King Crimson – Live At The Orpheum – Panegeric/ Discipline Global Mobile DGMSP2 CD + DVD-Audio MLP Lossless Stereo, PCM Stereo 24/96, 40:56 ****:
(Robert Fripp – guitar; Tony Levin – bass, stick; Pat Mastelotto – drums; Bill Rieflin – drums, Mellotron; Gavin Harrison – drums; Jakko Jakszyk – guitar, voice; Mel Collins – saxophone, flute)
In the late sixties, rock music was beginning to change. Incorporating different genres and styles, Progressive Rock (a term disdained by those associated with it) explored different time signatures (5/8, 7/8), tempos and musical formats. Many of the bands utilized large-scaled compositions or suites, with improvisational transitions. They drew on a variety of influences including, classical, folk, jazz, psychedelic rock, avant-garde and free-form experimentation. Among this sub-genre are Pink Floyd, Yes, Jethro Tull, The Moody Blues, Genesis and Emerson Lake & Palmer. Perhaps at the forefront of this movement was King Crimson.
Led by guitarist Robert Fripp, King Crimson contributed two seminal albums out of the gate, In The Court Of The Crimson King and In The Wake Of Poseidon (based on Gustav Holst’ seven-movement orchestral suite, The Planets) . This initial lineup (which barely lasted a year) included Greg Lake’s vocals, lyricist Peter Sinfield and multi-instrumentalist Ian McDonald. Among the pioneering musical concepts was the use of Mellotron, Roland guitar synthesizers, Simmons electric drums and Chapman sticks. Despite the constant state of flux in the band lineup, King Crimson remained a creative, albeit sporadic force under Fripp, with albums like Larks’ Tongue In Aspic, Red and The ConstruKction of Light. Fripp is the only member to play on all of the King Crimson projects.
Discipline Global Music has released a two-disc recording of a 2014 performance, King Crimson – Live At The Orpheum. Boasting a seven-man ensemble (with three drummers), Fripp brings an energized feel to the set with songs from Red, ConstruKction of Light and Islands. After a weird “walk-on” pre-recorded chamber intro, the band launches into “One More Red Nightmare”. With the dual-pronged guitar attack of Fripp and Jakko Jakszyk (who also contributes vocals), the listener can experience the formative Heavy-Metal power and unique musicality that define this band. Mel Collins (a returning member from the early seventies) adds saxophone to the unusual jazzy structure. The sonic prominence is impressive as the complex rhythms (and triple drumming) propel the jam.
The artistic essence of King Crimson is always on display. The gentle percussion segue, “Banshee Legs Bell Hassle” (which delves into Gamelon roots) leads into “The ConstruKction of Light”. This track emphasizes the composite rhythms (and the unique chemistry between the drumming trio and Tony Levin on bass stick), as Fripp and Jakszy weave guitar lyricism with their contrasting styles. Collins adds supple flute runs in addition to saxophone. In classic King Crimson mode, “The Letters” contains several transitions and feels like a blended cacophony. “Sailor’s Tale” is hypnotic and edgy with propulsive energy. The finale, “Starless” captures the septet at its peak. With guitars, drums, bass and Mellotron, the different movements build and change with flawless precision.
King Crimson – Live At The Orpheum is a succinct (barely over forty minutes) recording of an iconoclastic band that continues to push musical boundaries. There is not much perfunctory material. The set includes a standard 44.1kH CD and a DVD-Audio (with MLP lossless stereo and 24/96 PCM Stereo). A 5.1 mix would have been nice. The sound acoustics on both are excellent. All of the sonic fury of the group is presented with vitality. Unfortunately, there were no liner notes. Hopefully King Crimson will keep touring and performing on a regular basis.
TrackList: (CD+DVD Audio) Walk On: Monk Morph Chamber Music; One More Red Nightmare; Banshee Legs Bell Hassle; The ConstruKction Of Light; The Letters; Sailor’s Tale; Starless