THE KING IS DEAD, LONG LIVE KING CRIMSON! KING CRIMSON LIVE IN ARGENTINA 1994

King Crimson Live In Argentina 1994 from the Thrak tour. Photo courtesy DGMLive.

King Crimson Live In Argentina 1994 from the Thrak tour.

I don’t much care for revisionism. Yet I get sucked into it time after time. I posted on the accompanying Facebook page for this blog, https://www.facebook.com/groups/bouleblog/, that the there will be changes on this blog. Well here they are. I tried to ‘play nice’ as the saying went. I tried to appease all the people who submitted work for me to review. I found myself watering down my utter loathing for certain acts and more importantly I was allowing my disdain for certain acts to dictate my rate of reviews. Yet after making promises to people to review music outside my comfort zone, and having those people demand edits, the not bother to repost my efforts in an effort to promote a show for these people, I’M OUT!

You see, the way it operates when it works is, I will get something in the snail mail. It will be accompanied by a note saying (words to this effect) “Jeff, can you please review X/Y (this product/this artist), it will be released on Z (this date), so if you could review it by W (an earlier date). Thanks, So and So.” I was happy to do this for any appreciative parties, and any appreciative parties will understand that I now require pre-authorization to do so. This means I reserve the right to accept or reject submissions based on if I have a personal preference for that product or not. Pre-authorization means don’t send me an item to review without my prior consent.

However, in the case of the following review, I made a commitment to someone to do this, and I will follow through. In deference to my revisionist statement made earlier, from this day forward, in regard to any King Crimson product I review, I will only review the band from 2008 backward until 1973/4 when John Wetton joined. Why? Because in my mind, if the lead vocals aren’t done by John Wetton or (more importantly) Adrian Belew, I am not interested.

Now many of you hardcore Crimsos are thinking ‘Why aren’t you going to touch the first few albums, like In The Court Of The Crimson King?’ Simple: I HATE all of the Crimson albums before the Lark’s Tongues In Aspic and Starless And Bible Black era. I have nothing against Greg Lake as long as he is not in King Crimson.  Asia? OK. Emerson, Lake and Palmer? OK. Boz Burrell, Gordon Haskell, I can leave them (as opposed to taking them).

As I type this, an eighth King Crimson assemblage are wrapping up a tour of the U.S. The line up for this version contains many members of the 2008 line up. Fripp, Tony Levin, drummer Pat Mastelloto, and Porcupine Tree drummer Gavin Harrison, who is quite excellent. Picture a heavy hitting Bill Bruford. Harrison developed his ability to play odd time signatures behind Porcupine Tree whiz kid Steven Wilson. Wilson is also tapped by Fripp to remix the previous Crimson releases into 5.1 surround. Everything old is new again (mostly because Fripp won his copyright infringement suits against the major labels and can now collect 100% of ALL royalties and gained exclusive rights to upload them on his DGMLive site). Then there are the new comers. I have no problem with Bill Rieflin (R.E.M., KMFDM, Ministry, The Humans with Mrs. Fripp, Toyah Willcox) but I DO have a problem with Mel Collins rejoining the band playing a variety of winds. This guarantees that Fripp will linger in the past with pre-80’s material. But my biggest ‘issue’ is with Jackko Jakszysk, new second guitar and vocalist IN PLACE OF Adrian Belew.

I have an uneasy relationship with Belew, one I hope is growing in a positive light after a tremendous blunder I made shortly before Fripp took his ‘retirement’. They had just finished the four night engagement at the (then) Nokia theater in NYC (we saw night three, which was supposed to be the last night, but an extra night was added). I read in Fripp’s blog how he had asked all members of Crimson to reserve April 2009 for west coast touring.  I read Belew’s blog and he had Adrian Belew Power Trio dates set for April 2009. Fripp then posted in his blog how he took that as a slight.

Since then, Belew has not been asked to return to the band. Instead Belew gets to tour the music Fripp won’t play anymore (read: anything with a Belew lead vocal) with a double trio of his own. The Belew Power Trio (Belew, bassist Julie Slick who has a bright future in music as she has an uncanny knack for experimenting with the low end, songwriting and playing overall) and Tobias Ralph who replaces Slick’s brother Eric in the Power Trio. Then you have Tony Levin’s Stickmen (yyyyyyyaaaaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwwwwnnnnnnnnn) which has Levin on Stick, Marcus Reuter on touch guitar (what’s wrong with this picture? Reuter is replacing Fripp, a touch guitar does not have the attack of Fripp’s plectoral style of playing, so all of Fripp’s parts sound like mush) and drummer Mastelloto. While I vow to support anything with Belew’s name on it, I will not buy much into the Crimson ProjeKct. It isn’t King Crimson, and the King Crimson that IS King Crimson isn’t King Crimson to me without Belew.

This is the spirit of this blog anymore. Nothing but the hard, brutal truth. If you can’t identify with that, you don’t have to read it. I no longer pander for readers. I will review what I want to, how I want to, when I want to. This is not a popular approach. So guess what? I don’t care.

Not to mention my most recent difficulty with my “sponsor”. Perhaps the locality of the firm I dealt with limited their global, digital viewpoint. All I know is, I am not doing product mentions within my reviews (like saying I am drinking a beer while reviewing the item, or going to treat myself to an ice cream after I am done. I have eschewed sponsorship in favor of patronage. In this definition, patronage means giving financial support and keeping their opinions to themselves and letting me be me.

It’s worked in the past for folks like Sam Llanas, Gary Tanin, Todd Rundgren, Kasim Sulton, Roger Powell, Adrian Belew, Bill Bruford and most importantly, ME!

What you are about to read is my honest evaluation of King Crimson Live From Argentina 1994. This was the last lineup to include Bill Bruford, and the first to include stick player Trey Gunn and electronic drummer Mastelloto, and was what Fripp describes as a ‘double trio’ configuration.

With my near one thousand word intro, I am exercising my right to brevity. I will take the most shortcuts I can to get my point across about this DVD set. The shows are from the Thrak tour. It would seem that KC were followed around with a camera crew for this tour, but almost every angle is soft focus. This would be great if the band consisted of six Cybill Shepherds that’d be perfect. And while (if I had to wander out of my sexuality) the only half decent looking guy in the band was Gunn. Belew? Goofy guy. Fripp? Britain’s poster child for stodgy old men. (My god, the new King Crimson look like a bunch of lawyers on stage, black suits, ties, pathetic to put three drummers in suits to dampen their capabilities…). Levin? If your eyebrows are grey but your mustache is black, you aren’t fooling anyone. Mastelotto is decent looking enough, but is too big for modern aesthetic standards. Bruford? By this time he was old and tired looking. He had been wrangling the pulse of the Beast Crimson for nearly 30 years, his heart was yearning to play jazz, but he was playing heavy prog. Not happy.

So soft focus on all of those visuals while the show is more or less repetition of a fairly firm set list, little improv, and for two shows performed over one day/evening, minor variance. The evening performance includes two extra tracks, “Discipline” and “Coda: Marine 475”. To further affirm my suspicions, I retrieved my copy of B’Boom (the audio release of the shows distributed shortly after the tour concluded) and compared the set lists. Nearly the same with B’Boom adding “People” from Thrak, reprising “B’Boom”, and concluding with another whack at “Thrak”.

In order to solidify my assertion that KC started to lose some of it’s spark, I’ve gone back to my collection to check the DVD release Deja Vrooom and sure enough, same songs just a slightly different order (editing?) and including “Walking On Air” and “Dinosaur”. Affirming my assertion that Belew fell out of favor a while ago, both Belew vocal tracks were omitted and “Dinosaur” was performed on a late night talk show in America, a near hit.

So now, I have a double CD set of audio of that tour, a double DVD of that tour, and a long play DVD of that tour with extras. I loved this version of KC, and I could watch Bill Bruford (and learn from him) all day long.

That brings me to another point about the soft focus:

For those of you who are new to this blog, new to me, new to what I’m about, I became a musician in 5th grade, (8/9 years old) and started writing later-on. With a fair grasp on music, I feel competent to be able to write about music. I, like many musicians want to see what the musicians are up to. OK, good luck with that if you are trying to watch Fripp, on top of his soft focus, he remains lit on stage only in low, blue light.

Even with these consummate, learned musicians, and the opportunity to learn by viewing, if you observe beyond the screen, these players are tired of the material, and after a while, it becomes obvious to the listener/viewer.

If I had my druthers, I would have liked to have seen multiple shows on the Discipline tour, or the Three Of A Perfect Pair tour. Thrak was not a bad album, but I don’t think it was worth all these (and many more releases available of live shows from this tour on the DGMLive website). But my love of this lineup enforces my need to buy the Philadelphia show from 1996. It was their last live appearance and I WAS THERE! While I may not be a current Crimson fan, my love of the band from 1973 to 2009 will never die. Perhaps my disdain for the new lineup will motivate me to embrace my revisionist nature.

I didn’t even know I had one!

But one must also not fall into the traps associated with completist collecting. How bad do you want a film frame from the THRaKaTTaK booklet put in a nice frame and autographed by Fripp for $1,100 US??? There is also the Thrak box set that runs a cool $135 for 16 discs of Thrak-related material.

Do I recommend the “Live In Argentina” DVD set? It depends. If you live in Argentina, hell yeah. Maybe that will be my final word on this set: If you enjoyed the double trio, and they played a show near you, or one you attended, make this special and settle for that show. If you want something more comprehensive, I would further recommend B’BoomDeja Vrooom, and then get a copy of a show that has significance to the purchaser.

This is my view of King Crimson Live From Argentina 1994. Again, I am not here for popularity, not here to make friends, my function is to call it like I see/hear it. My inbox is open and I fully expect to get more death threats, nasty messages, argumentative comments, been there, done that. I will read your opinions, I will read the hateful messages, all of them.

After what I have been through and having to abandon this blog to run out a contract, well, to paraphrase David Byrne from the Fripp song “Under Heavy Manners”, ‘I, remain online, without despair!’

As things have changed, this is an opportunity to let you know I have not been idle during the shut down. Besides working on my own music, I have been getting to know our new cat Nitty, and researching avenues to make this blog vital again. I have decided that (thanks to a new supplier) I will cover some really obscure bootleg recordings of live performances from various artists (I even have a show from David Sylvain and Fripp). We are still going to revisit albums of impact from eras gone by as part of the Friday Flashback (the old Friday Flashback format exhausted the supply of left-behind blogs from the previous sources, PREX, Scotti’s Looney Tunes).

I’m back, and I’m fearless. Naysayers? Bring it!

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