March 17, 2012

Playlist Week of 3-17-12

King Crimson - 40th Anniversary Series

* Buxtehude: Seven Sonatas (Holloway/Mortensen/ter Linden) (CPO/Naxos CD)
* Vivaldi: The Four Seasons (Venice Baroque Orchestra/Marcon/Camignola) (Sony CD)
* Vivaldi: Late Concertos, RV 386, etc. (Venice Baroque Orchestra/Marcon/Carmignola (Sony CD)
* Vivaldi: Cello Sonatas (ter Linden/Mortensen) (Brilliant Classics 2CD)
* Sun Ra: WXPN-FM, Philadelphia, PA 12-25-76 (FM CDR)
* Sun Ra: ESP Radio Tribute Highlights (d.4) (selections) FM 5CDR)
* Pat Patrick’s Baritone Retinue: Sound Advice (Saturn LP>CDR)
* Derek Bailey: Standards (Tzadik CD)
* Derek Bailey: Ballads (Tzadik CD)
* Jimi Hendrix Experience: Are You Experienced? (Experience Hendrix/MCA CD)
* Jimi Hendrix Experience: Axis: Bold As Love (Experience Hendrix/MCA CD)
* Jimi Hendrix: Electric Ladyland (Experience Hendrix/MCA CD)
* Grateful Dead: Road Trips Vol.4 No.2: April Fools’ ’88 (GDP/Rhino 3HDCD)
* King Crimson: In The Court Of The Crimson King (40th Anniversary Series) (DGM/Inner Knot CD/DVD)
* King Crimson: In The Wake Of Poseidon (40th Anniversary Series) (DGM/Inner Knot CD/DVD)
* King Crimson: Lizard (40th Anniversary Series) (DGM/Inner Knot CD/DVD)†
* King Crimson: Islands (40th Anniversary Series) (DGM/Inner Knot CD/DVD)
* King Crimson: Starless And Bible Black (40th Anniversary Series) (DGM/Inner Knot CD/DVD)
* King Crimson: Red (40th Anniversary Series) (DGM/Inner Knot CD/DVD)
* King Crimson: Discipline (40th Anniversary Series) (DGM/Inner Knot CD/DVD)
* Yes: Going For The One (Atlantic/Rhino CD)
* Yes: Tormato (Atlantic/Rhino CD)
* Caravan: In The Land Of Grey And Pink (Deram/Decca 2CD/DVD)
* Robert Pollard: Mouseman Cloud (GBV, Inc. LP)
* Porcupine Tree: The Incident (Roadrunner 2CD)†
* Steven Wilson: Grace For Drowning (KScope 2CD)
* Opeth: Still Life (Peaceville/Icarus CD)†
* Opeth: Blackwater Park (Music For Nations/KOCH CD)†
* Opeth: Deliverance (Music For Nations/KOCH CD)†
* Opeth: Damnation (Music For Nations/KOCH CD)
* Opeth: Lamentations: Live At Shepherd’s Bush Empire 2003 (Music For Nations/KOCH 2CD)†
* Opeth: Ghost Reveries (Roadrunner CD)†
* Opeth: The Roundhouse Tapes (Peaceville 2CD)†
* Opeth: Watershed (Roadrunner CD)(†)
* Opeth: In Live Concert At The Royal Albert Hall (Roadrunner 3CD/2DVD)(†)
* Opeth: Heritage (Deluxe Edition) (Roadrunner CD/DVD)
* Katatonia: Last Fair Deal Gone Down (10th Anniversary Edition) (Peaceville CD/CDEP) †
* Katatonia: Viva Emptiness (Peaceville CD)†/‡
* Katatonia: The Great Cold Distance (Peaceville CD)†/‡
* Katatonia: Night Is The New Day (Peaceville CD)
* Agalloch: The Mantle (The End Records CD)†
* Agalloch: Ashes Against The Grain (The End Records CD)†
* Agalloch: Marrow Of The Spirit (Profound Lore CD/2LP)(†)
* Mastodon: Leviathan (Relapse CD)†
* Baroness: Red Album (Relapse CD)†/‡
* Baroness: Blue Record (Relapse CD)†/‡



The rest of the King Crimson 40th Anniversary Series arrived this week and I’ve been in prog heaven. These things are a model of how historical reissues should be presented. Steven Wilson's remixes are for the most part revelatory and the CDs sound very good—but the DVDs are where the action is, containing the new re-mix (as well as the original mix) in MLP lossless stereo and 5.1 surround; alternative mixes, outtakes, live tracks; and, if available, video footage. For twenty bucks, you really can’t go wrong with any of them. Even if you have the originals or the 30th Anniversary editions, these are well worth having—especially if you have a DVD-Audio player. This is state-of-the-art digital.

In the Court of the Crimson King (1969). Was there ever a more audacious debut? My God! That cover! And the grinding dissonance of the opening track, “21st Century Schizoid Man”! Yikes! It may not be the first prog album, but it certainly came to define the term for everything that came after. Those who are intimately familiar with this classic record might be shocked at first by Wilson’s remix, which removes layer upon layer of sludge and noise from the original tapes. His mix is faithful to the original down to the finest detail but the clarity of the instruments and vocals is nothing less than astounding. Curiously, Robert Fripp requested that three minutes of improvisation on “Moon Child” be excised on this remix. Heresy! Casual listeners will never notice, but I actually prefer the original, extended space-out and, fortunately, it can found on the DVD. Thank you, Mr. Fripp! Also included is a short video clip of the band at the infamous Hyde Park gig on July 5, 1969. Super-hardcore fans will want the deluxe six-disc box set, which includes all this and every other scrap of tape from the sessions plus a dub of the original UK mono LP. Also available is a 200-gram vinyl reissue, but be aware that it is the original mix, not Wilson’s remix contained therein, which sort of makes sense, I guess, in that it reproduces the original artifact.

In The Wake Of Poseidon (1970). The ’69 Crimson was killer live band, but it burned out after an intense U.S. tour (as documented on the Epitaph box set) and promptly disintegrated. Fripp gamely kept things going with a follow-up album which feels a bit like a pale imitation of the debut. There’s some good stuff here, though, like the jazzy “Cat Food” (featuring pianist Keith Tippett) and the doomy, Mellotronic “Devil’s Triangle.” Unfortunately, the original multitracks for the latter have disappeared, leaving only the original, murky mix to contend with. Not sure how that works in 5.1, but it’s rather jarring to listen to in the midst of Wilson’s pristine remix. Oh well; they certainly try to make up for it with oodles of bonus tracks, alternate mixes and several version of the angular jazz instrumental, “Groon.” A 200-gram vinyl reissue is also available, but again contains the original mix. A Wilson re-mix of “Devil’s Triangle” might have changed my mind, but In The Wake Of Poseidon remains my least favorite Crimson album. Hey, no one bats a thousand.

Lizard (1971). I wrote about this one last week. A flawed masterpiece redeemed by Wilson’s tireless efforts.

Islands (1972). Continues with the out-jazz inflections of Lizard, but the (mostly) down-tempo material combined with soaring strings, glistening acoustic guitars and flittering horns provide a pastoral calm at its center which is utterly unique in the Crimson discography. Then again, the almost offensively macho “Ladies of the Road” nearly wrecks the mood, but also points toward the more aggressively visceral music of later years. Also like Lizard, Islands has always suffered from a fuzzy, indistinct mix and Wilson once again comes to the rescue. It’s truly a revelation, especially in high-rez! While no video exists of this short-lived lineup, the two live recordings included here sound amazingly good for the period and show the restrained power and wide-ranging versatility of this band. The DVD is rounded out with tons of alternate takes, rehearsals, rough mixes and alternative remixes—more than enough material to allow for an honest reappraisal of this neglected gem. If you think you don’t like this album (and it is many fans’ least favorite), you are in for a big surprise. Wilson’s crowning achievement in the 40th Anniversary Series (so far).

Larks’ Tongues in Aspic (1973). The 40th Anniversary edition is not out yet and no release date has been set; apparently, they are still negotiating rights to issue the proposed video content. The arrival of the Bill Bruford/John Wetton rhythm section gave the band a muscular, jazz/rock fusion feel that really floats my boat and this is probably my favorite Crimson album of all time. I can’t wait to hear what Wilson has done with it!

Starless And Bible Black (1974). An interesting experiment combining live tapes with overdubs and new studio recordings that really packs a punch in Wilson’s remix. Sadly, the original multitracks for “Trio” and “The Mincer” are missing, which is a big disappointment. Nevertheless, given the higher-fidelity of the recording, the negative impact of this sonic incongruity is less severe than on Wake. And, again, this deficiency is more than made up for with the inclusion of tons of bonus material, including the entire Zurich concert from November 15, 1973 (my tenth birthday!), along with other live tracks from the period; single edits (stereo and mono) of “The Night Watch”; and radio advertisements for the album. To top it off there’s some tasty video footage from Central Park June 25, 1973 where the band tears into “Easy Money” and “Fragged Dusty Wall Carpet.” This version of the band was at the top of its powers as a live unit, leaping into the void with extended improvisations which sound like full-notated compositions. That kind of thing is much in evidence here making this reissue worthwhile for the bonus tracks alone.

Red (1975). The final album of the “classic” era and a signpost to things to come. Sounding at times like a brainy metal band, this is as heavy as Crimson ever got. Determined to quit while he was still ahead, Fripp announced the end of King Crimson months before the album ever hit the stores. Nevertheless, it was a hugely influential record, inspiring nascent proggers everywhere for years to come (like, for instance, Mr. Wilson and his pals in Opeth). Curiously, Wilson chose not to make a new stereo mix, deeming the original “perfect.” Well, maybe. It does sound great in high-rez—but I can’t help but wonder if Wilson could have worked his magic here as well. Whatever—there is once again enough bonus material here to make this reissue a worthwhile purchase, including a rare television broadcast from ORTF, France on March 22, 1974. The cheesy video effects may look dated, but the music sounds as intensely up-to-the-minute now as it did then.

Discipline (1981). The ‘80s version of King Crimson was a very different animal, combining the interlocking modal melodies of gamelan music with jittery New Wave beats and the manic vocals of Adrian Belew. This record might not have been what old-timers were hoping for but it was enormously important to many of us at the Conservatory. We spent many hours analyzing its complex metrical frameworks and experimenting with electronic delay effects to re-create the delicately chiming rhythms that hold the music together. We failed miserably. Anyway, Wilson displays his chameleonic mixing abilities, faithfully re-creating the dry, brittle ambience of the original while also clarifying and enriching the instrumental textures. It’s not a night-and-day difference, but it sure sounds good—especially in high-rez. The DVD is rounded out with a bunch of alternate mixes (including the original overdubbed version of “Matte Kudasi” (which I prefer) and a dub of the promo-only 12” dance re-mix of “Elephant Talk”) plus video footage from "The Old Grey Whistle Test" from October 1981 and March 1982.

Beat (1982) and Three Of A Perfect Pair (1984) are forthcoming.

So what about those 30th Anniversary editions? I guess I’m going to hold onto them. I like the way they look: the oversize, heavyweight gatefold jackets are luxurious and the scrapbook-style booklets are fascinating to look at. Boy, it’s hard to believe it’s been ten years—but digital technology has come a long way since then. King Crimson is the preeminent progressive rock band and the 40th Anniversary Series are truly state-of-the-art, making them the definitive versions of these classic albums. Essential!

1 comment:

Sam said...

Yes, I -have- to get all of these Crimson editions. The only one I will skip is "Discipline"--I just can't abide Adrian Belew's singing. The pieces are just too mannered or something. But all the other ones... yes! As much as I love the Bruford/Wetton lineup, I have big soft spots in my heart for "In the Wake of Poseidon" (which I prefer to the first LP), "Lizard," and "Islands." Been a Mel Collins fan forever! Also, re: "Moon Child": leave it up to Fripp to want to get rid of some of the best music from the album! Sheesh. Anyway, nice write-ups.

Here are my lists for last week:

Playlist 2012-03-19:

*Anthony Braxton: Nine Compositions (DVD) 2003, tracks 6, 7
*Anthony Braxton: 9 Compositions (Iridium) 2006, Comp. 351, 352, 358
*Miles Davis: Miles Davis Vol. 2 (Blue Note)
*New Loft: 2012-02-20 “Remember This Position” (wav)
*Boston Spaceships: Let It Beard
*King Crimson: Lizard
*Cul De Sac: China Gate
*Yani Martinelli: Bubble Station
*Mayte: Children of the Sun
*Opeth: Heritage
*Robert Pollard: Space City Kicks
*Elvis Presley: The King of Rock 'n' Roll: The Complete 50's Masters (disc 5)
*Rolling Stones: Exile on Main St. (deluxe ed., remastered) disc 1
*Todd Rundgren: Liars
*Stock, Hausen, & Walkman: Stop!
*Stock, Hausen, & Walkman: Organ Transplants Vol. 1
*Thinking Plague: Early Plague Years (selections)
*Irma Thomas: Something Good: The Muscle Shoals Sessions
*Time: Pandemonium
*Various artists: Atlantic Unearthed: Soul Brothers
*Zu: Carboniferous

Reading List 2012-03-19:

*Ebert, Roger. Your Movie Sucks (started)
*Cage, John. Silence (in progress)
*King, Frank O. Walt and Skeezix: 1925 & 1926 (in progress)
*Pynchon, Thomas. Gravity’s Rainbow (reread/in progress)