Over the weekend, I picked up a copy of the 5:1 surround mix of King Crimson’s classic 1974 album, Red, but I didn’t have a chance to listen to it properly until this afternoon. And when I say properly, I mean loudly, as Red happens to be one of the heaviest rock albums of all time. Crank it up loud enough—as I did today—and it feels like a jumbo jet is taking off inside your skull. The sonic power of that album can blow you away like a feather in the wind at top volume. Most King Crimson albums I find to be a bit spotty (some of them are really spotty, in fact) but when they lock into a serious groove, like on Red’s title cut, it’s an awe inspiring thing to listen to.
This new surround version, mixed from the original multi-source mixdown tapes by Porcupine Tree’s Steve WIlson (with Robert Fripp’s participation) tends to put the listener in the middle of the mix, that is to say, it sounds like you are standing in the room as they are playing. I find that this approach worked great on Wilson’s redo of In the Court of the Crimson King in 5:1, but with Red, the violent onslaught of Fripp’s buzzsaw guitar riffs sounds emasculated somewhat (when compared to the familiar stereo version) unless the album is played at an almost ear-splitting volume. Me, I’m happy to oblige. Listen to it as loud as fuck and it sounds wonderful. I suppose that was the point. Who’s going slap on Red to listen at a background volume anyway?
There’s not much by way of film footage of pre-80s incarnation of King Crimson. As in nearly none. I did find two amazing clips, though. First an intense run-through of Lark’s Tongue in Aspic on what appears to be Germany’s Beat Club show.
Below, a 1973 performance in New York’s Central Park of Easy Money:
(Incidentally, the new leaked Kanye West single, Power, samples King Crimson’s 21st Century Schizoid Man)