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King Crimson

Music Is Our Friend: Live In Washington D.C. and Albany 2021

Review by Gary Hill

I have to say that for my money, the modern incarnation of King Crimson really is probably the best. The reason I say that is that there are distinct periods of the band throughout their history. Each produced music unique to that period, and many times live the newer incarnations didn't seem to be able to faithfully reproduce the older sounds. Mind you, I'm basing that assessment on live recordings as I've never seen KC live (almost did once, but a power outage cancelled the show). I think this latest incarnation was the only one that could properly cover all periods of the band's history. So, I am glad they've released so many live recordings from this period. This one has some great music (they all do, though) and at times they take more liberties with the material, which is a nice (if not universally successful) thing. It should be noted that all of the first disc and the first five tracks of the second are from the D.C. show, with the remainder from the Albany one.

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Track by Track Review
CD One:
Introductory Soundscape

As you might guess, this starts atmospheric and rises up gradually. There is a spoken introduction that comes over the top as this works through. Various elements climb up over the top of the arrangement near the end.

The Hell Hounds Of Krim
Percussion brings this in with a galloping sort of vibe. It works through shifts and changes as quite a cool percussion solo.
Larks' Tongues In Aspic Part I
Percussion continues as the only instrumentation as this gets underway. Around a minute in the familiar guitar sound and melodies rise up to drive this outward from there. We're taken through the various shifts and changes on this smoking hot hard rocking prog ride. I don't know if this song has ever sounded better than it sounds here.
Pictures Of A City
This classic song really gains some new life here. It has all the jazzy, hard rocking goodness it's always had. It just seems more vital and powerful in this live telling. I've never been a huge fan of the original, but the recent live recordings of it have changed my mind on that. They work through all the usual twists and turns and take it into some killer space jazz zones, too. There is some crazed jamming as they drive forward from there until it works back to the song proper.
The Court Of The Crimson King
One of the band's best known tunes, this live rendition is so tasty. While this is largely faithful, it does feel different in small degrees. They really do it justice. They shorten the weird instrumental section, which is an improvement. Some of the later jamming takes on some oddly detuned almost circus music elements that add a different angle, too.
I've always been a big fan of the Red album and, of course, this title track. There are some new layers added to the mix on this. It gets an even more crazed and busy approach via those additions. I'm not positive that it's all positive change, but change is good, either way. This is much less straightforward and predictable via those augmentations. There is no argument on that.
Tony Cadenza Deals It Slitheryacious-To-The-Max
This is a fairly short, but equally cool solo from Tony Levin.
Starting as a crazed percussion workout, bass joins and this turns to some serious jazz as it continues driving forward. This thing is a real powerhouse with a lot of old school jazz vibes at its core. Yet there are driving Crimsonian guitar parts in the track, too.
One More Red Nightmare
Another favorite of mine, they put in a smoking hot live take on this cut. They play this one pretty close to the original.
With a visit to the 80s, I really dig how this cut gets updated here. The vocals are definitely a big change. While the more musical ones here are cool, I think I prefer the original vocal approach to this tune.
CD Two:

This number gets a classy live telling here. This does a great job of capturing the tone, mood and magic of the piece, while also updating it to some degree. Of course, some of that updating is more a function of a live versus studio take on it.

Radical Action II
A pounding, driving King Crimson jam, this is such a classy stomper.
Level Five
Another cut from the same sort of Crimson sound as the previous number, this gets really crazed and intense. It's driving and so tasty.
This song has a very special significance for me. I think it's the quintessential prog rock piece. It's the number I would play for someone to try to demonstrate prog. They bring this in with a very faithful sound and texture. This is such a strong live take. I really feel the do the majesty of the number justice.
21st Century Schizoid Man
Another of the most classic King Crimson songs, they deliver a smoking hot take here. As with some of the music on the first disc of the set, this gets some updating in some of the later portions. It remains true to the spirit of the original, though. That said, they turn this into a nearly 15-minute piece with an intense percussion workout mid-track. I have to admit to losing interest a bit during that extended section. That said, I'm just not a big fan of drum soloing, so it shouldn't be a big shock.
Tony Cadenza Serves It Piping Hot
Here we get another Tony Levin bass solo. As a bass player I'm a fan of bass solos, and Levin is one of my favorite players, so this rocks in my opinion.
We're back into 80s Crimson zones here. This feels rather updated in terms of the delivery. Horn definitely adds a different angle to this sound. I think it's a good addition.
Larks' Tongues In Aspic Part II
Here we get a smoking hot live performance of another of the "Larks' Tongues" pieces. This gets so crazed and so cool before it's over and done. It has some smoking hot jamming along the road.
I've never been a big fan of this tune. That said, it works so well here. The piano is beautiful, and the vocals are quite effective. The saxophone lends some great flavorings. There are some dramatic and lush, rather jazz line moments as this cut moves forward.

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