King Crimson – Larks’ Tongues In Aspic

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  • The band’s superb 1973 release makes its modern Hot Stamper debut here with KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • Bass and body are key to the best pressings, along with Prog Rock energy, and here you will find plenty of all three
  • A powerful, dynamic recording, yet the Island Tubey Magical Richness and Smoothness are always there to keep the proceedings from getting out of hand.
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… this lineup quickly established itself as a powerful performing unit, working in a more purely experimental, less jazz-oriented vein than its immediate predecessor.”

NOTE: This copy has a label misprint – Side 1 has a Roxy Music Avalon label even though it’s a King Crimson Record, while Side 2 has the correct label.

*CONDITION NOTES:

  • On side one, the first half-inch of Track 1, Larks’ Tongues In Aspic, Part One, is moderately ticky.

Sometimes the copy with the best sound is not the copy with the quietest vinyl. The best sounding copy is always going to win the shootout, the condition of its vinyl notwithstanding. If you can tolerate the problems on this pressing you are in for some amazing King Crimson music and sound. If for any reason you are not happy with the sound or condition of the album we are of course happy to take it back for a full refund, including the domestic return postage.


Like any KC record, this album alternates its soft parts and its heavy parts. The soft parts sound oh so sweet and delicate, each intricacy revealed to perfection by the out-of-this-world recording quality, while the heavy parts sound big and bold, augmented by Fripp’s meaty, fuzzed-out guitar and Bill Bruford’s savage percussion.

What’s uncanny about this pressing is how the softness and heaviness play off each other, transitioning into one another, WITHOUT LOSING A THING. With most prog rock records, once the bombast starts kicking in, all the intricacies of the midrange and top end get washed out. But when this pressing’s rockin’, the subtle contribution of the mellotron in the background can still clearly be recognized, floating above the clouds, tying everything together, with all of Bill Bruford’s intricate percussion effects along for the ride.

What Amazing Sides Such as These Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1973
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

What Sets King Crimson Apart

While this was easily King Crimson’s most experimental music up to this time, it didn’t fall into the trap that many prog bands — such as ELP — did. Listen to an ELP album like Tarkus; it’s nothing but a long collection of solos. What makes Crimson THE prog rock band is their ability to bring to bear all their jazz influences, all the craziest time signatures, all the most unusual instrumentation, all the bombast, all the insanity, while NOT LOSING THE SONG.

I mentioned the mellotron before, and for good reason: Robert Fripp uses that lovely instrument as a device to tie all the music together. And you need a good pressing like this one to appreciate that. 

Just follow that mellotron the whole way through the song. Let all the crazy guitars and percussion, all the heaviness and softness, flow in and out and around it. Fripp used the mellotron as a great unifier, bringing a cohesiveness to the music while still allowing the band to be as experimental as all hell.

This is WHAT PROG ROCK SHOULD BE. It’s like an ocean — one huge entity, all its parts connected, unpredictable, with ebbs and flows, waves crashing, constantly churning and flowing back into itself.

What We’re Listening For on Larks’ Tongues in Aspic

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

A Transitional Album

Larks’ Tongues in Aspic was really a transition record, bridging the band’s early sound (In the Court of the Crimson King / In the Wake of Poseidon) with its ultra heavy middle period (Starless & Bible Black / Red). After two subpar records in Islands and Lizard, which came out before this one and after Poseidon, KC showed with Aspic that they were back in a BIG WAY.

The introduction of John Wetton on bass and vocals and David Cross on violin are significant highlights of this record. A big reason Aspic KILLS is that it brings a great singer/bassist back into the mix, which the band sorely lacked after Greg Lake had left two albums earlier. Cross’ violin, an instrument the band hadn’t utilized before, is haunting and dark, adding a dimension to the music that continues to blow our minds to this day.

This is EASILY among the best Crimson efforts. Listen for yourself. You won’t be disappointed. And the sound will knock you out every bit as much as the music.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Pt. I
Book of Saturday
Exiles

Side Two

Easy Money
The Talking Drum
Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Pt. II

AMG 4 1/2 Star Rave Review

King Crimson reborn yet again — the then-newly configured band makes its debut with a violin (courtesy of David Cross) sharing center stage with Robert Fripp’s guitars and his Mellotron, which is pushed into the background. The music is the most experimental of Fripp’s career up to this time — though some of it actually dated (in embryonic form) back to the tail-end of the Boz Burrell-Ian Wallace-Mel Collins lineup. And John Wetton was the group’s strongest singer/bassist since Greg Lake’s departure three years earlier.

What’s more, this lineup quickly established itself as a powerful performing unit, working in a more purely experimental, less jazz-oriented vein than its immediate predecessor. “Outer Limits music” was how one reviewer referred to it, mixing Cross’ demonic fiddling with shrieking electronics, Bill Bruford’s astounding dexterity at the drum kit, Jamie Muir’s melodic and usually understated percussion, Wetton’s thundering yet melodic bass, and Fripp’s guitar, which generated sounds ranging from traditional classical and soft pop-jazz licks to hair-curling electric flourishes.