King Crimson

Live in Kassel, 1974

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The 36th installment in the King Crimson Collectors' Club find the quartet of David Cross (violin/Mellotron/electric piano), Robert Fripp (guitar/Mellotron/electric piano), John Wetton (bass guitar/vocals), and Bill Bruford (drums/percussion) on April Fool's Day, 1974 at the Stadthalle in Kassel, Germany. Even as there are additional high fidelity audio documents of this incarnation and tour, enthusiasts are strongly encouraged to sample as many as possible to discover the seemingly infinite combinations of tone probing these gentlemen consistently excelled at. April 1, 1974 was the mighty Krim's penultimate stop during the European leg of a tour supporting their very recently (read: a few days earlier) unleashed masterpiece Starless and Bible Black (1974). True, King Crimson gigs around this time abided to a fairly stable set list highlighting selections from both their previous studio outing Larks' Tongues in Aspic (1973) and the aforementioned recent one. But upon hearing these expanded and exploratory indulgences, one gets a better sense of their deliciously unpredictable and inspired moments of instrumental improvisation. The immediate intensity of the opening "Great Deceiver" fires on all cylinders, foreshadowing the near hour of solid sonic pyrotechnics to come. Thanks to the excellent recording, listeners are treated to a rich and detailed stereoscape filled with Fripp's shredding fretwork, Wetton's strong vocals and thick, undulating basslines, as well as Bruford's unfathomably tricky timekeeping. "Improv. I" emerges from applause with Fripp and Wetton facing off, followed by Cross -- whose contributions, while uniformly thoughtful are never heavy-handed. Bruford joins in at his bashing best as they ramp up to a blistering reading of "Dr. Diamond" -- a tune which failed to made it onto a King Crimson studio album. The full force and wrath of the mid-'70s incarnation can be felt as they propel themselves through the ebbs and flows, once again subsiding into a passionate, Bruford instigated "Improv. II." They turn more than a few dark and scary corners before briefly sidetracking into some funky, then subdued interplay, landing directly into a cathartic, laden with passion "Exiles" -- arguably besting the similarly flawless rendering from the 16th Collectors' Club volume Live in Mainz 1974 (2001). Their aptitude for comparatively more intimate interaction continues on "The Night Watch" and "Lament." The latter is particularly interesting as the moody Mellotron lines are fully audible -- which isn't always the case on live tapes from the era. Likewise, the number pulls the sheet off of the entire unit's ability to stop on a proverbial dime and manipulate with the maximum aural authority. "Starless" -- which would not surface until the Red (1974) long player was released six months later and the band had split up -- is breathtaking and somewhat humbling in its solicitousness. It is followed by the haunting and introspective "Improv. III" with Fripp at his most beguiling as he and Cross exchange ideas before the whole ensemble hurdle through an edgy and energetic reading of "Easy Money." Sadly, "Fracture" is incomplete as the master tape cuts out about four minutes into the performance. However, a gracious plenty has been served up to that point and there are numerous other versions -- like the one from Augsburg, Germany on March 27 -- accessible via the King Crimson Collectors' Club or DGMLive's massive lossless download library.

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