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King Crimson – Emerald Fire (Siréne-276)

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Emerald Fire (Siréne-276)

Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica, CA – March 19th, 1972

Introduction, Pictures Of A City, Cirkus, Ladies Of The Road, Groon/drum solo, 21st Century Schizoid Man, member introduction, The Letters

Emerald Fire on Siréne contains the newly found and torrented tape from the Civic Auditorium in Santa Monica on March 19th, 1972. This show is from the second tour of the Islands Crimson line up which began on February 11 in Wilmington, Delaware and would end on April 1 in Birmingham, Alabama. Santa Monica is in the final week these musicians played together. Although this came straight from the taper and is presumed authentic from this date, it did raise some questions. Another tape source circulates from this date and has been released on CDR as Santa Monica, Civic Theater 1972.3.19. The set list on that tape is: “Pictures Of A City,” “Formentera Lady,” ” The Sailor’s Tale,” “Cirkus,” “Ladies Of The Road,” and “Groon” which accurately reflects the main set for most of the tour. This new tape stands out because “Formentera Lady,” the normal second song, is missing and the normal encore “Cadence & Cascade” is replaced by “The Letters,” a staple of the 1971 shows which didn’t appear on any other 1972 recording. Since the tape surfaced Discipline Global Mail, King Crimson’s online store, began taking preorders for the next King Crimson Collector’s Club release Live In Denver – March 13, 1972 (CLUB 35), a previously uncirculated tape from a show six days before the Santa Monica gig. Not only does the Denver tape contain “The Letters” in the main set, but also has “The Sailor’s Tale” and “Cadence & Cascade” as the encore.

The result is the Denver tape confirms “The Letters” was reintroduced late in the band’s tour giving confirmation to the authenticity to this date, and calling into question the previously released CDR. Siréne themselves confirm the authenticity of the date by pointing out the tapers talking between the songs have a strong California accent! The tape used on Emerald Fire is a very good stereo audience recording by the same taper responsible for the San Bernardino recordings from his master reel-t0-reel. There is a good live sound and depth to the recording. The only issues is the slight distance from the stage, the tapers talking between numbers, and cuts at 14:18 in “Groon” and a tape change at the end of “21st Century Schizoid Man” eliminating the very end of the song. The tape begins with a two minutes of audience noise as the band takes the stage. Robert Fripp speaks to the audience by saying, “Good evening ladies and gentlemen. We’re so dependent upon highly sophisticated equipment” as the band do some tuning. “Don’t tell me there’s a saxophone too?” one of the tapers says during the tune up. “Thank you for being patient, waiting two years. Our latest staggering attack on musicality comes from the second album, ‘Pictures Of A City.’” This serves as the opening song for almost all of the shows on this tour. “Cirkus” from Lizard follows and is the only song from that LP played in this show. This tape is very good in picking up the strong mellotron accompaniment to the already doom laden macabre melody. This song is one of the most brilliant in the Crimson catalogue from their most daring and progressive of albums, and it is a shame it was dropped after this tour, never to appear again.

“Groon” follows, the B-side to the “Cat Food” single released in 1970. This song, which is a cross between a “groove” and a “moan” (according to Fripp from many tapes from this era) is almost seventeen minutes long and contains the main improvisation (or jamming) by the group. Boz hits a great groove on the bass, Mel Collins plays a great, jazzy saxophone solo and Fripp plays his atonal guitar lines before they all come together at the ten minute mark and produce such pure magic. Fripp himself states that this was a great band, but wasn’t a great Crimson band. Sometimes I can understand his decision, but hearing the jam on “Groon” on this tape really makes me wish they did more since the music transcends description. The late Ian Wallace follows with a lengthy drum solo which is unfortunately cut in this recording. Wallace plays synthesized drums similar to Carl Palmer by the song’s end. “21st Century Schizoid Man” is the popular crowd pleaser which Boz sings through a distortion machine producing jarring results. Robert Fripp introduces the band, and Boz introduces Fripp, before the band play a gentle and amazing version of “The Letters.” This song is a re-write of the first Crimson line up song “Drop In.” It is easy to overlook the Victorian, melodramatic lyrics and hear the music which is nothing short of astonishing. For fans of the third Crimso line up Emerald Fire is a no brainer. It’s a great sounding tape of an amazing show and is recommended. Siréne package this with thick glossy paper and is a fitting epitaph for the label. (GS)

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