There are so many King Crimson retrospective albums on the market that all but the most carefully attentive fans must to be hopelessly confused. Cirkus, great as it is in terms of content, doesn't help matters any. Pay attention now: whereas 1998's Absent Lovers (also a two-disc live album) documented King Crimson's 1984 tour (in support of Three of a Perfect Pair, the last album the band made before taking a ten-year break), Cirkus includes live material spanning the band's entire career, from its earliest 1969 lineup to its later double-trio configuration. That means that the material varies enormously in style; compositions from the late '60s and early '70s ("Ladies of the Road," "Starless," "21st Century Schizoid Man," etc.) tend toward that sprawling prog rock bombast that is thought of as typical of the era, complete with Mellotron and endless soloing. The early-'80s material is more tightly constructed and includes great live versions of "Neurotica" and the classic "Elephant Talk." There are also several performances of more recent tunes, on which the 1980s lineup has been augmented by another drummer and Chapman Stick player; the resulting sound combines some of the monstrous noise of the band's 1960s incarnations with the more disciplined structures of its 1980s phase, to good effect. Overall, the result will please fans, though newcomers may be bewildered by the huge variety of styles in evidence.
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AllMusic Review by Rick Anderson
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2