The Night Watch (Discipline Global Mobile DGM9707)
Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, Holland – November 23rd, 1973
Disc 1 (40:45): Easy Money, Lament, Book Of Saturday, Fracture, The Night Watch, Improv Starless And Bible Black
Disc 2 (43:57): Improv Trio, Exiles, Improv The Fright Watch, The Talking Drum, Larks’ Tongues In Aspic (Part II), 21st Century Schizoid Man
King Crimson played one of their most important shows on November 23rd, 1973 at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. It comes at the end of a grueling year of touring. Starting in March and with only a break in August, they would finish their live performances on November 29th in Madrid.
Many shows were recorded by the band because they felt that their most creative compositions came from on-stage improvisations instead of studio collaboration. Amsterdam yielded twenty-six minutes of music including “Trio,” “Starless And Bible Black,” “Fracture” and part of “The Night Watch” to Starless And Bible Black, released in March 1974, with studio overdubs.
But the show was so powerful that the BBC broadcast the show (minus the songs used for the LP). The sterling sound quality insured it would be a popular unofficial release which the myriad of titles released prove. The entire broadcast can be found on 21st Century Schizoid Man (Rock Of Ages Records KCCD-B074) in 1989, Amsterdam-1973 (Rarities & Few Records RFCD 1030), Book Of Saturday (Flashback 02.90.0111), Songs For Europe (Nightmare Digital Audio Laboratory NDAL 1001) and its reissue Songs For Europe (Nightmare Digital Audio Laboratory NDAL 1001RP), Cloudy Air (Lobster Records Lobster CD 011), and Lament (Great Dane Records GDR CD 9017) all coming out in 1990.
Three years later Live In Holland (Black Panther Records BP-086) came out.
In recent years it can be found on Starless Banner (JumpinÅf Jive JJ 003/4), Un Reve Sans Consequence Speciale (TAKRL 1928), Understanding The Rhythm (PEEL MUSIC SRM46), Pop Spectacular BBC In Concert (Sirene-165), At The Concertgebouw (SirenÅfs Music SM 008), Schizoid Man At BBC (Flowers 081) and Amsterdam Live ’73 (Flowers 081) and Un Reve Sans Consequence Speciale, a CDR bonus disc with Jumble Of Lies (Siréne-120) in 2006.
Other releases have the incomplete tape such as Exiles (Triangle Records PYCD 055), released in 1990 with the BBC tape without “Lament,” The Great Deceiver (The Chapter One CO 25139) in 1990 with “Easy Money,” “Exiles” and “21st Century Schizoid Man.”
Cat Food (Living Legend Records LLRCD 089) issued from Italy in 1991 has “Book Of Saturday” and “21st Century Schizoid Man,” Frame By Frame (EG KC Box 1) in 1991 has “The Talking Drum” and “21st Century Schizoid Man” and United Kingdom (Aulica A118) has two songs, “Book Of Saturday” and “Lament.“
Two official releases were made after Starless And Bible Black featuring tracks from this show. Cirkus (Discipline Global Mobile DGM CDVKCD 12,) came out in 1999 and had “Easy Money,” “Book Of Saturday” and “The Talking Drum” and The 21st Century Guide To The King Crimson vol. 1 (Discipline Global Mobile DGM 0403) came out in 2004 with the two unedited improvisations, “Starless And Bible Black” and “Trio.”
In 1998 DGM released the complete tape on The Night Watch. Of all the releases, this is definitive. If offers as much of the show as exists in the archives. It is thought to be complete, but the sound engineer David Singleton suggests the show began with “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part I” which isn’t on any available master recording.
DGM attempted to present the show as it actually occurred that night by removing the overdubs on “The Night Watch” and “Fracture.” Cross’ exploding mellotron at the beginning of “The Night Watch” is intact, but the edits in “Starless And Bible Black” were impossible to fix.
After “Book Of Saturday” Fripp tells the audience: “We were just having a quick word among ourselves here admiring the beauty of some young ladies in the first few rows of the audience. This is a special evening for King Crimson because we are recording for use on the next King Crimson album. We chose this particular place to record the evening set because we so much enjoyed playing here the last time. We will tune our mellotrons and attack culture once again.”
“Fracture,” another of the inclusions on the upcoming album, is one of the most complex, intricate, and exciting Fripp compositions. The performance on this night belies notions that exhaustion affects creativity. The following improvisation was also used on the album. The liner notes indicate it was edited “due to the constraints of vinyl.”
One can determine the edit comes at the end, but not at the exact ending of the piece before the band hammers the downbeat in a violin lead crescendo. Cross switches from the flute setting of the mellotron to the electric violin too fast for there not to be an edit there.
The band continue improvising with “Trio.” It is a delicate number lead by the violin, mellotron and a folk sounding, gentle hippy guitar melody played by Fripp.
It leads into the final improvisation, one that was not used on Starless And Bible Black, “The Fright Watch.” The title indicates it is a contrast of “The Night Watch,” the improv delivers atonality as much as the other delivers a pop song hook. It is a frightening piece but too detached to be usable.
The concert ends with “The Talking Drum” and “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part II.” After many calls for an encore, they come back for “21st Century Schizoid Man.” Wetton delivers a rare bass solo in the improvisational middle, dueling with both Bruford and Fripp. The tape closes with the taped conclusion “No Pussyfooting,” which also appears at the beginning of USA.
The Night Watch is packaged in a double slimline jewel case with a thick booklet with copious amounts of liner notes discussing the show, the tapes, the audience, and management. The front cover uses not the Rembrandt painting (the inspiration for the song), but The Nightwatch by P.J. Crook. This is one of the earliest and best DGM archive releases which preceded the creation of the KCCC.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)