Friday, October 9, 2009

A Racecar In The Red

Review: KC Red 40th Anniversary Remix/Remaster/5.1 Surround

After a long day at the office, and incredibly worn down by the week, checking the mail simply out of habit, my girlfriend came upon a package. I had forgotten about the e-mail confirmation I'd received a few days before and had never expected to see this product so soon, especially since of the delays with packaging, as the CD was originally slated to be released mid-September.
The concept of the re-releases has been heavily interesting to me since their announcement, as I am more than happy to put my battle-worn jewel cases to rest. I was but a freshman in high school when the definitive mini-LP gatefolds were released, and my brother and I were forced to share one set between us, as that's all our father would buy. My brother inherited the set as we both felt it would be a total shame to split it apart, and I wound up getting the jewels as gifts.
The fact that Steven Wilson, another of my heroes, had been enlisted in the project was just icing on an already boner-inspiring plate.
The Crimson/PT lines have been crossing for a while now, with Fripp opening for the band on soundscapes, to Adrian guesting on Deadwing (Title track and Halo), to P6 playing its handful of dates on the opening bill with PT, to the Adrian Belew Power Trio opening for PT, to Stick Men opening for PT, to Fripp playing a Facts-of-Life-esque solo on Nil Recurring (Title Track), to Gavin Harrison hopping on board for KC-fest '08. Now Fripp has enlisted SW to do the honors of going back and giving these jaw dropping albums the 5.1 treatment.
Any PT fan knows what a wet dream Wilson's 5.1 mixes are, and if the ever-meticulous ringleader Fripp himself is giving Wilson the reigns to mix/master as he sees fit, and subsequently has put the stamp of approval on it, you know it's got to be good.
And good it is.
The CD itself is worth the price of admission alone. You feel like you are sitting in the room. This music does not sound like it was recorded in 1974, even though it does have an analog-y feel to it. This music sounds modern, agressive, cutting-edge, avant garde, phenomenal, ad infiinitum.
I have never been a fan of bonus tracks on a CD reissue. I feel like they should be packaged on a separate CD as when you hear the end of an album you should savor it like a fine wine, instead of the way a lot of reissues go, where you then hear some crappy quality demo come in as you're still reeling from the feeling of the album. This is the exception to the rule. These bonus tracks have the exact same intensity as the album, and sound just as fresh. First, the listener is treated to an isolated trio version of Red, minus any overdubs, and including a few notes that were edited out along the way. Also missing a few lead lines, one can't help but wonder if this is how the song would have sounded had a Red tour ever taken place.
After cleaning up the drool from the floor, I moved on to an instrumental, again trio version of Fallen Angel. The leads Fripp plays during the verses can't help but make you forget that there are supposed to be sexy vocals laid on top of this beautiful music.
The last track, a full live version of Providence, might be the first time I've actually enjoyed listening to this song. Never a fan of the we're-going-to-edit-out-the-crowd-from-this-improv-and-slap-a-title-on-it side of this lineup, the opening violin on Providence is usually quickly followed my a slap on the NEXT button by my finger. This CD just sounds so good that I just couldn't bring myself to turn it off, which was an eye-opening experience for yours truly. I'm in love with yet another KC tune. Go figure.
We haven't even touched the DVD yet. First, and hopefully a continuing trend, the pink covers of the 30th anniv issues seem to be lost, with the audio CD showing the three faces, while the DVD shows the infamous gauge with the red 7 on it. I felt the hair on my arms raise from just looking.
Currently, I have no means to enjoy the DVD-audio content, with a TV which was made no later than 1985, but I did have a chance to explore the video content. It is a real treat to see this band in action, and if you've happened to see any footage of them from the Beat Club from Bremen, this is very similar, but a totally different setlist. LTIA pt II kicks off with the veracity of most live versions, moving into the first live footage of The Night Watch I've ever come across, and not without some quintessential 70's graphics. Fripp is wearing his legendary black shirt with the laces up the front, and rocking the short Red-era (not surprising considering the DVD) hair, not the 'fro from a few years back. He also stares directly into the camera focused on him for long periods of time, creating a very uncomfortable yet exciting feeling simultaneously. Bruford is wearing his classic Boston Bruins overalls, David Cross his white suit with shorter hair, and Wetton rocking his white bass and some sort of frilly shirt. David Cross's violin, while in tune when it's being played, takes a rest while he sits out for most of Lament, another rare visual treat. The band finishes with a chilling version of Starless, leaving you to contemplate the magic you were just subjected to.
Maybe it's the fact that they're playing this on some sort of TV stage, with psychedelic visuals, but I feel like actually watching these performances, while I would never turn down the chance to watch them, changes my experience of the music. When I close my eyes and listen to USA, I picture a much darker stage and lighting setup, more tuned to the shadowy side of the band. Seeing them fully illuminated changes the mood of the songs for me, I'm not quite sure why, but in both events, the music more than speaks for itself.
If you're on the verge of purchasing this, don't cheat yourself out of this. PT and KC cross lines again, get ready for some serious ectoplasm.