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Saturday, January 27, 2018

King Crimson - Earthbound

Among supporters of one of the first “official bootleg” releases back in 1972 including Nick Cave of the Bad Seeds who worked with Robert Fripp on the second Grinderman project, King Crimson’s Earthbound is perhaps one of the most lo-fi recordings that King Crimson released during the time when the Islands-era line up toured during the states. When it was originally released in the summer of 1972 on the Island HELP label, it topped the mid-price charts in the UK, not on the main album charts.

I wasn’t quite sure for many years if I wanted to delve into the Earthbound album. But when I heard that it was going to be reissued as a part of the King Crimson catalogue in the 40th anniversary series (CD/DVD) by making it the 12th release last year, I was thinking to myself, “Let me give this live album a chance.” Listening to this, I will admit, it has a very rough sound due to being recorded on an AMPEX stereo cassette from a Kelsey Morris custom built mixer.

It’s not bad, but it does a very raw and rough sound. Listening to the bluesy rocker Peoria, the late great Boz Burrell does an incredible job scatting through his vocals as Fripp’s wah-wah on the guitar, lays down the rhythm as Ian Wallace’s pounding drums on the bass drum, follows his textures to get the groove and follow the paths of a mind-blowing trip. Mel Collins’ mellotron on The Sailor’s Tale takes you beyond the sea and heading towards the sun to rise as it sails from Fripp’s guitar work along with Boz and Ian creating these jazz beats between the Bass and Drums.

Even though it fades out in the end from Ian Wallace’s drum solo, I wish they continued more with that. But Ian takes center stage as he, Boz, and Mel’s sax improvisation continue with the Blues on the title-track. Boz scat’s well and channeling the greats of Al Green and Otis Redding. The Soul and R&B roots are delved into this classic. You could see where Boz was about to go into before embarking success with Bad Company.

When you listen to the opener, 21st Century Schizoid Man, you can imagine Boz’s vocals speaking through as if he was a Dalek from Doctor Who. The band in this are tight and keeping the machine flowing on here. Wallace’s bass drums is way too loud on here. Again, the criticism on this, I wish it wasn’t recorded in front of the stage, but on the soundboard instead of being up to a maximum volume.

The DVD contains a new sequence stereo version of the Earthbound album including a very interesting yet staggering version of Ladies of the Road, an intense take of The Letters thanks to the blaring nightmarish saxes of Mel Collins yet in the styles of Coltrane, also on here are two extended versions of both The Sailor’s Tale and Groon. Here, at their best, you can hear them what they could have been on the original release of the album.

The second thing on the DVD contains the original vinyl transfer release, the 11-part sections of Schizoid Men which was originally part of the DGM release of Ladies of the Road the 2-CD set in 2002 in the King Crimson Collectors Club during the Earthbound tour. Listening to Schizoid Men, the compilations between Mel Collins and Robert Fripp, is like a dueling car chase. It’s quite the surprise to hear them really hitting the race track to see they’re going to do next. 

And Ian following suit to be ready the blow the whistle at any moment. It made my arm hairs go up. But the Summit Studios recordings which contains both the New Stereo Mix and the Quadraphonic Mix, makes you realize that this could have been the should have been the Earthbound release.

The 16-page booklet contains liner notes by Sid Smith, including photographs of the band’s performance during that tour in ’72. It also includes pictures of the vinyl from Polydor label, press ads, and the final concert photos they did on April fool’s day in Birmingham, Alabama at Municipal Auditorium. After the tour was done, the band broke up. It wasn’t until they came which would later be their golden-era which was the John Wetton and Bill Bruford-era from ’73 to ’74.

Earthbound is not a great live album, there are some flaws on here, but it’s very interesting that it finally got the King Crimson 40th anniversary release. Would I listen to this again? Not really. But it’s understandable where they were about to go with next until their next live album during the Red-era entitled USA which is consider their best.

1 comment:

Harry Hamid said...

Islands has always been one of my favorites by King Crimson, even though it's not one of the ones people seem to discuss. Boz in general seems to fly under the radar (I'd forgotten that he'd passed - I know Greg Lake and John Wetton passed more recently). So I will give this a listen, rough or not.

Incidentally, if you haven't read Nick Cave's account of the rather weird experience of working with Fripp on the Grinderman song, it's really worth a look.