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King Crimson

Larks’ Tongues In Aspic (The Complete Recording Sessions)

Review by Gary Hill

This is quite an interesting set. It's been released in honor of the 50th Anniversary of King Crimson's Larks' Tongues in Aspic album. We get two CDs here along with two Blu-Rays. The Blu-Rays contain audio rather than video, but since I am reviewing this as an audio release, I think the best route is to just look at those as bonus features here.

The first CD here includes the original album remixed along with several instrumental mixes. The remix was done by Steven Wilson, and I'm not always sold on his remixes. In this case, I think he did an amazing job. It doesn't really change the feeling of the album, but it enhances it. I think that this version really should be considered the definitive one. Everything you loved about the original album is there, but it sounds better.

The second CD includes alternate mixes. I think some of those work better than others. The Blu-Rays include more mixes and recordings than the CDs, but they also include the stuff on the CDs in various sound mixes. This also includes a great booklet. It is an amazing set.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2024  Volume 1 More information and purchase links can be found at:

Track by Track Review
CD1 Larks' Tongues in Aspic (2023 Mix and Instrumentals)
Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Pt. 1

"Basically the first three minutes of this are taken up by a percussion solo. Mind you, it’s not the type of thing you’ll think of by hearing that description. We’re talking ambient percussion, tuned percussion, chimes and the like. From there they fire out into a crunch-fest jam that has as much to do with “21st Schizoid Man” as it does with the sounds the group would later produce. We get stomping metallic jams on this in the style of that early song, but we also get symphonic music. This is a startling juxtaposition of noisy periods set off by mellow beauty. They take us through a series of changes and alterations. If you don’t like where the track is at, just wait a little while – it will change. In many ways you could look at this as a series of short form musical concepts strung together. At over thirteen and a half minutes in length, disjointed that it might be it’s also the longest track on show here. For my money the most effective portion of this track is the killer closing section. It has a wonderful musical texture to it." That's almost exactly what I wrote when I first reviewed the earlier mix of this album. While that description of the piece still fits very well, I would say that the sound here is much better than that on the original release. The peaks and valleys seem even better differentiated, and the whole thing just feels somehow more vital.

Book of Saturday
Here's what I said about this song in the original review: "This is a gentle and pretty song that’s essentially a ballad with elements of jazz and classical music serving as the icing on the musical cake." Again, that fits here, but the sound is just improved from the original version of the album.
"Noisy sounds – far back in the mix, though, lead this off and hold it for a time. Eventually a symphonic sort of melody begins to rise upward gradually. Rather than fully taking over, though, they change gears completely and take us out into a very classically inspired melodic movement. This is beautiful and serves as the backdrop for John Wetton’s vocals. After this section they turn this out towards symphonic drama. They eventually pull this through several changes and again I find the closing sequence to be the most powerful – although the whole piece works very well. It’s somewhat disjointed, but seems more coherent than the album’s opener." That's what I said about this track in the original review. Again, it fits this version well, but this just sounds so much better.
Easy Money
I've always been a big fan of this song. This is what I said about it in the original review: "Here we get the most 'song like' track on show here. Well, the other contender is 'Book of Saturday.' This is a great rocker and it’s quite coherent and consistent. They still manage to pull it out into some cool instrumental explorations. To me this is one of the highlights of the disc. It has a lot in common with the Starless and Bible Black album." It seems, like most of the stuff here, that this mix allows the sounds to really open up and be heard. Things that might not have been as easy to discern can be heard on this version. It's a real improvement on something that I didn't know needed improvement.
The Talking Drum
"This starts off slow and builds very gradually. It’s another instrumental, but it’s more cohesive than some of the other ones on the disc. This track might take a little while to find its power, but when it does it really rocks. There are hard rock elements and bits of jazz and a lot of classical in the mix. This is another highlight of the album." That's what I said about this song the first time around.
Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Pt. 2
"When people think of this album the opening riff of this is probably one of the first things they think of. This is actually another strong piece of music. Another instrumental it has a lot in common with Red. It alternates between hard edged crunchy driving sounds and more classically oriented mellow textures. They do work through a series of changes and alterations on this one, but it’s more coherent than the portion that opened the disc. It’s also only a little over half the length of that track, too. " That's what I said about this track first time around. It's still completely true, but the sound on this is just so much better. That first section just rings like magic on this CD.
Additional Material:
Book of Saturday (Instrumental Mix)

This is what it says it is, an instrumental version of the earlier track. It works well in this format.

Exiles (Instrumental Mix)
Somehow, this takes on an almost other-worldy, trippy vibe at the start in this mix. It feels downright creepy at times. This evolves outward to the prettier, almost folk rock sounds. This just sounds so crisp and clear. It really feels more like it ties into the earliest King Crimson sounds in this instrumental mix.
Easy Money (Instrumental Mix)
You get the basic idea of what we have here via the title and parenthetical. This again rises beyond the version on the original album in terms of sound and making out various elements. That said, I swear there are some things included here that aren't on the album version, including a whole section and some weird voices. This is all class.
CD2 Larks' Tongues in Aspic (Elemental Mixes and Selected Master Reels)
Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part One (Elemental Mix)

This mix puts the focus on different parts of the sound. I'm not overly crazy about the way the percussion section at the beginning sounds here. I'm also not a fan of the bird sounds around the mid-point. The part where the violin really shines is cool. There are other effective portions of this mix, too.

Easy Money (Elemental Mix)
The differences on this mix are much subtler. I like it quite a bit.
The Talking Drum (Elemental Mix)
The mix here feels noisier and weirder at times. At other points it's closer to the original. It's effective like this, but I prefer the version on the other disc.
Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part Two (Elemental Mix)
There are a couple points where this gets into some rather strange territory with the mix, but overall it works well. Again, I prefer the other mix, but this is cool.
Exiles - Master Reel Take 4 Backing
This mix is just what you would expect from the title. I'm not sure how well it stands on its own, but as a constructive thing, it's interesting.
Book Of Saturday - Master Reel Guide Vocals, Guitar, Violin Overdubs
I would say essentially the same thing about this song as I said about the last one.
Book Of Saturday - Master Reel Bass Pass 2, Vocals with Vocal Overdubs
This version works a little better because of the greater focus on the vocals. I still prefer the album version, but this is interesting.
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