on 23 February 2009
The two Great Deceiver packages add up to arguably the definitive portrait of the great 1973-4 Crimson line-up (many fans' favorite). Though several songs appear three or even four times across the four CDs, the performances mostly differ significantly due to the group's heavy investment in improvisation. More importantly, the group's onstage speciality - free, open-ended improvisation (not only unrelated to any particular song but frequently arhythmic and atonal) - is heavily documented, and better represented here than anywhere else in the official catalogue.
Although volumes 1 and 2 (which, in the old format, would have been volumes 1+2 and volumes 3+4) are both outstanding - this one has the edge. In fact, out of all the KC live albums, this is the one to get first, or first-and-last if one must choose between them. ("USA" for all its fame, is nowhere near as good).
The material here is drawn from four shows across an eight-month timespan - Pittsburgh, Penn State (briefly), Toronto and Zurich. Almost all of the core repertoire is heard - "Exiles", "The Night Watch", "The Talking Drum" [now very much David Cross's tour de force], "Fracture", "Starless" [where Cross plays the fast solo, on violin instead of keyboards], and "Larks Tongues In Aspic" [the complete Part One and a strangely abbreviated Part Two]. There is also a seldom-heard classic ("The Great Deceiver" itself) and, more importantly, the long-neglected "Doctor Diamond", performed in various forms throughout 1973-74 but not recorded in the studio (the compilers have chosen the final arrangement, with a slow-paced, thoroughly-composed instrumental middle).
But this is just the garni du jour - the meat of the matter is the improvisation.
True, some of the tracks tagged Improvisation are just preambles to existing songs - but even they are capable of varying wildly ("Some Pussyfooting" and "Bartley Butsford" are nothing like the original prefaces to "Larks...1" and "Exiles", as well as being substantially different from the performances on albums like "Collectable King Crimson Vol. 1").
The more substantial Improvisations include delicate folk-jazz hybrids ("Daniel Dust") and straightforward hard-rocking ("The Golden Walnut", whose first half includes a germ of an idea that lovers of the "Red" album will recognise). But then there's the stuff in between - brace yourself! "The Law of Maximum Distress", "Clueless And Slightly Slack", "Wilton Carpet", "Is There Life Out There", "Some More Pussyfooting"...whether you describe this as avant-garde rock, electric free-jazz or something else, there's no mistaking some of the most hair-raising, edge-of-your-seat, far-out collective improvisation it is possible to listen to.
This 2-CD release is the second half of the original 4-disk boxed set from 1992 featuring performances from 1973-4 King Crimson tour. The 1970s band was for most fans the seminal KC; the summit of this endlessly rejuvenating musical project.
The Fripp-Bruford-Wetton-Cross quartet delivers some stunning performances from concerts in Pittsburgh, Penn State, Toronto and Zurich recorded variously between November 1973 and June 1974. The titles of these two disks are `Acts of Deception (The Magic Circus, or Weasels Stole our Fruit)' and `But Neither are they Otherwise'. Highlights include 2 different takes of `The Talking Drum' (each a David Cross tour-de-force), a live version of LTiA1 from the Zurich gig, and `Doctor Diamond' never released on a studio recording.
This line-up of KC was best heard live on stage, where the virtuosity of these great musicians playing off each other in extended improvisations has to be witnessed to be believed. Normally only great jazz musicians can throw away the rule book and go off script in this way, and if you are familiar with the band's studio output (like `Larks' Tongues in Aspic') from this period, the onstage performance is going to be a revelation.
Still for my money the best available `official' release of the 1970s KC onstage is `The Night Watch', a single complete live concert at Amsterdam Concertgebouw on 23rd November 1973. TGD nevertheless runs it close, and is indispensable for genuine fans of this extraordinary music.
on 22 January 2008
This is all that a live album should be(as per volume 1)-top material,top sound,informative sleeve notes,diary entries from band members,and all presented with excellent artwork again by PJ Crook.
Major record labels should consider the fact that fans of bands desire releases such as this and perhaps in the future it may benefit them to be more imaginative when taking ownership of artists work-belatedly happening in some instances already.
on 25 September 2010
Just received this and played disc one all through. I love loud group improv like Crimson, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Santana, Man and the 70s Grateful Dead. I was amazed to find out how much improv KC did and it shows their trademarks - heavier by far than the Dead, more angular, very English in its way and consistently avant garde. The discipline and talent of all players is outstanding. Nothing here is wasted, great selections. The earlier reviewers are correct so I won't repeat them. I suspect that, like Yes and Genesis, Crimson will always appeal mainly to blokes but I don't feel the need to apologise for that. Some possible "finest hours" on here.