box set by the band King Crimson, released on Virgin Records in 1992. In 2007, it was reissued as two volumes of 2 CDs each. The track listing on the volume 1 CD 1 lists 11 tracks, incorrectly listing The Talking Drum and the abbreviated "Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part Two" from the Pittsburgh show from CD 1 of the volume 2 set.
The box set features live recordings of the band from 1973 and 1974. All recordings feature the lineup of Robert Fripp, John Wetton, David Cross and Bill Bruford. Jamie Muir, who left the band in early 1973, is not featured on the set. The band's 1974 concert from Providence, Rhode Island
is presented in its entirety on CDs One and Two; this was the
second-to-last live concert ever performed by this incarnation of King
King Crimson's "Walk On" music in 1973-74 was an excerpt of "The Heavenly Music Corporation," from the album (No Pussyfooting) by Robert Fripp and Brian Eno. These "walk-ons" are reproduced here, and indexed as separate tracks.
Three recordings from this box set were previously available on other
King Crimson albums, albeit in slightly altered forms. An abbreviated
version of "We'll Let You Know" appears on the Starless and Bible Black album, released in 1974. Similarly, an abbreviated version of "Providence" was included on the Red
album, also released in 1974. The live performance of "21st Century
Schizoid Man" on CD Two was issued in 1975 as part of the album USA, featuring overdubbed violin from Eddie Jobson.
Many of the recordings on this album are band improvisations. "The
Law of Maximum Distress" appears in two sections, as the tape ran out in
the middle of the song. Much of the missing material seems to be used
on "The Mincer" from Starless and Bible Black. As Robert Fripp
notes in the CD jacket, "Most live recording follows the policy of two
machines in use simultaneously to meet an eventuality such as this. We
The liner notes to The Great Deceiver run to 68 pages. These
notes feature comments from Fripp, Wetton and Cross, annotated excerpts
from Fripp's 1974 diary, reviews of the previous King Crimson box set, Frame by Frame: The Essential King Crimson (1991), and a complete listing of all concerts performed by the band in 1973 and 1974.
The track "Exiles" is credited to Fripp/Wetton/Palmer-James on this box set. The correct credit, as listed on Larks' Tongues in Aspic
and confirmed by BMI's records, is Cross/Fripp/Palmer-James. Despite
having no legal co-writing credit for the song, John Wetton has
indicated in interviews that he wrote the bridge for "Exiles.
In King Crimson's extensive catalog of archival recordings and box sets, The Great Deceiver (Live 1973-1974)
is the undisputed winner, the item truly worth acquiring. The four-CD
set Frame by Frame, released 18 months earlier, was light on material
previously unavailable and included a few edits and overdubs on classic King Crimson tracks that shocked the fans. Epitaph,
another four-CD collection culled from the group's first live shows in
1969, boasted understandably flawed sound and more repetitive content.
But The Great Deceiver has it all. Over four discs, the set chronicles the on-stage activity between October 1973 and June 1974 of the most powerful King Crimson lineup. Robert Fripp, John Wetton, David Cross, and Bill Bruford were mostly performing material from their previous two LPs (Larks Tongues in Aspic and Starless and Bible Black).
Yes, the track list remains pretty much the same from one show to
another, but the group approaches each night from a different angle,
changing the arrangements on the fly to suit the prevailing mood --
check out the chameleon-esque "Easy Money," presented in four guises,
for tangible proof. Most importantly, the group performed unpredictable
improvisations that embodied the struggle between order and chaos that Fripp
thrived to express in penned songs like "Starless" and "Fracture." The
live tapes have been beautifully mastered so that the music hits hard
without losing the subtle nuances of Cross' violin. At the time of its release, The Great Deceiver filled a gap in the group's discography (the live album USA had not been officially reissued yet), but even after tons of additional concerts from that period were released by Fripp's label, Discipline, this box set still stands as the definitive argument to consecrate the 1973-1974 Crimson as its most exciting incarnation.
The Great Deceiver (Live 1973-1974). A four-CD box set that brings together excerpts and complete shows from six dates beginning in October, 1973 and ending in June, 1974, it demonstrates just how much of an improvising band this incarnation of King Crimson was—perhaps the greatest improvising line-up in the group's long career.
The version of King Crimson that released Larks' Tongues In Aspic (DGM, 1973) was by far the heaviest and most guitar-centric version of Crimson to date. The previous band, featuring recently-deceased bassist/singer Boz Burrell, reedman/mellotronist Mel Collins and drummer Ian Wallace, had fallen apart on tour, with everyone except Fripp hell-bent on moving towards a more rock and blues-centric approach. Fripp's new version of Crimson would bring together a group of players from diverse backgrounds, but who demonstrated almost instantaneous chemistry.
Drummer Bill Bruford had departed from progressive rockers Yes as the group edged towards superstardom on the heels of Close To The Edge (Atlantic, 1972). While it seemed a curious choice at the time, anyone familiar with Bruford's subsequent career knows that in many ways he's a perpetual student, making the majority of his career choices based on art rather than commerce. Bassist/vocalist John Wetton was a member of Family, a curious but distinctive group that never achieved the success it deserved. Violinist David Cross was the new name, but lent the group a new texture and classicism combined with an edgy approach to soloing. Those familiar with the free improv community would have found the inclusion of percussionist Jamie Muir—who left shortly after recording Larks' Tongues In Aspic—an odd choice. But, interestingly enough, Muir would prove to be the most extroverted showman the group ever had; leaping around the stage with chains, dressed in an animal skin and spewing fake blood.
While even the earliest Crimson from 1969 would include improvisations that went well-beyond mere extended soloing, the 1973-1974 edition of the group would allow composed tunes to break down into lengthy free pieces that might magically find their way into the next structured song. Or, perhaps, not. While a four-CD set of material culled from performances of songs from only three studio albums is bound to have some repetition, does anyone really need to hear four versions of "Easy Money"?
The answer is an unequivocal yes. Even twenty-four hours represent a significant difference in how this group approached form-based material. The June 29, 1974 version of "Easy Money" breaks down from its aggressive edge into a softer solo section that, unlike the studio version, never returns to a final verse. Instead, it gradually evolves into a vamp that pairs warm chordal work from Fripp and a mellotron flute solo from Cross. The following night—Crimson's second-to-last show of its final tour before Fripp would dissolve the band (something nobody was aware of that point)—manages to find its way back to the final verse, but not before some frenzied high-octane soloing from Fripp threatens to completely unhinge the proceedings. The group was clearly in high spirits, and Fripp— considered by most at the time to be a serious, reserved type—manages to break Wetton up during the first verse by responding to the bassist's vocal line with one of the most extreme note bends in guitar history.
Even two versions of "Fracture"—Fripp's most convoluted composition to date and still a challenge for aspiring guitarists—end up being different enough to justify inclusion. Despite the detailed structure of the song, the shades of color added by everyone- -and the open-ended section that immediately precedes the propulsive final third—illustrates just how open-minded this group was, even with the most regimented material. The equally constructed but initially balladic "Starless" is given the same treatment, also on two versions. Fripp's introductory "one note" solo gives way to two very different approaches once the dynamics and energy pick up—including a sadly under-mixed electric piano solo from Cross on the June 30th show.
Bruford's decision to leave Yes couldn't have come at a more opportune time. The opportunity to work with Muir, if even only for a few months, opened up his mind to possibilities felt in his work to this day. While he had a ways to go in terms of loosening up as he has in recent years, the chance to play in a group that, unlike his old cohorts in Yes, didn't believe in faithful reproduction of the studio recordings night after night, gave him an opportunity to evolve rapidly. He also began playing a host of tuned and untuned percussion, and worked hand-in-glove with Wetton to create some of the most thunderous grooves ever heard.
The improvs that regularly found their way into 1973-1974 Crimson sets sometimes emerged from songs, sometimes evolved into them, or sometimes stood alone. And while many began abstractly but ultimately found their way to powerfully funky grooves courtesy of Bruford and Wetton, there were exceptions. "Improv-Daniel Dust" begins as a delicate guitar/violin duet that ebbs and flows, only to find its way into "The Night Watch." "Improv-Wilton Carpet" proves this Crimson could be be adept at more abstract free play, patterns emerging only to disappear again as Wetton develops a repeated riff over Bruford's military-style drumming. That seamlessly segues into "The Talking Drum," a pattern-based vehicle for soloing that almost inevitably led to the metal-edged "Lark's Tongues In Aspic, Part Two," albeit in this instance an abbreviated version.
In many ways The Great Deceiver is this quartet's finest work, saying everything it had to say. Red (DGM, 1974), would find Crimson pared down to a trio, with the fired Cross appearing on only a couple of tracks, and the return of other guests including original Crimson co-founder Ian McDonald on saxophone. As a studio release it's a high point of Crimson's 37-year on-again/off-again career and signals, with the title track, "Fallen Angel" and "One More Red Nightmare," a shift that might have been worth exploring further had Fripp not become so disillusioned with touring and the harsh economic realities of the music industry in general.
Subsequent Crimsons would include some improvisation in performance, but never again to the same degree as the 1973-1974 line-up. And while future members Tony Levin, Adrian Belew, Trey Gunn and drummer Pat Mastelotto would be on more equal technical footings with Fripp and Bruford (who would return to Crimson for the early-1980s version and the mid-1990s double trio), none of the later incarnations could match this Crimson for its energy, unfettered sense of exploration and ability to just let things happen in a completely unconsidered way. Characteristics that made 1973-1974 Crimson the band that, if only remembered for a handful of enduring compositions, is fondly looked at as, perhaps, the most viscerally exciting version of this longstanding and continually reinvented group.
Disc 1: Things Are Not as They Seem...
Recorded at the Palace Theatre, Providence, Rhode Island, United States, 30 June 1974.
01 "Walk On ... No Pussyfooting" (Robert Fripp, Brian Eno) – 0:52
02 "Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part Two" (Fripp) – 6:12
03 "Lament" (Fripp, John Wetton, Richard Palmer-James) – 4:04
04 "Exiles" (David Cross, Fripp, Palmer-James) – 7:00
05 "Improv - A Voyage to the Centre of the Cosmos" (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bill Bruford) – 14:41
06 "Easy Money" (Fripp, Wetton, Palmer-James) – 7:14
07 "Providence" (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford) – 9:47
08 "Fracture" (Fripp) – 10:47
09 "Starless" (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford, Palmer-James) – 11:56
Disc 2: Sleight of Hand (or Now You Don't See It Again) and...
Tracks 1-2 recorded at the Palace Theatre, Providence, Rhode Island, United States, 30 June 1974.
Tracks 3-11 recorded at the Glasgow Apollo, Glasgow, Scotland, UK, 23 October 1973.
Tracks 12-13 recorded at Pennsylvania State University, State College, Pennsylvania, United States, 29 June 1974.
(Note: Only the first half of "The Night Watch" is taken from the Glasgow performance; the second half was taken from the Zurich show featured on CD Four. The liner notes indicate that there were technical problems with both recordings, and that the splice was done "to honour the spirit and sense of Glasgow's performance".)
01 "21st Century Schizoid Man" (Fripp, Ian McDonald, Greg Lake, Michael Giles, Peter Sinfield) – 7:32
02 "Walk off from Providence ... No Pussyfooting" (Fripp, Eno) – 1:15
03 "Sharks' Lungs in Lemsip" (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford) – 2:30
04 "Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part One" (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford, Jamie Muir) – 7:25
05 "Book of Saturday" (Fripp, Wetton, Palmer-James) – 2:49
06 "Easy Money" (Fripp, Wetton, Palmer-James) – 6:43
07 "We'll Let You Know" (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford) – 4:54
08 "The Night Watch" (Fripp, Wetton, Palmer-James) – 4:54
09 "Improv - Tight Scrummy" (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford) – 8:27
10 "Peace - A Theme" (Fripp) – 1:01
11 "Cat Food" (Fripp, Sinfield, McDonald) – 4:14
12 "Easy Money..." (Fripp, Wetton, Palmer-James) – 2:19
13 "...It is for You, but Not for Us" (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford) – 7:25
Disc 3: ...Acts of Deception (the Magic Circus, or Weasels Stole Our Fruit)
Tracks 1-11 recorded at the Stanley Warner Theatre, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania United States, 29 April 1974.
Tracks 12-13 recorded at Pennsylvania State University, State College, Pennsylvania, United States, 29 June 1974.
01 "Walk On ... No Pussyfooting" (Fripp, Eno) – 1:15
02 "The Great Deceiver" (Fripp, Wetton, Palmer-James) – 3:32
03 "Improv - Bartley Butsfordd" (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford) – 3:13
04 "Exiles" (Cross, Fripp, Palmer-James) – 6:23
05 "Improv - Daniel Dust" (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford) – 4:40
06 "The Night Watch" (Fripp, Wetton, Palmer-James) – 4:18
07 "Doctor Diamond" (Cross, Wetton, Fripp, Bruford, Palmer-James) – 4:52
08 "Starless" (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford Palmer-James) – 11:36
09 "Improv - Wilton Carpet" (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford) – 5:52
10 "The Talking Drum" (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford, Muir) – 5:29
11 "Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part Two" (abbreviated) (Fripp) – 2:22
12 "Applause and announcement" – 2:19
13 "Improv - Is There Life Out There?" (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford) – 11:50
Disc 4: ...But Neither Are They Otherwise
Tracks 1-4 recorded at Massey Hall, Toronto, Canada, 24 June 1974.
Tracks 5-12 recorded at the Volkshaus, Zürich, Switzerland, 15 November 1973.
01 "Improv - The Golden Walnut" (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford) – 11:14
02 "The Night Watch" (Fripp, Wetton, Palmer-James) – 4:22
03 "Fracture" (Fripp) – 10:48
04 "Improv - Clueless and Slightly Slack" (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford) – 8:36
05 "Walk On ... No Pussyfooting" (Fripp, Eno) – 1:00
06 "Improv - Some Pussyfooting" (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford) – 2:23
07 "Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part One" (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford, Muir) – 7:41
08 "Improv - The Law of Maximum Distress, Part One" (Bruford, Cross, Fripp, Wetton) – 6:31
09 "Improv - The Law of Maximum Distress, Part Two" (Bruford, Cross, Fripp, Wetton) – 2:17
10 "Easy Money" (Fripp, Wetton, Palmer-James) – 6:57
11 "Improv - Some More Pussyfooting" (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford) – 5:50
12 "The Talking Drum" (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford, Muir) – 6:05
Robert Fripp - guitar, mellotron, electric piano
John Wetton - bass guitar, vocals
David Cross - violin, mellotron, electric piano
Bill Bruford - drums, percussion