50 years since King Crimson launched. 50 years since despite the various line-up changes, the music is still going strong like an eruptive cannon blast that is waiting to happen. And 50 years later, Robert Fripp himself is still going strong and keeping the machines of Crimson like a train chugging at 500 miles per hour. There’s no denial on how despite the genres to put King Crimson in, Fripp always considers King Crimson, “A Way of Doing Things.”
That and this rare live recording released last year from The King Crimson Collectors Club entitled Live in Newcastle December 8, 1972, showcases the early beginnings of the John Wetton-era of the band’s period. By this time period, the band had already finished up promoting the Islands album in 1971. Fripp parted company between Mel Collins, Boz Burrell, and Ian Wallace as they embarked on other successful careers from Camel, Bad Company, and Don Henley.
And in January of 1972, lyricist Peter Sinfield departed the band due to creative differences with Robert as he would later work with bands such as ELP, Premiata Forneria Marconi, and producing the first Roxy Music album. What Robert wanted to do is go into deeper darker territories such as the music of Bela Bartok and Free Improvisations. He brought along Family bassist John Wetton, percussionist Jamie Muir, violinist and keyboardist David Cross, and Yes drummer, Bill Bruford.
Bill had shown that he had reached his peak with Yes after the release of their fifth studio album, Close to the Edge. And what Bill wanted to do with King Crimson is have free-rein and go into a large full scale assault on his drum kit by having more textures of Jazz improvisations like no other. Now onto the Newcastle recording.
This was from a soundboard recording at the Newcastle Odeon where Sid Smith, who not only wrote the liner notes for this, but he was at this performance. And this was the very first King Crimson concert he saw at the Odeon. Listening to this concert, despite its quality, is quite a rare treat to discover the quintet taking all of the aspects of Free Improvisations, Classical Music, Jazz, and Avant-Garde structures like no other.
This was three months before their fifth studio album, Larks Tongues in Aspic was about to come out on March 23, 1973. And these were some of the early beginnings of what was to come prior to the Larks-era. So let’s embark on some of the highlights that are on the 48th release from the King Crimson Collectors Club.
“My, my what a nice crowd of people they have in Newcastle. But now we will proceed to attack culture yet again to with a song called Daily Games and this, in turn, is preceded by a small demonstration of Mellotron tuning.” Fripp’s announcement after the exhilarating opening track of the first part of Larks’ Tongues in Aspic where Jamie Muir creates some eternal chaos throughout his percussions and drum kit by teaming up with Bruford as they let the beast run buck wild, is quite an achievement to come at you with some brutal force to start the show off.
The punching in the gut stomp intro of Easy Money from Wetton’s bass and scat solo, Cross’ mellotron, and Fripp’s nightmarish guitar lines delving into a clean yet quiet sound and Muir’s percussion textures, sets up the intensity of the greed coming at you and the dark side of the corruption. On Improv I, you can tell the band are having a blast going into some territorial free improvisation of the Jazz structure.
Wetton’s intensive bass lines, Muir and Bruford doing a duel on their drums and percussion, Fripp setting up some of the early beginnings of the Starless and Bible Black-era, and Cross taking you into those mysterious location in the heart of the forest that can be dangerous and very lifting at times. The drums are the key to the Newcastle recording.
You can tell that Bill and Jamie are having a blast between each other as they set the kettle boiling red hot from their free-improvisations as Muir is all over the place throughout the percussions whilst Bill is almost saying to him “Alright, let’s see how you can come up with this bad boy right here!” They are a perfect match, and a perfect team by working together during that performance.
And then they set up the Blaxploitation score by laying down the funk as Cross sets his wah-wah on his violin to set up the scenario on where Richard Roundtree’s character in Shaft will come up with next to bring justice and handle the law his own way, not the police, but the way he handles it.
Now on Improv II, I can’t tell if that is Jamie Muir screaming and chanting like something out of Jack Nicholson’s volcanic performance in the 1975 classic, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, but if that’s him, he’s the raging beast ready to attack. He brings all of the percussion instruments to the forefront as he goes all over the place. It’s one of the terrifying and insane compositions I’ve listened to.
There’s the essence of world music he brings into at times, and some stronger elements of an Indian tribe and Soft Machine’s Third meets Klaus Schulze’s Irrlicht thanks to Wetton’s bass in the background very softly. The intensity is there and you can imagine the audience are going to be there for the ride that is challenging and right in your face.
Even though it is similar to the Earthbound release, the quality isn’t bad as I’ve mentioned earlier, but Live in Newcastle is the adventure that awaits them on what they were going to do and the direction they were going in between Larks Tongues in Aspic, Starless and Bible Black, and the Red album before calling it a day in 1975, this is the journey that begins the John Wetton-era.