Red (40th Anniversary CD/DVD Edition) – King Crimson
The bands 7th album Red in some way was like its predecessor Starless And Bible Black in that some of it’s material came from improvisations they performed live at many of the bands shows whilst on tour. The same line up had originally started work on the album in March 1974 and it was in between working in the studio and going out playing live that by the summer, tension had built up between David Cross and the other band members. Basically on stage Cross felt he was being drowned out by the rest of the band, and by the end of the tour at the end of August in the same year Robert Fripp ejected him from the band reducing it to a trio.
It was a time when everything was even getting a bit too much for Fripp and many of the recording sessions that they had to make the album, he himself decided to drop out of and leave the other guys to it. It was also a time that former member Ian McDonald had approached Fripp to rejoin the band. Fripp himself was considering having him back for the live tour to promote the album after its release, but in the end he decided there was not gonna be a tour and on the 24th of September a month before the album was released. He abruptly put an end to King Crimson and disbanded it for many years to come.
McDonald’s time was not entirely wasted though and he did get to play on a couple of the tracks as a session player. Even the former member Mel Collins got to play on a track along with a few other session players in which one was an unknown Cello player and must of been that unknown that not one of the bands members cannot even remember the poor guys name :))))))). David Cross also featured on the album as a session player though his parts were played when he was an actual member of the band.
Though the album Red had been constructed just like Starless And Bible Black using live material with studio overdubs, it did have a different production in comparison to both Larks’ Tongues In Aspic and Starless And Bible Black and personally for me the production Red got does not do the album justice at all.
It lacks a lot of quality in the dynamics department, its perhaps the only album out of the 3 in this incarnation that Fripp gets to stand out more and takes on more of a role than Wetton did on the other 2 albums, but it can also tend to drown out everything else on some of its tracks leaving it lack lustre in the sound department.
The album was completed when everything around Fripp’s world was falling apart. Even on its release it was widely criticised and did not even make the top 30 in the album charts. It was only later on down the line many years later that it got more praise, but as albums go I certainly think this album is good, but also overrated.
The 40th Anniversary Edition Release…
I have to say the 40th Anniversary release of Red is the most disappointing release out of all the 6 albums I have in this series so far. Talk about rushing things out to make a buck and this one certainly was, and I have to say it does suffer for it.
The rush job I am speaking of is the fact that this release was actually put out in the same year and even a month before the 40th Anniversary of In The Court Of The Crimson King. It was released on 21st September 2009 5 years before its 40th Anniversary and Steve Wilson decided he wanted to work on this album first being as it was one of his favourites.
Considering it was one his favourite albums he never even bothered to do a new stereo mix of the album, and the CD that comes in this package is in fact the same CD you got with the 30th Anniversary release from 2004 apart from the bonus tracks.
However both Wilson & Fripp did eventually decide to do the new mixes for the 40th Anniversary Edition and released them on a Double CD in 2013. Will I buy it?. NO! :))))))))))))))))). Because even the 2013 Double CD has been botched up with errors on it by all accounts of them labelling the discs the wrong way around.
The 2 CD’s contain both the 30th and 40th Anniversary Editions and 4 bonus tracks that are on this DVD spread over the 2 discs. From reviews I have read the new mixes are marginally better, and to be honest I would expect them to be. But my incentive is the 5.1 mix and not the stereo release.
King Crimson also released a 24 Disc Box Set entitled The Road To Red in the same year of 2013. But the £130 price tag put me off :)))))). I am also not fan of how these Box Sets have been packaged either. They are done on the cheap with how the discs come in cardboard sleeves and even some of the discs are even slotted into a sheet of cardboard. I thought the packaging of these CD/DVD Slipcases was done on the cheap, but nowhere near as cheap as the way they have packed all the discs in that box set :)))))).
In reality you only have to look at the many albums there are of King Crimson and the biggest majority of them are in fact compilations and box sets.
King Crimson have only ever made 13 studio albums to date. The other few hundred they have are put out to siphon the money from your wallet I am afraid, they would even go as far as draining your blood from your veins, and you would have to be a 21st Century Schizo Nutter to go that far and buy them all (LOL)
The Packaging & Artwork…
The same quality packaging as pointed out in my previous reviews comes with all 40th Anniversary CD/DVD Editions, they have been done slightly on the cheaper side of things but never the less look presentable and do a good enough job.
Has for the artwork it’s all photography and shows the 3 band members on the front and a VU recording level meter on the back on a black background. Not the most exiting album cover but never the less does the job. The booklet is not as informative as others are in this series either and it does not even include the lyrics.
Red (40th Anniversary CD/DVD) Review…
The 40th Anniversary CD/DVD Edition of Red by King Crimson was released on the 21st September 2009. The only real thing you are getting new with this release is the 5.1 mix. the bonus tracks and video content. For surround freaks like myself, this will no doubt be the major incentive of buying this release.
The CD & Bonus Tracks.
The original album tracks on the CD are remasters and the same as what came with the 30th Anniversary Edition has I have already mentioned. To be honest the sound quality is good but it’s not up to the standards of the quality that comes with the other releases in the 40th Anniversary CD/DVD Editions, and is nothing to write home about either.
You do however get bonus tracks though, and you get 3 of them on the CD. You get a Trio version of “Red“. A Trio Instrumental version of “Fallen Angel” and the Full version of “Providence” to which are all very good I will say.
The DVD has a nice touch of animation upon loading and you get to see the needle on the VU recording level meter move into the highest peak of the red area. Then it presents you with the menu screen pictured above. Has with most of the DVD’s they come with many extras besides the 5.1 mix and this one does come with video content as well. But let’s first take a look at the audio content.
The DVD contains the 5 original album tracks from the original master tape. The stereo version comes with 4 bonus tracks as well and you have the choice of the MLP Lossless 24/96 or the PCM 24/48 quality audio formats.
The 5.1 Surround Mixes come in the form of a DTS 24/48 mix and an MLP Lossless 24/96 as well. But you only get 3 of the bonus tracks with the 5,1 mixes and not 4.
The audio format quality is superb I will say but my personal gripe would be with the original master tape not being up to the standards it should of been, and it may have either downgraded over the years or the production and recording of Red was never that good in the first place.
To be perfectly honest I could not tell you because I got into King Crimson late and I have never had the album on vinyl to make any real comparison.
The screen menu above shows you the bonus tracks and I have to say the Trio mixes for me are way better recordings than the album tracks, and have been newly mixed by Fripp & Wilson.
The DVD Video Content.
The screen above shows the videos that comes on the DVD. All the 4 video listed above come from ORTF in France. Basically it’s a TV Channel that shown the band playing live on Television and was broadcast on the 22nd March 1974.
Has with all this content that comes from Television back in those days it was only ever broadcast in mono, not the best of sound quality however this is not that bad and is not only a bit of nostalgia but quite watchable. The band still consisted of Fripp/Wetton/Cross and Bruford and as well as the material from their 2 previous albums your get to see how “Starless” was originally played with Cross playing the lead lines on his violin.
The 5.1 Mix.
Once again the 5.1 mix was done by both Steven Wilson & Robert Fripp. Despite the fact that there are not any of the original multi track master tapes missing here this one does not have the same exiting quality the other albums have I am afraid. For example it’s not really going to give you anything really that new and fresh in the way of breathing a fresh bit of life into the way the album comes across, and for some reason some tracks work better than others.
There is no doubt in my mind that the quality of the original master tapes of Red are either not up to scratch or it was just badly recorded in the first place. It could also be down to the mix having way too much saturation in it, and some of the tracks do not seem to work that well at all for a 5.1 mix to really to give you a better presentation over the stereo mixes.
Out of the 5 original tracks on the album the only two that work maybe better for the 5.1 mix are “Providence” and “Starless“. No doubt that all the tracks have been recorded over the 6 channels but there is just no real buzz here I am afraid and “Providence” is perhaps the only one that does seem to say a bit more.
Now the 3 bonus tracks that have been given the 5.1 treatment are an entirely different kettle of fish and do sound amazing in 5.1 and blow the original tracks away.
I am not by any means saying that the 5.1 mix on the album has been given a piss poor poor job. I Just think there is something amiss with the overall quality and production the album never had in the first place, or that over the years the master tapes have worn down. The bonus material has a lot more superior quality about them, and this release is a long way off the mark of the others I have so far in this series.
Musicians & Credits…
Produced & Arranged by King Crimson. Cover by John Kosh. Photography by Gered Mankowitz. Equipment by Chris, Tex, Harvey and Peter Walmsley. Recorded at Olympic Studios, London. Engineer George Chkiantz. Assistant Engineer Rod Thear.
Robert Fripp: Guitars/Mellotron.
John Wetton: Bass/Vocals/Lyrics (On Starless)
Bill Bruford: Drums/Percussion.
Former King Crimson Personnel:
David Cross: Violin (On Providence).
Ian McDonald: Alto Sax (On One More Red Nightmare and Starless).
Mel Collins: Soprano Sax (On Starless).
Mark Charig: Cornet (On Fallen Angel)/Bass Cello (On Red) (Uncredited).
Robin Miller: Oboe (On Fallen Angel).
Unaccredited Musician: Cello & Double Bass (On Starless).
Richard Palmer James: Lyrics (On Fallen Angel and Starless).
The Original Album Tracks Review…
The original album Red by King Crimson was released on the 6th October 1974. The album contained 5 tracks over a playing time of just under 40 minutes. The material that made up some of the album came from a live show they played at the Palace Theatre in the Province of Rhode Island on the 30th June 1974. The rest of the other material was recorded live and overdubbed in the Olympic Studios in London England between the months of July and August of the same year.
Track 1 Red.
The album kicks off with its self titled instrumental track entitled “Red“. It’s almost like a thrashed out metal version of “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part 2” in some ways, and though it does have the power, it does not quite have the finesse and arrangement that Lark’s has to offer in with its more diverse structure, and with how all the other musicians stand out so well in the musical department.
Red if anything is a very well driven track with Fripp’s distorted driven guitar overpowering everybody else. There is no doubt that Fripp is playing more of a dominant role here, and Wetton is playing a more laid back part in relation to the 2 previous albums he played on. Even Bruford’s drums are seated well at the back but still manage to bleed through all the distortion here.
However it does come down around the 2:45 to allow Mark Charig‘s bass cello to be heard who was unaccredited on the album for his small part as well. It then builds back up to it normal groove and ends off very well in the same way how it started.
The piece is played over multiple time signatures of 5/8, 7/8 and 4/4. It’s also said it’s polyrhythmic melodies use whole tone scales. To be perfectly honest I don’t give a damn about the technical jargon and at the end of the day it’s how the music comes across and speaks to me :))))))).
There is no doubt that Red is a great track on the album and a superb starting point. Personally I do not feel it’s as strong as some of the material we got on both their previous albums, but never the less it’s a contender for the top spot on this album without a doubt.
Track 2. Fallen Angel.
“Fallen Angel” is an upbeat ballad of a song that has elements of jazz fused into it with the addition of Mark Charig on Cornet and other session player Robin Miller on Oboe. Both instruments work very well to give it that jazz presence and vibe. To be honest if you take these elements out of the way, it would say very little about jazz at all.
It’s the only track on the album that features Fripp on acoustic guitar as well as electric to which he mostly uses on this album. Wetton’s bass and vocals work very well on the song, so too do Bruford’s drums. It’s also the only song on the album that Richard Palmer James contributed all the lyrics too as well.
The song was made up from an unused song of Wetton’s entitled “Woman” at the time, and Fripp used one of his riffs from Larks’ Tongues In Aspic to make music what it is here. It’s a very nice song and they all do a great job on it.
Track 3. One More Red Nightmare.
A song penned by Fripp & Wetton in which the nightmare here is about a plane crash. The songs main strident theme was originally developed from a lot of their live improvisations. It’s also been noted for it’s trashy sounding cymbal breaks which came from a 20 inch Zilko cymbal that Bruford found in a rubbish bin in the rehearsal studio.
A lot of Bruford’s inspirations came from Billy Cobham at the time who had quite a huge influence on him whilst making this album.
It features Ian McDonald on alto sax, who very much adds the excellent jazz element and touch to the piece. The remaining trio do the business on the song. This for me personally is one of the best structured songs on the album, and it’s very much the highest contender for the top spot on the album.
Track 4. Providence.
The 2nd instrumental piece on the album is a live improvisation that was recorded at the Palace Theatre in the Province of Rhode Island in the USA on the 30th June 1974. It’s title may have even been inspired from it being played in the province. It features the original quartet line up and was recorded before David Cross had left the band. His violin also features heavily on the piece and it’s perhaps more of an avant garde jam than anything else.
It’s perhaps the weakest track on the album, but never the less sounds well effective for 5.1 listeners :))))))))))))).
Track 5. Starless.
A song that John Wetton wrote the melody line and lyrics too that was originally intended for their previous album Starless In Bible Black. Due to both Fripp and Bruford not liking it, it very much got shelved for this album.
Though for this release it did get a couple of alterations. The first was from Bruford adding a 13/4 time signature around Wetton’s bass riff, and second change was made by Fripp getting Richard Palmer James to write and change some of Wetton’s lyrics.
I have to say it’s very confusing considering both Fripp & Bruford never liked it in the first place, especially has they had been playing the song live on a number of occasions during March to June has a quartet before any changes were made at all. The changes that were made were very little and did practically nothing to how the song went along in the first place.
The only real changes that were made on this release on the album that did make the difference, were by the additions by the other session players and Fripp replacing Cross’s violin with his guitar, and also making it a bit longer.
There is no doubt in my mind that this version of “Starless” is the best of them all. Besides the trio doing their great job on the track it features both Ian McDonald on alto sax and Mel Collins on soprano sax and they both add the sparkle and jazz flavour to the piece. There is also an unaccredited musician with no name who contributed both cello and double bass to it, though the double bass part could of also of been easily played on the cello.
“Starless” is without a doubt the classic song on the album, it’s also been one of my ultimate favourite songs of King Crimson for years. It contains a beautiful melody line and goes through some really great changes and has a great build up to it all. It grabs the top spot on the album for me and is a perfect was to finish the album off with.
The 40th Anniversary Edition of the bands 7th album Red is not the best of these releases at all. It’s way below the sound quality of the other 5 albums I have so far in this series. My incentive for buying these albums is for the 5.1 mixes, and the mixes of the original tracks are not really gonna breath any new life into them I am afraid. It’s only the 5.1 mixes of the 3 bonus tracks that do have the same quality that we got with the other albums in this series, that stand out the most on this release.
To be honest not even the stereo mixes on this album are any better than previous releases, and the only thing you are getting extra here for your money is the bonus tracks and the video content on the DVD.
Overall it’s disappointing especially when you hear how well done the other releases have been done in this series. The only real magic here is without a doubt the bonus tracks and I am glad I never paid as much as some of the other releases in this 40th Anniversary series cost me. However I am still glad I did purchase it even for the very little that is very good on here.
The album Red by King Crimson is a very good album but not a solid album even though it only has 5 tracks on it. The real strength of the album is contained in only 3 of its tracks which are “Red“. “One More Red Nightmare” and it’s classic “Starless“.
For this reason alone I feel that the material on the album is not on par with the previous 2 albums in the trilogy, especially has they both had more tracks on and were much more consistent albums with the amount of better material that made them up.
It also lacks the production the other 2 albums had in the trilogy, which is why I personally feel that this particular album was overrated just like the many said back in the day of its release.
If you cannot make a solid album with only 5 tracks then something is amiss that’s for sure. I am not saying that both Larks’ Tongues In Aspic and Starless In Bible Black were solid albums by any means, but overall they certainly had more stronger material to make them up. I would also say that the strongest album out of the trilogy would have to go to Larks’ Tongues In Aspic.
However you look at the album Red by King Crimson it was very much part of a trilogy of albums from a really great line up of musicians. Even some of its older musicians played a major part on this particular album to make the material stand out so well. For a lot of today’s fans there is no doubt that Red would be amongst the bands top albums. Personally for me it would not make the grade of my choice of their best albums. But no doubt it’s still a must for my collection.
Starless And Bible Black…
The CD track listing is as follows:
01. Red. 6:16.
02. Fallen Angel. 6:03.
03. One More Red Nightmare. 7:09.
04. Providence. 8:10.
05. Starless. 12:26.
06. Red (Trio Version) #. 6:27.
07. Fallen Angel (Trio Version) (Instrumental) #. 6:26.
08. Providence (Full Version) #. 10:08.
2 thoughts on “Lee Speaks About Music… #31”
“Red and “Starless” are two of my favorite tracks of KC. I always look at new mixes with mixed feelings 🙂 because the clever record-industry wants to sell you the same stuff again and in my humble opinion it’s seldomly worth it. I can still remember, when they introduced the CD as the new high end medium, but the first CDs sounded very poor, because they were not mastered well and without using the correct headroom. In fact they sounded worse compared to Vinyl.
Back to the tropic I want to add (and I think we have discussed this before), that I recognize an influence of the Mahavishnu orchestra in the title-track. Again a very comprehensive and honest review
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Well this one is quite a strange how this release turned out Dirk. In all honesty I would say the other 5 albums I have of them in this series are better than the previous CD’s I have of them and the 5.1 mixes are quite mind blowing as well. This one did not get the right treatment at all and it could be that over the years the original master tape has worn out a bit and lost it’s edge over the vinyl album that was released years ago. And yes no doubt the 1st track was influenced by the Mahavishnu Orchestra and cheers my friend…