Live in Guildford, 1972 Review
Like many people who would read a review of an exhumed, obscure King Crimson show, I am a big fan of this ever-changing band, and all of its incarnations ... though I do have a bias toward Michael Giles's tasteful, gorgeously emotive drumming, and the Wetton/Bruford rhythm section, and the expansive mellotron, violin, and brass epics of the 60s and 70s (my favorite KC tunes include Wake of Poseidon, Epitaph, Fallen Angel, The Letters, Fracture, Larks Tongues in Aspic Part II, Starless, and Islands).
At present, I've purchased no less than a dozen live albums by this band--from various eras--- and in some cases found excellent, well-recorded versions of songs I already knew (Live in Asbury Park is a sterling example of this, as is Ladies of the Road---both are highly recommended). These recordings sparkle with embellishments and (in the case of tunes like Lament, Exiles, and Cirkus) additional living fire. Yet still ... I am hoping for something more than strong variations of music with which I am familiar when I buy these albums---I am hoping for some NEW music with which I am unfamiliar. I should also point out that I have mixed feelings about the purely improvised pieces that the various iterations of KC have recorded---often, I feel that the ratio of desultory wandering to inspired coherence isn't great. Sure, for two or three of its ten minutes an improvised number like "Asbury Park" coheres into something memorable, but not for most of its duration to my ears.
So with this admitted bias, I was floored when I heard this album, Live in Guildford 1972. The sound quality here is flat---there is little depth and no dynamic other than one instrument blocking out another on occasion, but the 25 minute improvisation on this record entitled "All that Glitters is Not Nail Polish" is powerful, memorable, formidable, exhilarating, menacing, and inspiring. The version of Larks Tongues in Aspic Part I is good, and the other tunes aren't all there, but with this recording I finally found what I'd hope to find by buying numerous live releases from this band: some very good King Crimson music that exists nowhere else. For those on a similar quest, this lo-fi release delivers some real platinum.
Ladies of the Road and Live in Asbury Park are great live albums that feature energetic elaborations of familiar material, but Live in Guildford is essentially a new album born in the maelstrom of interstellar Fripp, Wetton, Bruford, Muir, and Cross improvisation. Bravo gents. I'll gladly buy a dozen more live releases to find another gem like this...
(An aside: The Bremen show provides the second best lengthy improvisation I've heard by KC-- that one is 28 minutes--though it peaks in it's first half, whereas the one on Guildford builds up and grows and gets more engaging throughout. And the Improv: Cerberus on Central Park 1974 is 8 minutes of sharp platinum...)