King Crimson
   
Red
40th Anniversary
   
   

Release Date: October 20, 2009
Produced by: King Crimson
Format: CD/DVD

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10/23/2009
Bob Metcalf


 

Before I begin the review, I want to say right up front that I am a fanatic about finding the best stereo audio version possible for my favourite music (I don’t have surround or SACD, though I can listen to DVD-A).  So hunting down remasters is a hobby of mine, and I have re-purchased, and re-re-re-purchased many discs over the years (since the late 80s, actually, when remasters starting coming out).  And just so you know, I did the same for vinyl before I made the switch – vinyl had the same audio issues back since forever, but rather than remasters, they had to do with the earliest, original masters being used and virgin wax, but that is another topic for another time. 

I hope that most readers are familiar with King Crimson, and the value of their back catalogue, and how much the band, under the constant leadership of guitarist, composer and producer Robert Fripp, has influenced musicians from all genres since 1969.  Starting with In the Court of the Crimson King that year, and going right up to the recent Power to Believe, the KC catalogue is as diverse, rewarding and just plain jaw-dropping as any in the rock canon.  Okay, I’m exhausted already, but I ask that people do some research to hear more.  To me, King Crimson can be broken up into periods: Court, Islands, Red, Discipline, Thrak and Power.  And my personal favourite period, as a whole, is the Red period, which includes Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Starless and Bible Black, USA and Red (1972-1974).

Red is a dense maelstrom of sound throughout; melodic for sure, with layers of guitars, keyboards, violin, bass, woodwinds and percussion in a constant see-saw battle.  It also can take your breath away with moments of soft, late night jazz beauty.  The musicians, besides Robert Fripp (guitar, mellotron) are Bill Bruford (Yes) on drums, John Wetton (Family) on bass, David Cross on violin and keyboards and other guests.  You can hear bands like Tool, Anekdoten and Porcupine Tree but don’t be surprised – that’s how far-reaching this album turned out to be.  Steven Wilson, of Porcupine Tree, took on the task of using the original masters to produce a 5.1 version, which I think is the main buzz for purchasing this set.  I took a chance on buying it anyway to see if an improvement was made with the stereo version.  I did a comparison with the 30th Anniversary issue of Red, track by track, and I can tell you that the sound difference is a great improvement.  I don’t know if this was a result of the masters being retooled during the 5.1 process, or someone just doing an un-credited job, but the results are amazing.  Those layers of sound I mentioned above become clear, defined streams without taking away from the intent.  The stereo separation, especially the drumming, plays back and forth in the mix, and the bass is vastly more pronounced.  Overall, if you are seeking an experience of being in the studio with the musicians, then this is as close as you will get with a recording from 1974.  I would declare this to be the definitive version of Red (until next time) and I highly recommend you purchase or re-purchase this disc for the rewarding experience it is.

My final word: the same CD/DVD treatment of In the Court of the Crimson King is on its way as I write this, and I hope to get a review of that out as soon as possible.  And in this case, Steven Wilson HAS officially reworked the stereo version – I practically can’t sleep!  'Til next time...watch for the signs.

CD – original album plus 3 bonus tracks
DVD – original album in MLP Lossless, PCM Stereo, MLP Lossless 5.1, and DTS 5.1 plus a live video from French television (worth paying for the set alone!)

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 



 
     
     
     

 

 

   
 
     

 

Copyright 2002-2009 Matthew Rowe.
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