After three years and four albums, the '80s incarnation of King Crimson, featuring Adrian Belew (guitar/vocals/drums), Bill Bruford (drums/percussion), Robert Fripp (guitar) and Tony Levin (bass/stick/synth/vocal) wrapped up their initial collaborative efforts at the conclusion of their 1984 North American tour. Absent Lovers (1998) presents the July 11, 1984 parting performance at the Spectrum in Montreal, Quebec in its entirety. As the show was simulcast on FM radio, decent sounding copies have been traded amongst the faithful for years, although not in such stunning fidelity or completeness. While the contents draw primarily from the Discipline (1981), Beat (1982) and Three of a Perfect Pair (1984) long-players, the quartet likewise dip into the vintage Krim catalog. Searing and nimble readings of the title instrumental from the LP Red (1974), as well as the second movement of Larks' Tongues in Aspic (1973) are rendered with arguably more energy and aggression than the decade-old originals. They also equal the intensity of recent arrivals "Thela Hun Ginjeet" and "Sleepless," especially with the addition of Belew's incisive lyrics and duelling fretwork with Fripp. Belew's versatility is prominent as he counters with the gorgeous "Matte Kudasai," the surreal automobile anthem "Dig Me" and the intricately entwined melodies heard in "Frame by Frame," "Three of a Perfect Pair" and "Elephant Talk." The formidable rhythm section are accounted for with Levin commanding the lower registers and providing the occasional backing vocal. While he is flawless throughout, his contributions to "Sleepless" and "Industry" are nothing short of definitive and helped delineate the resonance of this lineup. Overall, Absent Lovers is a perfect way for enthusiasts to remember this aggregate or for the curious to hear what all the fuss is about.
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AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2