Adding to the already dizzying array of King Crimson live material is this second volume of the Collectable King Crimson, which hosts two gigs from 1981 in a double-disc set. The two discs vary in sound quality, but in terms of performance they are both fiery, exuberant and frequently stunning. Disc 1 has been retrieved from a cassette bootleg recording and has been restored as well as possible. The back cover notes that the quality is "fair". Disc 2 is a different story in that its sound quality is absolutely excellent.
With two live shows from 1974, The Collectable King Crimson, Voi. 1 features arguably the most talked about and beloved incarnation of the group. Robert Fripp, Bill Bruford, John Wetton and David Cross certainly a formidable line-up, and Crimson's most ferocious, especially in a live environment. With album tracks as well as mind-blowing improvisations, the two shows here are packed with uncanny playing from the band, all showing their talents at creating progressive rock that borders on jazz-fusion as well as hard rock. The sound quality are great, the booklet features some nice commentary from Wetton and KC historian Sid Smith, giving some insight into the band at the time of these recordings.
From cautious beginnings Improv II quickly expands into lolloping beast of a track providing what is arguably the best set-up to Exiles to date. As Cross and Wetton hurl fuzzed lines across the stage over one of Bruford’s slow-burning jazz vamps, Fripp introduces one sustained note that lasts somewhere in the region of 37 seconds. An object lesson in making a little go a long way.
Though this particular line-up were edging closer to oblivion, listening to this full show 30 years after the event, the energy levels are astounding. In his journal from the time RF described the show as "Tired. Lifeless. Lacklustre” Maybe Fripp’s estimation of the gig was informed by his recovering from mild food poisoning, the cumulative effect of prunes and a boil in his ear! It seems nobody was happy this particular night. Sound engineer George Chkaintz had trouble with the sound in the recording truck, roadie Tex is frightened to turn down Wetton’s amp despite the discreet urgings of other members of the band and crew, Fripp is giving tour manager Dik Frasier grie, and the promoter isn’t best pleased because the band haven’t done an encore!
This is King Crimson’s first performance in front of a crowd since they had wowed the punters at Le Spectrum (documented on Absent Lovers) back in 1984. Essentially a dress rehearsal in front of invited guests and the South American press, the tickets that had been made available sold out in two hours flat.
Ever wanted to know what happens after the edit on the storming Asbury Park or the fade out on that contemplative solo on Easy Money? Well now you can find out! Presented uncut for the very first time using unreleased mixes from the multitracks without Eddie Jobson overdubs (as on USA), the power of this gig is tangible. Despite the internal politics and tensions of the period, the band taps into a ferocious energy that never stops burning.
Prior to this concert, it had been seven months since the Double Trio had last assembled before an audience in Argentina. The first gig of any tour is always a slightly fraught affair; anything that can go wrong probably will. Gear will futz, fingers and feet will lie to their owners and the sound could well be unsound as the entire crew get to grips with the task of presenting nearly two hours of challenging music. Understandably perhaps then, this version of Discipline is not an assertive statement but more a gentle easing in, marking out their territory. A slow burning version of Vrooom sounds more confident, especially on the remorseless spiraling coda, though like Frame By Frame which follows, is not without the occasional wobble.