Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Larks' Tongues in Aspic (40th Anniversary Edition) by King Crimson

Steven Wilson and Robert Fripp are doing a fine job of remixing King Crimson's catalog. Having previously found the remixed In the Court of the Crimson King (orig. 1969) to be utterly fantastic (my comments), it was no stretch for me to buy and start enjoying the remixed Lark's Tongues in Aspic (orig. 1973).

First, a cautionary note. If you think that In the Court of... is too early progressive, too experimental, and too psychedelic you should probably stay away from Lark's Tongues because it's all of those things and more. The music on Lark's Tongues was progressive back in the day when it only sounded experimental - like early Pink Floyd wrapped with an esoteric mathematical structure.

The 40th Anniversary Edition includes a CD and a DVD, the former with the remixed album (stereo) plus alternative mixes of three tracks. The DVD has the original album and the remixed album in 5.1 surround plus some video features. I'm only writing about the stereo remix of the album which consists of six tracks.
  1. Larks' Tongues in Aspic (Part 1)
  2. Book of Saturday
  3. Exiles
  4. Easy Money
  5. The Talking Drum
  6. Lark's Tongues in Aspic (Part 2)
It's obvious right from the opening of track 1 that this is going to be an amazing experience. The noodling percussion parts that used to be a muddled blur on the LP are distinct and vibrant and build slowly into an explosion of guitar and bass. The interplay of all instruments on the remainder of the piece is enhanced simply by the fact that all the parts have been lifted and separated in the remix.

The next three tracks capture John Wetton's vocals at their prime and make it clear why he was one of the top prog rock vocalists of his day. The mix of his singing with the flute and violin parts is done with such a light touch that they effortlessly propel these songs forward, especially Exiles.

I'll use The Talking Drum to point out that in my opinion the biggest beneficiaries of this remix are Bill Bruford (drums) and Jamie Muir (percussion). By comparison you could say that previous versions of this track (from vinyl, for example) are The Mumbling Drum. Everything is so precise in the remix that the clarity is almost startling, like a bright light without the harshness. It's also important to point out that the remix has not detracted in anyway from the vintage nature of the performances. You sometimes fear that a remix will give the updated work too modern of a sheen but that's not the case here. You can almost see the tie-dye in that bright light.

Finally, the gem here is the closing track and the KC staple, Lark's Tongues in Aspic (Part 2). After hearing this track and its progeny countless times over the decades it's great to return to the original as it must have sounded in the recording studio. The dynamics, the interplay of the parts, and the clarity of each individual part are all there to enjoy.

I received no compensation of any kind for this review.

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