Review Summary: Ersatz shite? Absolutely in every sense of the word...
8 of 8 thought this review was well written
In all the time spent listening to music, and albums of the progressive rock sub-genre, there’s been an infinite amount of recordings to go through. Many of them are pretty damn good, and are lasting proof of how innovative these groups could be. There have also been albums that show a far more pretentious side to the artists themselves. In order to get to the good stuff, you must stumble upon a dud. Every prog-head has had a dud, whether it is Love Beach or Tormato, there’s always going to be an album that you’ll try to like, but it never clicks.
One of these albums is Earthbound, which until the late 1990’s, was the only live (official) document of the short-lived “Islands”-era line-up, featuring the late Boz Burrell and Ian Wallace, along with saxist Mel Collins. The album is infamous for its extremely-poor audio quality, a result of the album being hastily picked by Robert Fripp from the collection of tapes gathered over the group’s final U.S. tour that winter.
On Earthbound, there are few things to be familiar with, as the only recognizable recordings include: 21st Schizoid Man, The Sailor’s Tale, and Groon. Everything else, however, are what Fripp calls “jams”, and not actual “improvs”, for this particular incarnation of King Crimson were more accustomed to blues-based jams and not the meticulous improvisations that was somewhat present in the previous live incarnation and would be a big part of future incarnations of Crimson.
Kicking off the album, Schizoid Man, even in its poor quality, is able to sound pretty stellar. The group, grinding along intensely, with Burrell's growling vocals, gives an edge to the apocalyptic lyric; although it doesn’t really show Burrell’s vocal prowess as it did with other performances. The improv drives the song along even further, building up to an explosive finale, before being abruptly cut off.
One of the two new songs on Earthbound, Peoria is much more relaxed than the previous track, giving Mel Collins a chance to show his chops as a saxist. Burrell also uses this time to mumble around, weakening the track itself. Earthbound although, is about as good as indulging in cat food, with Burrell adding even more unnecessary scat vocals to the track, although it is pretty rousing and cheerful. Behind these two jams showed the internal issues of the band. Fripp losing control of his own band, was the victim of a mutiny of some sort. The other tracks, The Sailor’s Tale and Groon, feature impressive playing by the band, the latter being one of the best renditions of the track, despite being cut off earlier than usual. Groon features the band working as a unit, before Wallace takes the helm for his VCS3-infused drum solo, channeling Carl Palmer of Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Only after the solo is finally over, does the band come back in before fading out, ending the album.
Earthbound, throughout the long forty-one years it has been out, has always been known for how jarring it was to the ear and how it went against everything Fripp had done quality-wise in the previous and coming years. It was and is notoriously weak, to the point where Fripp attempted to “delete” the album, rendering it hard to find, before customer demand forced him to release it several years later. It was bad to the point where Atlantic Records, the band’s North American label, absolutely refused to release it, and was released on E.G.’s budget label due to its quality alone.
Thinking about, this album could’ve been much better, and definitely much worse. From what was released twenty years later on the “King Crimson Collector’s Club”, Fripp had far much more shows to choose from, but for one reason or another, chose the worst possible recordings, surprising for someone who is known for high quality recordings. In general, there was so much wasted potential, both on this album, and for this particular incarnation of King Crimson.
I really wanted to like it and all, but with the exception of Schizoid Man and Peoria, there’s simply nothing here to enjoy in this mess of bogged-down sound that is called a “live album”. To put this review in four words: “It’s not worth it.” Nothing here is worth your time, and while there are some enjoyable aspects to Earthbound, the effort put forth here is just downright shameful.
I feel...good about doing this. This really needed a review and I really, I mean desperately, wanted to like this. This incarnation is a favorite of mine, and it pains me to listen to this. It has some redeeming qualities, but those factors are heavily outweighed by the several issues that plague the album. I suggest giving it a few spins if you're a hardcore fan, but if you don't dig bogged-down sound that sounds worse than 240p Youtube videos submerged underwated in a plastic bag, don't even bother touching it with a stick. Don't contaminate yourself with this filth. I may be overreacting, but damn, this is bad.
Considering I have school to deal with, I won't be as consistent with reviews (even if I haven't done jack for the past two months in terms of writing).
King Crimson and "shit" didn't match until this. I guess Christgau was right...
There is lots of scat on this album though...
@MSLG KC didn't tour for Red, and only Starless and Red were performed live officially, while OMRD
was created from the improv "The Golden Walnut", and "Fallen Angel" was part of an improv during the
early rehearsals of the Muir/Bruford/Wetton/Cross lineup, the most notable being the October 13th,
1972 Zoom Club rehearsal.
But for an actual official live album, go for USA (2004 Remaster, it has Starless and Fracture as
extra tracks) and Absent Lovers (has the final show of the 80s incarnation). As for studio album,
check out Larks' Tongues in Aspic if you haven't, along with Starless and Bible Black. Next, go for
the other early albums, after that, listen to the discog after Red (starting with Discipline) in
hahaa thanks, yeah I have Larks' Tongues and Discipline but I don't think I have heard them enough to rate them (they're not as good as Red or ItCotCk of course) and yeah been wanting to check Starless and Bible Black too
Larks' and Discipline are easy 5's, while Starless and Bible Black is around a 4.2 for me. Once you
understand Lizard, you'll understand why people on this site love it so much. It amazes me how Fripp
dislikes Lizard due to the internal problems, although he understands why people like it, and
therefore he gained some sort of respect for the album.
If anything, all KC albums, with the exception of Beat, are higher than a 3.5 for me. Beat is their
weakest effort though. Probably the most consistent prog group of the big four.
@MSLG Admittedly, the implosion of PF after The Wall/Final Cut was inevitable. The internal tension
power struggle were far more worse, considering Waters had a massive ego. Thankfully, KC didn't go
through the same, although this is the closest they ever came to doing so.
@Cyg Mother 3 is better though. The music on that Earthbound is far better than this though.
@gwyn yeah, that's your best bet. Schizoid Man and Peoria are the only tracks worth bothering to
listen to. It'd be a 2.5 had The Sailor's Tale wasn't cut in half, and Groon wasn't boring as usual.
Dig the av by the way.