March 2, 2013

Playlist Week of 2013-03-02

King Crimson - Larks' Tongues in Aspic 40th Anniversary Edition

* J.S. Bach: Sonatas & Partitas For Violin Solo (Podger) (Channel Classics 2CD)
* Maderna: Quadrivium/Aura/Biogramma (Norddeutschen Rundfunks/Sinopoli) (DG CD)
* Berio: The String Quartets (Arditti) (Montaigne/Naïve CD)
* Charlie Parker: The Complete Savoy & Dial Studio Recordings (d.6) (Savoy/Atlantic 8CD)
* John Coltrane: Interplay (d.4-5) (Prestige/Concord 5CD)
* Sun Ra: Some Blues But Not The Kind That’s Blue (Saturn/Atavistic CD)
* Sun Ra: Unity (Horo 2LP>CDR)
* Sun Ra: Of Mythic Worlds (Philly Jazz LP)
* Archie Shepp: Attica Blues (Impulse! CD)
* Archie Shepp: The Cry Of My People (Impulse! CD)
* Kip Hanrahan: Tenderness (American Clave CD)
* Kip Hanrahan: Exotica (American Clave CD)
* Kip Hanrahan: A Thousand Nights And A Night (American Clave CD)
* Marvin Gaye: What’s Goin’ On (Motown/Mobile Fidelity SACD)
* Roberta Flack: Softly With These Songs: The Best of Roberta Flack (selections) (Atlantic CD)
* Gonervill: Gonnervill (Innerrhythmic CD)
* Frank Ocean: Channel Orange (Island/Def Jam CD)†/‡
* Rock Candy Funk Party: We Want Groove (J&R Adventures CD/DVD)
* Elvis Presley: Loving You (RCA-Victor/Friday Music LP)
* Elvis Presley: A Date With Elvis (RCA-Victor/Friday Music LP)
* Elvis Presley: Elvis Is Back! (RCA-Victor/DCC LP)
* Grateful Dead: Europe ’72 (Warner Bros./Rhino 3LP)
* Grateful Dead: Europe ’72 Volume 2 (Warner Bros./GDP/Rhino 4LP)
* Grateful Dead: Paramount Theatre, Portland, OR 1972-07-25 (selections) (SBD 4CDR)
* Jimi Hendrix: Live At Woodstock (Experience Hendrix/MCA 2CD)
* Jimi Hendrix: Band Of Gypsies (Experience Hendrix/Capitol CD)
* Jimi Hendrix: Live At The Fillmore East (Experience Hendrix/MCA 2CD)
* Buffalo Springfield: Buffalo Springfield (d.4) (Atco/Rhino 4HDCD)
* King Crimson: Islands (40th Anniversary Edition) (Inner Knot CD/DVD)
* King Crimson: Larks’ Tongues In Aspic (40th Anniversary Edition) (Inner Knot CD/DVD)
* King Crimson: Starless And Bible Black (40th Anniversary Edition) (Inner Knot CD/DVD)
* Camel: Mirage (Deram/EMI CD)
* Camel: Music Inspired By The Snow Goose (Decca/EMI CD)
* Camel: Moonmadness (Decca/EMI CD)
* Camel: Raindances (Decca/EMI CD)
* Camel: Breathless (Decca/EMI CD)†/‡
* Talk Talk: The Colour Of Spring (EMI LP/DVD)
* Talk Talk: Spirit Of Eden (EMI LP/DVD)
* Talk Talk: Laughing Stock (Polydor 2LP)
* Mark Hollis: Mark Hollis (Polydor/Ba Da Bing LP)
* Chelsea Light Moving: Chelsea Light Moving (Matador WAV)†
* Porcupine Tree: Stars Die: The Delirium Years 1991-1997 (KScope 2CD)
* Porcupine Tree: The Sky Moves Sideways (KScope 2CD)
* Katatonia: The Great Cold Distance (Peaceville CD)
* Meshuggah: Koloss (Nuclear Blast CD/DVD)
* OM: God Is Good (Thrill Jockey LP)†
* OM: Advaitic Songs (Thrill Jockey 2-45RPM LP)†
* Alcest: Écailles de Lune (Prophecy Productions CD)†/‡
* Alcest: Les Voyages de l’Âme (Prophecy Productions CD)†/‡



After numerous delays, the two-disc 40th Anniversary Edition of King Crimson’s 1973 album, Larks’ Tongues In Aspic, finally arrived a few weeks ago. As with the others in this series (which I wrote about here and here), Steven Wilson’s remix is revelatory—especially on high resolution 24-bit/96kHz DVD-Audio. This is probably my very favorite King Crimson album—and it has never sounded so good.

After numerous personnel changes over the years, King Crimson reinvented itself in mid-1972, with a whole new lineup handpicked by nominal leader (and only remaining original member), Robert Fripp: two drummers, including Bill Bruford and Jamie Muir; violinist/keyboardist David Cross; and bassist/singer/frontman, John Wetton. Bruford was riding high with Yes, who were at the peak of their powers and commercial success, but he was looking for a challenge (he got one). Wetton was also looking to break free from Family and Fripp was willing to make him the front man for the new incarnation of Crimson. Cross was virtually unknown; Fripp had met him through Crimson’s work on college campuses. But the most interesting—and fleeting—new member was Muir, who was well known as a member of Music Improvisation Company, the landmark free music collective with guitarist Derek Bailey and saxophonist Evan Parker. His expansive drum kit, extended techniques and wild-man stage persona transformed the sound of King Crimson and his effect would be felt long after he left the band.

They immediately hit the road, incorporating long stretches of free improvisation amidst slowly evolving new material. In a grudging nod to the past, an encore of “21st Century Schizoid Man” might appease the stunned and somewhat puzzled audiences. Accordingly, the new band was well-prepared when they went into the studio in January 1973 to record Larks’ Tongues In Aspic. However, the cheap and cheerful Command Studios in London was fraught with technical problems and an inept, novice engineer. Although they valiantly tried to capture the dynamic, improvisational aspects of their live shows, no one was particularly happy with the way the record sounded at the time. Wilson’s remix goes a long way towards rectifying this. He admits in the liner notes that he “was a little bit less faithful to the original recording in the sense that I knew there were some things we could do to toughen the sound up a bit to give the album a bit more balls if you like.” I’ve heard this record hundreds of times and the first time I listened to this remix, I heard things I’d never noticed before—mostly little bits of Muir’s meticulously detailed percussion that had previously been buried in a murky, hastily put together mix. Purists should be satisfied that the original can be found on the DVD but I can’t see anyone wanting to return to it.

The extras include the entire album re-imagined through alternate takes and mixes (including Muir’s solo track from “Easy Money”) but the coolest thing by far is the video segment from television appearance on "The Beat Club" in Bremen prior to the album's recording sessions. Opening with an astonishing thirty-minute improvisation, you really get to see the two drummer lineup in action—and how truly progressive this version of the band really was. At times evoking the edgy jazz/rock fusion of Miles Davis’s music during this period (or the guitar-god heroics of the Mahavishnu Orchestra), it also ventures into the sound world of post-Bartokian classical music, with Cross’s violin and flute combined with the dual Mellotrons going to places rock music has rarely ventured. But it is Muir’s presence that seems to lift the bandstand, his antics highly theatrical but also profoundly musical. “I always remember I had an urge to get Robert to let his hair down because he was very controlled in the way he played,” says Muir in the liner notes. “At the TV gig, I really tried  and tried to provoke him.” Fripp (who has plenty of hair in the video), remains as tight-assed as ever, but you can watch him watching Muir, subtly deferring to his lead during parts of the improvisation and at all times playing with a fierce determination. In fact, everyone seems to be watching Muir, wondering what he might do next. It’s all very exciting and wondrous to behold and worth the twenty bucks all by itself. Apparently, the legal hassles involved with securing the rights to this footage  held up the release of this new edition of Larks’ Tongues In Aspic. Well, it was certainly worth the wait.

Muir abruptly quit the band in early 1973, ostensibly due to an onstage injury but in reality because of a deep spiritual crisis. He withdrew to a Buddhist monastery in Scotland for the next several years, only occasionally making music ever again. King Crimson continued on as a quartet but with Bruford incorporating Muir’s textural, atmospheric playing into his more groove-oriented approach. For the hardcore fan of the Jamie Muir era, a limited edition fifteen-disc box set is available, containing every scrap of tape known to exist of this short-lived version of the band. Am I a hardcore fan? Well, the vast majority of the live recordings are taken from audience bootlegs—not my favorite listening material—but I have to say I am tempted. Some music is so good, it’s worth suffering through shitty sound quality (e.g. Sun Ra). This incarnation of King Crimson is definitely in that category. Well, I guess I better make a decision before it goes out of print forever. For everyone else, the 40th Anniversary Edition is more than enough to convince you that this incarnation of King Crimson was truly incredible, both live and in the studio. Wilson’s remix unearths a wealth of detail while retaining the warm ‘70s vibe of the original, revealing Larks’ Tongues In Aspic to be every bit the masterpiece I always knew it was.


Jean K said...

Now that's a wee bit spooky. I have also listened to 12 of the records on your playlist in the last week!

Rodger Coleman said...

Which 12, Jean K?

Sam said...

This sounds really exciting. I have been digging into some of the boots and other KC releases with Jamie Muir recently...what a band! Any mix that boosts Muir's playing is a good thing. His playing is truly inspiring, as you can tell by his influence on Bruford, who at this point (right after "Close to the Edge") was tight almost to the point of being uptight. I think Muir helped dislodge something in Bruford's wrists. We wouldn't have Bruford's playing on "Fracture" without Muir's on "Larks' Tongues."

Here are my lists from last week:

Playlist 2013-03-04:

*Helmut Lachenmann: A Portrait (CDR) disc 3
*Miles Davis Quintet: Live in Europe 1969 (The Bootleg series, Vol. 2) discs 3, 4
*Miles Davis Quintet: 1969-11-05 Stockholm (2nd show) CDR
*Jimmy Giuffre: Free Fall
*Roscoe Mitchell & the Note Factory: Far Side
*New Loft: 2013-01-28 “Ham Opportunity” (wav)
*Paradoxical Frog: 2012-09-21 Firehouse 12, New Haven CT (CDR)
*Sun Ra: Nidhamu “Nidhamu”
*Sun Ra and His Arkestra: Some Blues But Not the Kind That’s Blue
*Sun Ra Arkestra: Unity
*Sun Ra: Taking a Chance on Chances
*Sun Ra: The Soul Vibrations of Man
*Tag Cloud + New Loft: 2013-02-09 Pyramid Atlantic, Silver Spring, MD (wav)
*Henry Threadgill Sextet: Subject to Change
*David Torn & Prezens: 2007-08-24 Saalfelden (CDR)
*David Torn & Prezens: 2008-01-19 Budapest (CDR) disc 2
*Chris Clark: Soul Sounds
*Grand Funk Railroad: On Time
*Grand Funk Railroad: Grand Funk
*Grateful Dead: 1972-09-16 Boston (CDR) “Dark Star”
*Grateful Dead: Dick's Picks 36 (Philadelphia 1972-09-21) "Dark Star"
*King Crimson: Live in Hyde Park, July 5, 1969
*King Crimson: Live at Summit Studios, Denver, March 12, 1972
*Mukesh: Legends (discs 1-3)
*Spirit: Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus
*Otis Redding: The Immortal Otis Redding
*Marc Ribot: Marc Ribot y Los Cubanos Postizos (The Prosthetic Cubans)
*Rolling Stones: L.A. Friday (Live 1975)
*Soft Machine: BBC Radio 1967-1971 (disc 1)

Reading List 2013-03-04:

*Weldon, Michael J. Psychotronic Video Guide (started)
*Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics. Annotated by David Dodd (finished)
*Erikson, Steven. Forge of Darkness (in progress)
*Pullman, Philip. Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm (in progress)
*Shakespeare, William. Shakespeare’s poems (ed. Duncan-Jones and Woodhuysen) (in progress)

Jean K said...

Hi Rodger

Slightly delayed reaction but it was this lot!

* Sun Ra: Some Blues But Not The Kind That’s Blue
* Sun Ra: Unity
* Sun Ra: Of Mythic Worlds
* Archie Shepp: The Cry Of My People [on LP]
* Kip Hanrahan: Exotica (American Clave CD)
* Kip Hanrahan: A Thousand Nights And A Night (American Clave CD) [2 of 3 vols]
* Frank Ocean: Channel Orange
* Grateful Dead: Europe ’72 Volume 2 [on CD]
* Talk Talk: The Colour Of Spring [on CD]
* Talk Talk: Laughing Stock [on CD]
* Mark Hollis: Mark Hollis [on original LP]
* Meshuggah: Koloss

Once again the benefits of being an old geezer means I got to see KC with Jamie Muir twice (Rainbow and I think Watford) - blood pellets and all. Needless to say they were wonderful. Fripp was playing out of his skin with this band (and smiling a lot!), and as Sam says, Jamie's impact on Bruford was massive. I had seen Jamie in free improvisation settings a couple of times before so I knew a little what to expect. Derek Bailey told me a great story about visiting Jamie in the monastery in Scotland (with Steve Lacy I think). "Breakfast was a bowl of warm seeds. Very strange" His first encounter with granola.....

Rodger Coleman said...

Wow, Jean K, we have startlingly similar tastes - and "Koloss," as well? That record is almost too intense for me. And your tales of seeing Jamie Muir with KC (and chatting with Derek Bailey) once again spark a tinge of envy.

Jean K said...

Yes, I really like Meshuggah. I'm a bit of a dilettante when it comes to metal though but I do have a good friend who's thoroughly immersed in that world.

Derek was a great chatter. His phone calls in particular were legendary as David Toop wrote in his obituary. You'd start off discussing the new Incus release and then realise you had been talking for two hours about ventriloquist's dummies or Samuel Beckett and had forgotten to pick up your wife from the train station.