Sunday, 18 January 2015

King Crimson - Live at the Orpheum

First release of the year and it's by my favourite beat group King Crimson. This is the first recorded output of the new lineup, the one with three drummers! More on that later. But first things first. The material presented is not the whole concert, but 41 minutes of edited highlights taken from two nights at the Orpheum venue in Los Angeles. This harks back to the classic days of live albums needing to fit into one vinyl record! It's a bit strange that Fripp has used this lineup to go back in time to cover older material in such a way. Fripp has always used the various lineups of the band to look forward as he did with the Belew based versions of the band. He would introduce things like Red or Larks' Tongues in Apsic II into the repertoire, but the emphasis was always on new material or improvs. This lineup does feel more like an updated version of the 21st Century Schizoid Band which Mel Collins and Jakko Jakszyk were members of. But these are early days for this lineup and Fripp is using this release as a taster of hopefully what is to come.

Now for this recording. It is mixed very, very low in volume. The mix was done by Jakko and here he has gone for a straight representation of what was recorded. I take it there was no mastering as no one is mentioned in the notes. This seems to be a flat transfer of the tapes as mixed. Now, I know over compression of recordings is a bad thing. The results are loud and can be abrasive and aurally tiring and even painful! But this recording is the lowest volume disc I have heard in many a year and I think the result is a flat and not very dynamic listen to be honest. Yes, you can turn the volume up, but overall the sound to me is still fairly neutral.

It is good to hear this lineup with Mel Collins in the fold adding a different, organic dimension to the band, but the results here don't seem to represent a very energised band. In fact you can't tell there are three percussionists here. Compared to the fury of the double trio where Bruford and Mastelotto would work so well off each other, here the combination seems a tad restrained. There are some great performances, like Collins sax playing on One More Red Nightmare and the material from the Islands album in particular sounds really fresh and relevant. But if you compare this disc to the recent District 97 live album of Crimson covers with John Wetton, the latter presents a much more electrifying performance, whereas KC themselves are more sedate. But that may be due to the mix as reports from the live shows themselves were of a much more energised band than represented here. But as I said, it is early days and it will be interesting to see where they go with some new material. For me this live album is just a bit cautious, which is not the Crimson I am familiar with.

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