Sunday, March 10, 2013

King Crimson - The Night Watch (Discipline US, 1998)

In my continuing exploration of the King Crimson catalog, I came across this fascinating two-disc set, recorded live at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam in 1973. This album is notable, not only for the exciting performance, but for the fact that some of the instrumental sections of this performance were stripped of crowd noise and grafted into their subsequent studio LP, Starless and Bible Black. The Crimson lineup changed regularly, at this time it consisted of Robert Fripp on guitar and mellotron, John Wetton on bass and vocals, David Cross on violin and Bill Bruford and Jamie Muir on drums and percussion. They open up hard with the dynamic “Easy Money” featuring Wetton’s strong clipped British diction over a rumble of percussion and driven guitar. “Lament” and “Book of Saturday” follow at a slightly slower pace, with the lyrics in the former about a guitarist (Fripp?) wyrly hoping that his unique guitar style would catch on while the latter is a haunted cry of despair. From the end of the first disc to through the second the group embarks some high-wire improvisation, complicated and powerful music that hints at jazz fusion and free jazz while developing its own unique sound world. A scalding “Larks’ Tongue in Aspic II” ends the concert proper, before the group is brought back by much deserved applause to encore with their signature song “21st Century Schizoid Man” that stomps furiously to a withering conclusion. Wetton notes in the liner booklet how exhausted the band was at this time, but they sound far from it. This concert was quite impressive, running the gamut from wild improvisation to rock and pop forms and set the stage for the chaotic future of this (soon to be decimated) Crimson iteration which would last until dissolution in 1975. The Nightwatch: Live at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw 1973 -

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