I have always had a problem with the Live at Orpheum CD/DVD release of last year. I just found it lacklustre. Not because of the running time, but it just sounded unexciting. I think Jakko mixed it way too quiet and that somehow lost some of the dynamics of the recording and also mixed it so tightly that a lot of the detail of what was going on was lost. For instance one of the key percussion elements on the studio version of "One More Red Nightmare" were the handclaps. Those are present on the live version, but mixed so low that they are barely discernible. Also, the concept of three drummers is lost as the tight mixing makes it again difficult to discern one drummer from another. I know what Jakko was trying to achieve here. A polished, produced album in the tradition of something like USA. But whereas Fripp's mixing decisions for that album resulted in powerful versions of tracks like "Easy Money" and the improv "Asbury Park" in comparison to the raw live mixes which we have heard since, Jakko's mixes don't do the new lineup any favours.
But this new release is the complete set from November last year and mixed by David Singleton, who has a real understanding of live King Crimson recordings as he has been involved in such a capacity since the early 90's. Here he has got the mix levels right. He has stated in his diary from the DGM web site that he tried turning the levels down, but felt it was necessary to keep them as presented here in order to show off the band in full, powerful mode. That decision was right! At last this version of the band is properly showcased, with the whole ethos of having three drummers in the front line fully defined. The complexity, power and precision of each player and how they come together as a performing unit is fully presented here. One drummer and guitarist on the right and another on the left channel with the third drummer in the centre. You can clearly define each players contribution to the arrangements, especially important on something like "Sailor's Tale" where the cymbal opening is played by each player in turn. A nice touch that! Other highlights are a complete "Larks' Tongues in Apsic Part 1" including all the little effects which Jamie Muir added to the studio version, including the laughing toy box at the end. Level 5 and VROOOM are given different slants with Mel Collins additions taking those pieces away from their more polished Belew-era lineup origins. There are hints at some new material too, especially promising on Radical Action and Meltdown.
After the Live at Orpheum set I didn't think this new King Crimson was very exciting or interesting. This new set has completely changed my mind and I can see how this lineup can take material from any era of the band and make it their own and more importantly sound fresh, powerful and purposeful!