Although "In the Court of the Crimson King" is usually taken as King Crimson's defining contribution to modern rock music, "Larks' Tongues in Aspic" is in fact their most important musical achievement. Even to this day there are elements from this album that can be found in the sound of the most recent incarnation of the band.
After years of struggling with line-up changes, Robert Fripp in 1972 completely redefined King Crimson with new personnel and a new sound. In came the crunching bass and voice of John Wetton, David Cross on violin and mellotron and Bill Bruford on drums, having just given up the lucrative Yes drum seat to play in something relatively more challenging. But most inspired was the inclusion in the line-up of Jamie Muir who played percussion and allsorts. He was a maverick influence on the band, both musically and visually. On this album his ability to use found objects and sounds added another dimension to the sonic palette on offer.
The album sleeve gives nothing away. On the front there is no album or band title. Just a mysterious, exotic symbol. The music was also mysterious and exotic. The opening "Larks' Tongues in Aspic Part 1" quietly builds around Cross's eastern tinged violin until the band kicks in without notice, sending shockwaves to the listener. The music is complex, intricate and powerful. A band composition, built out of improvisation which this line-up would excel at live. The following "Book of Saturday" is a beautiful ballad, a needed breather after what had gone before. Words on this album are by Richard Palmer-James and are more worldly than the flights of fancy of yore as produced by Peter Sinfield. Another highlight is "Easy Money", again wonderfully embellished by Jamie Muir and with a classic solo by Fripp. This leads to "The Talking Drum", quietly built around Wetton's bass with Cross and Fripp soloing over the top. The whole thing moves slowly and inexorably towards a crashing crescendo of squeeling (Larks?) straight into "Lark's Tongues in Aspic Part 2". This is one of Fripp's greatest compositions, a brilliant tour de force in rock dynamics. With brilliant percussion from Bruford and Muir, this piece has been a live favourite for years and deservedly so. It is without doubt one the most distinctive rock instrumentals ever written.
Muir left soon after this album was completed, which is a shame as he really made this band such a special proposition, though they would continue without him and produce great work both in the studio and in a live setting. But this album for me is the epitome of what King Crimson are about, making powerful, complex and mysterious rock music. This album is a classic.
First impressions - wow! This package just reeks of class and great taste. The whole thing is housed in a 12" by 12" box, only fractionally larger than a vinyl lp. Inside the cds, the dvd and the bluray are housed in gatefolded card mini lp styled sleeves set into 4 recesses in the bas of the box. Above these are a replica ticket, an envelope with postcards featuring one member of the band on each, a frameable lp sized replica of the front artwork, which looks superb at this size(never having owned the lp on vinyl myself) and an lp sized book outlining all that surrounds the album, the band member information and an interview with Robt Fripp, all most informative and interesting.
The sonics on this are outstanding, anyone with a vague interest in the band really ought to get the 40th Anniv version of this remastered album. Steven Wilson and Robert Fripp have remixed the album, as well as using higher quality digital transfers, to outstanding effect. Every instrument is distinct and superbly defined. The remix has allowed the subtleties of the percussion to come up in the mix. Jamie Muirs textural enhancements have never sounded so good. Easy Money is superb, the different tones and metals used in his cymbals/sheets of metal are all clear as the proverbial. If you liked the previous versions of this album then you will love this one.
The Zoom Club, Frankfurt Oct 13, 1972. It is amazing how David Singleton and Alex Mundy can take a tape that no doubt sounded barely legible and eek out the quality of sound that is presented on all of the live recordings in this monster box. Whilst the reverb on this makes it sound like there is a band playing three rooms away in a large hotel room that can be heard in the corridor that you have decided to sit in, all of the instruments are legible and listenable. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to make out David Cross's violin, thinking it would be buried by the Krim monster bass playing of John Wetton and the ear shredding guitar pyrotechnics of Robt Fripp. Good set and loads of improv.
The Beat Club, Oct 17, 1972, a 30 minute 3 track mono set is a killer, full of fire and vim as the band negotiate their way through 3 tracks, 2 of which had not been recorded in the studio at this point in time. Great sound quality and improv going on throughout.
Hull Technical College Nov 10 1972. Similar in sound quality to the Zoom Club set. 21st Century Schizoid Man makes a rare appearance at the end.
Guilford Civic Hall, Nov 13 1972. Super sound quality on this considering the source, a cassette recording taken from the soundboard(nothing like as good as a Bettyboard in Deadhead speak, but good nonetheless). Clear and powerful, although incomplete, set featuring two big improv sections.
Oxford, New Theatre, Nov 25 1972. Back to Zoom Club quality. Good improv section.
Glasgow, Green's Playhouse, Dec 1 1972. Lowest quality recording herein, although the playing is first class. More improv!
Portsmouth Guildhall, Dec 15 1972. Zoom Club sq once again and some more killer improv. This is the penultimate gig that invloved Jamie Muir.
Larks' Tongue Session Reels. An outstanding collage of the first takes of the material that would be moulded into the album at the center of this epic collection. This is of the same sonic quality of the album itself and is like a tour de force of improv a la Krim. All those neat wee riffs, arpeggios, bass blurts, tweaky and knacky drum fills, weird squonkings and Muiresque sounds rolled into one long track punctuated with dialogue from the recording desk. All music, no vocals, well a few of Easy Moneys. All 100% incredible. This is worth the price of admission alone! Hearing the band playing this music live in the studio without any overdubs, fluffs and all, is an amazing experience. Hearing RF accompany John Wetton, just guitar(acoustic and outstanding in technique and feel. Robt Fripp has such feel on the guitar) and multitracked vocals, is sublime.
Original 1973 stereo mix 30th Anniv remaster. A tad pointless in my opinion considering most King Crimson fans will already have it and are looking to "upgrade" sonically speaking.
DVD looks superb. I have no surround sound setup so am unable to comment on the quality of the sound mix therein. A pity as Steven Wilson has a reputation as one of the best in the business, gained primarily through his surround sound work with Porcupine Tree and King Crimson.
Alternate Takes and Mixes. More sonic delight! Again a delight for fans of the band and this album.
The 2012 Stereo Album Mix. An incredible upgrade for this stunning album. Kudos to Steven Wilson and Robert Fripp for taking the chance of alienating some of the fan base by revisiting and shifting things around. It works so well now that it leaves the previous versions in the shade. This is a much more muscular and powerful album thanks to this reimagining.
The bluray looks superb. Again I am unable to access the audio surround material and am therefore unable to give any opinion on it :-(
Phew........................! A feast to be sure.
Unless you are a real heavy duty fan of the band I reckon the cd and dvd version is the one to go for. For the fan who is on the verge of requiring therapy this will be a real mind blowing set that you will find pleasure in for the foreseeable future. There is so much music that is new to me on this that I reckon it will take months to give it all a fair going through.
edit- The bootleg live recordings are just that, bootlegs, albeit cleaned up. As a well seasoned listener of bootlegs I find these to contain musical sections of brilliance that exceed the sonic limitations of the source tapes, which makes them all must listen to stuff. They would be lower on the rungs of sonic quality than "Earthbound" by a small margin, if you are familiar with this other King Crimson album, but higher on the musical pyrotechics by a significant margin. Audiophiles, gird yourselves, or stick to the studio material, which is truly stunning in every regard.
edit 2 - I have noticed that the track numbering on the card disc holders is wrong in a couple of places. CD8 has two track 2's and CD11counts sucessfully up to 6, then jumps to 8, back down to 7, then onward to 8 and 9. This is only a printing error and not a fault in the cds themselves.
on 6 March 2013
I have to confess that I bought this massive box set on something of a whim. I'm a long standing, though not obsessive KC fan, and having placed my order I wondered if I was mad spending so much money on multiple versions of the same album. But having now listened to the whole box I consider my purchase an unqualified success. Some of the bootleg material is not great quality, but it's all listenable, and it's interesting to hear how the material and the band develops. For me personally the most interesting CD of the lot is actually the 70 odd minutes of the band in the studio rehearsing (CD no. 10 I think). The first takes of all the songs that ended up on the album are on this CD and you get a real feel of just how much of a contribution is made by everyone in the band. There is a blistering version of Easy Money and two brilliant takes of Talking Drum (my particular album favourite). These 'live' versions have an immediacy missing from the final polished versions and have a real power all of their own, and in some ways I prefer them.
There is stuff here that I'll probably only listen to very occasionally, but as a record of an incredibly powerful outfit putting together a album of great invention I can't see this being bettered.
Having bought this I will have no hesitation buying the box of Red when it sees the light of day.
If you have the cash available and are wondering if this is worth a punt, then I'd recommend you go for it.
If on the otherhand you are really only interested in the final product I'd go for the CD/DVD 40th anniversary pairings as you can pretty much get all of the ones available for the price of this one box. But it is a hell of a box!
on 23 June 2001
This album dates from the time when Robert Fripp managed to put the frustations and false starts of preceding line-ups behind him, and the group began to realise it's full potential. A completely new line-up that saw drummer Bill Bruford and bassist John Wetton thrown against the acoustic eccentricities of percussionist Jamie Muir and violinist David Cross, with Fripp himself very much acting as the fulcrum. The compositions are of the highest standard, from the fiendish complexities of "Larks Part 1", and "Larks Part 2", the comparative simplicity but effectiveness of "Talking Drum", and "Book Of Saturday" which could almost be called a ballad. This album in particular shows levels of light and shade that were absent in later releases. The original CD revealed hidden depths and delights obscured on the original vinyl release, and this re-mastered version cleans up even more gems and brings them to the fore. An essential purchase, even if, like me, you already own two copies!
I've always loved this album. There are no "hits" on it, this is not commercial music. Rather it is art. That might sound pretentious, but it is. This line up of King Crimson only made this one album and it is a cracker. Far from the precise arrangements of the early Crim, this is a band experimenting with Jazz and free-form stylings. The music is extremely dark. Nothing on Earth sounded like this is 1973. Having bought the rest of the 40th anniversary re-issues I was looking forward most to this one after the sterling work Steven Wilson did with the previous remixes and remasters. It is well worth the wait! Here he pays less attention to the original sound of the album (which the members of KC were never 100% happy with) in favour of bringing out the power buried in the recordings. What a difference! The soundscape is breathtaking, the percussion jumps out now and the overall production is much improved. The DVD also includes the full "Beat Club" footage of this line up in action and numerous different mixes (the 5:1 is awesome) of the LP. Much like Crim shows the way for music, now they are leading the way for how it should be presented. Buy without hesitation.
on 19 June 2014
After a couple of ho-hum albums and numerous line-up changes, Robert Fripp finally got the ingredients right with this one. John Wetton (Family, Roxy Music, Uriah Heep, UK, Asia) comes in on vocals and bass whilst ex-Yes drummer Bill Bruford takes over on skins. David Cross adds violin and Jamie Muir throws in some weird and wonderful percussion. The results are terrific.
The album is book-ended by parts 1 and 2 of the title track and it helps give the album a 'complete' feel to it. The first part is a bit 'out there' with the signature improvisation/jamming that we expect from Crimson, punctuated with the odd melody and loads of Muir's percussion. The second part is rockier, more guitar driven and borders on heavy metal. It closes the album superbly.
'Book of Saturday' and 'Exiles' show off the band's songwriting side, with the former, a beautiful and wistful ballad. It makes a nice change to have some more accessible material on a King Crimson album. 'Easy Money' is almost a fusion of rock and reggae, but is classic Crimson: erratic, intense and powerful.
'The Talking Drum' is a nice instrumental precursor to 'Larks Tongues In Aspic Part 2' and segues well into that track.
'Larks Tongues In Aspic' shows King Crimson reaching the heights of their debut album. It's more focused, with a perfect balance of light and shade, improvised moments and genuinely well-crafted tunes. John Wetton is a singer who can actually sing and his bass playing, along with Bruford's drumming, just raises the bar from a musicianship perspective, allowing Fripp space to do his thing on guitar/mellotron. More importantly, unlike the previous three records, this album isn't just Robert Fripp and company. King Crimson actually sound like a band.
'Larks Tongues In Aspic' is the first album of a trilogy of not only their best albums, but a run of albums that held a nucleus of band members together for a change. It might have been short-lived, but it was a highly creative and memorable period in the band's history. This first effort from the 'new' band is a true classic in every sense.
Oh, and the album sleeve is cool as well.
on 20 April 2010
The first time I heard Larks Tongues, it was in the mid 80's on a cassette that had seen better days that my cousin didn't want any more. On the first hearing I didn't like it at all. However as other reviewers have said here, it really starts to grow on you. After a while I bought it on LP but it wasn't until I acquired it on CD and was able to listen to it on a pair of ESL-63s did I realise what a masterpiece it is.
You have to listen to it loud though. The dynamic range on the album is huge and the downside of that is you miss the detail of the quiet passages which is why it doen't really work on cassete and even the LP was disappointing...
Larks tongues pt 1 eases you into the album with some peaceful marimba like tones before Fripps guitar comes sliding in and then before you know it you are being knocked off your chair by the explosive force of Wettons bass and Brufords powerful drumming. The violin was a strange addition but it works well and adds an interesting dimension. The track jumps around from heavy rock to classical overture effortlessly.
Book of Saturday features John Wetton on vocals and he is a little disappointing. Oh for Greg Lake to sing on this instead... It probably the weakest track on the album though.
Exiles is also a little disappointing as although it settles down to some nice melodies it doesn't really work that well. However they saved up the best stuff for the second side (of the LP that is).
Easy Money leaps out at you. Its the most accessible song on the album and really rocks along with a tune that (for once) you could tap your foot to. Some great sound effects and some interesting 'instruments' from Jamie Muir come through here.
When I first heard The Talking Drum I didn't get it at all. A 2 minute percussion solo followed by a highly repetitive bass riff with some improv over the top. How could that be interesting? Well it is. It really serves as a build up to the albums crescendo. I find that you have to listen to the Talking Drum and LTIA pt2 all in one go to get the full effect. To start with the percussion is very quiet so turn up the volume until you can hear it clearly. [I usually warn the rest of my household that I am going to listen to music at this point. They know it's going to get loud].
Gradually the music builds in an unhurried way and with each pass through the decibels climb. Cross's violin weaves in and out then the guitar adds to it. The end of the Talking Drum culminates with an eerie screaming effect that pins you back into your seat before LTIA pt2 comes roaring out at you. And boy does it roar. The sound that the rhythm section generates has to be felt to be believed. The music sounds like it is on the verge of going wildly out of control but somehow doesn't. It has crashing peaks and quiet reflective parts before finally cranking up for the crashing finale. It is so immersive that I always feel out of breath after listening to it - its that good.
It is not an easy album to get into. It's very complex but keep on listening to it. Listen to it loud because of the wide dynamics and it will reward you. I would now count this among my all time favourites.
Lark's Tongue has gone from being one of my most played LPs (wonderful cover artwork) to a similar one as its replacement CD. 'In the Court of Crimson King' might feature in the seminal album covers listings and books, with its garish, tonsil-baring vulgarity and for most, the definitive K.C. album.
Having only just gone beyond Lark's Tongues, with the purchase of the Court Of CD and played each, many times, I would still plump for the former. The incredibly beautiful violin strains that whirl like a dervish and swirl randomly against and alongside the interesting percussive effects, the growling bass and John Wetton's vocals all make for a strange but compulsive brew. Fripp's guitar flits about them all like a moth, attracted by the light they give out.
Being some 30 years older since I first clapped ears on it and matured, musically, at least, I can even more appreciate the tight, complex but accessible jazz of Easy Money. Book of Saturday is an oft mentioned favourite for KC fans, of which I'm no exception. The bookend title tracks blend themselves in wonderfully.
I'm very happy to recommend and indeed relish playing the CD to newcomers - when the violin intro fades in and friends, often musicians themselves hear it, they are entranced and compulsed to hear where it goes. A musical journey that is as interesting as, say, Indian cooking - scratch the surface and different aural scents and flavours reveal themselves. The dynamic (loudness) range fades up from almost nothing to a big full crescendo, adding to it an almost classical symphonic status, then back down again.
I cannot say, unfortunately, that Lark's Tongues, or K Crimson as a musical force will be everybody's cup of tea. But for those who are prepared to meander from 'white, one sugar' and to let this fine brew stew a bit, might find it is a rich blend that, as they say, can be 'enjoyed at any time of day'. And, for many years to come, too!
on 11 March 2014
For me this was King Crimson's finest. Don't get me wrong, "The Court of the Crimson King" changed rock music as we know it and I have never been without a copy of it since it was released in 1969! I was fourteen when Larks Tongues came out and the hard edge rock, tight percussion, lyrical moments and UNBELIEVABLE sound production blew me away. This album needs to be listened to disturbingly loud and will shake the most hardened metallists and send shivers up the back of musicians and intellectuals. Even after all these years the sound is as fresh and lively as ever, without a hint of the oppressive nature of some old prog albums. This is edgy and hard at times and yet lyrical and beautiful too. Mellotrons are subtle and percussive elements are impressive. An absolute must have. One of my "Desert Island Discs"!
I was lucky enough to receive a copy of this mammoth box as a Christmas present, and what a box it is!!
When I reviewed In The Court Of The Crimson King [Box Set], I said that 'KC's Masterpiece redefines the "Definitive Version"', and that was only 5 CDs and 1 DVD. Here the box is described as "The Complete Recordings" hence the number of discs.
Whilst the recording quality is substandard on the boots, the energy, the playing and the force of this band is only too evident.
There are plenty of reviews already with an excellent one by Smitty, however a couple of general comments. Whilst the Blu-ray surround sound mix is great, I do consider it a bit of a gimmick as for me great stereo sound is the best way to listen to music. Another thing that could have made this set even better would have been to included a 180/200gm audiophile vinyl copy of the original mix and the 2012 remaster. I don't mean this to detract from what is a magnificent package, but if that had been thrown in, it would have really included the kitchen sink!
Another real plus for me is the packaging as cardboard slipcases have been utilised rather than plastic boxes, but a pity the cardboard wasn't followed through to the tray in the box which is still plastic. Only a small point, but consider it for next time Robert.
So, an amazing album which 40 years later still sounds fresh, with almost everything anyone could want to go with it. Can't see KC surpassing this one but who knows!!!