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King Crimson

The Collectable King Crimson, Vol. 3: Live in London, Pts. 1-2 1996

Review by Gary Hill

I’ve never had the chance to see King Crimson live. I really regret that. I had tickets once and drove an hour plus in pouring rain to get to the show only to find out that the power was out and the concert was cancelled. So, I’ve always wondered how the more modern incarnations of King Crimson interpreted the 1970’s music of the group. Well, this double disc live set from 1996 (featuring the double trio lineup of Adrian Belew, Robert Fripp, Trey Gunn, Tony Levin, Pat Maselotto and Bill Bruford) shows that the group did a great job of both preserving and updating the older music. This is an awesome concert and they actually seem to have assembled it as a complete concert recording, from the time Fripp opens the stage – he weaves an ambient soundscape in lieu of an opening act right through the final exit. It’s a cool effect and really creates a “you are there” feeling. I like this album a lot and I’m sure anyone who has ever been a fan of King Crimson will find it to be equally rewarding.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc: 1
Introductory Soundscape
A man comes on the stage and states that Robert Fripp will be doing a solo soundscape after which King Crimson will play. Fripp does, in fact take the stage and launch into an ambient soundscape. This lasts for over twenty four minutes – well, that’s including the spoken introduction. For listening at home it tends to drag a bit. Although, it does allow for a more accurate concert experience. You can hear applause near the end as the other members of King Crimson make their way to the stage.

Conundrum
This is a drum solo to lead off the Crimson part of the concert.
Thela Hun Ginjeet
I really like this version of this song a lot. It seem even more rubbery than the studio version if that’s possible. They pull it out into a lot more of a jam than what we get on the studio album, too. This thing is a powerful piece of music here and includes some stellar instrumental work from all players. For my money the vocals are even a bit stronger here. The closing excursion on this feels a lot like Red era Crimson to me.
Neurotica
A siren leads off here and then they fire out into this frantic journey. It’s noisy and a bit cacophonic at times. They drop it way back mid track and we get a melodic vocal line over this. This is worked and reworked and even takes on an almost surf sound at times. Eventually they shift out into the more chaotic section that lead it off. This serves as the outro.

Red
I’ve always wondered how this piece (one of my favorites from Crimson) would translate with a different version of the band. Well, they put forth a fairly true to form rendition. Yes, it has a bit more modern flavor at times, but this is not really enough of a transformation to color the way you feel about the piece. It’s actually a great live version.
Waiting Man
Starting on tuned percussion, Tony Levin joins shortly. Once Belew’s voice comes in the music drops back a bit and I’d have to describe this as coming as close as King Crimson probably ever will to reggae. Of course, now that I’ve said that, their next CD will probably have a Bob Marley cover. In any event, mid track they turn this out into a more typical progressive rock jam. The first part of this – Robert Fripp will probably hate that I said this – reminds me a bit of Trevor Rabin era Yes. They move this out into a cool jam that’s one part modern KC and one part jazz. Eventually this gives way to a return to the song proper.
Dinosaur
A rather symphonic intro is our gateway here. Then we get a more typical modern KC sound, hard edged and cool. The verse is delivered over a dropped down motif and I actually hear hints of the Beatles on this section. The chorus comes in with the harder segment we heard earlier. They take it through some alterations and at times I can hear a healthy dosage of Talking Heads in this. Mid-song they drop it way down for a mellow instrumental section that starts rather playful and then turns symphonic and quite serious in tone. When they pound back out into typical Crimsonoid instrumental screaming it seems even louder due to this little interlude. After the hard edged segment runs through they drop it down for a short bit of soundtrack type music and then a quick blast of sound ends it.
Three of a Perfect Pair
I’ve always loved this swirling, rubbery tune and this live version is even better than the studio take. They throw a few twists into the mix, but overall this is pretty true to form.
Improv I
This is a soaring sort of noisy music. It can’t be called ambient, but on the other hand it is made up of textural waves of sound.
Vrooom Vrooom
This powerhouse has always felt to me like it would fit with the Red era of the band. Loud and bombastic, it weaves a twisted sonic course. It drops way down mid track for a mellower exposition. This is only a short break, though, as they come back out and scorch through another furious mode before they end.
Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream
This cut is quirky and cool. It’s got that Adrian Belew vibe in that it’s weird and yet catchy. I’ve always liked this one a lot and live it works quite well. They throw in a scorching jam and twist the track a little towards the weirder side as they carry on. We also get treated to a Red styled jam late in the piece.
Vrooom
Once more they pound in and in many ways this sounds like a continuation of the last piece, but in instrumental format. You can also make out elements of stuff like “Larks’ Tongues…” on this. It’s another powerhouse and works through a series of variations and alterations. One of King Crimson’s strengths has always been the way they create drama by placing mellow segment next to louder ones. This track is no exception as they pull it way down a couple times for short melodic interludes to make the rest of the cut seem that much more furious. They crescendo to take it into the next track.
Coda Marine 475
Here we get a dramatic dirge-like Crimson jam that takes us down a descending staircase. Appropriately this track closes the CD as it was the last song before they took an intermission. This is a powerful number.
Disc: 2
Larks' Tongues In Aspic Pt II
One of only a few tracks from the 1970’s era of the band to be presented here, they power this on out in typical fashion – keeping it quite true to the studio rendition. The careening riff that makes up much of this track is brilliant. Once again they create contrast and drama by pairing this with a more melodic excursion to great effect. While most of this remains quite close to the original recording, there are some different textures as they get into the mid-section. The nearly metallic jam later starts in pretty close to the original but turns a corner into something purely incredible with an increased fury and intensity. When they come back to the melodic themes from there it seems to have a different texture to it. All in all this is an awesome rendition that captures the original quite well, while still updating it.
Frame By Frame
From the 1980’s period of the band’s career, this swirls around nicely and Belew’s voice tells the tale in a tasty manner. After the first vocal section they take this out into a jam that’s definitely connected to the original song construction, but creates some intriguing variants on that theme. They bring it back to the song proper and then take into more familiar, yet previously unexplored territory. The closing jam on this piece is especially powerful.
Matte Kudasai
Always a melodic and gentle piece, it seems like they play this one even slower than the original. It’s a more cohesive piece than most of that the band does. As such it makes for a pleasant break from all the intense music.
B'Boom
Atmospheric elements lead this off. They grow ever so gradually for two minutes or so. Then percussion begins to take a dominant place in the piece. It’s a while before it really gains control, though. Eventually it does and it’s an all out drum solo for the rest of the piece. 
Thrak
This pounds in with a Red era type of abandon. Weirder elements skate across the top as they carry forward. This has the feeling of someone hitting at a brick with a mallet. A little before the minute mark they drop it way back down to ambience. Weird noises and other sounds come and go in a free-form sort of arrangement. Eventually this becomes more urgent and noisy. At around the three minute mark percussion gives us a false ending and then we move back into the free form weirdness, just in a new direction. This never really ends per se, but rather just gives way to the next piece.
21st Century Schizoid Man
The quintessential King Crimson rocker and probably the first song to meld heavy metal and progressive rock – even though neither of those genres existed by those names at the time. This is a powerhouse and works quite well in this treatment. They move this out into a rather freeform jam, but in many ways it is another example of how the band recreate the music of the older versions of King Crimson in a way that is marked as modern and belonging to this lineup, yet still captures much of the spirit and sound of the older version. Truly when this really gets going here I’m reminded more of Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Crimson than I am In the Court of the Crimson King era. They pull it back together for the fast paced guitar start and stop section quite nicely, though.
Indiscipline
They certainly take more liberties with this, from the 1980’s incarnation’s Discipline CD than they do anything else. This has always been an odd, but extremely cool track with powerhouse jams interspersed with near silence that accompanies a sort of twisted monologue. Well, in this rendition they add a whole new instrumental segment to the beginning – representing almost the first three minutes of the piece. They make some other changes as they go along, too. For instance, Belew’s vocal at times seems extremely fast. They create new waves of sound and intensities within the musical structure, too – and take the later parts off on short new excursions. This is simply incredible. As cool as the original was, this outdoes it by a longshot. When Belew shouts, “I like it!” at the end I have to heartily agree. Obviously this cut closed the main second set of the concert as we get a lot of crowd sounds afterwards – leading up to the encore.
Prism
This is an extensive percussion solo.
Elephant Talk
They play a lot of this true to form, the jabbing lines of sound creating the backdrop for the vocals. The elephant music section, though seems fully reconfigured and re-imagined. This is a smoking hot rendition and a great way to end things.
 
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