The Great Deceiver (Live 1973-1974)

King Crimson

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The Great Deceiver (Live 1973-1974) Review

by François Couture

In King Crimson's extensive catalog of archival recordings and box sets, The Great Deceiver (Live 1973-1974) is the undisputed winner, the item truly worth acquiring. The four-CD set Frame by Frame, released 18 months earlier, was light on material previously unavailable and included a few edits and overdubs on classic King Crimson tracks that shocked the fans. Epitaph, another four-CD collection culled from the group's first live shows in 1969, boasted understandably flawed sound and more repetitive content. But The Great Deceiver has it all. Over four discs, the set chronicles the on-stage activity between October 1973 and June 1974 of the most powerful King Crimson lineup. Robert Fripp, John Wetton, David Cross, and Bill Bruford were mostly performing material from their previous two LPs (Larks Tongues in Aspic and Starless and Bible Black). Yes, the track list remains pretty much the same from one show to another, but the group approaches each night from a different angle, changing the arrangements on the fly to suit the prevailing mood -- check out the chameleon-esque "Easy Money," presented in four guises, for tangible proof. Most importantly, the group performed unpredictable improvisations that embodied the struggle between order and chaos that Fripp thrived to express in penned songs like "Starless" and "Fracture." The live tapes have been beautifully mastered so that the music hits hard without losing the subtle nuances of Cross' violin. At the time of its release, The Great Deceiver filled a gap in the group's discography (the live album USA had not been officially reissued yet), but even after tons of additional concerts from that period were released by Fripp's label, Discipline, this box set still stands as the definitive argument to consecrate the 1973-1974 Crimson as its most exciting incarnation.

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