By Dean Smith
Moderation in all things does not apply here: 21 cds, 1 dvd audio disc, & 2 blu-ray audio discs, document 16 Crimson shows from the 1974 U.S./Canada tour, plus a variety of mixes of Red itself. The shows consist largely of tracks from Larks’ Tongue & the recently released Starless & Bible Black. With two studio albums under their belt, this Crimson, although losing Jamie Muir in 1972, seemed remarkably stable. These recordings capture a band whose improvisational capacity was more akin to John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra or Miles Davis’s various fusion units than anything in rock – ballads are carried along on an undercurrent of menace; searching abstractions resolve themselves by bursting into gloriously brutal, yet rigorously structured mayhem. And for this reason, although the set lists overlap considerably, no two shows are ever alike. After the tour, David Cross would leave (or be left?) and Fripp, Wetton, & Bruford would go on to record Red. And that would, once again, be the end.
Sound quality is uniformly excellent and the documentation in the elaborate booklet, thanks to Fripp’s always honest & entertaining diary entries, and interviews from fans in attendance, serve as a time-capsule glimpse into the events themselves. So here I am, some 40 years after-the fact, cranking yet another crushing take of “21st Century Schizoid Man” blissfully aware that “nothing I’ve got I really need.” Sometimes a little self-indulgence is a good thing.