Here are the reissues and live albums from 2019 that grabbed me on first listen, then compelled repeated plays. I’m not gonna rank them except for my Top Favorite status, which I’ll save for the very end. Links to previous reviews or purchase sites are embedded in the album titles. But first, a graphic tease …
More new music, live albums, reissues (regular, deluxe & super-deluxe) and even books about music heading our way between now and Christmas? Yep. Following up on my previous post, it’s another exhaustive sampling of promised progressive goodies — along with other personal priorities — below. Click on the titles for pre-order links — whenever possible, you’ll wind up at the online store that gets as much money as possible directly to the creators.
Andrew Keeling, Musical Guide to In the Court of the Crimson King, 10/50 Edition: composer/musicologist/online diarist Keeling’s revision of his 2009 book (the first of a series acclaimed by King Crimson’s Robert Fripp).
Marillion with Friends from the Orchestra: 9 Marillion classics re-recorded by the full band, the string quartet In Praise of Folly, flautist Emma Halnan and French horn player Sam Morris. Available on CD.
A Prog Rock Christmas: Billy Sherwood produces 11 holiday-themed tracks from the typical all-star cast (members of Yes, Utopia, Flying Colors, Renaissance, District 97, Curved Air and more). Download and CD available now; LP available November 1.
King Crimson, In the Court of the Crimson King (50th Anniversary Edition): featuring brand new stereo and surround mixes in 24/96 resolution by Steven Wilson. Available in 3 CD + BluRay or 2 LP versions. (Note that the new mixes will also be included in the Complete 1969 CD/DVD/BluRay box set, which has been delayed until 2020.)
Van Morrison, Three Chords and the Truth: 14 new songs from Van the Man, available in digital, CD or LP versions.
Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Colorado: the first Young/Horse collaboration since the 2012 albums Americana and Psychedelic Pill, available in CD or 2LP versions.
King Crimson, Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University, Chicago Illinois, September 10, 2019. (Featured photo by King Crimson manager David Singleton.)
“Expectation is a prison.” Robert Fripp says that a lot.
He said it again this past Tuesday in Chicago. Specifically, to about sixty fans who had paid a lot of cash for a King Crimson pre-concert VIP package. Even more specifically, to one particularly zealous fan, who nervously, repeatedly begged Fripp to reveal if “Cat Food” was on the evening’s setlist.
Fripp wasn’t biting. Having already pivoted from reflections on music’s ability to change the world and the necessity for presence in the musical event (like an abbot exhorting his monastic chapter) to “wittering” on the disadvantage of playing guitar while seated (“pimples on my arse”, spoken with the endearing delivery of a bawdy rock-and-roll Mr. Magoo), his response was firm, but simple: when you don’t know what’s coming next, consider it a challenge to pay more attention. And to be more present. Then Fripp let us take his picture while he took ours; manager David Singleton teased another possible US tour next summer (he deliberately doesn’t look at the setlist); and bassist Tony Levin engaged in a much lighter Q&A session (but he wasn’t telling, either).
As blunt as Fripp frequently is, his admonition came in handy Tuesday night. This is the third time I’ve seen the current version of King Crimson live, and the personal temptation to tune out in anticipation of repetition from previous years (even seated in the center of the sixth row) was surprisingly persistent. Fortunately, Fripp and friends weren’t about to let the sold-out, 4000-strong audience off the hook; the evening swiftly turned into another hot date with one of the best working bands in the world.
My history with Tool? Checkered. I didn’t tune in during their initial rage-metal period at all; if I had, I probably couldn’t have got past the vulgarity or the in-your-face attitude. King Crimson opening for Tool (in my mind, Tool closing for King Crimson) got my attention in 2001, and I thought that Lateralus was a nifty hunk of knotty art-metal, with lyrical directions that began to clear a path through the bile. 10,000 Days? For me, a loooong album that started strong, then meandered through one bizarre, tenuously connected detour after another. It wound up giving me a headache (also my consistent reaction to The Mars Volta). So no, Tool has typically not been my cup of tea.
Which is why I’m completely — and delightedly — flabbergasted by Fear Inoculum, Tool’s first album in 13 years. Beyond being as heavy, brainy and cathartic as one might expect, this is deeply thoughtful, richly layered, compelling music — a satisfying, unified work from start to finish that also rocks like a truck full of bricks. If this is what Danny Carey, Justin Chancellor, Adam Jones and Maynard James Keenan have been aiming for all these years, it’s been well worth the wait, because they’ve nailed it.
Stick Men — touch guitarist Markus Reuter, bassist/Stick player Tony Levin and percussionist Pat Mastelotto — have been expanding the frontiers of progressive music since 2007. With a repertoire that encompasses Levin & Mastelotto’s legacy in King Crimson, Reuter’s innovative soundscapes and searing improvisations, 4 studio albums as a group and even Igor Stravinsky’s Firebird, they are the real deal, whether as a self-contained unit or joined by other groundbreaking musicians. I heard them live in 2011 when they toured with The Adrian Belew Power Trio, both performing their own music and joining Belew’s band for an awe-inspiring set of Crimson classics.
In August and September 2018, Stick Men teamed with violinist David Cross (best known for his contributions to King Crimson from 1972 to 1974), touring ten countries in Latin America. The results are documented on the new Panamerica, due for release in September. Expanding on previous live Stick Men releases Midori (recorded with Cross in Japan) and Roppongi (recorded with saxophonist Mel Collins), the set will include:
- A complete show recorded live in Costa Rica
- “Pan America Specials” recorded live in Argentina and Brazil
- “Pan America Suites” recorded live in Peru, Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay
- “Fire Starters”, a continuous mix of selected Cross/Reuter show opening pieces
While Panamerica will be available for download at Stick Men’s Bandcamp store, pre-orders are now being taken for a collectors’ 5-CD set, limited to 500 copies and sold by invitation only, with all proceeds going directly to the band. Interested? Go here for all the details!
— Rick Krueger
Submitted for your consideration: perfect pairs that have been engaging my two ears and two eyes for the past two months, recalled as a Michigan summer enters its last hurrah …
Three of A Perfect Pair: Live Albums
I’m thrilled that Esoteric Recordings’ reissue series from British folk-proggers Renaissance now includes 1976’s Live at Carnegie Hall; recorded over three sold-out nights at the legendary New York venue, this set has been a favorite since high school days. It captures Renaissance’s essence: Annie Haslam’s clear soprano vocals soar over Michael Dunford’s spacious acoustic guitar, John Tout’s supple piano and keyboard work, Jon Camp’s agile bass and backing vocals and Terry Sullivan’s orchestral drumming. Members of the New York Philharmonic join the band for most of the set, bringing out the delectable French and Russian flavors of extended classics like “Can You Understand”, “Running Hard” and the “Song of Scheherazade” suite. A bonus disc of BBC session versions show that Renaissance could conjure up the same magic without the orchestra as well. If you don’t know this worthwhile band’s music, Live at Carnegie Hall is a perfect introduction.
As is a pair of new live albums from the Norwegian trio Elephant9! Recorded during an extended Oslo residency, Psychedelic Backfire I and Psychedelic Backfire II (the latter with Dungen guitarist Reine Fiske sitting in) are two sets of unremittingly scorching jazz-rock improvisation. Organist/keyboardist Ståle Storløkken spins out one mesmerizing solo after another, whether by himself or trading licks with Fiske, while bassist Nikolai Hængsle and drummer Torstein Lofthus stoke relentless, hard-driving grooves. Whether subjecting Stevie Wonder’s “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” to a Bitches Brew-era Miles-style breakdown or building unstoppable momentum on “Habanera Rocket”, the music captured here is endlessly inventive and thoroughly compelling.
What new music, live albums, reissues (regular, deluxe or super-deluxe) and tours are heading our way between now and All Hallows Eve? Check out the exhaustive (and potentially exhausting) sampling of promised progressive goodies — along with other personal priorities — below. Click on the titles for pre-order links — whenever possible, you’ll wind up at the online store that gets as much money as possible directly to the musicians.
- Dave Kerzner, Static Live Extended Edition: recorded at the 2017 Progstock festival. Kerzner’s complete Static album in concert, plus selected live highlights & new studio tracks. Pre-orders ship in late August.
- August 30:
- Sons of Apollo, Live with the Plovdiv Psychotic Symphony: recorded at Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s Roman amphitheatre (the site of previous live efforts from Anathema and Devin Townsend). Available in Blu-Ray, 3 CD + Blu-Ray, and 3 CD + DVD + Blu Ray versions.
- Tool, Fear Inoculum: Tool’s first album in 13 years. Available via digital download, as well as “a deluxe, limited-edition CD version (which) features a 4” HD rechargeable screen with exclusive video footage, charging cable, 2 watt speaker, a 36-page booklet and a digital download card.” Really.