Heretical Gospel (Tarantura TCDKC-13, 14)
King Crimson’s Larks’ Tongues In Aspic era is rightly considered to be the epitome of the band’s artistic expression in the seventies. But not without some sense of irony. Robert Fripp broke up the Islands band in early 1972 because, he felt, they were a good jam band flirting iwth American blues, but were not good at improvisation.
His goal was to create a specifically European sounding form of progressive rock. By recruiting Yes drummer Bill Bruford, a jazz drummer at heart, he was able to forge a form of jazz-fusion flirting with heavy metal. Ironically, jazz is perhaps more American than blues, and the American progressive rock bands, from Kansas to Dream Theater, comfortably incorporated heavy metal riffs into their music. (And the converse is also true – many metal bands flirted with progressive rock).
But the reason why this line up attained the most success and commercial appeal was due to the overwhelming rhythm section. Unlike the other line ups who competed with flutes and saxophones, the pairing of Bruford and bassist John Wetton effectively drowned out violinist David Cross. This competition brought out the best in Fripp’s guitar playing, becoming much more nasty sounding than before (or since).
This band created some of the most frightening, unsettling, and catchy rock in the era. They were also obsessive recorders, capturing almost every concert they played along with the three great studio albums Larks’ Tongues In Aspic, Starless And Bible Black, and Red. King Crimson toured extensively both before and after the March 1973 release of the new album.
Heretical Gospel presents two excellent shows from the final month of live gigging, right when they returned from a trip to the US.
Apollo Theatre, Glasgow, Scotland – October 23rd, 1973
Disc 1 (49:50): Opening, Sharks’ Lungs In Lemsip, Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Pt I, Announcement, Easy Money, We’ll Let You Know, The Night Watch, Fracture, Lament, RF announcement
Disc 2 (46:20): Book Of Saturday, Tight Scrummy, Exiles, Improv IV, The Talking Drum, Lark’s Tongues In Aspic Pt II, Peace – A Theme, Cat Food
The Glasgow show on October 23rd was the first of their final tour of the UK for this line up. They would play six shows, ending on October 29th in Bristol, then travel to Europe and the US the following year before calling it quits. This is the first time this line up recorded a show utilizing a mobile recording studio with engineer George Chkiantz.
The improvisation between “Easy Money” and “The Night Watch” was later titled “You’ll Never Know” and included on Starless And Bible Black in 1974. Almost twenty years later The Great Deceiver box set was released containing “Sharks’ Lungs In Lemsip,” “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic: Part 1,” “Book Of Saturday,” “Easy Money,” “We’ll Let You Know,” “The Night Watch,” “Improv: Tight Scrummy,” “Peace – A Theme” and “Cat Food.”
Almost fifteen years after that the entire multi-track recording was posted online in DGM Live for download. For the first time the complete set was made available. In addition overdubbs and edits, such as “The Night Watch” which had the solo from the Zurich show edited in, were fixed to that everything heard comes from the same show, warts and all.
Much like Nanker Records who are pressing the download only Rolling Stones bootleg archive, Tarantura provide a similar service for the legendary Glasgow show.
The DGM website itself is effusive in its praise for this show. They call it “a dynamite gig – full of twists and surprises” and calling the atmosphere “electric.”
What separates this from earlier shows with this configuration of Crimson is the confidence in the improvisations. The entire show opens with a variation on their most well known tune, but they continue throughout the night trying to develop new ideas and rhythms.
Perhaps the most interesting is “Tight Scrummy” in the second half of the set. Using a rhythm box to set the pace, Fripp and Wetton duet on guitar and bass while Bruford offers quiet percussion in the bottom of the mix.
The fourth improv is also the shortest, clocking in just under three minutes. They create a tense and spooky atmosphere which blends very well with “The Talking Drum.”
“Fracture” also sounds interesting with the complete jazz-rock middle section omitted from most live performances. The adventurous night concludes with a firey “21st Century Schizoid Man” and “Peace – A Theme” and “Cat Food” from the In The Wake Of Poseidon LP.
Volkhaus, Zürich, Switzerland – November 15th, 1973
Disc 1 (40:51): Walk On… No Pussyfooting, Improv: Some Pussyfooting, Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part I, RF Announcement, Lament, Peace A Theme, Cat Food, The Night Watch, Fracture
Disc 2 (59:00): The Law Of Maximum Distress: Part I, Improv: The Mincer, The Law Of Maximum Distress: Part II, Easy Money, Exiles, Improv: Some More Pussyfooting, The Talking Drum, Larks’ Tongues In Aspic: Part II, 21st Century Schizoid Man
After the brief UK dates, the band played eighteen shows in Europe during November 1973 and these would turn out to be their final shows of the year.
On November 15th the band played the Volkhaus for the second time in the year.
Crimson recorded the November 15th show and utilized part of the first improvisation of the night for “The Mincer” on Starless And Bible Black. In 1992 The Great Deceiver was released on DGM and has “Walk On … No Pussyfooting,” “Some Pussyfooting,” “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Part One,” “The Law of Maximum Distress, Part One,” “The Law of Maximum Distress, Part Two,” “Easy Money,” “Some More Pussyfooting,” and “The Talking Drum” from this concert on disc four. The same tracks were reissued on The Great Deceiver vol.2 (Discipline Global Mobile DGM 986549) in 2007.
A poor audience recording with the complete show also exists. It was first used on Quartet Plays Trio (MOONCHILD RECORDS 920607/920708) in 1992, which has the tracks that were not included on the official release. The complete tape was subsequently booted on The Great Swindler (Night Sun Records Night Sun 003/004) and Dreams To A Real Show (Highland HL373/374).
In 2009 KCCC released Live In Zurich (Club 41) in which the two tapes were edited for the complete show. The multi-track is used for the show except the audience tape is used for “The Mincer” (apparently they couldn’t find the unadulterated master tape). Heretical Gospel use the same edit and have remastered the tape so that it sounds much more loud, clear and powerful.
The improvement in sound quality is quite dramatic and is superior to the official release.
“No Pussyfooting” starts off the show. The band join in the taped intro, adding their own parts, creating the “Some Pussyfooting.” It segues into the standard show opener “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part I.” David Cross, who plays a significant part of the improvisations in these November shows, has a disturbing, eastern European sounding violin break in the middle of the piece.
“Good evening, hippies” Fripp greets the crowd. He tells the audience that they are taping the show for the next King Crimson album, due out next November. They are taping here because they so enjoyed playing the venue in April. The also tell them they will try to tune the mellotrons to be withing a step of each other, and will play their new song “Lament.”
It still sounds incomplete even as it segues into “Peace: A Theme” and “Cat Food.” The latter were the surprise numbers for the tour, a nod to the first Crimson line up with Wetton doing a Greg Lake impression on vocals.
“The Night Watch” is common for this tour. It’s one of their more traditional sounding tunes, even if the subject matter sounds like a class in social studies (how many other songs use the word “bourgeoisie”?) An eleven minute “Fracture,” one of the most complex pop songs written, is a preamble to the long improvisations that follow.
“The Law Of Maximum Distress” starts off with an expressionistic melody, searching for some sort of harmonic center. Fripp on mellotron and Wetton play around with Ligeti sounding figures until Cross comes in with a memorable melody. Bruford lays down a heavy-handed funk beat underneath a very tense violin and mellotron melody.
It forms a continuous fourteen minute piece divided only by the latter additions. It’s obvious why this four minute section was chosen. It is the more melodic and accessible portion. It also is the most moody, conveying an atmosphere of dread.
After “Easy Money” and “Exiles,” they embark on the final improvisation of the night. The six minute “Some More Pussyfooting” shares a similar theme with the Eno-Fripp piece.
Dominated by out-of-tune mellotrons, the rhythm section slightly contributes to the song. Wetton plays the scarce note and Bruford plays light percussion by the end while Fripp and Cross try to tune their mellotrons.
It comes to an end with the familiar thump of “The Talking Drum.” They close with “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part II” and “21st Century Schizoid Man” is the encore.
Heretical Gospel on Tarantura is limited to 150 and comes in a deluxe box with a small picture booklet. Called The King Crimson Bootleg Collectors’ Club Vol. 1 & Vol. 2, it looks like the start of a great run of titles. It would be wonderful if they could press all of those download only files from the DGM site and offer them in silver disc editions (something DGM should have done). Ultimately, this is a great sounding set worth having.