Known Johnson

August 28, 2006

Overlooked Alternatives: Bob Dylan, Ty Tabor, Pete Yorn, Pete Townshend

Filed under: Music,Overlooked Alternatives — Tom @ 10:44 pm

I mentioned last week how summer was winding down and soon the new release schedule would be picking up, right? Right. Well, this week is the week it would be picking up, apparently, because there is a LOT of stuff coming out – I’m not even covering it all (I have to have some priorities, you know,) but there’s plenty more where this comes from.

Bob Dylan – Modern Times: I’m not fooling anyone – this hardly qualifies as overlooked, but I wanted to mention it to make note of the various bonuses that are to be had this week. Most importantly, the album is being offered in two CD versions – a single disc in a very minimal packaging and a more lavish package with a DVD including “Cold Irons Bound” (Shot live on the film soundstage during the making of the film Masked and Anonymous,) “Blood In My Eyes,” “Things Have Changed,” and “Love Sick” (From The Grammy Awards). Those of you excited to see that Grammies version of “Love Sick” might be upset to find out that the infamous Soy Bomb incident has been edited out. I’m pretty upset, too – that was a truly unique moment in television history. I understand not wanting to give Soy Bomb even more exposure, but this is history now, and editing the footage is messing with history.

As for the various bonuses, they’re not earth-shattering, but some of you may want some of this. First off, Circuit City is offering a special CD of Dylan’s XM “Theme Time Hour” disc centered around baseball-themed songs, the big draw being an a capella rendition of “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” by Dylan. The catch? You have to buy Modern Times AND another Dylan CD in order to get this disc. BOO. I can hear this in my head and it puts a smile on my face. The problem here is that the people who really want this disc likely have all the Dylan they need and so they won’t need to buy another Dylan disc. Real dumb promotion – not to mention that the price of their CD/DVD set is $10 higher than Best Buy. Best Buy is giving away a 100 page book of Dylan artwork with purchase of the album, and if you want that DVD, it’ll set you back a measly $12.99*. And guess what? Circuit City doesn’t pricematch, if that’s what you were thinking of doing.

*UPDATE: Best Buy price is actually the full $19.99 (the $12.99 I reported was an online-only price, unfortunately.) However, I’m going to recommend that unless you absolutely NEED those four songs on the DVD that you skip the deluxe and instead buy the regular jewelbox edition that comes shrinkwrapped with the 100-page artwork booklet for $9.99. The deluxe edition is, in my opinion, a complete ripoff – no lyrics and only a few extra photos in a four page fold-out booklet is not worth the extra $10 price tag. This is, hands down, the worst deluxe edition I’ve ever seen – Dylan and Columbia should be ashamed.

Ty Tabor – Rock Garden: Being a King’s X fan has been one of the most simultaneously rewarding and frustrating fan experiences you can get. One the one hand, the band, via side projects and official projects, turns out a lot of music. On the other hand, it’s hard watching them struggle and need to have so many side projects to stay afloat. However you look at it, it seems like we get something from at least one of the three guys in the band at least once a year. This time around it’s near legendary guitarist Ty Tabor with another disc of his hook-laden, heavy Beatles-influenced metal.

Ty’s also got a number of other unusual and experimental projects available for the more daring amongst you at his site, but if you’re looking for stuff like what he does with King’s X, Rock Garden is what you want to pick up.

Pete Yorn – Nightcrawler: I can’t possibly get away without mention Yorn’s new disc, as Alissa’s a big fan and has been looking forward to this. Reports say he’s going for a leaner, more natural rock sound, driven possibly by having notable producer Butch Walker at the helm (and check out his fantastic 70s throwback solo album, Butch Walker And The Let’s Go Out Tonites for an example of why this guy is such a strong man to have behind the board when you want that sound.) Guests include Dave Grohl, Leon Russell, and the Dixie Chicks. That’s an interesting combination of sounds right there.

A complaint, however: This is another disc falling victim to the “multiple bonus track” scheme that labels are foisting upon us. Okay, so I got real excited about the Def Leppard bonus track scenarios for Yeah! earlier this year, but, well, fine, I was a geek about that. This is just crappy – it’s a trend that needs to be stopped before it completely destroys fan confidence in buying music. The labels are practically driving fans to steal the music because how many of us can really afford to buy 2-5 versions of albums that come out to get all the songs they release? Regardless, plan to track down exclusive bonus tracks each at Best Buy and FYE-related stores and an exclusive download at Circuit City, so far that I’ve found. There may actually be more – and just wait for the Barenaked Ladies’ new album: I read there are a LOT of bonus track scenarious built into that one.

Pete Townshend – Who Came First (Remaster): For whatever reason, Townshend has decided to reissue his relatively recently remastered catalog again, this time rereremastered and with bonus tracks for once. One of the unusual releases in this lot, however, is the previously long out of print Who Came First, his first solo album from 1972. Initially issued on CD by Rykodisc, it had come with 6 bonus tracks, and here comes with 3 more tracks for a total of 18. I’ll be keeping my copies of Empty Glass and All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes (unless I hear these re-remasters are absolutely fantacular or something) but I’m excited to finally have a chance to hear Townshend’s long-missing first album.

You say it’s your birthday

Filed under: General — Tom @ 9:52 pm

Tomorrow (Tuesday, August 29, because it’s Monday as of this writing) is the anniversary of the best day in my life: it’s Amanda’s first birthday! I’ve spent the free moments of the past couple days – because there haven’t been many free moments, let me tell you – looking back at events of this time last year as documented at Unproductivity. If you want to read all about the big day, it’s all here. I still remember all of that in vivid detail, but what’s also fascinating is reading the days leading up to her birth, the details of which have all blurred and disappeared, but thanks to my writing, I preserved that amazing time so we could look back upon it later – like right now.

The celebration began Saturday night with a big party at our house with family and some friends. Amanda came away from that both exhausted and spoiled, surrounded by a mountain of toys and new clothing. I can almost see some of the attendees in the stores trying out all the toys, attempting to find the ones that made the most noise . . .

Today I celebrated, in a way, by turning the car seats around so she can face forward – as the regulations prevented her from facing forward until her first birthday even though she was in the clear, size-wise, to do so. Them’s the rules. She’ll get her first forward-facing ride tomorrow morning. I can’t wait to see her reaction – she’s never experienced driving with things coming at her.

Tomorrow Alissa and I will have a small birthday celebration for Amanda by ourselves – cake and presents, and then probably collapse from exhaustion. It’s been a long week and a half of preparations for this, believe it or not. But it all put a big smile on Amanda’s face and that made it all worthwhile.

August 22, 2006

Overlooked Alternatives: Lambchop, Ratatat, Tortoise

Filed under: Music,Overlooked Alternatives — Tom @ 10:42 am

Summer is winding to a close in its usual way in Arizona. It’s only “mildly” hot, hovering around one hundred five degrees, generally, each day beginning mild but humid. As the day progresses, the clouds to the north and the east grow to tower over the valley, threatening to unleash torrents of rain . . . for fifteen or twenty minutes. Don’t get me wrong – it can be devastating for some. We have little plant life with which to hold the soil, so muddy road flooding is frequent, but sometimes our reactions to rain can get out of hand.

This is the monsoon season, and if you’ve ever spent any time in Arizona, we act like we’re being hit by a hurricane – every day that it rains. Entire newscasts will be devoted to the weather event, to the point that other real news is almost entirely ignored, even if it doesn’t actually pan out, which is a frequent occurence. Given that Phoenix is in a valley, storms often build up only to actually skirt either over top of us or right around the outside. It’s a tremendous letdown to spend half your day watching storms looming over the city only to watch them slyly shuffle around and head down to Tucson. We look forward to rain like Seattle looks forward to sun.

I look forward to this time of year, however, because with the end of summer comes the cooler weather, and it means that things start winding up toward the more exciting parts of the year – Halloween, Thanksgiving, and, of course, Christmas. It also means we’ve lived through another mostly dull summer of music releases, the labels having saved the “little” things for this period to fill out their release schedule. Soon we’ll start seeing the list filled with boxsets, DVDs, and best-ofs, some probably just rehashes of things that have been out for years. But that’s then. What’s up for release right now?

Lambchop – Damaged: Lambchop has always been dark, but this might just be their darkest point yet – and most gorgeous, too. Beginning as an odd alternative country outfit in the early 90s, they have, through the years, slowly transitioned away from those roots to incorporate elements of soul, R&B, jazz, and many other genres, but it seems that in the past few albums “soul and R&B” is what has emerged as the dominant sound. Here, frontman Kurt Wagner has opted to set aside his usual wry lyrical observations and instead plumb the depths of his soul. Wagner’s croak has deepened and developed through the years, and here it feels like he’s inviting you to hear something no one else should know. Damaged is a beautiful, dramatic album that should find itself on many year-end “best” lists – including mine.

Ratatat – Classics: I found myself strangely enamored of this odd little second album from this guitar/electronics duo. On the one hand, it seems far too simple to be as exciting as I found it – and yet I can’t help myself. Drum machines burble their beats, synths sing out sine waves, and the guitar alternately slashes and strums. It just doesn’t sound like it could possibly be this fun, but what makes it so return-worthy is that there’s a grander sense of beauty imbued in each track than it might seem on the initial listen – when you come back for more, there’s truly more to embrace.

Tortoise – A Lazarus Taxon: If you know the term “post-rock,” you probably know it because of these guys. Since forming in the early 90s, they’ve incorporated a little bit of everything that wasn’t really straight-ahead rock to create a unique sound that an uncountable number of other bands then came along and stole. Avant-garde jazz and 70s Krautrock are probably the most noticeable influences that form the basis of the Tortoise sound.

While their regular studio albums have been readily available, the band has churned out a number of difficult to find singles and EPs, as well as remixing other bands’ projects, and this three-CD, one DVD box is here to solve the problems finding all those rarities. Compiling not only their import remix album Rhythms, Resolutions & Clusters, but also those hard to find EPs, singles, and other assorted oddities, the DVD includes live footage, videos, and films – and a dirt-cheap price that equates to about a regular single CD price. You can’t beat that.

August 15, 2006


Filed under: General — Tom @ 12:55 pm

It’s pretty well established that I am tied with Alissa as one of the pickiest eaters in the world. I’ll gladly alternate wearing the crown with her, however, as we can go back and forth, outdoing each other on what we can and cannot eat. For instance, she can eat corn. I can’t. Just can’t do it, it’s just disgusting – the texture, the flavor, the way it squishes when you bite into it. She won’t touch the one bit of Chinese food that I will eat – “house chicken,” which is basically fried chicken with some kind of garlic sauce. I have my suspicions that it’s not even a real Chinese meal to begin with, but that’s not the point. To the other, these flavors represent something awful and mostly inedible. Oh, sure, we could probably force them down, but it’s torture. These things taste totally find and, in fact, probably totally bland to most of you, but to us they’re pretty damned strong flavors. That house chicken often has my eyes watering – and it’s not even a spicy dish.

Many years ago, someone coerced me into trying yogurt, saying it was sweet and, because it was healthy, was a good alternative to bad-for-me ice cream and other unhealthy treats. This was back in the “early days” of yogurt, when it had just emerged as an alternative food option, and was frankly so long ago I really don’t remember what it tasted like – except that I did not like it. At all.

Fifteen or twenty years have passed and, spurred on by curiosity and a wish to at least try and give some healthy snack options a shot after Alissa mentioned that a coworker of her mentioned how the “new” yogurt was so much better tasting than the “original” stuff was, we bought a couple of small packages. One was this fluffy “whipped” concoction that mixed in cherry flavoring – figuring that, because I like cherry flavored stuff, it might mask any lingering bad flavors – and another plain ol’ vanilla with some Oreo bits to mix in.

And then they sat for a couple weeks because neither of us were brave enough to try them. But I finally gave each a shot this weekend. I first peeled back the foil of the whipped cherry yogurt and peered inside the container. Salmon pink and speckled with bits of red, it didn’t so much look like something I would eat but maybe something left behind after fish had spawned. Things were off to a bad start. Alissa looked in, proclaiming, “That doesn’t look very good.” I bravely dug a spoon in anyway.

Are you familiar with any of the Alien movies? There are these eggs that hatch the face-huggers, and when they open, they make this wet slurping sound. I heard that sound as I started to remove the spoon from the yogurt.

I tried not to examine the wedge on the edge of the spoon too long. The texture was already bothering me – it glistened oddly, looking a strange mixture of gritty and wet at the same time. I quickly forced the spoon into my mouth, where immediately warning bells went off – “This is bad – this is wrong – this is bad bad bad – no no no – get this out! Wrong! This is not food!”

I honestly don’t even remember if I spat it our or somehow managed to swallow it, but it didn’t remain where it was for long. “That was horrible!” I spat to Alissa. And that was putting it mildly. “I thought the cherry would make it at least a little okay, but I think that made it worse. That was really bad.”

And yet I tried the vanilla, even after that, thinking that maybe that cherry flavor was just not a very good pairing with yogurt’s natural taste. Yeah, sure, it was the cherry flavor that did it. I opted not to mix in the Oreo bits yet, to give the vanilla a chance to prove itself. Peeling the foil, I was greeted first by an unexpected skin of yogurt, then the oddly slightly-yellowish color of the yogurt itself, neither of which I was particularly intrigued by nor which helped my appetite. This was also much more liquid in consistency, which I thought might help it go down easier.

I lifted a spoonful to my mouth and when the liquid hit my tongue it managed to be worse than the whipped cherry adventure. Everything in my head said “rancid, putrid, old, bad milk! Don’t swallow!” But it was too late – the liquid had flowed pretty much around my mouth and there was little I could do. “Oh, Jesus! Oh – my – God! That is – holy shit!” I grabbed the little container for the Oreo bits, peeled off the foil, and sucked down the contents, being sure to coat my entire mouth with them, hoping their porous nature would soak up what little bit of yogurt was left over.

Lesson learned: next time someone mentions “yogurt,” it had better be framed with “frozen soft serve,” because I doubt even in another fifteen or twenty years will food technology have progressed enough to have managed to make real yogurt seem even remotely edible.

August 9, 2006

In code

Filed under: Boring site stuff — Tom @ 2:45 pm

I’ve just had to go through my posts and remove reference to a certain drug that I take for migraines because I’m now getting comment spammed for all kinds of prescription drugs (but what fantastic deals on them!) So whenever I mention that particular drug, you will now see that it says something like this: (the drug I take for my migraines which begins in “Top” and ends in “amax,” written this way because of damn bots spamming my comments). This is annoying because I specifically wrote the name of the drug in there because others might be searching for people who are using the drug for migraines (just one of its many uses) and now I’ve just removed myself from those searches. But I can’t baby my comments like I have been, everyday removing dozens of spam-comments for various unrelated, but sometimes entertaining, offers of pharmeceutical delights.

It’s always the same story: you try to do something good, but then robots come along and destroy everything.

Happy baby

Filed under: General — Tom @ 6:52 am

The very happy baby mentioned in this post:


August 7, 2006

Overlooked Alternatives: Kaki King, Porcupine Tree, Slayer

Filed under: Music,Overlooked Alternatives — Tom @ 11:19 pm

One young artist matures, another looks back at his past and sees a chance to give it new life, and one band finds its pieces back together again . . .

Kaki King – Until We Were Red: On her previous two albums, King showed off some incredible and unusual guitar skills that were obviously inspired by Michael Hedges and Preston Reed, but seemed to come up a bit short on the compositional end of things. Judging from the clips available on her Myspace page, that issue may be a thing of the past – instead of relying on chops, she’s progressed to wowing the listener with what she can do with a song. Thrill Jockey label hero John McEntire (a member of Tortoise and the Sea and Cake) was called in to produce the disc, which should result in some interesting sonics to go along with King’s music and, now, lyrics (her previous album featured one song with lyrics, but she was predominantly known for her instrumental material.)

Porcupine Tree – Stupid Dream (Remixed and Remastered): Perhaps the last Porcupine Tree album to perfectly balance the mix of Pink Floyd spaciness and metal crunch, it’s safe for me to say this 1999 album is one of my “all-time favorites of all time,” and is the one that really sealed Porcupine Tree’s fate with me. It’s being reissued now after a long time having been out of production, for some strange reason, but not in its original form.

Instead of simply remastering the disc, PT main-man Steven Wilson has opted to go back to the master tapes and remix the album not only for the typical stereo CD but also for the accompanying DVD-A disc, which includes bonus tracks. There’s a catch, unfortunately: you have to have a DTS-compatible player to play this disc, including said bonus tracks. Wilson’s prowess as a musician is as warranted as his growing reputation as producer – the results on each disc should be worth hearing for both fans and newbies alike.

Also of interest to Porcupine Tree fans is the opening of their new online download store, which features an incredible 2005 show in full that is only available there.

Slayer – Christ Illusion: I can’t say that my only interest in Slayer is drummer Dave Lombardo, but I can say that my interest in them waned when he left the band after Seasons In The Abyss. And now that he’s back in the band, they’ve created another sickeningly intense ball of fury that blows away anything they’ve done since he left? Well, I’ll leave that to you to decide, but the consensus by and large seems to be the same: Slayer sounds rejuvenated, as if the 15 years between those two albums have been erased, and the gap in time is made even less noticeable by the return of artist Larry Carroll who created the artwork for Abyss. Whether you like it or not remains to be seen – there’s always this ridiculous and hilariously censored version of the artwork available if you somehow love Slayer, but are offended by the artwork:

Be sure and check outBlogcritics Chris Beaumont’s great review.

Action: reaction

Filed under: General — Tom @ 12:48 pm

Not appreciated: glares when our very happy baby makes very happy baby noises during dinner out at a restaurant, and especially not when it’s at a pizza place. Oh, I’m sorry, did Amanda disturb your “romantic” pizza-and-salad-and-soda dining “experience” at Streets of New York? Deal with it. And a mental middle finger to you, old bat who ate by herself and did crossword puzzles. Yeah, I saw you glare at Amanda, too. Here’s the thing: we don’t frequent non-family friendly restaurants. Here’s a tip: if you want to have some special dining experience so you and your mate can bond, don’t do it at a place where most of the food is consumed by picking it up with your fingers and drinks are consumed through straws. And a good quiet place for that crossword puzzle is the library . . . or maybe your own bathroom.

Wasted opportunity: Vanilla Frosties. Don’t do it. Don’t give in to the curiosity, unless you regularly eat Frosties and so missing out on a regular Frosty won’t be such a big deal. But for me, who hasn’t had a real Frosty in a good long time, giving in to the temptation to try Wendy’s new vanilla-flavor Frosty, when I’d been in the mood for a real Frosty for quite some time, just didn’t satisfy. It’s just a very generic, fake-vanilla tasting soft-serve type thing – it has no “Frosty identity.” You could get the same thing at any convenience store’s soft-serve machine. And I’m still left wanting a regular Frosty. I bet Wendy’s knew this would leave people wanting – and therefore make people return for real Frosties, thereby doubling sales temporarily. Genius marketing move! (And here’s another concurring opinion.)

(And yes, in case you’re wondering, while it seems I get migraines from chocolate, Frosties do not seem to set them off. No idea why.)

Getting old: Our fairly new vacuum died an annoying death a couple weeks back and forced us to buy a new one. We made a rule because of that one: no canister vacuums! Man, those are terrible. It sure seemed a smart move to get away from vacuum bags, but I forgot the one thing about the stuff that vacuums suck up – it’s dust, and therefore very light, and messy, and once the canister is removed, it has a tendency to go everywhere. And trust me, it did. A vacuum that requires you to re-vacuum what you already cleaned up isn’t a very efficient system. I wasn’t too heartbroken when this one revealed that it was breaking belts because of a fatal flaw in its design.

You know you’re getting old when a new vacuum gets you excited: when I put the new one together last week after unpacking it, I had intended to just turn it on and see how it worked, but I was so thrilled with it, I vacuumed the whole house. This vacuum sure does suck! (The excitement will wear off quickly, I guarantee.)

Getting old, part II: My insurance through work sent out a letter to inform me that (the drug I take for my migraines which begins in “Top” and ends in “amax,” written this way because of damn bots spamming my comments) which had been on their “Tier 2” coverage, would be moving to “Tier 3” coverage as of Sept. 1, and therefore I’d be paying more for it. They suggested I go to the website for more information on the costs of Tier 3, which I did, only to find that it won’t tell me anything about any other tiers than the ones for what I already have! All I wanted was a table that listed the three tiers and the three tiers’ prices. Is that so hard? What’s more, why couldn’t the friggin’ letter they sent out simply list this information right in the body?

Your Thursday=My Friday: For the next few weeks, I won’t be working full weeks. I have to burn off my remaining vacation time, as it doesn’t roll over except as sick-leave, so I’m taking Friday off this week and next, and then Thursday and Friday the following week. That week three weeks from now, however, is going to be painful.

August 3, 2006

Overlooked Alternatives: King Crimson (DGM and DGMLive)

Filed under: Music,Overlooked Alternatives — Tom @ 9:29 pm

It’s the dreaded “dog days of summer,” I guess – it’s one of those rare weeks when there’s really not much on the new release list to talk about. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to talk about. When lacking things to buy in-store there’s the burgeoning option of online purchases, and I’m not talking about and their ilk. I’ll use these opportunities to talk about these options.

The first that I’m aware of, and possibly most important, is King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp’s brainchild, Discipline Global Mobile (DGM) and its new offshoot, DGM was formed in the 90s when Fripp, frustrated with the increasingly hostile situation with regular record labels, decided that he needed his own outlet for music. As the decade wore on, he divorced himself more and more from standard label procedures until he was able to produce music the way he wished to, then farm it out to the labels for distribution, if necessary (as in the case of King Crimson’s bigger releases,) or release them himself.

Much of the label’s output, however, has been in the form of live archival releases of King Crimson material under the King Crimson Collector’s Club moniker. At first this club functioned as a subscription-only deal: the subscribers each paid a chunk of money up front and for about a year would receive a number of exclusive live releases by the band, with the ability to opt out of any particular release if it didn’t appeal to their interests. What the subscribers received in their mailbox was a top-quality product that had been slaved over to ensure the sound quality was of the highest order possible, even when the original source material was marginal at best (the majority, however, are official band recordings and not bootleg audience recordings.) The liner notes were extensive and included relevant photographs when possible. They are true collector’s items, not just in their somewhat limited availability, but in their loving presentation.

After awhile, however, the subscription scheme was shelved in lieu of simply ordering the discs online, and continues in this fashion to this day, albeit at a slower pace due to DGM’s latest project:

In an effort to slake the appetite of fans, the DGM team moved late in 2005 to a whole new model of offering the fans the live material, showing that they’d been listening all along. Afterall, what listeners really want is the music, right? DGM addressed this by making available, at a much faster pace than the Club would allow, exclusive live material via downloads of FLAC and mp3 files for fair prices, and included artwork in PDF form as well. What’s even more interesting is that DGM has jumped on the Bit Torrent bandwagon, which can allow for some blazingly fast download speeds.

Since’s inception last year, new material has been added every few weeks – a pace I haven’t even attempted to keep up with, but which gives me a rich catalog of material to dig into when bored and in the mood for King Crimson-related material. And that’s what makes this special – “related.” Here you can find not just King Crimson but even Robert Fripp’s recent solo soundscape shows and a small, but growing number of other oddities like a show by Fripp’s weirdo-disco outfit, The League of Gentleman.

What’s more, this doesn’t replace the King Crimson Collector’s Club but simply supplement it – for now, I would assume. At some point in the future, it would seem the Club would become unwieldy in comparison to the streamlined DGMLive approach, where other the label can branch out a bit to offer “family tree” projects rather than strictly King Crimson music.

For the fan, there is an embarassment of riches to be discovered in DGMLive. For other bands, it’s a lesson to be learned – listen to what the fans want, and give it to them at a reasonable price, and they will respond.

Suggested Collector’s Club offerings from the Discipline Global Mobile shop:

CLUB15 – Live in Mainz, 1974: Truly one of the most powerful representations of the 72-74 lineup, this has become one of my favorite King Crimson releases in general.

CLUB5-6 – On Broadway – Live in NYC 1995: The mid-90s return to action of King Crimson in the form of the double-trio is where I fell in with the band, and this is my period. This set, culled from a multi-night stay in New York, is simply smoldering hot throughout its entire length. So good it is that it should have seen official wide-release.

CLUB27 – ProjeKct Three Live in Austin, TX , March 25, 1999: If you thought you knew ProjeKct Three from the disc provided in the ProjeKcts box, this live disc will surprise you with the monster that P3 was. And if you aren’t familiar with the ProjeKcts . . . get familiar – King Crimson splintered into smaller instrumental subunits in the late 90s to explore new territories before reconvening for new studio work, and the results were some of the most adventurous material the band had done in 25 years – and maybe ever.

This group featured Fripp, drummer Pat Mastelotto, and Warr Guitarist Trey Gunn making some of the most eerie and adventurous material in modern rock – live and improvised.

CLUB26 – Live in Philadelphia, PA , July 30, 1982: A great show and incredibly well-recorded set from a period from which it seems to be hard to find both qualities in a live offering. Also of interest is the presence here of “The Howler,” which just didn’t seem to get out much in the concert setting for some reason.

CLUB31 – Live at the Wiltern, July 1, 1995: If I was to tell you, the King Crimson fan, that you have to buy one Double Trio live recording, it would be this one. Everything about it is perfect, and it should be: it started out life with the intention to be an official release, then got shelved when Fripp got wind of bootleggers selling the hell out of copies of illicit recordings of their 1994 opening nights in Brazil after a nearly 10 year break. He released B’Boom instead, which is a good live album, but it pales in comparison to the power and intensity presented on this much more seasoned and road-tested band. The interest in B’Boom is hearing how the band is just learning how to read and play off of each other. Here you reap the results of countless hours of incredible musicians having learned each other’s nuances and tendencies, the gift to the listener being a much tighter, but more playful experience.

Some suggestions to download from

Montreal – August 4, 1982: Recorded less than a week after the Club 26 disc above, this is an entirely different beast. Songs stretch out a bit more (“Waiting Man,” which opens the show here, clocks in at nearly 12 minutes compared to its frugal 4 minutes studio version) and the band seems a bit more contemplative, rather than furious and full of energy as on the Philadelphia show. Sound quality here is excellent, nearly as good as Club 26, but not quite as spectacular.

I also have an interesting personal tie to this show. It was one of my very first (ahem) bootlegs that I picked up many years ago. The sound quality was terrible, and I lamented many times that if it were available in better sound quality, it would be a favorite of mine. Instead, for years, I would hunker down and listen through the warbling, old-cassette sound quality, over the chatting audience and general din of a boomy concert venue to the magic happening on stage – and hoped that one day maybe something special would happen. And then it did.

I must not have been the only one to feel this way about this show, or else why would a professionally recorded and mixed version of it have shown up on DGMLive? The kicker with the download is that the first track is actually the first track off of the bootleg that I own – 27 minutes of sound check in the same terrible quality that I bought years ago, included as a bonus for the fans because it’s just an unusual rarity. When it ends, “Waiting Man” begins as I expect it to, but emerging not out of murky claps, whistles, and talking, but out of silence with Bill Bruford’s delicate slit-drum intro – almost perfectly crystal clear, but distinctly live. It’s moments like these make me thrilled to be a fan.

London – July 1, 1996 Another Double-Trio show – I told you I was a sucker for this era, didn’t I? What makes this one different from the show I mentioned above, Club 31 from exactly one year before? A completely different setlist, including some more unusual material for this band (“Neurotica,” “Waiting Man,” and the resurrection of “21st Century Schizoid Man,”) but also a topsy-turvy approach to the typical concert – the show starts with a barrage of drums in the form of “Conundrum,” and is bookended in the encore with another drums-only piece, “Prism,” which frames the band in a very different light than previous recordings.

In between, it’s another hot show for the group. No two appearances from Crimson are the same as the band has always been known for throwing in new loops to keep things fresh – which is why live material is a must for the fans.

ProjeKct One – Jazz CafĂ©, London: December 4, 1997: When King Crimson splintered in the late 90s to experiment with new sounds, it quickly became apparent where the majority of the band was headed: electronic. There was one real holdout to going all-electronic, drummer Bill Bruford, and that’s ironic given his stature as one of the leading proponents of electronic drumming in the 80s. But in the 90s, he’d found something calling him back to his first love, jazz, and he wanted to get back to stripped down acoustic jazz drumming – and he just wasn’t interested in pulling out the drum pads again, even for King Crimson.

And so ProjeKct One, with Bruford behind his acoustic kit and Fripp, Gunn, and Levin manning their instruments, convened in London for a four-night stay to bash out new material. It’s heavy, it’s harsh, it’s dissonant and it clangs and clashes . . . it’s beautifully noisy. It’s also drastically different from the other three ProjeKcts, who found their sounds drifting into gritty electronic noise and whisps of otherwise impossible sound. Here, the sound is derived from the same mostly MIDI-driven guitars of Fripp and Gunn, but the earthy pounding of Bruford’s acoustic kit keeps everything grounded – and, I supposed in Fripp’s eyes, tied to the past, as one can’t but help hearing echoes of the future of the Double Trio that was never to be in this material.

And that’s what makes this so exciting! Here is where you can hear what would never become of that unwieldy six-piece band, only downsized by two members. Regardless of size, the material pulls from the experience of the Double Trio, and it’s only because of this DGMLive release that I can see why Fripp chose not to carry on with it, and why a partnership with Bruford is no more. As tantalizing as it is to glimpse “what could have been,” if Fripp truly is only interested in moving forward, then this was not the format of band with which to do it. Strangely, when the full band did get back into the studio, what they produced was nowhere near as interesting or daring as what the ProjeKcts had promised. And that’s why ProjeKct One’s disc in the ProjeKcts box has been a favorite for years – and why it hasn’t been enough until now (and I still want the other three ProjeKct One shows released – I won’t be satisfied until all four are available.)

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