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KING CRIMSON: Live at Jacksonville, 1972 Collector's Club 2

The original King Crimson did not survive its first (and only) U.S. tour, breaking up in December, 1969. As the only surviving member, Robert Fripp recorded the second and third Crimson albums (IN THE WAKE OF POSEIDON and LIZARD) with studio-bands -- using a variety of available musicians, including Greg Lake, Michael Giles and Peter Giles, from the first band and its predecessor, Giles, Giles & Fripp, as well as Jon Anderson (of Yes) and Gordon Haskell on individual vocal tracks, and with saxophonist/flautist Mel Collins replacing Ian McDonald.

In 1971 Fripp put together a new working band, one which would play outside the studio. This band consisted of Mel Collins on flutes and saxes, Boz Burrell on bass and lead vocals, and Ian Wallace on drums. Augmented by many of the studio musicians who'd played on LIZARD (Keith Tippett, piano; Robin Miller, oboe; Mark Charig, cornet -- plus soprano vocalist Paulina Lucas and upright bassist Harry Miller, as well as a small orchestra), this band recorded ISLANDS, the fourth Crimson album. The band subsequently went on two tours of the U.S., during the first of which, "My increasingly strained professional relationship with [lyricist] Peter Sinfield became more difficult," says Fripp. "Peter departed the group in December following our return to England. The remaining quartet broke up in rehearsals ... in January 1972."

However, "EG Management told me that the group was obliged to tour America in the Spring, to honour contractual commitments. In retrospect, I don't believe this was true. At the time, much of the tour seemed too ad hoc to indicate a lot of forward planning." But the tour was undertaken, and ultimately produced "(I believe) rock's first official bootleg album," according to Fripp, EARTHBOUND. Recorded on audio cassettes from the band's soundboard, EARTHBOUND's sound quality was only marginally better than that of an audience-recorded bootleg. Island Records (Crimson's British label) released the album, but Atlantic (the U.S. label) refused to. The album was released with a somber black cover with only the title in silver type -- no artwork. EARTHBOUND was drawn from performances in Wilmington, Delaware; Peoria, Illinois; Jacksonville, Florida and Orlando, Florida. When I first heard it in 1972 I was taken aback by its raw, jamming quality. Here were no faithful recreations of studio tracks but rather long jazzy improvisations, fuzzily recorded and rather grungy. The album stands apart from all other Crimson albums, and its title suggests that it was released to show why this band broke up -- which it did at the end of that tour, the entire band, sans Fripp, joining touring partner Alexis Korner (a British blues musician) as his backup band, Snape. "The personal relationships between the musicians deteriorated over three long months," Fripp says. "At the end of the Crimson tour Mel, Boz and Ian continued on with Alexis Korner ... and I flew back to England to recreate a Crimson of new formation." This would be the LARKS' TONGUES IN ASPIC band, with John Wetton and Bill Bruford, which went on to much acclaim.

"Crimson repertoire didn't fall naturally on Mel, Boz & Ian, with the possible exception of Mel Collins," Fripp reports. "During the three-month 'Earthbound' tour the ill-fitting Crimson repertoire gradually fell away to be replaced by jamming. The ballad side of Crimson was particularly ill-suited to Boz's singing, naturally more inclined towards blues, rock and scat. ... Improvisation has played an important, even critical role, in all the Crims. This live Crimson was more a jamming than an improvising outfit.

"The exceptional playing of Mel Collins notwithstanding, this was not as radical an outfit as the other Crimsons. The other musicians looked more to the American tradition than myself, who at this time looked to what was available from Europe. They could also party a lot better. ... King Crimson was an unfair opportunity for these exceptional players,"

What Fripp has not mentioned is that when he met Boz that man was a singer and did not play an instrument. Fripp taught him to play bass. Boz subsequently became a founder-member of Bad Company, a hard-rock band -- as its bassist.

So this particular incarnation of Crimson was in many ways the least important, despite the importance of the studio album it made, ISLANDS.

EARTHBOUND was "deleted after much effort by myself," Fripp says, "in the 1980s." But, "It is now a cult classic and in so much demand we are planning a re-release through Virgin." The album has never been released in the U.S., and has never been released on CD anywhere, so this is good news for Crimson fans seeking it. (Virgin has control over King Crimson's original albums; Fripp's Discipline Global Mobile label releases the Crimson material considered to have less commercial potential -- including the Collector's Club albums.)

In the meantime, members of the Collectors' Club have received its second release, taken from the "Earthbound" tour. This CD -- clocking in at one hour in length -- is taken from a single set, recorded on February 26, 1972 in Jacksonville, Florida. As such it marginally overlaps EARTHBOUND with one track, "The Sailor's Tale." But here we get the full 14 minute version, while EARTHBOUND presents only an edited version which runs less than five minutes. Both albums have different recordings of "21st Century Schizoid Man;" the Jacksonville album closes with it, while EARTHBOUND opens with a version recorded in Wilmington, Delaware. Otherwise, the material on each album is quite different.

Live at Jacksonville 1972 opens with a searing version of "Pictures of a City" (originally recorded for the second album), followed by "Cirkus" (from the third album), "Ladies of the Road," "Formentera Lady," and "The Sailor's Tale" (from ISLANDS), and closes with the aforementioned "21st Century Schizoid Man." This gives us access (via EPITAPH and LIVE AT THE MARQUEE 1969) to both the pre- and post-album versions of "Pictures," allowing us to watch its evolution. And "Cirkus" is the only piece from LIZARD thus far available in live performance. "Ladies" is a hot song (songs were rare in Crimson's repertoire) -- and it's interesting to note some subtle changes in the lyrics as they are sung here ("you" becomes "we" in the line, "Like apples you stole in your youth") -- along with the way Boz breaks up the final line into a scatting scream. The playing in this concert is a bit rough-and-ready, but Collins plays a mean sax, fully as well as Ian McDonald had on earlier live releases, and both Collins and Fripp play (separate) Mellotrons, sometimes together. "Cirkus" is particularly rewarding for Mellotron freaks like myself.

The sound quality is not great, but it is better than that of EARTHBOUND, due to David Singleton's engineering skills (perhaps he can do something similar for the re-release of EARTHBOUND) -- and much better than that of the first Collectors' Club release. At least these recordings are in stereo, from the mixing board, and not recorded out in the audience. The vocals have some overload distortion, but the instruments are relatively well recorded. Robert Fripp provides not only a page of notes (from which the quotes I've used are taken), but fourteen more pages from his DGM website journal (one of which is repeated in place of the correct page and is set in a different typeface -- an error Fripp has noted on his website as an added "collector's bonus" for this first edition). The journal entries are fascinating stuff in their own right.

Each Collectors' Club booklet (thus far) has concluded with a "Future History" in which the next selection is heralded. DGM CC#3, due for release in or at the end of February, 1999, will be the Larks' Tongues band -- with Jamie Muir -- at The Beat Club, Bremen (Germany), 1972 -- only months after this album was recorded, but with a stunningly different band. Muir was on the LARKS' TONGUES IN ASPIC album, but remained with the band only a short time thereafter, making this forthcoming live set unique. I await it with eager anticipation.

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