Sunday, 25 October 2020

Log #213 - The Mahavishnu King

Eddy Bamyasi

I dip into two stalwarts of jazz fusion this week - two bands I know very little about despite having tried half heartedly to acquaint myself with their charms in the past: Weather Report and The Mahavishnu Orchestra both make their 6 Album Sunday debuts. 

Checking out the forums I alighted upon the apparent best albums of both bands: Heavy Weather and The Inner Mounting Flame respectively. Both entirely instrumental the two albums nevertheless have quite different feels. Heavy Weather from Weather Report is very easy listening as demonstrated by the opening hit and jazz standard Birdland with its chirpy melody and squishy fretless bass. To be honest it doesn't really grab me on first listen and I'm surprised at the critical acclaim bestowed on the album and the band generally. But that is the case, so it must be me? 

This is always a question in the back of my mind at Bamyasi HQ? 

Just because something is universally critically acclaimed (whether a book, film or album) must we all like it? 

I realise this is different from "popularity". I'm not talking about commercial acclaim as demonstrated by popular sales - that's something else entirely. But then we are moving towards controversial territory by implying that critical acclaim is superior to popular acclaim.

The correct answer to the question is of course no and all art appreciation is personal...

... (but the nagging feeling remains that to not appreciate something critically acclaimed may imply something lacking on one's own part).

Anyway, honesty, is the best policy, generally, and the counter argument to one's implied deficiency is the calling out of a "sacred cow" and there are many of them in my (honest) opinion (IMHO). Actually that's a good idea for a blog post Ed. 

That's a long way of saying I don't really get the Weather Report album, but I will try again. This album is from 1977, and the band's 7th, by which time I imagine much of the rough and exciting edges from the jazz fusion movement had been honed down.

No such navel gazing and self reflection with the Mahavishnu Orchestra. This is amazing music. It's a full on assault on the senses - brilliant musicians playing progressive jazz rock at breakneck speed. I would venture it is more rock, or progressive rock, than jazz, and that must for a large part be due to the brilliant electric guitar work of John McLaughlin.

McLaughlin redefined the role of guitar in jazz, Cobham the drums and the band set new standards in ensemble cohesion. They did it without sounding glib, a trick their legion of followers never fathomed.


The progressive rock comparisons lead me to realise how much they sound like King Crimson in their heavier instrumental passages - both from that band's prog rock heyday circa 1973/4 and in their most recent reincarnations as detailed in log #208. Listen to the start of The Dance of Maya for instance and tell me that doesn't sound like a Robert Fripp riff (indeed the music-map does show a connection):

Brilliant stuff, but not for the faint hearted. I will explore further albums from The Mahavishnu Orchestra although I think they only made very few (certainly from this era - The Inner Mounting Flame was their debut released in 1971).


Camel - The Single Factor
Asia - Asia
Weather Report - Heavy Weather
Depeche Mode Violator
The Mahavishnu Orchestra The Inner Mounting Flame
ABC Beauty Stab

The Single Factor from Camel was the band's 9th album, released in 1982. Apparently there was pressure from the record company Decca to produce a hit single (where have we heard that before?) and there are plenty of candidates of which Camelogue was probably the best (I've literally only just realised the name of the album may be a reference to the need for a single).

Were there any singles, hits or otherwise Ed.?

Yes, two singles with A sides of Selva and No Easy Answer, and B sides of Camelogue and Manic respectively. You're welcome, Ed.

ps. No hits.

Manic is a powerful instrumental and the lovely guitar instrumental Selva is a homage to Ice.

Outside the single material Heroes is pretty epic.

But generally a fairly so-so album from the erstwhile prog rockers. I am tempted to declare the previous album Nude was probably the group's last great album. One more album followed, Stationary Traveller, before Decca were off.

Asia were one of those "supergroups" formed out of the ashes of various '70s prog rock bands - Yes, ELP, King Crimson, and err... Buggles. And, not surprisingly with its vintage (1982), it's the Buggles influence that is writ large across this album of easy listening AOR: The keyboards dominate and you rarely hear Steve Howe's guitar.

As far as it goes, in terms of catchy hooks, it's fine pop rock, in the vein of US acts like Journey or Styx - indeed the lead single Heat of the Moment was a massive hit in the US. 

Amongst the pap there are a few decent tracks - Time Again hints at what the band could do sounding like a rocky King Crimson a la The Great Deceiver.

I had no idea the band were still going, with 2 original members (Carl Palmer and Geoff Downes) and 13 albums to their name now.

Finally to round out this week's post the best two albums from my '80s retro last week are retained - Beauty Stab from ABC and Violator from Depeche Mode (although the latter was actually a 1990 release but you know what I mean). Really enjoying both these albums although Violator is the one that will have the greater longevity.

Sunday, 18 October 2020

Log #212 - Giving Those Early '80s Synthesizer Bands A Second Chance

Eddy Bamyasi

I'm heading back to the early '80s this week with some formative music that impacted my ears around school sixth form time. Personally I wasn't ever into these new romantic and electronic bands, preferring rock and prog. It's remarkable to think that at that time the music I was listening to was already considered old when in truth most of it was less than 10 years old and some was even still current. But when you are only 16, 10 years is a very long time and in comparison with the likes of Depeche Mode and OMD, King Crimson, Genesis and Pink Floyd were dinosaurs.

OMD - Architecture and Morality
OMD Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark
Human League - Travelogue
Depeche Mode - Violator
Dexy's Midnight Runners - Don't Stand Me Down
ABC - Beauty Stab

OMD were one such new electronic band that suddenly appeared on the scene one day in the sixth form common room. I certainly remember some of the cool boys with their new romantic floppy jackets (with the sleeves rolled up) and matching floppy hair carrying around the OMD debut LP with it's modern grid cover (if I remember correctly the outer cover had holes through which the bright orange of the inner cover showed through - that was pretty cool and different).

Sadly the albums here from OMD were a bit of a disappointment. I was expecting something more ground breaking remembering the esteem with which these albums exchanged hands at school. 

Architecture and Morality is pretty basic synth pop without anything that memorable. It's why I turned to the debut album actually to see if that offered more originality and indeed I think it's the better album. It has more of those intriguing Tangerine Dream '70s synth sounds. Some tracks sound a little like Boards Of Canada (The Messerschmitt Twins) and Electricity is a great tune.

On both the albums I don't think much of the singing.

That's where the ABC scores well actually. Although the tone and style sounds so of its era somehow, Martin Fry nevertheless had a good voice. ABC sound more like a regular band, with traditional instruments, less electronics, and some decent electric guitar (much more than you would expect), and proper drums - they are even quite heavy in places. Heavy Citizen is a storming track, and The Power Of Persuasion is pretty cool. Bite The Hand has some excellent riffing. Am I bonkers or does the funky King Money even sound like latter day Led Zeppelin? I think people would be quite surprised with this album, as I was when I first heard it.

Travelogue was The Human League's 2nd album released in 1980. Surprisingly to me it wasn't until the 3rd album Dare, and it's accompanying hit single Don't You Want Me, that The Human League achieved wide commercial success (I had assumed Don't You Want Me came immediately in their career). This preceding album is a bit rawer and minimalist than the subsequent albums. Some of the rhythmic pulses and glitchy effects as on Dreams Of Living and Being Boiled are like Kraftwerk and the hypnotic instrumental Toyota City is where Tangerine Dream meets Steve Hillage (again it might be unfair to suggest the lack of singing is an advantage).

The Dexy album is slightly different to the Come On Eileen template everyone is familiar with. Lots of thumping drums - but it's genuine, not over produced. Quite a lot of surprising spoken word in the songs - the band members sounding like they are in conversation (at first I wondered if I was hearing some interference from somewhere else in my headphones, or whether these were studio outtakes). One of Those Things sounds like the great Werewolves of London. The Waltz is a great song.

10 years on (again) and you can really hear the improved synthetic production on the 1990 Depeche Mode album Violator. The synthesizers sound much better, and the bass floors you. But it's the drum machines that show most improvement over their sound at their inception.

That was then...

I used to think this group were so naff when they first came out: teenagers who barely looked 17 playing feeble one finger melodies on cheap (probably not that cheap in those days) keyboards. What was their big hit they started off with? It was laughable to me, in comparison to the complicated prog rock I was in to.

...this is now

I was vaguely aware Depeche Mode became massive over the years especially in the US and South America. I remember seeing footage of the group playing to massive stadium crowds. They changed their image too of course and moved from a teeny bopper band to a tattooed rock outfit. Lead singer Dave Gahan's heroin problems were widely reported and no doubt contributed towards their new persona (I'm sure not a marketing ploy but possibly increased their cred!).

There are some great tunes on this album including Enjoy The Silence (that's the one with the king walking up a hill holding a deck chair) and Personal Jesus:

Reach out and touch faith
Someone to hear your prayers
Someone who cares

It's the best album in this 6 by a wide margin.

Sunday, 11 October 2020

Log #211 - First Ladies On The Moon

Eddy Bamyasi

Lots of female singers in the magazine this week - Carly Simon continues her great form with No Secrets which is proving very popular at Bamyasi HQ, and on the road - Carole King makes a re-entry with the similar Tapestry - Caitlin Canty lays down some Nashville country rock - and Nina Persson of The Cardigans sings some quirky pop.

  1. Carly Simon - No Secrets
  2. Carole King - Tapestry
  3. Caitlin Canty - Reckless Skyline
  4. The Last Shadow Puppets - The Age Of The Understatement
  5. Camel - Moonmadness
  6. The Cardigans - Life 
On top of that we have, in essence, a missing Arctic Monkeys album from The Last Shadow Puppets and some smooth prog from Camel in the form of their 4th studio album, Moonmadness.  The latter is many fans' favourite from the Guildford prog rockers, although not for me. I notice it was produced by Rhett Davies who I hadn't heard of before but his name cropped up in my recent King Crimson listening having produced that band's 1981 comeback album Discipline. My edition of Moonmadness comes with some excellent additional live and demo tracks.

Sunday, 4 October 2020

Log #210 - A Heavy Rock Crossword Puzzle Circa 1983

Eddy Bamyasi

I recently came across an old photo of my album collection from when I must have been about 18 years old. I had laid the albums out in the garden and taken a photo from an upstairs window:

My LP collection - circa 1983?

It's interesting to track my taste through a photograph like this. Considering I only bought my first proper album around the age of 15 (ELO Out Of The Blue on blue vinyl!) I had amassed a decent collection by the time I took my box of records off to Uni. 

From ELO (Face The Music and Discovery lie prominently above) I moved swiftly into heavy metal (Rainbow, AC/DC, Black Sabbath and The Scorpions), and then more considered rock like Led Zeppelin, Santana and Deep Purple, then more synth and spacey rock like Hawkwind and BOC, prog rock like Jethro Tull, BJH and King Crimson, some first excursions into electronics (Tangerine Dream), first singer songwriters (Neil Young - Van Morrison and John Martyn came later) and then finally Krautrock (I can see my first Can album on the top line). 

Like everyone at that time I also had a lot of cassettes (mostly home recorded) as I know there were bands I had discovered by then that don't appear in this photo.

How many of these albums did I reinvest in as CDs later on? Probably about two thirds of them?

This week I've revisited 6 of these albums from my teenage years:

Saga - Worlds Apart
Camel - The Snow Goose
Sammy Hagar - Danger Zone
Barclay James Harvest - Eyes Of The Universe
Jethro Tull - 
Moody Blues - Seventh Sojourn


To be fair it's quite hard to listen to some of these albums now. The Saga (5 down 4 across) is a case in point. It was a struggle to get to the end of the album. I just don't have any interest in this sort of keyboard soft rock music any more (and probably only a very fleeting interest at the time - nice cover though). My reaction to hearing Worlds Apart mirrored my reaction to the Styx album I played a few logs ago ie. not positive. 

I fail to see how this music was ever categorised as prog rock. Great cover though, although more recent versions have different artwork.


Nothing wrong with the great Camel and Snow Goose (4 down 6 along) (their third album from 1975) is one of their best. Save for the odd bit of chanting and humming this is an instrumental concept piece displaying the full range of the band's prog rock tendencies and musical talents - keen guitar, melodic flutes, and bubbling keyboards. 

The concept is loosely based on the wartime novella The Snow Goose: A Story of Dunkirk. Very loosely based really as the album is instrumental, so there were no lyrics, just song titles. Nevertheless the author sued the band for copyright (seems odd really as surely such exposure would only increase his readership). 

Snow Goose has remained in my collection and I know it well, along with their best album in my opinion, Mirage. I see I also had The Single Factor, one of their later albums, at the time of this photo and that might have been a more interesting album for me to revisit - one for next time.


Eyes Of The Universe (5 down 2 across)- starts of with a gated keyboard rhythm. The best tracks, like this opener, and Capricorn do remind me of Octoberon, personally my favourite BJH album. AOR, or yacht rock if you like, but a good version thereof. 

The Song (They Love To Sing) sounds like Genesis. But then a song like Skin Flicks demonstrates all the schmaltz of the era (a waste of 7 minutes to be fair). The album is redeemed by the final track Play To The World which is classic BJH - an epic moving mellotron drenched ballad.

All in all a pretty good album from BJH, considering they were well passed their best by 1979. Great cover too.


Jethro Tull's A (7 down 9 across) came out just a few months after Eyes Of The Universe. What to think about this? Mmmm, it's almost good. I like the fundamental Tull sound which is still intact - Anderson's voice, the catchy melodies, the harmonies, tinkly piano, guitar breaks, and of course the breathy flute. 

Already having moved on (Songs From The Wood, Heavy Horses) a fair bit from their earlier rock and prog days (Aqualung, Thick As A Brick) the songs on A are not a massive departure from what the band were already doing in the late '70s. Just a little bit more synthesized. 

In fact this album reminds me a lot of the more popular The Broadsword And The Beast album (also in the picture) which followed two years later - possibly their last good album before declining into an '80s mire? I can't comment to be fair having not heard anything post Broadsword apart from Thick As A Brick 2 which I now learn is credited as an Ian Anderson solo record.

My interest waned a bit on side two where there are quite a few throwaway tunes like 4.W.D. and The Pine Marten's Jig.

An odd cover, related (by UFOs?) to the Eyes Of The Universe one come to think of it, and also the recently reviewed Levitation by Hawkwind (also in the photo). Apparently the "A" derives from the fact that the album was originally conceived as an Ian Anderson solo record.

The Moody Blues never seem to be mentioned in the same breath as other prog rock (and mellotron heavy) bands of the late '60s and early '70s. They were never on my radar like Genesis, King Crimson and Yes. 

There is some nice stuff on Seventh Sojourn (1 down 4 along) and some tracks like When You're A Free Man have elements of Nights In White Satin with some nice acoustic and electric guitar. It's all nicely played and produced but is just a bit too easy listening - and for a 1972 album it even sounds more dated than that when compared to what their rock contemporaries were producing by then.


Heavy rocker Sammy Hagar enjoyed a solo career through the late '70s (after leaving rock group Montrose) and early '80s (before joining Van Halen). Danger Zone (5 down 9 along) was released in 1980 becoming his fifth solo album. 

It's exactly what you'd expect - heavy rock guitar in the mould of a Ted Nugent. Nothing too fancy or ambitious - just good old straight forward rock music which hasn't aged as poorly as some of the more progressive music above.

That was a fun trip down memory lane. I'll be returning to this photo for some more listening inspiration in the future.

Saturday, 3 October 2020

Can's Spanner In The Sky Album Reviewed

Eddy Bamyasi

Of all Can's latter period albums Can aka Inner Space, the band's last proper album released in 1979, before the short lived reunion a decade later that was Ritetime, is patchy but good. The album presented another shift in sound; a bit more gutsy, jazzy, rhythmic and very unusual. It has more the character of Landed from 1975 than its immediate predecessors; the world music flavoured albums Saw Delight and Out of Reach.

The old side one is strong, in particular the two openers All Gates Open and Safe with confident vocals, synthesizers, and Jaki Liebezeit's scatter-gun drumming, to the fore.  Erstwhile bassist Holger Czukay returned after missing the Out of Reach sessions but only on “editing” with Rosco Gee formerly of Traffic retaining bass duties.

The quality continues through Aspectacle with its funky drummer breaks, but, as was the case with several of Can’s latter period albums, the overall atmosphere is diluted as the band literally appear to run out of ideas and fill the remaining time of this already quite short album with several out of context tracks — in particular a poor and pointless cover of the Offenbach Can Can.

Thursday, 1 October 2020

The Sensational Alex Harvey's New Band

Eddy Bamyasi

This album represents quite a departure from Alex Harvey’s rock and blues roots. The vocals are still there of course and are stronger than ever making it unmistakably Harvey but the musical arrangements are more involved displaying a wide range of dynamics both across and within songs resulting in moments of power and beauty. An approach that was perhaps attempted with less success on the preceding album, the less cohesive Rock Drill.

However Harvey has literally gathered a new band here. Although SAHB were no slouches you get the impression he has sourced some crack session musicians here from the rock and jazz field.

This is immediately evident with the instrumental opener which showcases new horn man Don Weller’s saxophone breaks which remain prominent throughout the album. Meanwhile the guitarist Matthew Cang trades in clean solos with less emphasis on the heavy riffing of Zal Cleminson, and the bass player and drummer underpin a very tight band. Keyboardist Tommy Eyre remained as the only surviving member from the last SAHB album.

There are two epics which with their slow piano based build up recall former glories like The Last of The Teenage Idols or Give My Compliments to The Chef; Back in the Depot, and the save the whales anthem The Whalers:

Murder in the silver foam
Grab the gold and sail back home
Slaughter cubs and mummy too
Here’s a perfume just for you

There she blows
See the spout
Money is what it’s all about
In leopard skins and tiger shoes

We all sing the dog food blues
Sling it on the rusty deck
Rip the sinew from its neck
You can’t complain, it’s fair enough
We kill it and you buy the stuff!

Both covers in the set are inspired — Shakin’ All Over and Just A Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody. The latter would have been quite a fitting last hurrah for Harvey if the ill conceived The Soldier On The Wall had remained in the vaults.

With an invigorated Harvey, brilliant musicianship, a strong song set, and crisp production, The Mafia Stole My Guitar is a return to form and stands up as Harvey’s last great (and often overlooked) album despite the absence of SAHB.

A full rundown of all of Alex Harvey's albums can be found at

Sunday, 27 September 2020

Log #209 - Sunday Bible Class

Eddy Bamyasi

Exposure was Robert Fripp's first solo album released in 1979. It's a real dolly mixture of new wave rock, pop, post punk, and blues (and very little prog, ambient, or frippertronics, surprisingly). Guest singers included Daryl Hall and Peter Gabriel. More punky singing is provided by Peter Hammill and Terre Roche.

Mostly consisting of short pop songs there are nevertheless some trail blazing instrumental workouts like the brilliant Breathless which is reminiscent of Red and Fracture. 

Side two does veer off into some more experimental work with spoken samples. But it's not until the ambient drone of Urban Landscape and the Water Music loops does Exposure really touch upon what I was expecting.

All in all it sounds like Fripp was throwing everything into this album - all his current (New York and Berlin) influences, and as a result, although there are some decent singles, the album as a whole sounds disjointed. 

To read an extended review of Exposure please click here>>

King Crimson - Starless And Bible Black
Robert Fripp - Exposure
King Crimson - Three Of A Perfect Pair
King Crimson - Thrak
King Crimson - The Construkction of Light
King Crimson - The Power To Believe

Starless And Bible Black is an excellent Crimson album - coming in between the more celebrated Larks' Tongues In Aspic and Red it is nevertheless equally as powerful. I just love the squishy bass guitar and Fripp's distorted arpeggios like on Lament (very similar to One More Red Nightmare).

Some tracks (from this partially live recording) are apparent jams that chug along just the right side of chaos (We'll Let You Know, The Mincer and most of all the title track). The Night Watch is one of King Crimson's most gorgeous songs with a typically melodic Fripp solo (I read somewhere that some of these solos are track reversed and this one does sound like it actually). Trio is a classical piece reminiscent of the work on the jazzy Islands. The album ends on the monumental and infamous Fracture instrumental with Fripp's fingers exploring the dusty parts of the fretboard with series of ascending guitar scales (a theme he would revisit in the following Red album and the "Crimson mk. III" trio of albums retained in the player this week).

Great minimalist album art too which I've opted for at the head of the post over Fripp's less interesting Exposure:

Sunday, 20 September 2020

Log #208 - Reassessing The Non King Crimson King Crimson

Eddy Bamyasi

It's taken me a long time to reach King Crimson in this blog. After seeing some quirky Robert Fripp and Toyah videos on Youtube I revisited some of the classic albums from the band's prog rock hey day - spinning Larks' Tongues In Aspic and Red last week (this could have possibly been my first revisit in the whole history of this blog - what, 3 years?, 4 years? Can you check Ed.?). [Actually you forget Eddy, the blog is about 4 years old now, but you did play King Crimson eventually in log #130 after they had won the most surprising non appearance award in the 2018 review. You're welcome, Ed.]

Great, great albums, those two, their presence barely diminished by the passing of time. These were two of the seven albums the band released between 1969 and 1974. And that was it, for the band, and most the fans - Fripp pulled the plug (when the band were at their creative and commercial peak) and buggered off to find himself.

But hold your horses...

There was a hiatus for 7 years, and then a comeback in 1981, with a new funky, punky, new wave band - a band so diverse from the original that they should n't really have used the King Crimson name (in fact Fripp did originally rename the group). 

3 albums ensued, known as the Discipline trilogy (or the red, blue and yellow ones), from the same new personnel (the first time King Crimson had ever maintained the same band members over more than one consecutive album). 

Discipline trilogy personnel:

Adrian Belew – electric guitar, guitar synthesizer, lead vocals 
Robert Fripp – electric guitar, guitar synthesizer, devices (Frippertronics)
Tony Levin – Chapman Stick, backing vocals, bass
Bill Bruford – drums

The Discipline Trilogy

I tried to like them when they came out but yearning for Wetton's thick bass, Bruford's sharp rim taps, and Fripp's distorted solos, I was left disappointed. I lost interest and didn't even notice when, following another hiatus, this time even longer, the band released another comeback album, Thrak, in 1995 (in the history of a band like King Crimson this feels thoroughly recent, but it's mindblowing to me that this record is now 25 years old, and I've only just heard it, and... it's amazing!). 2 further albums followed in the early 2000s - equally mind blowing for a fan like me who had written the band off in 1974!

The Thrak Trilogy

ReconstruKction of Light line up (2000):

Robert Fripp – guitar, keyboards
Adrian Belew – guitar, vocals
Trey Gunn – Ashbory bass, Warr guitar
Pat Mastelotto – drums, percussion

So 6 albums spanning nearly 25 years, practically half their overall output of 13 studio albums (when the first 7 had spanned just 5 years) had been dismissed by your careless correspondent (not for the first time - I had done something similar with Bob Dylan, Radiohead and Genesis).

Here Eddy rectifies things by taking a deep dive into the post '74 King Crimson with a clean sweep of the albums released after King Crimson stopped (for many) being King Crimson, sort of!

King CrimsonDiscipline
King Crimson - Beat
King Crimson - Three Of A Perfect Pair
King Crimson - Thrak
King Crimson - The Construkction of Light
King Crimson - The Power To Believe


Discipline was the first of the 3 "comeback" albums which emerged from the "former" prog rockers in the early '80s. Released in 1981 the new album came 7 years after leader Robert Fripp had disbanded the group in 1974. Representing essentially a new band (only Bruford remained with Fripp from 1974) and a new sound the group was originally named Discipline before Fripp decided to reincarnate the King Crimson name.

King Crimson as Discipline

Much criticised at the time this brave record has since become viewed as a modern classic for its unexpected embracing of modern beats and world music.

Attempting to create the sound of a "rock gamelan" Fripp plays complicated loops and scales upon which new guitarist Adrian Belew weaves interlocking leads over Bill Bruford's polyrhythmic toms and new electronic beats. New bassist Tony Levin played a "stick" - a ten string bass guitar thingy played in a tapping fashion, the first time I'd ever come across such an instrument.

The band's songs were shorter in comparison to previous King Crimson albums, and very much shaped by Belew's pop sensibilities and quirky approach to writing lyrics. So you had the marvellously efficient openers Elephant Talk and Frame By Frame  - great pop songs which belied the complexities and dynamic shifts and key changes within, followed by the jazzy ballad Matte Kudasai.

Though the former King Crimson's tendency to launch into long instrumental improvisations was largely reined in the band did break free on some numbers including Indiscipline where Bruford rat-a-tats, Levin pulses, and the guitarists freak out. Belew raps spoken word: "I like it!" 

More spoken word follows on the dancey Thela Hun Ginjeet and an extended instrumental The Sheltering Sky forms the album's centrepiece. On the final title track (another instrumental) the intricate repeating guitars circle around like a minimalist Steve Reich piece.


Beat is a pretty decent album. The copy I was playing must be a remix. It sounds much more vibrant and upbeat than the rather lacklustre edition I first bought back in 1982. 

Generally the poppiest and most accessible of the three Discipline albums the songs are slick and efficient as demonstrated most by single Heartbeat (but even this one has some gorgeous "backwards" guitar if you listen closely) and the soft ballad Two Hands (I can leave that one really). There is even some funk and reggae (in a The Police type fashion).

The sequencing is similar to Discipline - a couple of pop tunes, then an instrumental Sartori In Tangier which is like an edited The Sheltering Sky. Some lovely distant guitar lead on this one. A funky Waiting Man showcases world beats from Bruford and some more awesome guitar distortion.

Neurotica is another New York centric spoken word number following the lead from Discipline. There's a lot in this track including a beautiful central section.

The closing track Requiem is a classic Fripp solo recalling the Fripp and Eno ambient projects (No Pussyfooting) and Evening Star. A most surprising piece a little out of context with what comes before. Nice jazz drumming on here too.


The final album of the three - Three Of A Perfect Pair - starts off with a near side of intricate yet efficient new wave pop underpinned by Frippertronic guitar shapes. However, as with each of these three albums, there are moments of  progressive instrumental brilliance. On this album the prog rock influences are most prominent on side 2 as Fripp points the way to what would become the next phase of King Crimson, a decade on, with a series of modern prog instrumentals from the industrial bass slap of Industry via a drum laden experimental Warning through to a homage to the great Larks' Tongues In Aspic (via a "part III").

The finest track of all is Nuages though which really takes the biscuit - one of the band's greatest tracks - a track that would be recognised as a masterpiece if it had appeared on one of the more celebrated early albums (not that it would have done as it sounds so modern with it's gurgling rhythms). 

Such moments become a bit lost amongst the new wave pop of this underrated series but account for at least half of this fine album which, although it definitely tends towards the bipolar and is often overshadowed by the more groundbreaking Discipline, I think is possibly (?) the best of the trio.

A lot of the problem at the time was the "King Crimson" expectation. Hearing these albums fresh, and delinking from the KC expectation, of legacy fans circa 1980, they are all very good pop albums and much more rock than I had appreciated. Fripp (with Belew's influence) had taken the band away from prog but had invented an original new wave sound more in keeping with bands like Blondie, Talking Heads, Devo, David Bowie, and even Captain Beefheart's Magic Band, whereas many of his contemporaries got lost in '80s production values producing watered down prog, bombastic metal, or cheesy keyboard pop (Genesis). 


Thrak, wow, this is in the "Why haven't I heard this before category?". It sounds superb. It's a mix between the old prog rock music and the more "modern" dance style from the Discipline trilogy. It jumps straight into my shortlist for most surprising discovery (or rediscovery) of the year.

Opener Vroom is like the Red instrumental that opens that album. Great riffing with some intricate Frippertronic breaks. The track merges seamlessly into Coda 475 - KC write some great codas.

The album contains some excellent single material beginning with Dinosaur. The band sound like a heavy Beatles. The Beatles influence (circa Abbey Road) continues into the jazzy Walking On Air with Belew sounding very much like John Lennon. The Fripp guitar on this recalls the gentler Crimson tunes from their prog period. Super deep bass on this one too. A beautiful tune.

B'Boom is a clackety drum solo with world music toms. The drumming continues into the title track which is a metal monster instrumental with a distorted bass that sounds just like the John Wetton bass on Red (and Starless And Bible Black).

Another respite tune with the gentle guitar arpeggio-led Inner Garden I. Belew showing off his vocal chops here. The funky People is more single material - it's the most commercial track on the album with a chorus and backing vocals like a modern David Bowie or Talking Heads number. I could leave it really, it's not the best King Crimson and probably a complete Belew track without much Fripp input. The production is great though.

Radio 1 is a little Takemitsu like avant garde piece which precedes another ballad One Time which even has some Bruford rim taps. Bliss. Belew nails the song again. Lovely stuff. Radio 2 comes in and then there is a reprise of Inner Garden (II) which knits this whole section together like a little suite.

Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream is another funky rocker. Heavy like prime period Pixies. 

The album ends on a Vroom reprise (sounding even more like its Red predecessor) making Thrak feel like a concept album, or a full circle at least. 

By the way the formerly brilliant Bruford I hear has now retired officially (this being his last King Crimson album) and was having a yard sale of his kit. Hear a nice interview on this here >>


Loving the opening blues number. It's been called "tongue in cheek": 

Well I woke up this morning

... but I think it's great fun. It so does not sound like King Crimson - for a start I'm not aware of any other blues tune they've done, and the singing is in a Tom Waits style with Adrian Belew's deep down growl. I assume that's his guitar screaming over the top too - Fripp tending to concentrate on the riffs and frippertronics. Before these 3 most recent albums I'd never fully appreciated Belew's skills as a rock guitarist. The twin Fripp/Belew attack is a revelation.

The extended title track is a typically intricate mostly instrumental number led by a Frippertronic figure. Next follows a superb rock track Into The Frying Pan - great singing from Belew and incendiary electric guitar (Belew's shredding, Fripp's trademark distortions). There are moments where the upward guitar breaks recall the unique Starless guitar solo.

Frakctured is a new duel guitar work based on the original Fracture (a notoriously difficult piece) from the 1974 Starless And Bible Black album. It's mesmerising in the detail of the interlocking guitars.

The World's My Oyster Soup Kitchen Floor Wax Museum is another heavy rocker with an exceptional Fripp treated solo which sounds like frenetic jazz piano.

A treat for the old fans follows with "Part IV" of Larks' Tongues In Aspic. In keeping with this heavy album this is a powerful rendition which walks the line between the original and the new. It storms to a peak with some rare mellotron like keyboards in the Coda and Belew's distorted vocals:

Tragedies of Kennedy's, refugees, AIDS disease
Photos of Hiroshima, the Holocaust, and Kosovo
Tim McVeigh, Saddam Hussein, the bombing of the World Trade
Hostages in Bosnia, atrocities, South Africa,
Abortion and Kevorkian, Vietnam, napalm,
Lady Di, and Lennon died a violent crime, Columbine,
I have a dream that one day Rodney King, O.J.,
Symbols of our life's and times, One giant leap for mankind

The "relatively" calming final "bonus" track is credited to ProjeKct X (a spin off of King Crimson at the time). With some pleasant string moments this track really begins to cook around half way with a driving groove over which Fripp improvises.

Oddly this album received relatively negative reviews on its release. Some even calling it King Crimson's worse album. I find that assessment bizarre. To be fair none of the 13 are bad and as very few are similar it's a rather arbitrary task to rank them (something Eddy must try some time) so perhaps it could be? I doubt it though - all these 3 latter day albums are more my thing than the Discipline trilogy. 

One of the main criticisms concerns the drumming. Apparently drummer Pat Mastelotto (post Bruford) uses a lot of electronic drums and programming. I can't say I really noticed. He later re-recorded the drum tracks for the entire album using regular acoustic drums - this new version was released in 2019 as The Reconstrukction of Light to much improved reviews. I haven't heard this remix.

KC circa 2000


After a brief vocoderised introduction King Crimson's latest 
(and possibly final?) album launches with a trademark power instrumental a la Red or Larks' Tongues again (entitled Level 5 could this be Larks' Tongues Part V?). Here the drums thrash and crash, the duel guitars trace intricate lines at breakneck speed. The pace is so full on the seven minute track feels like a track of twice the length. A brilliant track.

The best tracks indeed are the instrumentals (Belew's vocals, normally so reliable, seem to be a bit off on this record) - Electrik is a prog masterpiece highlighting drummer Mastelotto's masterly fusion of electronic and acoustic drums, and Dangerous Curve builds powerfully from silence like the classic Talking Drum from Larks' Tongues.

Ballad Eyes Wide Open would make a great Bond song - the only soft song on this ever so loud and aggressive record. The rock songs on the album are the most heavy metal Crimson have ever been. However I don't think they are quite as good as the heavier tunes on Thrak and The Construkction Of Light - Belew's voice is over distorted and the lyrics, particularly on Happy with What You Have to Be Happy With are a bit cringeworthy (albeit ironic):

And when I have some words
This is the way I'll sing
Through a distortion box
To make them menacing
Yeah, then I'm gonna have to write a chorus
We're gonna need to have a chorus

The whole record is held together by the title theme which appears in different formats four times (the most impressive being the electronic synthesized part II) giving this almost concept album a nice sense of whole. Overall another intense and complex modern album - not quite as good or eye-opening as the other two in this trilogy but still, so much better than anyone had the right to expect from these veterans of prog. 


I'm mightily impressed with these 6 albums. The first three from the Discipline era are so much better than I remembered - melodic intricate pop displaying the quartet's amazing musicianship, and much heavier than I appreciated too. I don't know why I never got into these albums at the time and can only put it down to the shock of the difference in comparison to the band's classic prog period.  

Advance ten more years and the Thrak era trilogy is even better. I had no idea the band were still making such vital music this late in their career. These albums are a fusion of the prog days and the Discipline days - they actually add both elements together (not so much a fusion as a multiplication!) and weld on a new heavy industrial metal edge too, to create some of the most complex music I've ever heard. 

With only 13 studio albums in total over their whole career Fripp and Co. have maintained a consistency of quality over quality whilst forging new directions at each rebirth. These "latter day" half dozen of albums deserve more credit than they get and I'm pleased to have (re)/discovered them.

KC today with three drummers

Further viewing...from a couple of guys who really know their music...

Sunday, 13 September 2020

Log #207 - Red Gamma Rays In Aspic

Eddy Bamyasi


I literally have not heard this Gamma album for 35 years. Yet it is amazing how I remember some of the songs. Of course it is very '80s and does sound dated, particularly on the vocal front. But there are some excellent hooks, decent electric guitar from founder Ronnie Montrose, and interesting synth embellishment with even some ELO like vocoder! On some of the more pumping bass tracks they remind me a bit of Budgie.

Carly Simon No Secrets
Sigur Ros - Takk
King Crimson - Lark's Tongues In Aspic
King Crimson - Red
Harmonia - Deluxe
Gamma - 1

I could n't stomach the singing on the Sigur Ros album Takk, their fourth. I was into their break through Ágætis Byrjun album (their second) so it's a mystery to me whether my tastes have changed, or the band, or more to the point, the singer has changed. Or were they just a one trick pony? I had to turn it off about half way through to be fair.

Two superb albums from King Crimson reaffirmed my faith in progressive rock this week. Displaying both power and musicianship these albums are high watermarks in the genre. Whereas the monumental debut and fan favourite In The Court Of The Crimson King was beautiful it is now also a little dated and slightly whimsical. A few years later Robert Fripp's band had come on leaps and bounds - there is less mellotron and more drums and bass (the former so sharp and the latter so heavy in the mix), and sawing violin especially on Larks', and guitar especially on Red

Red was a fitting climax to the end of the first era of King Crimson ending on perhaps their greatest ever track, Starless, which featured one of the most unique guitar solos in rock history. 

Interestingly these two albums feature at number 14 and 8 respectively in this well researched list >>  with the debut album at no. 4!

Fripp mothballed the band and set out on some solo experimentation and collaborations with the likes of Bowie and Eno. Not until 1981 did he return with a reformed King Crimson releasing the revolutionary Discipline; an album which was most confusing to the early fans but is now viewed as an underrated classic ahead of its time.

ps. What is Aspic? All these years I assumed it was a place, fictitious or otherwise. I never realised it was a foodstuff, which makes sense - something you would serve lark's tongues in.

Enjoy my posts? Help support my blog with a cheeky Cortado! Many thanks, EB

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