984. Wish you could have been there? Here's your chance, better late than never.

Picking out the highlights is almost too easy. There's the ominous "Entry of the Crims", opening the show with one of the more effective and sinister Frippertronic loops ever created. Tony Levin then adds a complimentary monster bass riff, followed by Adrian Belew with some trademark whammy bar abuse. (It's interesting that Fripp waits for Belew's entrance before cutting loose with an absolutely torrid solo: a case of six-string one-upmanship, perhaps?) Bill Bruford arrives last, and after a few warm-up drum rolls the free-for-all jam suddenly coalesces into the hyper precise groove of "Lark's Tongues in Aspic, Part III", surely one of the most dramatic transitions in the entire King Crimson discography.

A few songs later the quartet attacks the Crim classic "Red", with an energy and tempo that makes the original album version sound like a narcoleptic sleepwalk. The same can be said for "Industry" and "Dig Me" ("the weird stuff", according to Belew), both of which prove beyond a doubt that improvisation is something best performed in a live arena, in front of a receptive audience.

And the arrangement of "Indiscipline" is easily the best of the many renditions I've been privileged to hear, with good reason. Unlike in the studio original, the cataclysmic instrumental "chorus" is held back until after Belew's first narrative "verse", building considerably more tension before the sudden release. To borrow a phrase: "I do think it's good."

And that's only an incomplete sampling of Disc One. There's plenty more, but you get the idea.

Mindful of the Prog Archives review guidelines, I considered limiting my rating to a respectable four stars. After all, the second disc shows a bias toward some of the band's more conventional songs ("Heartbeat", "Elephant Talk", etc). And their reading of the usually reliable "Lark's Tongues in Aspic, Part II" is surprisingly stiff and mechanical, at least compared to the apocalyptic encores of the mid-'70s outfit.

But how many albums, released fifteen years too late, completely redefine our perception of a band? Listeners familiar with only the trio of studio albums by the '80s King Crimson (and who, like myself, never experienced them in concert) are in for a belated but gratifying shock. Any recording that manages to place a group in such an entirely new historical perspective has earned that coveted fifth star, as far as I'm concerned.

This is the perfect companion volume to "The Great Deceiver" and "Epitaph" (similar live re-appraisals of the '70s Crimson and the original late '60s line-up, respectively). But why it was never officially released earlier is a mystery known only to Robert Fripp and his inner circle at DGM.

Review by Eetu Pellonpaa
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Again, a masterful live concert from the prog group which managed to succeed during the hostile 80's with a style! Some influences of the current line-up's guitarists' recent collaboration works are quite obvious, but the overall result of the player's musical ideas is fresh and interesting.

This live covers material from all of their three fine studio LP's of the 80's, and brings forth their true sound of playing. I have not heard the other concert's from this period of KING CRIMSON released as collectors club CD's, so I can't compare this to them yet. My personal highlight here is the dynamic and weird opening with three first tracks. "Industry" and "Dig Me" are also great performances. The CD cover art is also fine, and there's an informative booklet included.

It's also a nice thing that Fripp gets his money from the hard part of working, touring that is, from the profits of producing these releases. Thanks for it!

Review by Man With Hat
COLLABORATOR Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team
5 stars The definative KC live album! This album is the final release from the 80's line-up of King Crimson, and they could not have gone out in better style. This show were the last on the tour and the last for a decade (at least for the name King Crimson), and they played like it was that way.

First off, i have to mention sound quality. I am not a huge fan of live albums, becuase the sound tends to be muddy and hard to hear the subtle undertones of the music. However, there is no trace of that here. Crystle clear sound quality for the entire one hour and forty-four minutes. Now for the songs: All absolutly steller! Bruford really goes for it all on the drums, Levin is a madman on the bass, and the two guitarists play exceptionally, on every song. Highlights are Industry, Disicpline (with wicked guitar), Waiting Man (an extended version with intro played magnificently by Bruford and Belew), Indiscipline (complete with drum solo), and the retro tracks of Red and Larks' Tongues in Aspic (Part II). Though it is really hard to find a bad song on the album. The only complaint i can possibly come up with for this album is the audiences screams, claps, general noises, and such. The last song on the album is a bit of a tease, instead of getting eight minutes of Elephant Talk you get Belew thanking everyone who made the tour and KC happen. Even though it takes away from the music, it doesn't take away from the album and it is nice to hear the hard working people get the recognition they deserve.

All in all one of the best live albums in the prog genre, IMO. A fabulous collection of King Crimson songs and a great final mark on the music world for 80's Crimson. Absolutely essential for KC fans, and for anyone interested in the prog genre. Highly Recommended!

Review by laplace
3 stars We're all aware that some of King Crimson's work during the '80s was a little less challenging and even dance-oriented to a degree, and you can tell Mr. Bruford does not approve as these live versions are markably better than their studio forms precisely because of his inventiveness.

Unfortunately, after the dark curtain of introductory music fades, we're "treated" to LTiA pt. 3, possibly the most skippable KC song from their electrogamelan period. All goes swimmingly past this point - Bruford saves us from the cringeworthy by transforming Sleepless and Waiting Man into entirely different songs. Long live that man, I say.

Just three stars because of the occasional error and the suspect track order but don't hesitate to acquire this if you liked Discipline and the choice picks from Beat and Perfect Pair.

Review by Cygnus X-2
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The 1980s was a great decade for King Crimson, in my opinion. They released three great records (one being a masterpiece in my eyes) and were a treat to watch and listen to live. This recording, taken from the final show of the final tour of this incarnation of the group, showcased a group that had mastered the exceedingly tricky and intricate material they had written over a 4 year period. I can easily say that along with The Great Deceiver box set, this is probably the strongest live release from King Crimson.

The live set is a great showcase of their trilogy of albums (with emphasis on Three of a Perfect Pair, as that was the album being toured at the time). Beat, the second in the trilogy, I feel is a bit underrepresented, but the two songs from it here, Waiting Man and Sartori in Tangier, are amongst the best on the album, and they are wonderfully performed at that. The emphasis on Discipline is also rather strong, the entire album nearly being played (save for The Sheltering Sky, which was a shame as that was always a great live piece). Of the older songs, Red and Larks' Tongue in Aspic Pt. 2 are present, also among the best pieces in the King Crimson catalog.

With such a stellar set it's hard to imagine why this album doesn't automatically get five stars. I think the reason I can't give it full marks is because at parts this album can get quiet (take Belew talking with the audience before Red, almost inaudible). Besides that, though, and you can probably get past that, this album is essentially perfect and has the band playing their best on the final date they'd play together in the quartet in that decade. Another little note, if you buy the CD, the CD labeled as the first one will surprisingly be the second CD and vice versa with the other. May have been a mistake during the printing of the album, but nonetheless another amusing little thing.

I recommend this album highly to any fan of King Crimson, as it has one of my favorite line-ups playing some of my favorite King Crimson music. Almost a masterpiece, but just shy of greatness.

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars While this isn't my favourite live KING CRIMSON recording, I wouldn't be without it either. This is an excellent representation of their eighties albums, in fact of the18 tracks on here,15 are from those three records.This was the last concert of the "Three Of A Perfect Pair" tour, and we get 6 songs from that album,3 from "Beat" , and 6 from "Discipline".

The set starts with "Entry Of The Crims" a heavy, dark and atmospheric instrumental that begins slowly and builds until metal sounds fill the air. This has to be one of the best concert openers i've ever heard. It blends into "Larks' Tongues In Aspic Part III" an uptempo, intricate and complex instrumental. The crowd roars after 3 minutes as Bruford pounds away and the guitars rip it up. This also blends into the next song which happens to be "Thela Hun Ginjeet". We get vocals for the first time. What a frenzied soundscape. The guitar work is mind boggling. Check out Bruford ! The bass is prominant 4 1/2 minutes in. "Red" is just a pleasure to listen to of course. "Matte Kudasi" is the first track that does nothing for me. "Industry" gets better as it plays out. From 4 minutes on it's really good. Belew asks the crowd if they would like more of the weird stuff. Well they get it with "Dig Me". Those last 3 songs for me are the weakest section of disc one. "Three Of A Perfect Pair" really impresses me with the intricate guitar work and the ripping guitar after 2 1/2 minutes. "Indiscipline" opens with Bruford doing some complex and intricate drum patterns. Nice. Guitar comes in at 2 1/2 minutes. Bruford just shows off his skills even more at this point. Vocals 3 minutes in. This is such a great track vocally. Funny. When Belew screams "I did !" it's chaos. Check out the famous angular guitar melodies from Fripp before 7 minutes. We're not worthy !

Disc 2 starts with "Sartori In Tangier" and Belew asking the audience if they know any good jokes. Check out Fripp and Belew on guitars ! Just an awesome instrumental from the "Beat" album. "Frame To Frame" has always been a favourite of mine. I love the intricate guitar melodies. "Man With An Open Heart" sounds like a TALKING HEADS influenced song. It's fun and catchy. "Waiting Man" has a bit of an island beat to it. Belew comments when it's over that "Boy, that's the best we've done that in a long time". "Sleepless" has a powerful, full sound except on the chorus. Blistering guitar after 3 minutes. Check out Bruford a minute later. "Larks' Tongues In Aspic Part II" is one you have to turn up loud. It's faster than the original. An all out assault. "Discipline" is a song where the guitars of Belew and Fripp seem to interlock and weave around each other with amazing precision. It gets more intense after 3 minutes. "Heartbeat" is a good one from the "Beat" album again. It sounds better than the studio version to me. "Elephant Talk" is the encore track. Nice way to end it with words like bicker, banter and broohaha from Belew.

4.5 stars. What an enjoyable live set this is. With all the live stuff these guys are bringing out recently I still consider this to be a must have for this period of their careers.

Review by Raff
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Lavishly packaged like all the numerous KC live offerings, with an interesting, informative booklet and intriguing, sophisticated cover art, "Absent Lovers" showcases the ground-breaking potential of the much-maligned (and equally praised) Eighties line-up of this legendary band, whose final performance was captured in this double album. Even a superficial listen should quickly disabuse those who thought the 'trilogy' released at the beginning of the decade was little more than KC-lite. While their studio recordings may have been partly characterised by a somewhat 'poppy', even danceable quality, AL shows quite a different story. The first of the two CDs in particular features oodles of state-of-the-art improvisation by a quartet of musicians possessed of technical chops and creative energy in equal doses.

In the early Eighties, it could be stated that King Crimson acted as a sort of missing link between classic prog and new wave - two genres that far too many people still see as irreconcilably different. The influence of Adrian Belew's longtime collaboration with New York icons Talking Heads is quite evident in their essential 1980 release, "Discipline", 7 out of 8 of whose tracks are featured here. While "Discipline" sounds distinctly unlike the band's Seventies output, a good deal of what can be heard on this album bears a very clear resemblance to the sound of their '73-'74 incarnation, even though Belew's quirky, supercharged vocal style (an acquired taste to many) is light years away from John Wetton's alternately warm and gruff tones. The presence of two classic from that era, "Red" and "Larks' Tongues in Aspic pt. 2" bears witness to this continuing connection.

In comparison to "Discipline", the band's sound is definitely darker, more metallic and spacey. Nowhere is it more evident than in the instrumental tracks included on CD 1, such as the ominous intro "Entry of the Crims", which flows effortlessly into "Lark's Tongues in Aspic pt. 3", and the aptly-titled "Industry". The CD''s highlight is probably the stunning, slow-motion, 10-minute-plus version of "Indiscipline", in which the contrast between Belew's spoken-word, distorted vocals and the explosive guitar riffing is used to maximum effect. On the other hand, the presence of the laid-back, atmospheric "Matte Kudasai", the upbeat "Three of a Perfect Pair", and the manic, intense "Thela Hun Ginjeet" provides a nice balance to the brooding heaviness of the above-mentioned tracks.

CD2 is definitely more song-orientated, from the rarefied atmosphere of "The Waiting Man" to the more energetic "Frame by Frame", through the jagged rythms of "Sleepless" (a cracking version of a sadly underrated song) and the supreme quirkiness of vocal tour-de-force "Elephant Talk", which closes the album in style), KC prove to their audience that they are not only about instrumental virtuosity and intricate time signatures. The Talking Heads influence is quite clear in most of these tracks, which also show the band's growing interest in world music. It is a pity that one of their best compositions of the era, the beautiful mood piece that is "The Sheltering Sky", is missing from this set.

As is always the case with KC, there is a genuine live feel to this album. The four band members are in top form, Belew and Fripp's guitar creating all sorts of weird, intriguing soundscapes over the background provided by the stellar rhythm section of Bruford and Levin. Though keyboards, for many people synonymous with prog, are conspicuous by their absence, they are certainly not missed. As I said in my "Discipline" review, this is NOT prog as we knew it in the Seventies - this is PROGRESSIVE music in the true sense of the word, harsh at times, soothing at others, improvisational, technically brilliant, intellectually challenging, lyrically odd, overall extremely stimulating. While "Absent Lovers" may have closed another chapter in the variegated history of the Crims, its legacy is essential in order to understand the most recent developments of our beloved genre.

Review by tarkus1980
5 stars Robert Fripp makes an interesting statement in the liner notes for this archive release - to paraphrase, he says, "A studio album is like getting a love letter, whereas a live performance is like a hot date. A live album, then, is a love letter of close embracing." Simply put, this incarnation of King Crimson MUST be heard live to gain full appreciation for it - even if you're not a fan of live albums in general, the fact remains that KC put much more emphasis on their live shows than on the process of capturing a perfect take for their studio albums, and in turn that means that the full potential of this King Crimson was only demonstrated in a live setting. Sure, it might seem a bit fishy to give a top score to an archive release of a live album (the last show the band did before "breaking up"), but I can't help it if this is the album of theirs that amazes me the most from start to finish (and that's 100 minutes of music, mind you).

What makes this 2-CD collection so amazing and such an improvement over most of the studio versions of these songs is the amount of energy that goes into these performances, and consequently the way this energy makes these songs breathe. No longer are the Discipline tracks cut-and-paste constructions; no longer are the Beat tracks so subdued and sleepy in their moodiness; no longer are the Three of a Perfect Pair tracks underproduced and underarranged. Both Belew and Fripp are in top form on this album - there may be a bit too much division of their roles, with Belew taking a slightly disproportionate amount of the lead duties, "relegating" Fripp to riffage and soundscapes, but I don't mind when I'm listening (Belew is, after all, an EXCELLENT guitar player). Levin also rules immensely on this album, with his bass taking on the volume it deserves, giving an incredible mobile bottom to the sound with tones that can only be adequately described using water metaphors (that's a compliment here, by the way). And then there's Bruford ... perhaps this is apocryphal, but I am familiar with a statement by Bruford where he says, in effect, that he's prouder of his work on this album than of any other in his entire recording career (which is not a small amount by any means). His combination of rhythm and power here, supplemented by an ultra-cool echoey effect on his drums, is stunning beyond all possible description that I could give. If nothing else, get this album for the drumming, it will blow your mind.

The tracklisting is fairly standard - after all, the band had three albums under its belt by this time, so there wasn't too much need to delve into back catalogue. Still, the fact that there isn't much in the way of older material doesn't mean they don't do a good job with it. "Red" loses some of its abrasive crunch from the studio version, but gains in many other ways - for one thing, Levin's bass is able to give the song groove, something completely inconceivable when listening to the song on Red. I also much prefer the middle section here - Fripp's riffage is loud, echoey and SPOOKY, and contrasts the double-bass part much better than in the original. "Larks' II" is also done exceptionally well - the riffage is maybe a bit rushed and a little less crisp than before, but the track nevertheless turns out great with Belew's bizarre guitar solos taking the spot of what was once Cross violin lines, not to mention all the subtle twists in tone and mood provided by the revamped rhythm section.

The rest of the songs (aside from the six-minute opening "Entry of the Crims," featuring the band walking on one by one and doing all sorts of scary warmups) are taken from the 80's trilogy (six from Discipline, three from Beat and six from TOAPP), and not a SINGLE one of the tracks is inferior to its studio counterpart. I'd probably say that "Frame by Frame" doesn't really exceed the studio version, but other than that, I'd be very hardpressed to not gush about the quality of any of these performances. I could gripe about the placement of "Heartbeat" in the encore (I've always thought it should have been earlier in the show), but even that has nothing to do with the performance, an improvement on the already excellent original.

Aside from that, though (without mentioning everything), you have "Larks III" exceeding the original, "Thela Hun Ginjeet" DESTROYING the original (the electronic drum barrage near the beginning before Levin kicks in with his bassline is one of the greatest "sit up and listen NOW" moments I've ever heard), "Industry" being more energetic and even spookier than before ... the list goes on. "Indiscipline" is ten times what it was in the studio, with Bruford's drum assaults extended, the jamming made even more bizarre, and Belew varying his vocal tone and speed in such a way as to raise the tension even further than anything the original approached. And man, that's just some of disc one.

Disc two manages to be even better, amazingly enough. "Sartori in Tangier," like most everything else on here, blows away its studio counterpart (Levin's lines are more intense, the guitars are weirder, etc etc), and that merely kicks off an almost perfect stretch of music. While most of this disc deserves yet more excessive praise, the need to avoid overkill prevents me from doing so. Yet duty compells me to give special props to two tracks found here, and I can't help but oblige. First, there's the rendition of "Waiting Man" - the opening percussion groove is much more intense and moody than before, Belew's vocals are WAAAAAAAY more resonant than before, and Fripp gets to throw in his own high quality guitar solos into the mix, which were lacking before.

Yet as good as that is, its followup blows it completely away. This rendition of "Sleepless," and I'm completely serious about this, just may be my favorite live rendition of any track by any band EVER. Aside from the already brilliant bassline (even faster and more fluid than before), Bruford also gets into the act to a far greater degree than before. He gets incredible power out of his kit in synch with Levin's bass, and when he gets to the point near the end where he's supposed to pick up the intensity, he absolutely goes nuts in maintaining a powerful polyrhythmic groove that he maintains for the rest of the track. Meanwhile, Fripp's guitar is even eerier than before, Belew sings the vocal melody with more intensity than on the original, as well as making his guitar solos in the middle that much spookier, and so on and so on. Everything comes together in a way that absolutely boggles my mind, and by the time Belew is bellowing, "Won't you pull me out of the sleepless night?" the band has created a track that represents one of the worst insomniac episodes imaginable.

GET THIS ALBUM. I was doubtful towards King Crimson as a great band once upon a time - simply put, this album changed my mind. Never has hard-rock/art-rock/New-Wave/80's- pop sounded so good, and if you're interested in this incarnation of the band, you should get this first and THEN get the others. The studio albums might disappoint you after hearing these incredible renditions, but at the same time, this is most likely to get you into the band in the first place, so whatever.

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars When it comes to live albums I'm a particularly difficult person. The way I see it, there are simply too many things that can go totally wrong with it. Or should I say that most bands just don't seem to live up to what I would call reasonable Live album standards. Of course, King Crimson is a known exception and also Absent Lovers defies all possible live album issues.

Production/sound. It often happens live albums suffer from inferior sound, but Absent Lovers won't disappoint you. This album sound every bit as detailed as the studio albums from this period. Everything is in perfect balance and each instrument can be followed all the way. As a bonus we get a more lively and rocking sound, which will please most Crimson fans.

Track list. This is very personal of course but so many live albums always seem to miss that one track that would have made them indispensable. With 1 hour 44 minutes, this album has about every track you want from the 81-84 Crimson incarnation. On top there's the two older tracks Red and Lark's Tongues II which are irresistible goodies that blend in well with the 80's Crimson sound. I could have lived without Dig Me though.

Relevance. Most bands are content with rendering perfect copies of the studio originals and don't add anything to the studio versions. In contrast with the 72-74 incarnation, this version of Crimson didn't improvise much around the material. Except for the scary intro soundscape Entry Of The Crims there's not much here that deviates from the known album material. The short guitar solo in Three of A Perfect Pair is a rare example.

Performance. An alternative reason to buy a live album is to hear your known favourites with an extra live adrenaline boost, a point where this album will surely not disappoint. Belew sings perfectly in tune and adds that extra bit of bite in his live vocals. Tony Levin adds good backing vocals and his powerful bass slapping is astounding. Bill Bruford then? Well, after 25 years I still have to find anything I could criticize in his drumming, and I certainly won't where it concerns his performance here. Same goes for Fripp obviously.

An excellent live document. Probably the only one Crimson fans should will need from this period.

Review by Warthur
4 stars The final concert of the 80s incarnation of King Crimson is recorded here in decent sound quality, and finds the band in dynamic and energetic form - lending a bit of drive to compositions which at points were slightly sluggish on their respective studio albums. (The Beat and Three of a Perfect Pair material particularly benefits). The emphasis, obviously, is on material from this lineup's three studio albums, but the couple of oldies slipped into the setlist - Larks Tongues In Aspic Part 2 and Red - are a real treat, particularly in the way that the new lineup reworks the old material such that it fits in with their style whilst simultaneously shining a light on how their sound is a natural progression from the mid-1970s lineup's. Definitely one of the more interesting King Crimson live releases.
Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I was fortunate to have witnessed the tour before this one--the Beat Tour--the one with one of the most amazing and memorable openings of any concert evert: "Neal and Jack and Me." The tour captured here, of course, contains a lot of material from the year's earlier release, Three of a Perfect Pair--this incarnation of the band's last studio release for ten years. I must say that the 3oaPP stuff comes off much better live than it did on disc--IMHO, there's a life and emotionality coming through here from the stage performances that is lacking in the studio versions. I love the extended version of "Indiscipline" as well as the use of "Elephant talk" as the finale. Perfect! My favorite stuff remains the songs from Discipline--each one a step above the others, in my opinion, but anything and everything preserving the interplay of that amazing rhythm section of Bill Bruford and Tony Levin is worth hearing any time, any place.
Review by Sean Trane
3 stars 3.5 stars really!!!

For Crimson completists, this late 90's release of Absent Lover might just be the prefect live recap of the band's 80's live works (outside the Jack, Neal & Me DVD), as comprises almost everything essential of that trio of 80's album and gives us the few hold-over tracks from the second line-up of the 70's Crimson. But personally I don't find the audio qualities of thios releases all that convincing, and since the Mk3 line-up and its discography is probably the one I like less, the interest of owning this album is limited. But I got it through a trade, mildly interested by mainly three or four tracks: you'll easily guess that the two holdovers from the Mk2 line up (Red and LTIA2) are part of it, but the concert-opening sequel LTIA3 was also a major attraction. Of course the AL track selection is taken from the ToaPP tour, but it is little surprise (IMHO) that Beat is not very present. The concert starts fairly strongly with a bunch of Discipline tracks with Red thrown in, before jumping in the then-recent ToaPP, starting with the intriguing Industry, then Dig Me with those annoying vocal effects (much longer then the studio version) and the title track. The second disc visits some Beat and ToaPP tracks, but again the "meat" is from Discipline, with of course the LTIA2.

Of course, as you might guess, the main menu of this live release is the tracks from Discipline (like Thela, elephant, Discipline, Frame, Kusadai, the title and anti-title tracks etc..). And if these tracks are played fairly close to their original studio versions, they also don't offer much added interest either, even though most Crimsonheads would probably disagree with me on that point. In either case, this version of LTIA2 is simply awesome.

Review by patrickq
4 stars By the time they played the concert presented as Absent Lovers: Live in Montreal 1984, King Crimson had recorded ten albums. But with just two exceptions across eighteen songs and nearly two hours, the band sticks with material from their most recent three LPs, Discipline (1981), Beat (1982), and Three of a Perfect Pair (1984).

After their entrance number the band segues into the proto-math-rock of "Lark's Tongue in Aspic, part III." By following this with "Thela Hun Ginjeet," the band states its independence from its 1970s work. Nonetheless, they perform the title track from their 1974 set, Red - - albeit in the fashion of the 1980s edition of the band.

I'm not the first to claim that this rendition of "Red" is superior to the original, and actually this can be said of many of the tracks. Unfortunately, "superior to the original" doesn't necessarily mean "enjoyable." The version of "Industry" here, for example, is just as repetitious as the original from Three of a Perfect Pair. After "Industry" finally ends, one of the musicians, probably singer-guitarist Adrian Belew, asks the crowd if they're ready for more. They are, and it's on to "Dig Me," the next song on the experimental "right side" of Three of a Perfect Pair. Neither "Industry" nor "Dig Me" translate very well onto the stage. But having played eleven minutes of the "right side," the band launches into their best 1980s song, "Three of a Perfect Pair."

And soon enough they're playing most of their other well-known songs from the era, including "Man with an Open Heart" and "Sleepless" from Three of a Perfect Pair, "Frame by Frame" and "Heartbeat" from Beat, and "Matte Kudasai" and "Discipline" from Discipline. Besides "Red," the other "legacy" song they play is "Lark's Tongue in Aspic, part II," another rendition at least equal to the studio version.

In short, Absent Lovers: Live in Montreal 1984 is a very good album, with excellent performances, good song selection, and decent sound. Other reviewers have suggested that Absent Lovers: Live in Montreal 1984 is all most fans will need of 1980s King Crimson. While I don't quite agree, I would certainly say that this album is better than any one of the band's three studio albums from this period.

Latest members reviews

4 stars Wonderful Document. I was at the Toronto show of this tour, held just a couple of days before this concert was recorded on the last day of the tour in Montreal. Unknown to anyone at the time, Crimson would split after this, and not get back together (and under compromised circumstances) for 10 ye ... (read more)

Report this review (#1696047) | Posted by Walkscore | Wednesday, February 22, 2017 | Review Permanlink

5 stars What can I say that hasn't already been said? This album dispels any doubt that the 81-84 lineup accurately carried on the Crimson legacy. I'd say it's one of the finest live albums currently available by the band from any lineup. When you think of studio albums you think of "polish" and when you th ... (read more)

Report this review (#1286220) | Posted by thesameoldfears | Tuesday, September 30, 2014 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Simply Amazing!!! For those who are occasional put off with the sound quality of live King Crimson archives, fear not, this one is crystal clear! That quality is key, because the band was on fire on this last night of their 1984 world tour. Frappe and Belew have a synchronicity that boggles ... (read more)

Report this review (#748827) | Posted by Lord Anon | Friday, May 4, 2012 | Review Permanlink

4 stars As a tribute of their 80's period of albums (Discipline, Beat, and Three of a Perfect Pair), this is a very good release. These albums are very much showcased and I actually prefer to listen to this live album more than the original releases, which I rarely even get out and play anymore. I nev ... (read more)

Report this review (#280622) | Posted by mohaveman | Wednesday, May 5, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars As engmatic a band as King Crimson were as of 1984, this 2 CD set, which culls live material from their Montreal shows in the summer of 1984, is incredibly cohesive, and it gives a tremendous historical perspective. With some astounding performances, Belew, Bruford, Fripp, and Levin blaze throug ... (read more)

Report this review (#137596) | Posted by jimidom | Monday, September 10, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Released In 1998 (acording to the page), but recorded in 1984. Absent Lovers is an excellent live album, my favorite of King Crimson actually. The songs are mostly from the 80's era (Discipline, Beat, Three Of A Perfect Pair). The record hasn't got any improvisation song, and I prefer it of that ... (read more)

Report this review (#125195) | Posted by Saha | Friday, June 8, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Simply the best live recording I've ever heard. All the songs are perfectly arraged and some are performed in a diiferent manner than in studio, most notably "Larks' Tongues In Aspic III', which sounds so totally different (towards the better of course). Although the album misses out many earlier ... (read more)

Report this review (#125059) | Posted by Ampersand | Thursday, June 7, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I agree with the Frippster on the fact that , If a performance brings back memories, repeat when necessary and try to evoke the feelings from that moment(or something like that). I saw this incarnation on June 29th 1984 in the Mann Music theater, Philadelphia, a few days before this was recorde ... (read more)

Report this review (#98531) | Posted by 10string | Monday, November 13, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Most people only mildly interested in King Crimson will probably only hear Discipline from the 80's era. The other two albums are ignored or forgotten. While latter two albums may not be masterpieces on the same level as Discipline, there are plenty of hidden gems on those albums to enjoy. The ... (read more)

Report this review (#79734) | Posted by Harry Hood | Monday, May 29, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Crimson fans wished that they had had this album long before its 1998 release date. It's from the last night of the "Three of a Perfect Pair" tour, a tour marked by wildly divergent concerts -- one night hugely satisfying, the next...not. The band knew that this particular iteration was over an ... (read more)

Report this review (#59967) | Posted by Black Max | Saturday, December 10, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars A curious thing is that when i bought this album the printing in the CDs was wrong in the cd #1 was the picture of the cd#2 and vice-verse. Those days I had little knowledge about King Crimson, and a friend told me that this band is his fav (he likes cool music), so I decided to buy an album a ... (read more)

Report this review (#42394) | Posted by juancarlos_gmg | Wednesday, August 10, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars "Absent Lovers-Live In Montreal 1984" of announcement in 1998. It is a summary of CRIMSON in 80's. Live album of last tour in 1984. As the live album, it might be the highest masterpiece of CRIMSON. It became the last activity of CRIMSON in in fact 80's. It is a content that almost covers the ... (read more)

Report this review (#41669) | Posted by braindamage | Friday, August 5, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars A great double live album. It has a great tracklist (excepting for that "Entry Of The Crims" thing, it would have been better to hear "The Sheltering Sky" or "Nuages", and Model Man would have been a great addition), and all songs sound better than in the studio versions (excepting Red). The b ... (read more)

Report this review (#15539) | Posted by | Saturday, January 15, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Having attended this very concert (actually the tracks are taken from two back to back shows) in the summer of 1984 at The Spectrum in Montréal my shouts and screams can be heard amidst a very enthusiastic audience on this, one of the stronger live releases from King Crimson. Although it was to be ... (read more)

Report this review (#15537) | Posted by Vibrationbaby | Wednesday, April 7, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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