Central Park 1973 (No Label)
Central Park, New York, NY, USA – June 25, 1973
(61:06) Intro, Doctor Diamond, Larks Tongues In Aspic Pt. I, Easy Money, Improvisation, Exiles, Improvisation, The Talking Drum, Larks Tongues In Aspic Pt. II, 21st Century Schizoid Man
After looking at past reviews on the CMR site one can easily determine that the majority of the reviews focus on the creative mid seventies and the line up of Bill Bruford on drums, Jamie Murr on percussion , John Wetton on bass and vocals, David Cross on violin and keyboards, and Robert Fripp on guitar. The line up released the incredible Larks Tongues in Aspic record in late 1972 and toured incessantly to promote the new work. The band’s new line up was a superb departure from the earlier Crimson sound and the music produced during this time would go on to influence a new breed on progressive music, known as progressive metal (one can easily trace King Crimson > Rush > Tool > Mastodon).
Following up on Gerard’s Crimson reviews will be no easy task; he had a huge knowledge of their music, live repertoire and live releases, both official and bootleg. This new release from the No Label company features the recording of the bands Central Park show in the summer of 1973. It is a good to very good audience recording, the instruments are decently balanced with the guitar and violin taking prominence. The drums are a little in the background and the bass is slightly hard to hear at times. There are several cuts between songs to save tape, a common occurrence on tapes of this age. The raucous New York crowd is very lively and make for an interesting listening experience.
The recording begins with a soundscape for an introduction and what sounds like the taper says they will play “Lark’s Tongues” first, a dubious member of the audience shouts “what is this shit?” and we know it will be one of those nights. Someone else makes the comments of Pink Floyd as the ambient music sound very closely to the “Obscured By Clouds” that the Floyd was using as the intro music during this same time. The band takes the stage to a nice round of applause and performs “Doctor Diamond” as their opening song. One thing I was not really a fan of with previous line ups of the group was the use of the saxophone, I felt that it never really mixed well, the decision to replace it with the violin was the right one, it melds much better with the music and more notable Fripp’s guitar. The band move right into “Larks Tongues In Aspic part 1” and we are treated to a full on rock jazz fusion. I really like Bruford’s drumming on this song, his decision to quit Yes in favor of Crimson was an interesting move and his part within the music created certainly the correct one as his new bands approach to the progressive music was far more adventurous. The tape is cut immediately at the songs conclusion and we are next treated to Fripp’s address to the crowd and he talks about the two songs played as well as introducing “Easy Money” as a song that opens side 2. New York greets them with a round of fireworks during the real quiet Violin intro before the band makes fireworks of their own as they break into the song full force. The riff used for the chorus is particularly heavy, Cross plays keyboards on this song giving it, at times, a ethereal feel and Wetton plays some really nice bass runs. The song evolves into a nice improvisation that gets a nice cheer from the crowd.
“Exiles” is played next, a very moody song that finds Fripp switching to mellotron at times and Cross’s playing is excellent, at times it sounds if it is playing for a funeral pyre for the dead. Bruford’s use of his gong is also particularly effective. The song has a sharp cut at its conclusion for what I am guessing would be a tape flip and the music picks up with an instrumental improvisation, a full band soundscape that is extremely textured and almost futuristic sounding. “The Talking Drum” follows with the beginning sounding like a violent and very harsh take on Floyd’s “On The Run” theme. Again Cross’s playing on the violin is incredible; he weaves it throughout Fripp’s guitar in wonderful fashion. It sounds like the taper hit the pause button at the songs end not knowing the band was going right into “Larks Tongues part 2”, its first notes get a nice ovation and the audience settles in to listen. More straightforward and almost proto heavy metal, the violin and guitar plays perfectly as a dual lead situation that really drives the piece. The song ends the set and the New York crowd demands more; the recording picks up the cheering and the firecrackers creating an electric atmosphere, one that would culminate with the band plowing into “21st Century Schizoid Man”, arguably one the bands most well know and beloved songs. The song has its place in the books as early prototype heavy metal, Fripp plays a masterful solo and brings an end to this wonderful performance. I have a few of the Crimson Collectors Club releases from 69-71 so I was astounded to hear this line ups concert performance. After being a fan of Tool and taking in over a dozen of their concerts I know can bridge the gap and see how much King Crimson influenced another generation’s music.
The packaging is simple full color inserts adorned with pictures of the line up as well as the sun / moon graphic from the Larks records and is all housed in a slimline jewel case. The No Label once again shows they produce well thought out releases and while as not as high profile as Godfather and Tarantura they certainly must be commended for their commitment to giving collectors quality product time after time, this is a good solid effort from the label.