King Crimson – Live At Plymouth 1971 (Club 14)

Live At Plymouth 1971 (Club 14)

Plymouth Guildhall, Plymouth, England – May 11th, 1971

Disc 1 (46:38):  Cirkus, Pictures Of A City, The Sailor’s Tale, The Letters, Lady Of The Dancing Water, Cadence And Cascade

Disc 2 (48:49):  Get Thy Bearings, In The Court Of The Crimson King, Ladies Of The Road, 21st Century Schizoid Man, The Devil’s Triangle (Mars)

The third incarnation of King Crimson who recorded Islands together made their stage debut in Frankfurt, Germany with four shows at the Zoom club in mid April.  Their first show in England, and the first King Crimson concert there in two years, fell on May 11th, 1971 in Plymouth. 

Live At Plymouth 1971 was released in December 2000 and is primarily sourced from a powerful soundboard recording.  An audience tape being used to “add ambiance” and  to repair the missing introduction to “Get Thy Bearings” running from the song’s beginning to the 2:33 mark.

The soundboard is very clear and records many of the problems with the balance of the sound coming out of the PA.  Especially true in the opening number “Cirkus” where the mellotrons overpower the other instruments, the vocals drop in and out and the drums are very loud.  The sound engineer does begin to find a nice balance during the performance.

The opening two songs “Cirkus” and “Pictures Of A City” are tight but strained.  The liner notes point out that:  “It wasn’t until the third number, ‘Sailor’s Tale,’ that the band noticeably relaxed.  Substantially different from the finished studio version, the piece at this stage of its development had a looser feel with none of the brisk urgency or solemnity of its studio counterpart.  In place of the abrasive guitar solo, Mel Collins slowly unveils a flute solo, briefly borrowing some eastern motifs before winding up in a Dervish-like euphoria.  Not without humour, the solo contains a fleeting reference to ‘St. Thomas’ by sax hero Sonny Rollins (8:24) – a tune which had been a regular feature in Circus, Collins’ previous band.”

The fifteen minute long improvisation hits upon many different genres and generates many idea, but there is mostly a jazzy feel to the piece due to Collins’ influence. 

“Lady Of The Dancing Water” from Lizard segues nicely with “Cadence And Cascade” from In The Wake Of Poseidon, the two previous King Crimson LPs.  Both are quiet ballads with similar thematic emphasis.  The Donovan cover “Get Thy Bearings” is a carry over from the 1969 setlist.  Whereas Greg Lake improvised many of the lyrics, Boz is faithful to the original words.  This performance is over thirteen minutes long, strange synthesizer solos in the middle of the improvisation.

“In The Court Of The Crimson King,” which would eventually be dropped, is followed by the new song “Ladies Of The Road.”  Robert Fripp introduces the band and points out that Boz Burrell has been playing bass for eleven weeks before they launch into “21st Century Schizoid Man.” 

The concert ends with another carry over from 1969, the cover of Holst’s Mars.  Quite short at only nine minutes, it provides the perfect ending to the show.

Live At Plymouth 1971 is a remarkable document to listen to and compare to the later shows from the Island line up.  The album had not even been recorded yet, but you can see them still trying to attain the general uneasiness of the first line up.  Of course this ensemble would reach more into the American blues, much to Fripp’s consternation.  But Plymouth is King Crimson still sounding much like the progressive band they were in the late sixties. 

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