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King Crimson - Ladies of the Road CD (album) cover


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

4.03 | 138 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Between Islands and the next album, Crimson originally released a live album entitled Earthbound. Supposedly, the sound quality is awful beyond all possible comprehension, and the performances are subpar, and as such I haven't sought out a copy (even though in 2002 it was, in fact, remastered and reissued). In any case, this archive release, a collection of live recordings from the Islands tour, makes that album irrelevant, so here we are.

The first disc is what you'd expect out of a standard live album - a bunch of performances taken from the tour and strung together to seem like a full (or at least a good chunk) concert. Frankly, the first disc isn't much to get excited about - some performances are great, some are just good, and some are quite ehn. The opening "Pictures of a City" loses the hard edge it once had, with the main riff becoming more lounge-jazzy to less-than-great effect. "The Letters" is done mostly pro forma, with one unfortunate exception - rather than belting out the "impaled on nails of ice" lines, he just sings them quietly, and while I guess that works in its own way, I'd much rather have some screaming there. And "Formentera Lady" is, well, "Formentera Lady" - starts out ok, then just becomes pointlessly wanky. There's also a pair of jazz improv thingamajigs that pop up on here - "Groon" (which kinda sucks, has no vocals, and takes up a whole seven minutes) and "Get Thy Bearings" (a Donovan cover with some needless vocals, that's at least better than "Groon"). If you can come up with better descriptions, I'd like to see you try.

On the other hand, "The Sailor's Tale" turns out to translate VERY well into a live environment - for whatever reason, my brain is more willing to accept a jam of that nature outside the studio than within. "Cirkus" also improves from before, primarily because Burrell's vocals are ten times what Haskell's were in the song - I almost find myself getting swayed by the meaningless imagery here, and that's something I wouldn't have said before. It's also taken at a slower tempo than on Lizard, and for whatever reason this seems to up the intensity of the piece enough to make it quite tolerable. There's also a terrific version of "Schizoid Man" on this disc, with the band booming and jamming in a way they don't even approach elsewhere on the disc - Burrell does a GREAT job of singing the verses, even without distortion, and the mid-song jam is just what you'd expect from a high quality "Schizoid Man." And finally, the disc closes out with one of the biggest surprises imaginable - a forty five second snippet of "In the Court of the Crimson King" ... done as a BLUES number. Yup, you read that right - I wish they'd included the whole track, but what's here is definitely nice for some giggles.

As you might guess, while the first disc is ok, it is definitely NOT the justification for giving this compilation a **** rating. Disc 2 is one of the best ideas Fripp has ever had in compiling an archive release - after the first track, which is the first verse of a live "Schizoid Man," the next 50-odd minutes are various "Schizoid" jams (from this same tour) strung together without break (well, sort of - for whatever reason, there's about a minute of silence in the middle of track 11, before we get yet another jam). Let me tell you something - if this disc is any indication, this was a GREAT era for "21st Century Schizoid Man." One incredible blast jam comes after another, waves of WILD saxophone and guitar solos keep pouring out, and it never EVER gets boring. Some solos are jazzier, some more psychedelic, and every last one of them is improvised jamming BLISS.

In short, NO fan of the band can possibly be without the second disc. The first disc could be done without quite easily, but it's still ok, so if you see this for a reasonable price, make sure to swipe it up.

tarkus1980 | 4/5 |


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