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King Crimson – The Night Watchers (Watch Tower WT 20051-40/1)

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The Night Watchers (Watch Tower WT 20051-40/1)

University Of Texas, Arlington, TX – October 6th, 1973

Disc 1: Introduction, Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part 1, Easy Money, The Night Watch, Fracture

Disc 2: Book Of Saturday, Lament, improvisation, Exiles, The Talking Drum, Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part 2, 21st Century Schizoid Man

The Night Watch is Watchtower’s first (and so far only) King Crimson release. This label is distinguished for releasing only the very best audience and soundboard tapes and this one from the University Of Texas is among the very best Crimson audience tapes in existence. The producer of the tape was sitting very close to the stage and used an ECM-19B Sony external microphone with a Realistic-7 recorder. The atmosphere and detail present is simply astonishing.

Watchtower say in their accompanying press release they didn’t use any equalization of any kind but present the tape in all its glory. The only negatives are a small cut of eight seconds half way into “Book Of Saturday” and some noticeable tape hiss during quieter passages. Previous silver releases of this tape include Live in Arlington Part1, 2 on The Welfare Pig (TWW-CD-206,207), Texas Hall Arlington on H-Bomb Music (HBM 9513/9514), and Senabular Flat (8221).

The ferocious performance by the band easily eliminates any trifling concerns. This has to be one of the best concerts caught on tape. In the autumn ’73 tour Crimson were in the transition phase to Starless And Bible Black which would reach its culmination in November.

The basic Larks’ Tongues repertoire had been augmented with the new songs “Fracture” and “Lament” were the first songs written for that LP and the new song “The Night Watch” was added recently.

A very laid back Fripp addresses the audience after the opening number by saying, “Good evening happy hippies…. It’s always exciting for King Crimson to be in Texas…the weather is genuinely very good. I wanted to get a suntan but the sun isn’t cooperating. We can always become cowboys I suppose.”

After someone shouts “LOUDER” Fripp replies, “If we’re not loud enough perhaps you can listen more attentively” with acknowledgement from the audience.

Wetton laughs as he narrates the words to “Easy Money”. The second half of the show is dominated by the ten minute long improvisation which is one of the strangest on record. It begins with a tribal beat laid down by Bruford and the band take turns trying to figure out what to do with it. Wetton tries some funky riffs on the bass before turning to a lyrical melody.

Fripp tries some atonal fuzz which is taken over by Cross playing jazz figures on an electric piano. He switches to mellotron while Fripp then blasts out a blistering solo with a reference to “Starless” joined by Cross on violin and reaches a climax before segueing into “Exiles”. It takes the band some minutes to figure out what they are doing but in the end produces a masterpiece.

The rest of the show sounds banal after this. Watchtower could have packaged this better since they use very common photos for the cover and use unattractive printing on the back. But this is a release that is definitely essential.

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