KING CRIMSON newbie sort of.....

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by kevin_tomb, Apr 9, 2002.

  1. kevin_tomb

    kevin_tomb Stunt Coordinator

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    I was into "the court of the crimson king" but never got the CD of it. Recently browsing CC I saw remasters of most all their albums. My question is: are the remasters really good sounding?...WHat other titles in their catalog would someone reccomend other than COURT OF THE CRIMSON KING? And If someone could tell me what they sound like musically compared to COURT please

    MANY THANKS>>>>

    Kevin
     
  2. Philip Hamm

    Philip Hamm Lead Actor

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    I've never heard COURT....

    But I would recommend that you buy "Discipline".

    NP: Donald Fagan: Kamakiriad
     
  3. TheLongshot

    TheLongshot Producer

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  4. Ten_Smith

    Ten_Smith Stunt Coordinator

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    I would also recommend Discipline, but keep in mind the sound has changed significantly since the 'Court of the Crimson King.' A little harsher, more neurotic. Well I still like it.
    Check it out at Amazon
     
  5. Mike Broadman

    Mike Broadman Producer

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    Ok, brother, hold on to your seat. This post will probably be a long one.
    It just so happens that King Crimson is my favorite band of all time, and I think they're freakin' geniuses, so pardon my bias.
    The first and most important thing you have to realise about the Great Crimson is that their music is easily one of the most varied of any rock band, if not the most so. Very few people like all of it, so you're gonna have to figure out what appeals to you. Personally, I like all of it, but some better than others.
    The remastered CDs are indeed the best ones to get. IIRC, this is the third release of the CDs. The first were done without Robert Fripp's permission or knowledge and supposedly sounded horrible. He oversaw the first remaster/second release, which were much improved. The new ones are another remastering, using 30 bit (or something like that. I'm not a techie). They were released as limited edition gatefolds first, which are what I own. Then they were released in jewel cases. The CDs and liner notes are the same, but I just like the look of the gatefolds and the fact that they might be collector's items. The covers of Discipline, Beat, and Three of a Perfect Pair look especially great on the gatefolds. However, if you can't or don't want to get those, the jewel case 30th anniversary CDs are the same thing and defintely the best choice right now for all your Crimson needs.
    Ok, now the music/albums:
    In the Court of the Crimson King (1969)
    This is often considered the first "progressive rock" album. I don't know or care about that, I just love it. Sweeping soundscapes, epic lyrics that are simultaneously cheesy and clever, and lots of mellotrons. This original lineup of Crimson consisted of:
    Michael Giles- drums
    Ian McDonald- sax, flute
    Greg Lake- bass, vocals
    Robert Fripp- guitar, mellotron
    Peter Sinfeild- lyrics, miscellaneous
    Sinfeild wasn't really a performer; he was sort of an honorary member. He started out as a member of the road crew, but his mastery of handling the band's light show helped create a very effective performance. He wrote all the lyrics until he left the band, and came up with band's name and found the artist who painted the freaky cover art for ITCOFCK.
    Musically, ITCOFCK takes the best of psychedelia, English art school sensibilities, and the "art rock" of the time and adds discipline and scope. Wereas a lot of other bands who did that sounded disjointed an sloppy, this album worked as a complete work.
    Epitaph (1969)
    This is the only officially released live document of the original King Crimson lineup. The sound quality isn't that great, but pretty good considereing the time and source material. Besides material from the album, they do a couple of rarities, including a wonderfully noisy rendition of Gustav Holsts' Mars. This one is not essential, but very cool for Crimson fans.
    Despite their success, they broke up. McDonald and Giles went off to do their own thing, which they later admittedly regretted, and Greg Lake went on to become the 'L' in ELP.
    In the Wake of Poseidon (1970)
    Michael Giles- drums
    Peter Giles- bass
    Greg Lake- vocals
    Mel Collins- sax, flute
    Robert Fripp- guitar, mellotron
    Pete Sinfield- lyrics
    Keith Tippet- piano
    Determined not to let the band die, Fripp convinced Giles and Lake to record another album. Collins was added to the recording session and would become a full band member.
    ITWOP is similar to ITCOFCK. I think if you like one, you'd like the other. Some complain they are too similar, which is silly IMO: as innovative as Crimson was, it's silly to expect every album to be totally different from every other one. The highlights of this album are Cat Food, a short fun single with crazy lyrics and Tippet banging away on the keys, and Bermuda Triangle, which is re-working of Holsts' Mars. (One reason to get Epitaph is to hear how the piece changes).
    Lizard (1971?)
    By this time, everyone left the band except for Fripp and Sinfield. Fripp recruited a couple of new musicians to record their third album.
    Gordon Haskell- bass, vocals
    Andy McCullogh (sp?)- drums
    Mel Collins- sax, flute
    guest musicians: Keith Tippet- piano, Jon Anderson- vocals, and couple of others who played oboe or some such.
    This album is considered by many to be the bottom of the Crimson barrel. I like it, but it is flawed. A lot of the fault is on the vocals. For one thing, Haskell doesn't have a particularly strong voice, expecially when compared to Greg Lake, who was, IMO, one of the best singers and most powerful singers around. Always interested in technology, they used something called a VC-3 to mess around with the voice and instrumentation, which sounds very dated today.
    The title track is an album-side long multi-movement piece with Jon Anderson from Yes singing the first part and some free-jazz playing.
    Overall, I think the album is interesting and a worthy addition to my CD collection. Robert Fripp seems to disagree- nothing from this ablum was ever, or seldom, performed live or appeared on any compilations, to the best of my knowledge. I would recommend holding off on this one until you get the upper-crust of the Crimson discography.
    Islands (1971)
    The Lizard band never toured and broke up shortly after recording the album. Along with Fripp, Sinfeild, and Collins, the next lineup had:
    Boz Burrell: bass, vocals
    Ian Wallace- drums
    as well as some of the same extra musicians from the previous albums.
    Islands is a very odd album for Crimson. There are moments of sheer brilliance and moments where you just scratch your head in confusion. "Formentera Lady" starts off as very beautiful, melodic mid-tempo ballad, which then dissolved into a bunch of weirdness. The second track is a jazzy instrumental and still stands as one of Crimson's best songs. The title track is a kind-of orchestral piece- very pretty, but pretty basic stuff.
    This was also the first lineup to perform live since the original lineup of ITCOTCK.
    Like Lizard, this is one I would not recommend you get until you get the better ones.
    Earthbound
    A live album of the Islands band. This is not out on CD, so I haven't heard it. Supposedly, it's a poort sounding album, but I think they are planning on releasing it on CD this year.
    Shortly after the album and tour, this band broke up. Fripp also decided to end his working relationship with Sinfield, leaving himself as the only remaining member of King Crimson with total control of what to do with the band. At this time, his guitar playing was becoming markedly unique. He was always a skilled player, but now his style was becoming angular, vicious, fierce, precise. He would develop it for the rest of his life, creating a style of guitar playing that is like none other, inviting as many detractors as admirers. He would sit on stage, and sometimes not face the audience; basically shunning the spotlight.
    Around this time, Bill Bruford was getting tired of his drumming job with Yes and was looking for something more adventurous. Fripp re-building Crimson was the perfect opportunity. John Wetton, a very powerful bass player and singer joined on, as well as the violin player David Cross and weird percussionist Jamie Muir.
    Lark's Tongue in Aspic (1972)
    While the world thought that Crimson was out of business, this album shocked everyone. This music sounded like nothing Crimson, or anyone, had done before. Heavy, improvisational, loud: it was like the Mahavishnu Orchestra on steroids and acid. The title track, split into two parts and bookending the album, are instrumental monsters, full of scathing riffs and free-jazz weirdness. Lark's Tongues in Aspic part II was to become a crucial part of the set list for years to come. The vocal tracks have some beautiful melodies, in stark contrast to the instumental monsters, and some silly and clever lyrics by some guy not in the band whose name escapes me.
    Essential Crim.
    After this album, Jamie Muir would leave to become a Buddhist or a recluse or something weird like that.
    Starless and Bible Black (1973)
    One of the most controversial albums of any band's career. I personally feel this is a masterpiece and am shocked by Crim fans who don't agree. If nothing else, the song Fracture is worth the album. My jaw drops every time I hear. A long instrumental piece that feels like it's half-a-minute long, featuring an eerily insistant mathematical guitar riff and thumping evil-funk bass, this is an exercise in tension and dynamic that is not recommended for heart patients and pregnant women. It must be heard. The title track is kind of sloppy improv thing, but it's great fun. These two tracks, and some of the others are live. A couple of the songs, like the Great Deceiver, were done in the studio, and are welcome additions to the Crimson legacy. Trio is a drum-less improv that is so perfect and beautiful, it's impossible to believe that it was just created on the spot.
    This album shows a band who insists on being bold and experimenting. It's not a perfect album, but wasn't intended to be. The best way to describe it for me is: it's a bunch of stuff. And I love it.
    This is another crucial album.
    As good as these albums are, they do not capture the full majesty of this band. They were a live act, plain and simple. They managed to combine fully composed pieces and songs with improv that ranged from solos in songs to full-blown jams that came from literally nothing. Fortunately, there is lots of live stuff available from that era:
    Nightwatch
    This double CD contains most or all of the concert from which the live material on the Starless album was taken. Here, you get to hear it without overdubs, as well as a whole bunch of other stuff. Excellent material.
    USA
    This was released in '74 or thereabouts. Like Earthbound, it is not on CD but may be released this year.
    The Great Deceiver
    4 CD box set of live material from the Starless lineup. I know it seems daunting, but this is easily the best live stuff from this band. Simply astounding.
    David Cross then decided to leave the group. One certainly couldn't blame him: it's surprising that a violin player lasted that long in band with that loud of a rhythm section.
    Red
    The remaining three members recorded this as a trio, but included Cross as a guest, as well as Ian McDonald from the original lineup and a couple of others. Many list this as their favorite album. This is probably because it's the most "together," as opposed to the more chaotic nature of the previous two albums. It is also their heaviest. The title instrumental track is still performed by the current Crimson lineup (which rarely if ever play older material). The highlight of the album is the song Starless. Taking some musical ideas from the improv title track of the last album, this track is a fully realised the song. The beginning has a magnificent violin melody and vocal verse-chorus that's simply gorgeous. Then, it goes into a very eery sounding, menacing bass rhythm thing ("evil sound" was Crimson's specialty). Fripp plays an infamous "one note guitar solo," where he repeats literally one note but changes the inflections on it while Wetton is evil-grooving. The note changes when the key changes, always by raising the pitch. This creates a tension unlike any other, which is finally released by the final all-out jam part, where everyone just goes ballistic, then the album ends.
    The dynamic between musical tension and audience reaction is, IMO, the most important underlying element of all Crimson music.
    Once again, Crimson broke up. This time, Fripp declared it was for good.
    Fortunately, he would be wrong.
    In 1980, Fripp started putting together a brand new band called Discipline.
    Drums- Bill Bruford
    Bass- Tony Levin. Levin was one of the most in-demand studio and touring bass players in the biz, having played with John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and Peter Gabriel, among others. Since then, he would also play with Yes, member of Dreamtheater, his own projects, and countless other endeavors. The only reason he is not a house-hold name is because he wasn't in a Big Name Band for long time.
    Adrian Belew- guitar, vocals. Belew got his big break playing for Frank Zappa and then David Bowie and the Talking Heads on Remain in Light. Obviously, this made for one eclectic and highly skilled musician. His singing voice sounds like a less-crazy version of David Byrne, and he likes to make funny animal noises on the guitar. He is one of the most well-rounded musicians and song-writers around, playing anything from simple dance-pop to ultra-difficult weird crazy stuff.
    They decided to resurrect the name King Crimson and named their first album Discipline.
    Discipline
    Like in 1972, this Crimson was completely different than anything that came before it. Rhythmically, they focused heavily on groove and polyrhythms, with Tony Levin hammering out monster lines on the bass and Chapman Stick (a ten-stringed instrument with no body played by tapping and sliding). Fripp and Belew developed a breakthrough dual guitar style that involved interlocking double-lead lines, where there often wasn't a clear soloist or rhythm player, but both were doing both simultaneously. The songs were shorter, and the vocals tracks were inflected with a playful pop sensibility provided by Belew's unique personality. He assumed the role of stage front man. As a guitar player, he wasn't as skilled and disciplined as Fripp (then again, who is). He played more like a rock 'n' roll guy. His DIY attitude contrasted great with Fripp's obsessive must-play-every-scale-one-hundred-times-in-odd-tunings approach and complemented each other really well.
    Discipline is a perfect album. Every song is a freakin' masterpiece. I would nominate as the single best King Crimson studio album of all time.
    Beat
    For the first time in its history, Crimson kept the same lineup for two albums in a row. Unfortunately, they did not keep up the same level of musical intensity.
    Beat has some odd stuff in it, some of which works and some of it doesn't. There are a couple of straight-out pop songs which are good, but light fare for Crimson. Songs like Neil and Jack and Me and Neurotica sound just weird- not bad, just... weird. It's an on-and-off album.
    Don't get this unless you already have Discipline.
    Three of a Perfect Pair
    One of the more debated albums in the Crim catalogue. The first 4 songs are straight-ahead pop songs, but really good ones and better than the ones on Beat. Sleepless actually was a minor hit in dance clubs (the idea of people disco-dancing to Crimson is funny image in my mind). The rest of the album is full of sound poems, weirdness, and all sorts of assorted goodies. Industry as an exercise in tone layering and symmetrical composition. Lark's Tongues in Aspic part 3 is an 80s version of LTIA part II, with a killer guitar solo at the end.
    I like this one. Others don't. In my book, it's better than Beat, but this is not a consensus opinion. On the other hand, it is a consensus opinion that Discipline is the best of the three 80s Crim albums.
    After this, they felt they had run out of ideas, and they were right. They broke up forever once again.
    In the late 80s / early 90s, Fripp had some ideas for new Crim music, but was caught up in record label legal battles before he could do anything about it. In 1994, the 80s lineup regrouped with an additional two members:
    Trey Gunn- touch guitar (it's kind of like a Chapman Stick but it has a body). Gunn was disciple of Fripp's Guitar Craft playing method (Fripp had his own educational system and everything).
    Pat Mastelotto- drums. I think he was in Mr Big or some 80s group. PM was heavily into electronic drums, and added some new sounds to the band.
    This lineup was often referred to as the Double Trio (two drummers, two bass players (sorta), and two guitarists).
    VROOM
    This is a 30 minute mini-album. All of the songs were re-recorded on the full-length album Thrak. I don't have it, but I may get it, because I think they're a little different on both albums.
    Thrak
    This album varies between peaceful ballady stuff and vicious noisy stuff, the latter being more interesting. The title track is very similar to Red, but noisier. Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream is a great track, alternating between cleverly silly lyrics and outbursts of very offensive and funy noise. The title track is a noise improv that sounds like a John Cage piece. If you don't like dissonance, this ain't for you.
    This band kicked some major ass live, and there are two officially released double albums and a DVD to document it.
    B'Boom
    This was recorded and sold as a bootleg without the band's permission, so Fripp decided to release it himself (by this time, he started his own record label and had complete legal and creative control over everything).
    The sound is taken from the sound board. It's a nice little album to have, but not essential.
    Vroom Vroom
    This is the best live collection of the double trio. One disc is taken from performances in New York, the other from Mexico City. Besides playing material from Thrak/Vroom, they also play some older stuff. The extra rhythm players add a powerful punch to the older tunes. The sound mix is perfect and the crowd noise is just right (something rarely found on live albums). Highly recommended.
    Thrackattack
    Noise. An hour of noise. It's a set of improvisations based on the song Thrak. It is painful to listen to. I don't get it, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.
    Deja Vroom- DVD
    This is the best music DVD I've ever seen. DD and DTS surround mixes of the double trio will make your neighbors complain. Some neat extras. One of the tracks allows you to select which instrument gets piped to the center channel. Lots of neat features, including road movies and allowing the user to create his own versions of 21st Century Schizoid Man.
    This 6-member Crimson monster was doomed to break apart. Rather than break up forever again, Fripp decided to tour with various members of the group and play improvs. These tours were called ProjecKts and were treated as R&D for any future Crimson endeavors.
    ProjecKt One- Fripp, Gunn, Levin, Bruford
    ProjecKt Two- Fripp, Gunn, Belew (Belew plays drums!)
    ProjecKt Three- Fripp, Gunn, Mastellotto
    ProjecKt Four- Fripp, Gunn, Levin, Mastellotto
    Space Groove
    This is the first jam session, completely impromptu, with ProjecKt Two, a double disc. I personally find this one boring, although some parts are interesting. This one is for die-hard fans.
    ProjecKts Box Set
    Four discs, one for each ProjecKt. Highly recommended.
    After all this, Fripp and Mastellotto were getting really into electronic percussion, while Bruford, whose first love was jazz, wanted to play acoustic swinging stuff. He chose not to remain with Crim. Tony Levin also didn't come back. He's done some fascinating work since. I highly recommend checking out Liquid Tension Experiment, Black Light Syndrome, and his other project with Bill Bruford called BLUE.
    ConstrucKtion of Light (2000)
    Another masterpiece, though many disagree, and I don't understand why. The title track focuses the Belew-Fripp interlocking dual lead guitar thing in a new way. This piece is a very engaging, involving sound painting. Lark's Tongues in Aspic part IV- you can't go wrong with this. People have complained about the sound mix. I guess my hearing isn't sophisticated enough, because it sounds fine to me.
    Heavy ConstrucKtion (2001)
    3 disc live album. The third disc is all improv. Excellent album.
    King Crimson just toured with John Paul Jones opening. They have also opened for Tool and are planning to come out with a new album tentatively called Nuovo Metal this year, as well as more archival material. Crimson are making some of the most interesting music of their career, and of any band around today. It is dark, menacing, frightening. It's as if they took the musical foundation laid down on Discipline, removed all the family-friendly stuff, and are intent in giving us nightmares for the rest of our lives. I saw them play on the last tour, and they are awesome. They have the potential to outdo anything they've done before.
    The albums I've listed are nowhere near the complete discography. There are numerous compilations and solo projects, as well as the King Crimson Collector's Club, a mail-order only service (a level of fandom too much even for me).
    Now, I shall summarize all of the above in three sentences:
    Essential Crimson studio albums- In the Court of the Crimson King, In the Wake of Poseidon, Lark's Tongues in Aspic, Starless and Bible Black, Red, Discipline, Thrak, ConstrucKtion of Light.
    Non-essential Crimson studio albums- Lizard, Islands, Beat, Three of a Perfect Pair,
    Essential live albums- Great Deceiver, Vroom Vroom, ProjecKts box set.
    Is this post long enough?
     
  6. John Tillman

    John Tillman Supporting Actor

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    Great post Mike.

    I recently heard "In the Court of the Crimson King" for the first time and enjoyed it. For those that missed the announcement (I couldn't find the thread), a SACD will be released.
     
  7. Marvin

    Marvin Screenwriter

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    Very interesting posts, Mike and Jason. I've also been into King Crimson for quite a while and they've always been one of my favorites (probably #3, if you're keeping score). It's kind of difficult to compare albums from different eras so you should probably pick one from each.

    I have a higher opinion of Lizard than do most of the others in this thread. I agree that Gordon Haskell's vocals are poor but I still would choose it as my favorite from this era. However, I always thought 'Pictures of a City' from Poseidon was a classic; kind of a jazzy version of '21st Century Schizoid Man'.

    I'd choose 'Red' as my favorite from their second era (Larks Tongues thru Red). 'Discipline' slightly over 'Three of a Perfect Pair' for their early 80s era and 'Thrak' from their most recent stuff.

    Your opinions may vary, void where prohibited.

    Definitely get their Deja Vroooom DVD.
     
  8. Philip Hamm

    Philip Hamm Lead Actor

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    KC recently toured and I saw them in Washington DC. The lineup was Belew, Fripp, Mastelotto, and Gunn. The show was unbelievable, but Fripp had some troubles with his two 6 foot racks of guitar effects. The others improvised for about 10 minutes while Fripp and his techs got the problem sorted out. [​IMG]
    Trey Gunn stole the show, he was absolutely amazing, and played the one of the most beautiful solos I've ever heard on any instrument on his Warr Guitar.
    A truly amazing perfoemance all around.
    BTW I agree that The ConstruKtion of Light is an amazing album, almost as good as Discipline and Thrak.
     
  9. Mike Broadman

    Mike Broadman Producer

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  10. Mike Broadman

    Mike Broadman Producer

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    By the way, John Tillman mentioned the possiblity of a SACD of In the Court. Is this true? What's the word? I would kill for that, especially for a multi-channel mix. Can you imagine Epitaph flooding your room from all around you? *drool*
     
  11. TheLongshot

    TheLongshot Producer

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    Phil,

    I assume you went to the first show. I had to go to the second show due to a conflict. Unfortunatly, the second show was poorly attended, and the guys were pretty flat that night. Hopefully, I'll see them again at some point with a little more life.

    Jason
     
  12. Philip Hamm

    Philip Hamm Lead Actor

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    I was unaware that there were two shows. The one I went to was packed and the band was great. They played a lot from ConstruKtion and Thraak and little else, which was fine by me. I like the rhythm section of Mastelotto and Gunn as much as the Bruford/Levin one or all four.

    NP: Nuno: Schizzophonic
     
  13. kevin_tomb

    kevin_tomb Stunt Coordinator

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    MIKE JASON

    WOW thanks for all the Info.....you guys seem to really be into this group in all its various incantations. Ok no doubt I will be buying several albums. Quite a few sound very interesting and im glad to have such great input on a question/////THANKS A LOT

    Kevin
     
  14. Mike Broadman

    Mike Broadman Producer

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    Kevin, keep updated on your Crim purchases and opinions.
    In my first post outlining the discography, I forgot one essential live album:
    Absent Lovers
    This is a double CD of the last concert performed by the 80s lineup. It's really good, and a great introduction to that era of Crim if you don't want to get all three albums.
     
  15. John Tillman

    John Tillman Supporting Actor

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  16. Mike Broadman

    Mike Broadman Producer

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    Thanks, John.

    That link is dated August, 2001. Does anyone know if any of the other titles are out or have been given a release date?

    For the sake of my sanity, I'm going to assume it won't happen until I hear otherwise.

    NP: Miles Davis, Tribute to Jack Johnson, CD
     
  17. Philip Hamm

    Philip Hamm Lead Actor

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    One of my most prized music videos is my "King Crimson Three Of A Perfect Pair Live in Japan 1984". Interestingly, I've read that this was the first PCM stereo LaserDisc ever manufactured. It's like having a video of the "Absent Lovers" tour.

    It's awesome, one of the best videos ever. The rendition of "Indiscipline" is really special.

    NP: Bruce Cockburn: The Trouble With Normal.
     
  18. StevenW

    StevenW Second Unit

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    I saw them when they were touring with Tool last year. I definetly see where Tool got their ideas and sound from. They were pretty damn awesome [​IMG]
     
  19. Mark Dubbelboer

    Mark Dubbelboer Screenwriter

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    i'm cheating and just posting without finishing reading the entire post.

    I have Deja Vroom on DVD and am not a fan of it. anyone interested feel free to send me an e-mail
     
  20. Rachael B

    Rachael B Producer

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    Mike, I have EARTHBOUND and USA on vinnyl. EARTHBOUND is an import from England. It's one of the worst sounding live albums you will ever hear. Without going and getting the record, I remember that the linear notes state it was recorded on a cassette recorder. USA is a decent sounding live album. It's been years since I listened to it.

    My favourite Crimson albums are the first two, I love that medival sound meets mellatrons meets fusion... I really like LIZARD. I've always been facinated with the song Happy Family which is obviously about the Beatles. RED is a great album! Bruford's drumming on One More Red Nightmare totally blew me away. LARK'S TONGUES IN ASPIC and STARLESS AND BIBLE BLACK are very intresting. ISLANDS of the earlier albums is the one that doesn't do much for me. Ladies Of The Road is mildly amusing, that's about it.

    I'm betting Virgin will make IN THE COURT OF multi-channel and hybrid like their first SACD release by Mike Oldfield. It's on my buy the first day it's available list! Best wishes!
     

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