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King Crimson - Live at Plymouth Guildhall 1971 (KCCC 14)

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King Crimson - Live at Plymouth Guildhall 1971 (KCCC 14)

Postby Whiskey Vengeance on Mon Feb 21, 2005 7:11 am

This one’s a keeper. Mostly good sound quality, a mostly great performance, rare (for this lineup) performances of "Get Thy Bearings" and "The Court of the Crimson King", an interesting interpretation of “Cirkus�, and a long and varied setlist all make this one of the best buys in the KCCC's Crimso MkII selections. Forgive the longevity of this damn thing, and remember that this was done at various points across the span of a couple of days, during my free time. Also, please forgive me if I spoil some of the surprises, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that this is more of an analysis than a review.

"Cirkus" is definitely one of the highlights on the disc, particularly due to the extreme deviation from the studio version and loads of extra mellotron. Even if the overall performance is rather nervous, the surprises make it worth your time. The verses include a new arrangement of gentle flutes and regal brass (both provided by the mellotron, of course) underneath Boz's vocal. The chorus drags at an almost annoyingly slow pace, but by the second time around on, a counter melody on the strings is added, more than making up for the stately pace. Mel Collins is absolutely on fire, adding several sax fills on the third verse (the first of which is an unexpected excerpt from the traditional "descending carnival theme"!) and a great sax solo. Perhaps the biggest shock is in the middle of the ending build up: the band suddenly burst into a short jazz improv around the basic chord progression before going back to the end theme! I'd almost say this would be worth the price of the disc alone if Haskell's voice wasn't occasionally marred by over-the-top reverb courtesy of Sinfield's VCS3 synth.

"Pictures of a City� starts out rather unassuming, with the same biting verses as before and a strangely quiet chorus, but by the time the fast middle section comes along, it’s abundantly clear that Ian Wallace is a more than suitable replacement for Michael Giles. His drumming absolutely rocks on this rendition. However, the rest of the band still sounds somewhat nervous, although not nearly as much as on the previous number. The improv section has Collins laying down some silky-smooth lines over Boz’s bassline while Fripp’s VCS-3’d guitar and Wallace’s drums add bits of tasteful commentary to what’s going on around them before exploding into the final verse. Nice, but not very standout compared to some of the other stuff on the disc.

Sid Smith’s wonderful book “In the Court of King Crimson� notes that at the Plymouth ’71 show, the band doesn’t noticeably relax until "The Sailor's Tale", and as I’m listening to it now, I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Smith. Tight and efficient, this is another highlight of the disc, showcasing a very early version of what would become this incarnation’s signature tune. Aside from featuring a very different and tom-laden drumbeat, the piece is largely the same until after the ripping sax solo. It stops cold and starts again with a new, quiet, and laid-back rhythm and bassline, complimented by some beautiful soloing by Fripp. The guitar and bass introduce a new theme over Ian’s tinkling percussion before Collins brings in a beautiful eastern-tinged flute solo over some heavy tribal drumming. Things begin to get more intense as the flute and drums build steam before going back to a more relaxed rhythm with VCS-3 seashore sounds ushering in the perfect atmosphere for the song title. This will definitely come as a shock to fans of the Islands version, as this middle section was completely excised and replaced by the time to record the album came along. Soon, the flute solo fades and the main bass/drums groove returns with hissing mellotron brass carrying the main theme. Things get more and more intense until what would become the final middle section leaps into action, with Collins doing another excellent flute solo over some mellotron brass soloing. It ends on a beautiful note with a reprise of the first theme of the middle section and even more wonderful flute by Collins.

A cacophony of VCS-3 filtered flutes ushers in the opening guitar notes of “The Letter�, which, aside from said flutes languishing under the beginning of the first verse, is pretty much the same as the album version. The chorus is savage and forceful, wiping the floor with the album version’s less heavy take. The jam section is a keeper, with great Collins sax and an abrupt end. Unfortunately, Boz’s reading of the words “Impaled on nails on ice� doesn’t have near the same amount of force and shock as it does on the album version. On the last verse, Sinfield’s intrusive choppy VCS-3 synth filtering again comes close to marring Boz’s vocal, but here it’s not nearly as overbearing as it was on “Cirkus� and later would soon become. It ends on a bizarrely and inappropriately happy guitar riff by Fripp.

Collins fills Nick Evans’ shoes nicely on “Lady of the Dancing Water�, replicating trombone lines with a saxophone admirably. The VCS3 vocal manipulation is more sparse and effective, particularly it’s use only on the words “glowing� and “knowing� during the pre-chorus. However, soon enough it’s total VCS3 overkill, the “choppy� effect ruining the vocals worse than ever. Thankfully it’s taken off for the final chorus. There’s really not a whole lot more to say about this one, as it’s not a very “performance�-oriented track.

“Lady of the Dancing Water� segues nicely into “Cadence and Cascade�, with beautiful Mel Collins saxophone at the beginning (I wish they would have continued with the sax, it sure would have made for an interesting rendition). He does the little piano break from the studio version on the flute, and even adds some pretty lines underneath the vocal melody on the first verse. Like “Lady of the Dancing Water�, this isn’t really a song “meant to be played�, so there’s not a whole lot to say about it.

The mostly improvised “Get Thy Bearings� starts out a disappointment, with the first few lines M.I.A. and poor fidelity for the first two and a half minutes, but proves to be one of the choicest cuts on the record. Like the original lineup’s rendition, it’s more of an extended improvisation surrounded by parts of the original Donovan tune, except this time no “let’s all get stoned� ad-libbing by Lake. The opening “song� section is given new menace thanks to Fripp’s creepy VCS-3’d guitar lines under Boz’s powerful vocal. About a minute in, gears are shifted, Boz and Fripp carrying what sounds like a pre-written riff over Ian Wallace’s fast furious drumming. On top of this groove, Mel Collins blows away on his sax, proving that he matched, perhaps surpassed, Ian McDonald in improvisatory sax playing. After some improvised grooves and sax soloing, the track breaks into a drum solo, with the audience’s laughter at Ian Wallace’s ELP bit (read “In the Court of King Crimson� if you want to know exactly what that is) clear as a bell. The drums are soon slowly mutated into insane VCS3 noise to great effect before a searing sustained guitar line by Fripp ushers back the initial song. What surprises me about this performance is how amazingly tight this band is at this early stage in an improvisatory environment. It’s almost hard to believe that this is the same band that shakily rendered “Cirkus� just 6 numbers ago.

“In the Court of the Crimson King� is interesting to listen to a couple of times, considering this was the last tour it was ever performed on, and the fact that it’s the only official performance of the song using mellotron MkIv strings, but overall it has nothing special to offer aside from a great flute solo by Collins over a pretty guitar arpeggio from Fripp.

“Ladies of the Road� is presented in a very early stage, with alternate, partially ad-libbed lyrics, the full band jumping in for the first verse (unlike the album version), and Mel’s saxophone waiting until 4 minutes into the tune to make it’s appearance. The guitar on the verses is filtered through the VCS3, as are Boz’s vocals (to lesser and annoying effect). Unfortunately, a Fripp guitar solo is absent, but the Beatlesy refrain includes a bluesy lick at the end that was excised from the final version, and makes up for the lack of guitar soloing. The whole piece is taken at a brisker pace, giving it a more rollicking feel and less of a trudging tone. It’s definitely “hairier� than the studio version, and a different light than fans of the tune are used to. The introduction of the new members by Fripp shows little of his sharp, sometimes mean-spirited wit, and thus doesn’t really warrant repeated listens.

Like “Cirkus�, the chorus to “21st Century Schizoid Man� is taken at a ponderous pace, but the jamming makes of for this deficiency (which unfortunately would continue for the rest of the piece’s life until it’s lively resurrection by the double trio in the mid-90’s). The fast breaks are impressive as always, and Fripp lays down some savage (if a bit clumsy and slow at times) fuzz guitar licks during his solo. Mel Collins tears down the joint with some absolutely insane and breathtaking saxophone soloing, making for possibly the best sax solos of the set. Some funny (and fortunately not intrusive, at least at this point) VCS3 noise peppers the start-stop section, and is used to great effect on the first repeat of the chorus after the middle section. Unfortunately, it’s used repeatedly almost throughout the entire chorus, growing annoying and unnecessary.

Ominous VCS3 explosions herald the coming of “Mars�, another piece resurrected from the original lineup’s repertoire to great effect. Fripp and Collins’ twin mellotrons coupled with Sinfield’s menacing synth explosions add a dimension and layering not heard on the original reading. Unfortunately, the VCS3 is too high in the mix, and the piece pales next to the original lineup’s live renditions in terms of visceral power (although that may have to do with mixing just as much as the performance). It also takes cues from “The Devil’s Triangle�, particularly in the way the brass tritones are played, the ending music concrete meltdown, and the tranquil repeating mellotron flute notes at the end.

Overall, a very strong release with some very interesting and excellent performances. I wasn’t initially too keen on this live lineup of Crimso, but after hearing this release, I’d love to hear more of their stuff, and thus, I’d recommend it even to those not into this lineup.
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Postby Owen on Mon Feb 21, 2005 11:01 am

Fantastic review there WV. I wish I had your confidence with words.

One day, I want to write, or at least attempt to write, a book on a non-KC (well, only one step removed really) musician who shall not be named at this point to save potential embarrasment on my part. But, so far, I cannot begin to actually put words down. Research? Fine. But writing?...

I initially started contributing to forums such as (but not limited to) this one as a way to attempt to improve my poor literary skills... I don't know if I have come very far though really.

I've had some advice that I should try and write a fair-sized, publication-quality review of my favourite album by said un-named musician, and now, with this review, you may well have layed down the challenge!

Ever considered a career in writing? You're still fairly young aren't you?

Keep up the good work.

Cheers,
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Postby scorched earth on Mon Feb 21, 2005 12:24 pm

Yeah very impressive WV. You write with an authority that belies your age. And I think that's the first time anyone ever called Fripp clumsy and slow, lol.

Owen's praise was well-intentioned, but I'm sure you probably realize
"a career in writing" is something of an oxymoron. Could leave you twisted and bitter. I'd suggest a career like Owen's, sitting watching computer monitors, in between visits to the websites of your favorite bands. :wink:
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Postby Indyrod on Mon Feb 21, 2005 2:28 pm

That was an excellent review WV, and I encourage you to continue your efforts on all the albums. I'm sure we all would enjoy reading them, and they are good experience for you. Three cheers for WV!!!!!!!!!!!
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Postby evktalo on Mon Feb 21, 2005 4:40 pm

Yeah, great review WV!
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Postby vrooom on Mon Feb 21, 2005 5:45 pm

Bravo, WV.

I am glad someone is making the effort. It's looks like you and Owen are the only two members worth their salt.


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Postby Whiskey Vengeance on Mon Feb 21, 2005 10:55 pm

Thanks for the praise, guys! I'm not sure what I'll be reviewing next, but rest assured, it's coming!
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Re: King Crimson - Live at Plymouth Guildhall 1971 (KCCC 14)

Postby crimcinnaman on Tue Feb 22, 2005 3:47 pm

Nice review WV, but you never once said that the blah was "underpinned" by the blah-blah-blah. Furthermore you never mentioned any "strident" beats anywhere. Plus, if you really enjoyed the disc you would have mentioned how "gobsmacked" you were. Now I know you have a copy of Sid Smith's toxic tome, make sure you study it a bit more and it will be much easier to write a Crimson review.

What other Sid-isms am I leaving out? A li'l help?

Owen, I hope you're taking notes here...
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Re: King Crimson - Live at Plymouth Guildhall 1971 (KCCC 14)

Postby Owen on Tue Feb 22, 2005 10:56 pm

crimcinnaman wrote:Nice review WV, but you never once said that the blah was "underpinned" by the blah-blah-blah. Furthermore you never mentioned any "strident" beats anywhere. Plus, if you really enjoyed the disc you would have mentioned how "gobsmacked" you were. Now I know you have a copy of Sid Smith's toxic tome, make sure you study it a bit more and it will be much easier to write a Crimson review.

What other Sid-isms am I leaving out? A li'l help?

Owen, I hope you're taking notes here...


:lol:

Frantically writing this down with one hand as I type with the other!
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Re: King Crimson - Live at Plymouth Guildhall 1971 (KCCC 14)

Postby vrooom on Tue Feb 22, 2005 11:16 pm

Owen wrote:Frantically writing this down with one hand as I type with the other!


That's funny because crimcinnaman typed his message with one hand too...but he obviously had his cock in his good hand...

Wankerage, indeed. :P

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