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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

King Crimson

Live in Vienna

Review by Gary Hill

It seems that there is quite a bit of live material being released from this version of King Crimson. That's a great thing because this line-up might be the best ever. Surely they are the most capable of reproducing and re-envisioning the various periods of the band's sounds and history. That line-up obviously includes the guy who basically is King Crimson, Robert Fripp. He's joined by Jakko Jakszyk who handles guitar and vocals. Tony Levin plays bass and stick. Mel Collins provides flute and saxophone. Pat Mastelotto, and Gavin Harrison are two of the drummers in this outfit. While Jeremy Stacy also plays drums here, he's not just a drummer. He also plays keyboards. The main concert here is from December 1st of 2016, but the third disc has some other material, too.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2018  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
CD One
           
Walk On - Monk Morph Music of the Chamber

Trippy weird sounds rise gradually upward. Space music meets classical in something that feels like it would fit well into a movie soundtrack. This instrumental is ambient and rather sparse until it rises up a bit near the end..

The Hell Hounds of Krim
Percussion brings this into being. In fact, it is a multi-drummer percussive exploration that is quite cool.
Pictures of a City
This pounds in with cool Crimson fury. It's a real powerhouse rocker, and a classy live rendition at that. This has a great hard rocking early King Crimson sound to it. Yet, this rendition brings a bit of a modern texture to the piece, too. The balance between the mellower and more rocking stuff on here is cool, and there is some awesome instrumental exploration. I particularly dig both the guitar and saxophone elements in that journey. This turns decidedly jazz-like for a while.
Dawn Song
A mellower number, this is set very much in old school King Crimson textures.
Suitable Grounds for the Blues
King Crimson seriously does the blues on this number. Mind you, it's King Crimson, so this is far from a straightforward blues piece. This is a cool rocker with plenty of intriguing twists and turns.
Vrooom
This instrumental works through a lot of flavors and moods. There are harder rocking sections and jazzier mellower movements. It's a killer instrumental cut and a great live performance.
The ConstruKction of Light
I love the rubbery bass groove that emerges at the start of this. This is another particularly effective instrumental that has a lot of intriguing twists and turns. There are so many amazing parts to this thing.
The Court of the Crimson King
It might be an obvious choice, but I've always loved this song. This live version is quite strong.
The Letters
Very much built on old-school jazzy King Crimson textures, this has a great balance between louder and softer passages. There are some strong instrumental explorations built into it, too. This is such an evocative and powerful piece.
Sailor's Tale
This has some powerhouse jamming built into it. The jazz and rock elements both work well against one another. It's trademark King Crimson and very powerful.
Interlude
Wind instrumentation and bass serve as the key factors of this mellower instrumental piece. There is a real spacey vibe to the cut.
Radical Action II
Hard rocking modern King Crimson is on hand here. This is a smoking instrumental number.
Level Five
Packed with powerhouse instrumental work, this thing is a dynamic progressive rock powerhouse. It's heavy King Crimson styled stuff with a number of changes and a lot of flavors and contrasts.
CD Two
                
Fairy Dust of the Drumsons

A short ambient piece, this is more or less an interlude than anything else.

Peace
A short mellower old school King Crimson ballad, this is delivered with style.
Cirkus
This early King Crimson piece gets an exceptional live performance. It makes great use of the balance between the mellower and the more rocking textures. The cut is packed with power and emotion.
Indiscipline
The King Crimson sound of the 80s is brought out for a spin and an updating here. I dig the Jakszyk sings the parts that were originally spoken. While it's a big change and might turn some people away, it brings something new to the table. It challenges the familiar, and isn't that really what a lot of Crimson is about?
Epitaph
I've always loved this song. This live takes it powerful. I don't like Jakszyk's voice as well as I do Greg Lake's on this, but you can't live in the past. This is a great version of the song that captures a lot of the original magic.
Easy Money
This King Crimson powerhouse gets a killer live treatment here. It is another with a good balance between the mellower and rocking movements. There is an intriguing balancing act between mainstream rocker and weird, tweaked elements. The trippy sort of jam later in the track is so classy. They take this through some interesting twists and turns along this musical road. They really stretch out on this number.
Devil Dogs of Tessellation Row
Here we get another percussion showcase.
Red
The title track to my favorite King Crimson album, this cut works quite well in this live telling. It's a powerhouse.
Meltdown
Set in a more modern King Crimson texture, there is still plenty of classic stuff on the menu in this track. It's a killer modern prog jam that works really well. There is a bit of a percussion solo later in the track, but it's not very long, and they bring it back out into the song proper from there.
Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Pt. Two
This powerhouse King Crimson classic gets a smoking hot live rendition here. They work through the various changes in fine style. The saxophone really wails. The guitars are particularly heavy. The whole thing really rocks like crazy.
Starless
Here we have a live rendition of what is definitely my favorite King Crimson song, and possibly my favorite progressive rock song of all time. This starts in fine fashion and works forward as you would imagine. They play it pretty faithfully and do a good job of reproducing the studio sound for live environment. Jakszyk's don't have quite the same power as John Wetton's did, but he comes close.
CD Three
       
Encores & Expansions
       
Heroes

This is a live recording of King Crimson's version of the classic David Bowie tune. While this is one of the most mainstream cuts here, they still manage to make it their own. It rocks out nicely and I dig Fripp's guitar work on this thing.

Fracture
The guitar brings this into being with some trademark Fripping. This instrumental piece gets a potent live performance here, working through the various changes and capturing the different moods of the tune.
21st Century Schizoid Man
One of King Crimson's best known songs, this powerhouse gets a killer live performance here. They tear through this thing in style. There is a rather extensive drum solo built into this piece, but they bring it back out to the song proper to end it in potent style.
Schoenberg Softened His Hat
Mellow atmospherics start this. This is very trippy and spacey. It's also quite weird.
Ahriman's Ceaseless Corruptions
This piece feels very similar to the previous one. It's an ambient, trippy kind of musical exploration. Definitely well described as "space music," this gets nicely strange and feels at times like a soundtrack to a horror film.
Spenta's Counter Claim
Another mellow musical journey, this is much shorter and more symphonic in an almost restful way.

 

 
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