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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

King Crimson

Meltdown - Live in Mexico

Review by Gary Hill

This is truly an amazing set. Looking at just the product itself, without even considering the performances will tell you that. It starts with three CDs, well over three hours of music. Then there is the Blu-Ray. The concert is included as a Blu-Ray disc that has some very great sound and video qualities. This is a professional film from start to finish. The Blu-Ray (and the CDs) include some songs (audio only in both formats) not included in the main concert, too.

On to the performance, for my money, this line-up of King Crimson is the most versatile, and probably the best, ever. They can pull off music from every phase of the band's catalog. When you look at the sheer range of sounds from the mellower, classically and jazz influenced early stuff to the 80s harder-edged, rather electronic based stuff and everything in-between, that's impressive. This lineup makes it work.

The talent in this band is un-paralleled. The stage set up is unusual with the three drummers (yes, unusual in itself) out front. The video uses a lot of split screen effects, but that's kind of necessary with an eight-man band. It's used tastefully, too. If you only own one live King Crimson set, I'd suggest you make it this one.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2019  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
CD One
               
Walk On

Ambient textures and a number of announcements make up the bulk of the concept here.  Beyond that, as you might guess, this is the music playing when the band walks onto the stage.

Larks' Tongues in Aspic Part One
Starting percussively, that gives way to screaming hot hard rocking prog. This works through the various sections one expects. At times it borders on metal. At other points there is a real groove to the cut. There are sections that are more percussively dominated. The flute driven movement later in the track brings some almost classical music airs. The whole thing is kind of mini-suite in itself. It is also a scorching number and a great way to start the set proper. They put in an inspired performance of it.
Neurotica
Percussion brings this one into being. It shifts out to a killer jam with a rubbery bass type stick line that gets horn over the top of it. They drive forward with a full band treatment that's on fire from there. The track eventually works to a more 80s Crimson sound. It's melodic and rocking with some intriguing shifts and changes.
Cirkus
Mellower old-school Crimson sounds start this. This number is rather tastefully off-kilter working through very vintage KC textures. They put in such a powerful and effective performance, really capturing the sound of the original version.
Dawn Song
Another begins sedate and old school in terms of Crimsonian sound, this works forward in a more straight-line way, feeling like folk prog. It has plenty of classical music built into it, too.
Last Skirmish
Powering in, this feels even heavier in comparison to the mellower textures of the previous cut. It's decidedly vintage King Crimson sound, too. It's a more dynamic and twisting ride. There are some killer musical moments along the journey. They put in a killer performance of this number. It's just so inspired.
Prince Rupert's Lament
More of a transitional piece of music, this has some killer instrumental textures, particularly from the guitar. It's very much a guitar dominated number, with classic King Crimson sounds tempered with more modern ones.
The Hell Hounds of Krim
This percussion workout lets all three drummers really shine. I have to say that I'm not usually a big fan of drum solos, but this one works.
Red
I'm a big fan of this song, and they put in a fierce and fiery performance of it. There are some modern flavorings infused, but it's also very much in line with the original studio rendition.
Fallen Angel
Another from the Red album, they put in a killer performance of this one, too. The track is a more subtle one than the title track was. They manage to capture the different elements of it well.
Islands
A much mellower cut, this is based mostly on piano and voice. While there are other instruments (particularly a horn solo later), that basic concept is the main element on hand here. This is a classic example of that older period of the band, and how this lineup can recreate that sound effectively. This piece is over nine-minutes long and does work out to a more full arrangement later, bringing some jazz with it when it does.
The Talking Drum
Seeming to come out of the previous piece, they put in a powerful and grooving rendition of this classic Crimson jam.
Larks' Tongues in Aspic Part Two
They fire in with fury and passion here. This is another killer live performance of a King Crimson standard.
CD Two
   
Indiscipline
This cut from the 80s era gets a killer rendition here. I think that this seems to gain a harder edge and a more prominent percussive vibe. One big change here is that the vocals are sung rather than spoken as they were on the original. It lends a completely different flavor.
The Construkction of Light
The fast paced and rubbery bass-end stick riff that opens this is so cool. The track builds outward from there in fine fashion. They take it through the various shifts and changes in a powerhouse jam.
Epitaph
This early Crimson-tune is so cool. They manage to update it a bit, while still preserving the magic completely.
Banshee Legs Bell Hassle
Featuring tuned percussion sounds, this is a short bit of trippy stuff.
Easy Money
I have always loved this song. They fire in with style and power as they begin this. This version is quite true to the studio performance in a lot of ways. It's also inspired and passionate. Things go into some unusual, but also cool, directions mid-track.
Interlude
This instrumental piece is rather mellow and a bit trippy. It's also very cool.
The Letters
I love this song. It's such a pretty balladic (overall) number. They put in a particularly effective and passionate performance of it, too. The powered up sections serve as a great contrast to the mellower movements.
The Sailor's Tale
Coming in powered up and really rocking, this is another strong entry. They update this and get it into some seriously hard-edged and intense stuff further down the road.
Catalytikc No. 9
Just less than a minute and a half long, this is a percussive workout.
Meltdown
A more modern King Crimson sound drives this number. It's another killer live performance that works really well. This has some killer changes and flavors and is a great tune delivered with style and magic.
Radical Action II
This is a powerhouse King Crimson jam with some prominent percussive elements. The flute jamming later is a nice touch.
Level Five
Coming out of the previous jam there is some electronic percussive stuff in this number, but it also is tempered by extended bursts of hard-edged classic Crimson crazed jamming.
Starless
This is not only my favorite King Crimson song, but it's also my favorite progressive rock song. They put in a powerful performance here that's quite true to the studio version.
CD Three
                     
Peace - An End

They put in a good performance of this mellower number.

Pictures of a City
More old-school Crimson gets delivered with style and passion here. They really pull off the sound of that version of the band so well here. This is purely on fire.
Devil Dogs of Tessellation Row
This is another percussion piece.
Fracture
Crazed guitar brings this into being. This is another powerhouse live recording of a performance that is packed full of King Crimson magic. This goes through all kinds of changes and really rocks.
The Court of the Crimson King
This is probably King Crimson's best known song. They put in a great performance that captures the original sound of the band. This is quite true to the original. It's also very effective.
Heroes
Here they put trademark King Crimson stylings on a David Bowie song. While I like this, and it made for a cool single, I don't think it rises to the level of their original material.
21st Century Schizoid Man
If "The Court of the Crimson King" has competition for KC's best known tune, this might be it.  They deliver this one with all the fire and fury you'd expect. It's another that's quite true to the sound of the original . They do put a bit of a drum solo into the middle of this version.
Bonus Tracks 2018 Official Bootleg
                
Discipline

There is some extended silence before this number. An 80s era King Crimson song, this gets another hot and rather faithful live performance.

Moonchild
I've always had a love/hate relationship with this song. While I really do love the song proper, the mellow wandering mid-track has traditionally left me a bit bored. Fortunately, they leave that section out on this live performance, just including the meat of the number.
Tony's Cadenza
A Tony Levin solo section, this is classy.
Jeremy's Cadenza
This piano solo is pretty.
Breathless
Hard rocking, fast paced and trademark King Crimson, this is so hot. It works through some changes, getting a bit more melodic and soaring at times.
Cool Jam
A rather freeform jazz styled jam, this is classy stuff. While it remains on the quieter end of the spectrum, it gets very intense.
 
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