King Crimson

Live in Guildford, 1972

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Although this document of King Crimson's third lineup is only a three-quarter-hour fragment of what was, presumably, a longer show, it's among the very few audio artifacts to feature the personnel of Bill Bruford (drums), David Cross (violin/flute/Mellotron), Robert Fripp (guitar/Mellotron), Jamie Muir (percussion/all sorts), and John Wetton (bass/vocals). All the more significant is that this performance, at the Civic Hall in Guildford, Surrey, England November 13, 1972, has not been heavily circulated or previously bootlegged. This was only the seventh gig by a completely new aggregate, who had only been playing together for a few months. In fact, this sonic scrap bears absolutely no signposts from any of the former combos who had gathered with Fripp to animate King Crimson. The program commences with an exhilarating roller coaster reading of "Larks' Tongues In Aspic (Part One)," instantly benefiting from the unpredictable edge that the Muir-era band emits. They simply let go, and allow the challenge and the freshness of the music to, in essence, drive the musicians themselves. Contrasting the initial bombast is Cross' eerie violin solo, mingling with Muir's menagerie of bird calls, chimes, and other delicate sounds. This segues directly into a primordial rendering of "Book Of Saturday," under the working title of "Daily Games," as announced by Fripp. The pastoral introduction effortlessly flows into the guitarist's considerate fretwork, and Wetton's sensitive vocals. Muir colors the sound with washes of percussion and faintly augments the languid timekeeping with a tambourine. Cross' contributions are minimalist compared to his full-on assault during "Larks' Tongues In Aspic (Part One)." The meat of the disc is the 25-plus-minute "Improv: All That Glitters Is Not Nail Polish." After a brief spoken interlude from Fripp they tear into the thoroughly exploratory piece, hurling themselves directly into the belly of the beast. The instrumental ensemble jam begins with an onslaught that incrementally unravels as melody lines submerge and resurface with varying degrees of emphasis. Even this early in his tenure, Wetton's bass inflections are assertive and omniscient in this rough soundboard mix -- which, quite frankly, suffers at times from severe over-modulation. Cross' screeching runs and howling counterpoint foreshadow his future contributions, while Bruford's inimitably nimble skinsmanship adds an essential rhythmic balance to Fripp's incendiary shredding. The set ends with a woefully incomplete "Exiles," with the band running out of tape less than four minutes and two verses into the song. Once again, hardcore King Crimson enthusiasts are well-served by the Discipline Global Mobile Collectors' Club, as they provide murky glimpses into the group's past. However the unseasoned listener will be exceedingly better served by less demanding documents, such as the live in-the-studio recording on the Beat Club, Bremen, 1972 (1999) vault release.