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King Crimson

The Great Deceiver, Vol. 1: Live 1973-1974 Volume 2

Review by Gary Hill

This, along with Volume 2, is a reissue of a 4 CD set that came out in the 1990’s. It captures the Larks Tongues In Aspic / Starless and Bible Black era King Crimson in a series of live shows. While I’ve found something to enjoy about every incarnation of the group, this particular lineup was always my favorite. So, I really find these recordings to be incredible. The sound quality on the CD’s is great. The music is inspired and the whole group seem to be enjoying stellar performances. The end result is a set of CD’s that is a “must have” for fans of King Crimson or progressive rock in general. Of course, how can you be a fan of progressive rock and not like King Crimson? My only complaint on this particular set is the packaging. CD 1 (on the back sleeve) lists 11 tracks, but only the first 9 are present. Mind you, the booklet is corrected. I can remember running into similar problems with some Crimson discs released in the 1970’s. I would have thought that in the new millennium they would have fixed this kind of labeling sloppiness. It should be mentioned, though, that it is really a nitpicking kind of complaint and has no impact on the enjoyment of this set. This is an incredible live recording of some awe-inspiring performances.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
Things Are Not What They Seem
Providence, Rhode Island – Palace Theatre: June 30th, 1974
Walk On...No Pussyfooting
This short piece is very quiet ambient elements. It serves as an introduction to the powerhouse that’s about to begin.

Larks' Tongues In Aspic: Part Two
Screaming in, this track is the hard edged Crimson at its apex. It alternates between the hard rocking chaotic motifs and more mellow interludes. We get light and dark in alternating patterns that create a wonderful effect when taken as a whole.  The screaming echoey violin on this is riveting as is the whole arrangement.
Lament
This song begins with a ballad-like movement. After a time it wanders out into an instrumental movement. This gives way to the hard rocking section of the piece. We get another frantic, off-kilter instrumental movement after that. This is one of those cuts that just keeps reinventing itself. It’s a powerhouse and seems even more powerful live. These guys are purely on fire here.
Exiles
Here they come in with a piece of ambience, but the track grows upward after a short time in a very dramatic and powerful piece of music. It has a lot of emotion and majesty as the elements of sound dance around one another over the top of a mid-tempo, fairly mellow arrangement. This alternates between soaring movements (some with vocals, some instrumental) and more ambient modes. King Crimson in this era were always masters of the alternating motifs and this track shows if off as well as the louder ones. This is a wonderful and very beautiful piece of music. It does turn quite heavy for a short burst before closing out. The ending of this is an extended segment of spoken interaction with the crowd.
Improv - A Voyage To the Centre Of the Cosmos
This comes in fuzzy and rather funky. They move through a number of variations and remunerations of this musical format. The instruments sway and dance around one another in a potent musical excursion. There is some seriously scorching music going on here on this extended piece of music. It twists out later into a noisy piece of space and then drops back to near ambience. It becomes quite classical as it carries on and then turns more noisy, but still with some of that classical music texture. It threatens to rise back up into a smoking hard rock jam. This doesn’t come to fruition, though. Instead they turn it even more ambient for a while. They eventually do power out into another smoking hard rock journey, but then drop it way back to end.
Easy Money
This number has always been another personal favorite. It’s one part slightly raunchy bluesy rocker – like were so popular in the 1970’s – and one part prog rock masterpiece. The thing is rather than coming across as a huge contrast, the two sounds complement and complete each other.
Improv - Providence
Weirdness starts things off here and holds the performance for a while. Sounds like an orchestra tuning competes with other instrumental components to create a texture that is at once fairly sedate and also rather noisy. This works through various patterns that have a rather random feel to them. Eventually the group explode out into a powerhouse prog rock journey that has plenty of crunch in the recipe. They take this path for a while and then drop way back down again to repeat the building process in new ways. This time, though, rather than explode out once more they take it towards funky territory and then the violin solos over the top. This gives way after a time to a very noisy crescendo that ends the piece.
Fracture
After a short ambient introduction Fripp’s picked guitar creates swirling patterns of sound. After a while with this leading the way the group launch out into the pounding hard rock central structure to carry on. We keep dropping back here and there to Fripp, though and Wetton’s bass provides the accents. Once again it’s a fine example of Crimson’s approach to contrasting elements of dark and light. Several variations and musical themes are played with and this moves in directions that seem related to, but not always the same, as the studio performances. It’s always been a killer instrumental and it seems even more powerful and effective here. Wetton shows off his bass skills at a couple points with some seriously frantic playing. These guys slip from one musical journey to another with such ease that it’s scary.

Starless
In my opinion this piece is the quintessential progressive rock song. By that, I mean that if you want to present someone one piece of music and say, “this is what progressive rock is” and have it present the most comprehensive and appealing picture, this would be the song. With a track that I personally hold in such high regard you can imagine that I’d really like this live rendition. You’d be correct. It captures all the nuances, emotion and power of the track with an immediacy and intimacy that you just can’t get on a studio recording. I still love this piece of music every bit as much as I did before. I did a more thorough job of reviewing the studio version when I looked at the Red disc a while ago, so I won’t repeat a lot of that. Suffice it to say that we get plenty more of Crimson’s contrasting operations and some impeccable performances by all involved.

Disc 2
Sleight of Hand (Or Now You Don’t See It Again) And…
Providence … continued (encore)
21st Century Schizoid Man
A Crimson classic, the group go from what (at the time) was the most recent King Crimson music to the earliest for this encore. This lineup of the band puts in a screaming, nearly metallic rendition. I’m not sure that I like this better than the studio version, but it certainly is its equal. In some ways comparisons between this song and Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” are warranted, but this one predates that by a bit. So, perhaps Ozzy and company dug this song – or maybe it’s just one of those rock music coincidences prompting a whimsical daydream. In any event, the band are simply on fire with this live performance. The fast paced jam is furious and fiery. It certainly has more oomph than the original. If the whole race were based on that one section of the track, this version would win out, but there are some definite charms to other portions of the original recording. This turns into some killer space type jamming, a bit in the mode of early Hawkwind. The liner notes say that the group was “knackered” by this point. Well, you can’t hear any signs of exhaustion on this performance. It just doesn’t get much better than this.
Walk Off From Providence...No Pussyfooting
The set is closed in much the same was as it began, with a reprise of the ambient sounds that were first heard.
Walk on to Glasgow … Glasgow Apollo: October 23rd, 1973
Sharks' Lungs In Lemsip
The first track from the Glasgow show, the first half of this consists of just crowd sounds. Then violin rises up from this in a gentle melody. Other instruments appear along the road, but it doesn’t rise far beyond atmospheric. That isn’t to say that it doesn’t veer into noisy chaos, it does. It just means that it doesn’t really move into the realm of melody required to consider this a “song.” It is more just a short introductory jam that leads into the next piece. That said, it does carry some hints of familiar themes.
Lark's Tongues In Aspic: Part One
While the first disc gave us “Lark’s Tongues In Aspic: Part Two,” here we get the first installment. This starts with neo-classical elements before firing off into a rather metallic jam. Then more classically inspired modes take it back and pull us into a dramatic and powerful new excursion. The Crimsoid tendency to focus on shade and light is present here as it their proclivity to veer off into frantic instrumental excursions. So, too is the musician’s incredible skill at pulling off instrumental pyrotechnics and crazy turns here. Mid song they drop it way back for a move into neo-classical music with the violin taking over. At around the four and a half minute this gives way to an Asian inspired surge, still on just the violin. Other instruments threaten to join, but then drop away giving the violin full reign once more. It uses this time for more gentle passages and then percussion takes a short lead in the ambient sound category. The whole group rise up from there in a frantic jam. This increases gradually in volume levels and turns out into a classically tinged, hard edged prog jam for a time. Then it shifts out into more dramatic, crunchy progressive rock. This motif is worked down into a balladic version of itself for a couple measures and then fades away. Other sounds threaten to take over, but instead they serve to end the number.
Book of Saturday
Sedate prog ballad motifs make up this. Wetton’s vocal delivery is, as always, inspired. He runs through a bit of scat singing on this piece. In some ways the whole piece has a bit of a jazzy feeling to it. This piece shows that Crimson knew how to create emotional music and weren’t restricted to just throwing endless patterns of fiery instrumental fury. This whole thing is lovely and fairly restrained.
Easy Money
The sole repeat from the previous set, they put in another killer rendition here. There’s not much to really add here except to say that this is not noticeably all that different from the other showing.

We'll Let You Know
Starting with harmonics, this is rather spacey at first. This early section is extended from the version on the studio release. It’s around the one minute mark where the more familiar themes of rising guitar feedbacked lines appear. Then the bass rises up in the rather funky pattern and the whole jam begins to coalesce from there. This is another powerhouse musical excursion. Its timing is a bit odd and the lines of sound seem to skate around one another in almost random patterns. That’s part of the beauty of the creation of this beast. The live venue seems an excellent place to show off the charms of “We’ll Let You Know.” The whole thing purely shines in a rock and roll turned complex and rather twisted approach. Everyone gets bonus points on this one for stellar performances.
The Night Watch
This seems to rise even more gradually than it did in its studio appearance. For my money the power and magic of this track has always been the emotional performance. Despite the finesse of the instrumental work and arrangement I’ve always felt Wetton’s vocals carried the biggest portion of the track. This live version is a solid one and shows that the track translates well into the live performance venue. This is such a great piece of music.
Improv - Tight Scrummy
Here we get another improvised piece. Percussion leads it in. The bass joins after a time and then other elements emerge tentatively at first.  As one might imagine, they work through a number of varying textures and motifs, in a slowly altering pattern of sounds and elements. This is classic Crimson and shows that improvisation is possible and can create some intense music.
Peace - A Theme
This short theme is performed here and works quite well.
Cat Food
I have to admit, this has always been a throwaway Crimson song for me.  This performance is certainly worlds better than the studio one, and goes a little way (but certainly not all the way) towards changing my mind on that stance.

Penn State University: June 29th, 1974
Easy Money
Here we get yet another performance of “Easy Money.” This one has some minor differences from the others, but not enough to really point it out as dramatically different. After all, it’s all the same song. This is a very short rendition, though.
It Is For You, But Not For Us
Here we get a pretty and inspired instrumental excursion. This has a fairly gentle platform, but that doesn’t prevent them from powering out into some smoking instrumental sections here and there.
 
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