Friday, July 16, 2010

King Crimson - Earthbound

4/10

From the liner notes:

"The recordings were captured live on an Ampex stereo Cassete fed from a Kesley Morris custom built mixer operated by John Robson and Hunter Macdonald on Schizoid Man and Groon and Hunter Macdonald on the other titles: at Jacksonville in the rain from the back of a Volkswagen truck. VCS3 operated by Hunter"

Earthbound has some of the worst sound quality I've heard in my life, to the extent that I'm amazed that it ever got released in the first place- and I have the cleaned up remaster! There's just so much noise that it's hard to take (although I'll grant that it makes Fripp's playing sound especially interesting at times, it wears out its welcome quickly). And far too much of the record is taken up by improvs that go nowhere- the Poseidon B-side "Groon" is stretched out to fifteen minutes, and Boz Burrell does some embarrassing scat singing and yelling in the improvised pieces "Peoria" and "Earthbound". Fripp mostly stays out of those two, as if he were embarrassed to take part, leaving most of the emphasis on Mel Collins' sax, and while he's a fine session musician, he's not much of an improviser, with most of his playing ending up dull or unpleasant to the ears.
This album reminds me of Van der Graaf Generator's "Vital" not so much in its sound (Vital focused on different arrangements of old songs while Earthbound focuses on improvisation) in that it's a disaster, but it's still pretty interesting and a departure from the band's studio work. Completists should definitely listen to this at least once.

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