King Crimson – In Concert (Tarantura TCDKC-15-1, 2)

In Concert (Tarantura TCDKC-15-1, 2)

Jazz Club, Chesterfield, England – September 7th, 1969

Disc 1 (46:45):  21st Century Schizoid Man, Why Don’t You Just Drop In, Epitaph, Get Thy Bearings, I Talk To The Wind

Disc 2 (37:22):  In The Court Of The Crimson King, Mantra, Travel Weary Capricorn, Improvisation, Mars

King Crimson’s triumphs in the summer were followed by recording of their debut album and more live dates around the UK.  Two weeks after wrapping up In The Court Of The Crimson King and a month before its official release, they played a gig at the Jazz Club in Chesterfield, England.  

The audience recording is clear but somewhat murky.  The venue was quite small and the audience very attentive and quiet thus ensuring a very enjoyable listening experience.  

An incomplete recording first surfaced on vinyl on Dead Fucking Bollocks (KC 1710) in 1974 and would be copied onto compact disc in 1994 (twenty years later in the protection gap period).  Other compact disc releases include also March For No Reason (Archivio ARC CD 024/2) along with songs from BBC Top Gear and the Plumpton Festival, Get Thy Bearings (Scorpion sc102/1-2), A Weird Person’s Guide to… King Crimson Vol. 2 (Invasion Unlimited IU 9426-1) which has “Why Don’t You Just Drop In” and “Travel Weary Capricorn / Devil’s Triangle” among other songs and Talk To The Wind (Oil Well RSC 045CD), mislabeled Cheltenham, February 9th, 1967. 

Several years afterwards DGM released the incomplete tape as Volume 4 of the official Epitaph box set released in 1997.  It was obtainable only through mail order along with the full Plumpton show, but has since been discontinued.  The entire show was later posted on the DGM Live website as a download with.  The liner notes state that “over twenty minutes of this concert has been restored – primarily the inclusion of ‘The Court of the Crimson King’ and full versions of the improvisation and ‘Mars.'”

Tarantura’s In Concert is a silver pressing from a loss-less copy of the same tape and thus fills a big void by producing a physical copy of the show for the collection.  It’s a very nice audience recording for the era and a great way to obtain a definitive version of the classic show.  

Crimson play a set derived from their just completed first studio album.  All of the songs except “Moonchild” (which has never been played live) are performed and are augmented by covers, unreleased songs and several very long improvisations.  The band’s sonic explorations, which would be a primary interest for the band, is evidence even this early in their live career.

DGM’s liner notes also emphasize the improvs in this show.  “Given the weight of history that presses down upon KC’s debut album, it’s often something of a surprise to discover that some gigs such as this (their 47th) have an almost carefree sense of abandon to them.  The improvisations are clearly amorphous zones where ideas were thrown up in the air to see where they might land. Sometimes the intention is playful and obviously designed to entertain both crowd and band members alike. On other occasions the music is deadly serious and there’s a sense of steely purpose to the proceedings.”

It’s apparent from the beginning that Ian McDonald is the focus of the instrumentals.  The apocalyptic section of the first song “21st Century Schizoid Man” is dominated by the saxophone followed by Robert Fripp trying to keep up on guitar.  They follow with the Giles, Giles and Fripp unreleased song “Why Don’t You Just Drop In.”  (It would later be rewritten as “The Letters”).    

After “Epitaph,” always an effective and dramatic live piece of rock theater, they continue with the Donovan cover “Get Thy Bearings.”  Released the previous year on the LP Hurdy Gurdy Man, it joined Crimson’s set in August when they performed a five minute arrangement on the BBC.  It would also survive this line up and be featured in some of the early Islands era shows.  

But in Chesterfield they really push the boundaries by extending the song to eighteen minutes of meandering saxophone and guitar solos.  At times the song breaks down and the musicians need to find their place again.  It feels overlong by the fifteen minute mark.  It’s interesting to hear the attempt, but they thankfully don’t play this overlong in future performances.  The melodic “I Talk To The Wind” follows.  

More, and better played improvisations dominate the latter half of the show.  After an unusually heavy “In The Court Of The Crimson King” they embark on the long and jazz infused concluding with their cover of Holst’s “Mars.”  It’s not obvious how Peter Sinfield’s light show worked in such a small venue, but the band receive polite applause at the very end of the show.

King Crimson live recordings of the first line up are rare.  All have been officially released in one form or another.  The Chesterfield show is itself uneven but still a fascinating glimpse into the live development of the band when McDonald took much of the lead.  In Concert on Tarantura is packaged in a gatefold cardboard sleeve with an interesting metal cast interpretation of the famous Barry Godber painting from the first album.    

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