November 28, 2009

King Crimson-Red-40th Anniversary Edition (CD/DVD) Review

Red (1974) is one of those albums that should be in the dictionary under progressive rock. The three main members Robert Fripp (guitar and mellotron), Bill Bruford (percussion) and John Wetton (bass, vocals) were on the brink of imploding and in the midst of a creative summit while recording this session. Unfortunately they did break up after this important work and a new lineup would not emerge again until 1981.

Although the core trio made the King Crimson machine complete, they had some genuine professionals that made their overall sound more interesting and progressive bent towards the jazz fusion side of the equation. David Cross (violin), Mel Collins (soprano sax), Ian McDonald (alto sax), Robin Miller (oboe) and Marc Charig (cornet) were all major contributors to the embellishment of their prog rock jazz fusion sound that they mastered so completely on Red. Make no mistake about it; there are three men on the cover of this album for a very good reason. What they created could be classified as many things including prog rock, metal, jazz, fusion, and any combination thereof. Mainly this was a power trio having their way in the studio and then using the other instruments as window dressing.
John Wetton did a superb job with his vocals considering that the music’s time signature was exceptionally difficult to sing along to much less play and how he ever held his notes and delivered the lyrics on key and with plenty of rhythm amazes me. This was nothing like the vocal parts he would provide for the super group Asia for instance, it is worlds away. Bruford was spot on as usual and the brilliantly talented leader Robert Fripp offered up some amazing guitar playing to constantly challenge his mates to step up to the plate and reach his level of proficiency, and of course they all did and that is why this album is so brilliant.
Fripp is well known for being a taskmaster and difficult to understand (check out Bill Bruford’s biography). Being a musical genius and reticent to boot made his approach a bit interesting to decipher for his contributors. Nevertheless sheer brilliance was the end result of Red.
This double disc 40th anniversary edition gives fans a special package to covet this time with many sound options, videos, and a specially prepared booklet with commentary and pictures. In 2000 this was remastered as well however it did not have all the goodies that this version does. The CD now includes bonus tracks of “Red” (trio version), “Fallen Angel” (instrumental trio version) and “Providence” (full version), which in their own right are exceptional takes that are fully realized and quite enjoyable.
On the DVD you have many different options for your listening experience including 5.1 surround sound, DVD-A, High Resolution Stereo Mix 24bit/48khz and DVD-A players can access a 5.1 Lossless audio mix and Lossless Stereo Mix 24bit 96khz. Confused yet? The choices are as complex as the music! I listened to the CD first then popped the DVD into my PC and discovered a folder that popped up with the contents of the disc that did not allow me to play the music so I had to go look at my drives and choose the one the disc was in then click on it and it finally launched my Windows Media Player.  Once I did that I thought I was on my way but could not click on any of the menu choices displayed on my screen so I had to click on the sidebar links to initiate any of the audio tracks or any of the four rare videos from a 1974 French TV program. I did get to take all of this in but it was not a seamless process to say the least. The video content was typical for the time frame and fans have been yearning for this footage for years now so it is big bonus. The videos include “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic: Part II”, “The Night Watch” and “Lament” and “Starless”.
All the technical issues were forgiven once I was able to listen and view all that was available on this set. Perhaps it was only my copy that suffered from these inadequacies from a technical aspect but it did happen every time I put the DVD in.
Red remains a monumental progressive rock accomplishment to this day and one hell of a way to kick the series of 40th anniversary reissues that will be coming our way. If it wasn’t for the technical issues I would have given this a perfect 5/5 star rating.
 I can still hear Fripp’s guitar lines from “Red” as it has taken up permanent residence between my ears, which makes me want to hear it all even more. This one will never leave you once you hear it and if you love prog rock you probably already have a copy but maybe not this one yet.
4.5/5 Stars

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck

November 27, 2009

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