Tuesday, January 24, 2017

King Crimson - Cirkus: The Young Person's Guide to King Crimson Live (DGM, 1999)

The venerable British progressive rock powerhouse King Crimson has issued many compilations over the course of their history to better help fans understand the unique periods of the band's career and the wide range of personnel that have served in the group during their nearly fifty year history. The sole constant in the group is founder and guitarist Robert Fripp and he chose the selections on this album with help of producer David Singleton. The first disc is entitled Neon Heart Disease and is covers the 1984-1998 period of the band where Adrian Belew joined the group as vocalist, guitarist and primary songwriter, Tony Levin anchored the band on bass and Chapman Stick and Bill Bruford was the primary percussionist. This version of the band had a more nimble approach than the hulking behemoth that came before it, incorporating elements of New Wave into an intricate and powerful style. Which isn't to say that the band couldn't rock out as evidenced by the witty lyrics and skill crushing beat of the opening track "Dinosaur" and the guitar pyrotechnics of "Red." But the group changed with the times and the spritely social commentary of "Neurotica" and breakneck speed of "Elephant Talk" are offset by the weightier "B'Boom" and "Thrak." Disc two is called Fractured and gives a thumbnail sketch of the band's music in the late sixties and early seventies. Groundbreaking tracks like ""21st Century Schizoid Man" and "In the Court of the Crimson King" get rough and ready treatments that make up in intensity what they lose in sound quality. A punishing version of "Easy Money" and the majestic "Starless" highlight the peerless version of the band that featured Fripp, Bruford, John Wetton on bass and vocals and David Cross on violin and keyboards. One one ringer on this disc is the version of the burning instrumental "Larks' Tongues in Aspic Part II" which was recorded with a different configuration in 1996. This collection succeeds admirably in giving the listener a taste of how formidable King Crimson was as a live act over the course of their career, and this has only become more pronounced when a version of the band featuring three drummers roared back to life in 2013, delighting audiences around the globe. Cirkus: The Young Person's Guide to King Crimson Live - amazon.com

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