Lee Speaks About Music… #29

Larks’ Tongues In Aspic (40th Anniversary CD/DVD Edition) – King Crimson

KC - LTIA

Introduction…

At the end of promoting the bands previous album Islands. Robert Fripp decided to break away from all the previous members that were involved in the previous incarnations of the band including its only other longest member who had been with the band from the start. It’s lyricist Peter Sinfield.

There is no doubt that King Crimson found it increasingly hard to keep it’s musicians and keep a consistent line up, and by now it was getting to Fripp that much that he started to look at those musicians outside of the band who shown more of an interest in the band. One of those musicians was a long time friend of Fripp who had voiced his opinion to him way before that he was keen to join the band. He was none other than singer and bass guitarist John Wetton.

Wetton was the first new recruit for what was to become the 5th incarnation of the band. To be honest I have no idea why Fripp chose to drop its long time lyricist Peter Sinfield in the first place, but my guess is that Wetton had something to do with it. Richard Palmer James was to become the bands new lyricist a musician who had played in many other bands all of which featured Wetton on bass and vocals.

James was also the founding member of the band Supertramp in which he played guitar and wrote all the lyrics for their debut album. So my guess is that when Wetton joined James came along with him and poor old Sinfield was out the door.

The free experimental improvising percussionist Jamie Muir was the next recruit to join. Another long time admirer of the band was the drummer from Yes. Bill Bruford. Bruford felt he had given all he could to Yes and was brought in to pair up his drums with Muir.

The final recruit was a new musician by the name of David Cross. Cross played violin and was also handy on the keyboards though he had no previous experience with any well known bands like the other recruits had, and King Crimson was to be his first piece of musical history he contributed too.

A New Musical Sound Direction…

Without any elements of brass and flute and just a solo violin it very much meant that Robert Fripp had intended to change sound and style of King Crimson. It was perhaps eminent after their disappointing last album Islands. It was time to be a bit more experimental with the new band line up.

With both Fripp and Cross being able to play the keys, it still allowed them to keep the ever present sound of mellotron ongoing and still feature heavily in the bands music. But it was perhaps the array of percussion that Muir had onboard his rig that gave them the more experimental side of things. With the addition of Bruford adding support on the drums to the backline it allowed Wetton to have more of free lead role on the bass.

There was no doubt that Wetton was the best bass player the band had seen at this point since they had Greg Lake. His contribution to the trilogy of albums that was about to be sprung upon us was outstanding.

King Crimson if anything had become even more adventurous at this stage and the new line up even added jazz fusion into the pot as well. The bands 5th album Lark’s Tongues In Aspic was the first new step in putting the band back on the right path with its new sound and direction. No doubt it was a much stronger album than Islands which in all honesty was very poor in relation to it I personally thought.

The 40th Anniversary Edition Release…

The 40th Anniversary Edition of Lark’s Tongues In Aspic was released on the 26th October 2012. It was released in 3 versions. A 2 CD version that contained a new remaster and new Steve Wilson mix of the album. A CD/DVD version containing the new remaster on the CD and 5.1 mix on the DVD along with an array of other bonus material. It was also released as a massive box set containing 13 CD’s a DVD and a Blu Ray.

Amazingly the box set can still be picked up at a reasonable price of £89.99 on Amazon. Unlike the much smaller 6 disc box set release of In The Court Of The Crimson King which is being sold on there for ridiculous amounts of money and approaching the £400 mark. I myself settled for the more reasonable CD/DVD Edition which I got for £14.85 from Amazon.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The construction and quality of the packaging is very much all the same on these CD/DVD releases. They use 2 very thin layers of cardboard glued together to make the slipcase with and 1 thicker layer to construct the box that the slipcase can be stored in. It’s quite light weight and not the best of quality, but never the less ample enough to do the job.

Once again the booklet contains very well detailed information about the time the album was originally released, and includes all the info about this new release. The CD labels are also of a lot better quality than what we seen on their debut album too.

The Artwork.

The artwork was done by a London company called Tantra Designs. The cover illustration depicts a union of the sun and moon, and conveys the same idea that harkens back to their debut album. Fripp may have returned back to the basic symbol of their first album to say that this was a new beginning.

Larks’ Tongues In Aspic (40th Anniversary CD/DVD) Review…

The 40th Anniversary Edition of the bands 1973 album Larks’ Tongues In Aspic is another superb release that comes packed with a lot of extra features especially on the DVD. All the original multi track master tapes were available and intact for this release, and the quality is purely awesome.

The CD & Bonus Tracks.

The CD comes with the new 2012 mixes done by Steve Wilson & Robert Fripp and sounds excellent. It comes with 3 bonus tracks all of which are alternative takes and mixes, with the bonus tracks it has a total playing time of 77 minutes 56 seconds. The bonus tracks are as follows: Lark’s Tongues in Aspic, Pt. 1 [Alt. Mix] #. Book of Saturday [Alt. Take] #. The Talking Drum [Alt. Mix] #.

The DVD.

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Once again the DVD goes through some lovely animated transitions upon loading and you are presented with the main menu as seen in the picture above. Besides the 5.1 mix of the album I will get to later, we get a great array of extras on the DVD. There is the new 2012 Stereo mixes done by Fripp & Wilson of the 6 track album that come in audio quality of 24/96 MLP Lossless and PCM 24/48 formats.

It also includes the 30th Anniversary Edition Remasters from the original tapes which come in 24/48 PCM audio quality. An albums worth of alternative takes and mixes done by Steve Wilson in the same audio quality. You also get near enough 54 minutes of live video footage of the band playing live in the studio in Bremen from October 1972. 30 minutes of which is a new improvisation they done at the time they called “The Tapestry Of Life“.

The 5.1 Mix.

Has with all these 5.1 mixes in the 40th Anniversary Editions are done by both Fripp & Wilson and this is why these mixes are certainly more adventurous than any Wilson mix done on his own. Personally they are way better than any Wilson 5.1 mix and will blow your head off in how they have been done.

There can be no doubt what so ever that a good 5.1 nix will inject a new lease of life back into any old recording. There is quite a massive difference between hearing the 5.1 mix over the stereo mix of these albums. For example you will get to hear what every musician is doing so clearly and the sound of their actual instruments project superbly with the dynamics that the 5.1 mix has giving them more of the realistic sound to them as well.

To put it in a nutshell you are never going to hear how good Wetton’s bass is on your stereo mixes whether you have the album on CD or Vinyl I am sorry to say they just cannot project the realism a 5.1 mix can give you. Wetton’s bass sounds purely outstanding on the 5.1 mix. It’s as if he’s come into your room and plugged his bass guitar into your subwoofer. That’s how good these mixes really are.

Because these albums also feature loads of percussion. It has been very well utilised over the whole 6 channels with the placement of it all to which allows the space for every instrument to breathe and project so superbly. In many ways it’s been done with a cinematic approach that will enable certain parts of it to whack you on the back of the head.

They have also made adjustments to the levels on some of the tracks so you are going to have to be extremely careful with the volume controls on your amp. To be honest this is something that is not of the norm to do, and some people may not like exactly what they have done here either, but it has been done very effectively I will say.

In some ways I suppose it’s a bit like what Mike Oldfield done on his Amarok album to get back at, and annoy Richard Branson. Though it’s not that piercing :))))))))))). Like I say it’s only on certain tracks and the opening one “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part 1” is one where they have lowered the levels on its intro and the sound will only come from the front speakers at first. When everything else comes into play the levels are accentuated in higher volumes and will hit you with a driving force.

It’s certainly not apparent on the stereo mix on the CD and you will find yourself turning up the volume on the 5.1 mix cause it does seem very low at first. No doubt it’s been done on purpose for the effect it now gives you, and I have to say it works very well for it too. Just watch how much you turn it up, otherwise you will have the whole neighbourhood on your back (LOL). The 5.1 mix comes with 2 choices of 5.1 audio a DTS & MLP Lossless 24/48.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced by King Crimson. Cover design by Tantra Design London. Equipment by Kettle, Simmons & Walmsley. Recorded at Command Studios, London between January & February 1973. Engineer Nick Ryan.

Personnel:

Robert Fripp: Guitars/Mellotron & Devices.
John Wetton: Bass/Vocals/Piano.
David Cross: Voilin/Viola/Mellotron.
Bill Bruford: Drums.
James Muir: Percussion & Allsorts.

The Original Album Tracks Review…

Larks’ Tongues In Aspic by King Crimson was released on the 23rd March 1973. The album contained 6 tracks over a total playing time of 46 minutes, 36 seconds. The tracks were made up of 4 songs with words and 2 instrumental pieces. It was the first of a trilogy of albums and step into a new experimental and improvisational direction.

Track 1. Larks’ Tongues In Aspic (Part 1).

Larks’ Tongues In Aspic (Part 1)” is an experimental improvisation and the longest track on the album. It’s unusual title may have been the thing that sparked off Fripp to do 4 parts over the years, though none of the other parts in reality musically have nothing to do with it at all, and there is no similarities to the first part at all, and parts 3 & 4 are very much structured around part 2 and similar to it. For me personally this first part is by far the best of them all.

The piece opens up with marimba glocks and chimes and builds it way along to where the cymbals very much sort of represent the crickets singing in the night. The intro takes up 2 minutes and 52 seconds and is played by both James Muir & Bill Bruford. The percussion comes to an end and in comes David Cross on violin followed closely by Robert Fripp on guitar. Then in comes John Wetton on the bass and the whole thing goes into a frenzy of jazz fusion.

That all said the whole piece is very much a very dramatic piece of work even if it does have this frenzy of jazz fusion thrown into its equation. It not only describes the night with its percussion playing the role of singing crickets, but also describes the dawn of the morning with the larks singing and the sun rising and bringing in the new day.

When Fripp first approached Cross to join the band he told him that he wanted to do something a bit on the Indian side of things. There is no doubt that sun and the moon on the album cover are well apt to this opening piece, and in reality it only represents this piece and none of the other 3 parts that were done of “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic“.

Though Fripp originally wanted something with a touch of east to it, he very much incorporated a touch of the orient and even an Egyptian equation to it as well. Besides all the mad fusion here we have some excellent expressive passages played by Cross on the violin from the 7:40 onwards.

It really is a superb piece of work that even has a coda section to which a recording of a drama played on a radio station in Scotland was used in it that Muir provided. The radio drama was entitled ‘Gallowglass‘ and you can quite clearly hear the judge passing his sentence to the criminal with the words “you shall be hanged by the neck upon a gibbet, until you are, dead”.

There is no doubt that “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic (Part 1)” is filled with diversity and it’s one of the highest contenders for the top spot on the album.

Track 2. Book Of Saturday.

When it comes to changing the tempo and toning things down a bit. King Crimson have always been able to do it in great style. For those who think King Crimson is nothing but a noise they really have not paid any attention to what they are all about at all I am afraid.

The “Book Of Saturday” is very much a classic ballad of a song just like we seen on their earlier albums with songs like “I Talk To The Wind” and “Cadence And Cascade” from their first 2 albums. It’s a beautiful song that contains some of Fripp’s more refined guitar playing and the whole band make it shine. No doubt this is another contender for the top spot on the album.

Track 3. Exiles.

Exiles” picks up the drama once again and is more of a powerful ballad. The lyrical content provided by Richard Palmer James is well in context with the songs title here. It’s another piece that kicks off with the use of some great percussion from Muir and Bruford. The mellotron is also used heavily on its introduction too.

The song once again features the more refined side of Fripp on guitar and  Wetton not only handles the vocals and bass with ease, but also contributes a nice bit of piano into the piece. The violin work by Cross on the piece is yet again very expressive and contributes a lot to the dramatics of the piece. He also plays flute on this one too.

It’s very much another King Crimson classic of a song  and another high contender for the top spot of the album.

Track 4. Easy Money.

The heat gets turned up again for what is perhaps the most powerful track on the album “Easy Money“. One of the things the band King Crimson have always had is the ability to do is change tempos so superbly. This song no doubt rocks with a superb groove and feel. I have to say listening to this one in 5.1 surround sound will blow your mind with just how superb this track really is. The drums, percussion and bass on this are pure class.

For me personally songs like “Easy Money” and “The Great Deceiver” from the album Starless And Bible Black that followed are pure class written songs that have much more about them. They speak more highly to me than whatever the likes of “21st Century Schizoid Man” and “Red” will ever speak to me as well, which are also great, but far from what I would call class I am afraid.

Easy Money” is my personal favourite track on the album and merits my top spot award. But no doubt up to this point of the album, it is filled with contenders for the spot as well.

Track 5. The Talking Drum.

An instrumental piece with another great groove that builds up slowly and contains a very interesting trumpet sound which sounds very much like a fly or a bee flying around. The trumpet sound was made by Muir by attaching a brass mouthpiece to a length of tubing that spiralled around his head whilst blowing through it, causing the Doppler effect.

Both Muir and Bruford interchange with each other on the drums in time signatures of 4/4 and 5/4. Wetton adds to the groove with his bass and Fripp’s guitar and Cross’s violin play around the rest. It’s another great track on the album and was widely played live many times after too, with other incarnations of the bands line up.

Track 6. Larks’ Tongues In Aspic (Part 2).

The 2nd part of the self titled album track is another uptempo and powerful instrumental piece. Many other pieces were made up using Fripp’s guitar riff. You will not only hear it in parts 3 & 4 of “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic” but it also features along another riff on the self titled album track “Red” as well. It’s perhaps one of Fripp’s most overused riff’s out of them all.

Once again the band do the business on the piece even if Bruford does want to do another quick take like he suggests at the end of the track. It’s very much another contender for the top spot on the albums and puts an end to a very satisfying album and one I would put on par with the very best of their albums.

Summary…

Larks’ Tongues In Aspic was the only King Crimson album that James Muir contributed too. When he joined the band in mid 1972 he was very much into Buddhism at the time and his belief got more stronger that he left the band abruptly not so long after the release of the album whilst they was on tour. He went back to his own country in Scotland and became a monk and lived in a Monastery there.

Though Muir did briefly return to the London music scene in 1980 to record with his old friends Derek Bailey and Evan Parker from his old band The Music Improvisation Company. No recordings we ever released by them. Though he did get to collaborate with King Crimson’s old drummer Michael Giles to work on the film score for Ghost Dance done with David Cunningham that was released in 1983. After he retired completely from the music business and went into painting.

There is no doubt that Muir’s contribution to the percussion on Larks’ Tongues In Aspic was a dominant feature and one that even Bruford would of learned a few things from him in the percussion department. The percussion was to become more of a regular feature throughout King Crimson’s output of work from here on and King Crimson was the only real well known band Muir got to play with.

Many of King Crimson’s fans would describe both Larks’ Tongues In Aspic and Starless And Bible Black as the build up albums of the trilogy that contributed for what was to come in how good the 3rd album in the trilogy Red turned out. Personally when it comes to solid albums containing solid material on them that makes up an album. I would say that both Larks’ Tongues In Aspic and Starless And Bible Black contained a lot more stronger material on them. In reality the album Red was made out of the leftovers of what the band were doing at the time.

Conclusion…

The 40th Anniversary Edition of Larks’ Tongues In Aspic by King Crimson is very well worthy package of buying again for its sheer quality. The 2012 new mixes on the CD is up there with the vinyl album if not better. But the DVD is where the real quality lies. The 5.1 mix is purely awesome and no doubt in my mind it will provide the listener with an entirely new and fresh way of hearing this magic album. It will simply blow your socks off and leave both the vinyl album and CD in the dust for breathtaking quality.

The bonus features on the DVD are once again are in abundance and even the film footage is well worthy of seeing. For its price point it’s worthy of every penny and more. I am well over the moon with the CD/DVD editions in this series so far and you are getting high end quality with them.

To conclude my review of Larks’ Tongues In Aspic. It’s very much an album that many would say was experimental, but it’s a combination of both improvisational and composed material that allowed the band a lot of scope and freedom to express themselves individually, and it resulted in the making of a solid album with all 6 tracks upon it.

No doubt in my mind it’s up with their best ever work and the album that was to follow it was marginally better in my book.

As You Twinkle By In Moccasin Sneakers…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Pt. 1. 7:24.
02. Book of Saturday. 6:00.
03. Exiles. 8:52.
04. Easy Money. 9:02.
05. The Talking Drum. 9:31.
06. Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Pt. 2. 12:15.
07. Lark’s Tongues in Aspic, Pt. 1 [Alt. Mix] #. 4:55.
08. Book of Saturday [Alt. Take] #. 6:36.
09. The Talking Drum [Alt. Mix] #. 9:05.

Lee’s overall Complete Package Value Rating…

The Packaging Rating Score. 7/10

The Bonus Tracks Rating Score. 8/10

The 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 10/10.

The Original Album Rating Score. 10/10.

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