48 years ago today Earthbound was released. Appearing on the budget HELP label and costing just £1.35 the album captured the first and final tour of the Boz Burrell, Ian Wallace, Mel Collins, and Robert Fripp line-up.
Following the departure of Peter Sinfield in 1971, the band convened in January for rehearsals but split up on the same day. When he heard the news from Fripp, a highly agitated David Enthoven, who was still Crimson’s manager at the time, persuaded Fripp that Crimson was contractually obliged to return to the States in February. Enthoven managed to cajole the others into returning. Against all their better judgements, the band reunited and continued to prepare for another trek to America. Fripp believes the band was deceived. “David told us that the tour had been booked and we were contractually liable; so, we had to go ahead with the tour. But a group that breaks up isn’t able to tour. The same situation was repeated in 1974 following the break-up after Red.”
On tour, the atmosphere lifted considerably and they became looser both socially and musically. With Sinfield no longer around, Burrell felt able to refuse to perform songs with lyrics he felt to be unsingable, ie Formentera Lady and The Letters, and the band began to stretch out into a bluesy,funk territory.
This caused some raised eyebrows, as Ian Wallace recalls "Alexis Korner was opening up, we were in the middle and Humble Pie were closing and for our encore I got up on stage, looked up and shouted to Mel and Boz ‘12-bar blues in G’ and I remember Boz looking at me saying ‘You can't do that!’ and I said ‘Watch me’ and I started up and everybody joined in. Fripp on the other hand sat on his stool with his guitar round his neck with his hands on his lap looking down, tight-lipped and never played a note. Alexis Korner and Humble Pie and everybody backstage freaked out. "
In his sleevenotes to the Live At Jacksonville 1972 KCCC release, Fripp writes: "Improvisation has played an important, even critical role, in all Crims. This live Crimson was more a jamming than improvising outfit." Wallace takes umbrage at this description, which implicitly downgrades the band. Responding to the criticism in his notes for the KCCC release Live At Summit Studios, Wallace argues: "I think we improvised rather well, improvisation being the creation of a fresh vocabulary of notes and tones over a previously constructed format. Just like jazz musicians would play the 'head' of a standard and then solo around the chord sequence."
Listening to the relevant Club releases and the mainstream live album Earthbound, one is struck by the force of the performances. This band’s rendition of 21st Century Schizoid Man from Earthbound has a seething, blistering quality which is at least equal to anything which the previous incarnation managed and indeed compares well to the version which followed it. The principal differences can be measured in the improvised tracks such as Peoria, Earthbound, Summit Going On and on the Earthbound version of Groon which, at around 5:30 into the track, sounds like another band trying to rip its way out of the shell of Crimson.
These pieces clearly demonstrate the conflicting gravitational forces which would have inevitably pulled the band apart. Fripp already had Yes drummer Bill Bruford in his sights as a possible band member; he had also approached Jon Hiseman, although nothing came of that. Yet, as the tour progressed, the majority of the band were enjoying themselves immensely and Wallace recalls talking to Fripp about the possibilities of carrying something on after the tour. "Everybody started getting along well and the Summit gig is toward the end of the tour and I do remember that Boz and I went to Fripp and said to him that we'd like to carry on but he was already making his plans and was already talking to Bill (Bruford) and so it was over. It could have gone on and we were all up for that and maybe that's where some of Boz's bitterness lies because, at that time and at that moment, Boz really wanted to carry on. We had so much fun on that tour and I know Robert did. The three of us didn't want to break up."
Fripp was doubtful. “Could it have gone on? The question is: could this band have played Larks’ Tongues In Aspic? Not in terms of, did they have the technical ability to play it? But, was this a music they would have picked up and run with? The growing difficulty for me was that I had ceased to believe in the band, but not in Crimson. That is, I ceased to believe that this particular formation could ‘give voice’ to Crimson (with or without Peter). Clearly, the musicianship is always at least excellent, and frequently outstanding. For all of Boz’s technical limitations, purely because of his little time on the instrument, his musicianship and sheer love of music is never in doubt."
At the end of King Crimson’s tour in April 1972, Collins, Wallace, and Boz stayed on in America to play with Alexis Korner, while Fripp returned to the UK and began sorting through the cassette soundboard tapes that would eventually become Earthbound.
In 2017 a new version of Earthbound featuring an expanded version of the original album on CD & DVD was released. Presented as a 2 x digi-pack format in a slipcase with new sleeve notes by King Crimson biographer Sid Smith along with rare photos & archive material. As a series of stereo only/low-fi recordings, a 5.1 edition was neither possible nor appropriate. However, also included on the DVD of this release is the full performance from Summit Studios, captured on the same US tour in 1972, appearing in both new stereo & quadraphonic mixes, providing the only live surround recordings of this line-up. This release also features 15 minutes of material not included on the original mail order only CD of Summit studios as issued by DGM in 2000. The DVD also features the Schizoid Men sequence from the Ladies of the Road live album & a transfer of a 1972 vinyl edition of the Earthbound LP. The double set also included an expanded 12 track version of the original 5 track album; the DVD features the 12 track expanded album in 24/96 hi-res stereo audio, and
also features the Summit Studios performance in a new stereo mix & in quadraphonic - the only surviving multi-track performance from the 1972 tour.
The DVD also features the album-length Schizoid Men sequence of edits of 21st Century Schizoid Men taken from the Ladies of The Road live album, and comes with a transfer of the original vinyl album, completing the audio selections.
Earthbound CD/DVD reviewed
Midwestern Record says: A strange entry in the Crimson log, the live album that would not go away where prog met heavy metal and sounded like it was blowing out the sound board, this is a photograph of a band that had broken up and hated each other but were determined to stick it out through their contract. Culled from 1972 dates but originally released later, this is an under recorded version of Crimson still dependant on the early days giving time and tide a run for it's money. Odd ducks and strange dogs are what legends are made from as they grow legs of their own and go on their merry ways. This set also includes a DVD in case you really want to feel like you are there.
From the pages of JP’s music blog “Progressive rock pioneers King Crimson have continued their 40th anniversary celebration (which began in 2009) with the latest re-issue in their extensive catalog. The band's first live album "Earthbound" was originally released in 1972 and was deemed an "official bootleg" due to its poor sound and rough recording. It also features some of the only live recordings from that group, which featured Robert Fripp, Boz Burrell, Mel Collins and Ian Wallace. The original album only featured five tracks, bookended by the giant progressive rock pieces, "21st Century Schizoid Man" and "Groon." The other live songs ("Peoria," "The Sailor's Tale" and "Earthbound") featured a load of scat singing as each member of the band seemed to try to outdo the other, knowing they were parting ways after this tour concluded.
In honor of the band's 40th anniversary re-issue campaign, "Earthbound" was remastered and included an extra three songs ("Pictures Of A City," "Formentera Lady" and "Cirkus") on the CD. Also included with this re-issue is the crown-jewel DVD which includes the original "Earthbound" album, remastered with an additional four bonus tracks added on to the new eight-song CD version. Not only do you get the best sounding version of the "Earthbound" album to exist, also included on this DVD is a new stereo mix and 5.1 digital surround sound mix of the "Summit Studios" recordings, which is worth the price along of the new release. The DVD also includes the eleven parts of the "Schizoid Men" recordings and the original vinyl transfer of the "Earthbound" album.
As King Crimson approach their 50th anniversary next year, fans can only hope and pray that more of these outstanding releases see the light of day, as the vault of King Crimson music seems never ending.
Sea Of Tranquility website:
Ahhh, King Crimson's Earthbound, the much maligned 1972 live album that celebrated the interesting yet doomed tour of the Islands album and brief line-up of the band that included Robert Fripp (guitar, Mellotron), Boz Burrell (vocals, bass), Mel Collins (sax, flute, Mellotron, keyboards), and Ian Wallace. Panned by Fripp, their record label, critics, and fans alike when it was originally released, time has proven to heal all wounds, as Earthbound is now seen in better light all these decades later. Containing a raw, rough sound quality, Earthbound is basically an official 'live bootleg', but with this 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition, Fripp & company have done their best to clean the album up as much as possible, but the real selling point is the inclusion of a ton of bonus material making this the live album it always should have been.
Regardless of whether or not the Islands era band was the weakest incarnation of Crimson or not (that statement is certainly viable), it can also be said that any King Crimson line-up has plenty of merit, as this one does for its jazzy leanings. Boz Burrell is easily the weakest link, his spotty vocals and sub-par bass skills (it's been said that Fripp taught him how to play bass before they actually recorded the album and went out on tour) don't add much to the proceedings, but Fripp is in fine form here, as are Collins and Wallace, all three combining for the nucleus of a red hot jazz combo with rock firepower. Included on the expanded Earthbound set are a plethora of extended improvisations and jams, such as "Groon", "Peoria", and lengthy versions of "21st Century Schizoid Man" (quite savage here actually), "Pictures of a City", the lovely "Circus", and of course, the essential "The Sailor's Tale", complete with dazzling Fripp guitar work and mounds of Mellotron.
A new stereo mix of the Summit Studio Sessions, also recorded on the 1972 US tour, which feature a few nuggets not on the Earthbound set, including a lush "Cadence and Cascade" (Boz sounds better singing the mellower tracks by far), and epic blues/jazz/rock jams "Summit Going On" and "The Creator Has A Master Plan (Including Summit & Something Else)", are a great addition to this anniversary edition. Considering that the original Earthbound album contained only five tracks, you get a lot of extras here for your money.
Though the Islands line-up of King Crimson were only together a short period of time and basically split after the tour was complete (Fripp would then unleash arguably the greatest version of King Crimson to the public!), it remains a curious oddity in the history of this legendary progressive rock act. This remains a great document of that time in the bands career.
For those not in the know, King Crimson are an English progressive rock band formed in London in 1968.
In fact, King Crimson have been influential both on the early 1970s progressive rock movement and numerous contemporary artists.
Indeed, the band has undergone numerous formations throughout its history of which 21 musicians have been members; since October 2017 it has consisted of Robert Fripp, Jakko Jakszyk, Tony Levin, Mel Collins, Pat Mastelotto, Gavin Harrison, Jeremy Stacey and Bill Rieflin.
Nowadays, Fripp is the only consistent member of the group and is considered the band's leader and driving force and with the band having earned a large cult following, they were ranked No. 87 on VH1's 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock.
The just released Earthbound is the twelfth release in the acclaimed King Crimson 40th anniversary series. The CD features an expanded 12 track version of the original five track album with the DVD featuring the 12 track expanded album in 24/96 hi-res stereo audio plus the Summit Studios performance in a new stereo mix and in quadraphonic.
As all their devoted fans will already know, this is the only surviving multi-track performance from the 1972 tour. Furthermore, the DVD features the album length "Schizoid Men" sequence of edits of 21st Century Schizoid Men taken from the Ladies of The Road live album.
As for the album itself, this live recording known as Earthbound was released in 1972 as a budget record shortly after the line-up that recorded it had broken up. As aforementioned, it contains the band's first official live release of their signature song "21st Century Schizoid Man", and an extended live version of their 1970 non-LP B-side "Groon". It also contains two improvised tracks with scat vocals from Boz Burrell.
So, just what did we think of Earthbound the first time of hearing it? Well, to me, it was King Crimson let loose, uncontrolled for want of a better word. A wall of sound is put up time after time here, allowing them to forsake their previous outings where a more finessed sound was their core. still an album for the ages, believe it or not.
A transfer of the original vinyl album completes the audio selections and this release is also presented as a digipak format in a slipcase with new sleeve notes by King Crimson biographer Sid Smith along with rare photos and archive material.
As aforementioned, Earthbound: 40th Anniversary Edition continues the highly collectable King Crimson series, and in some great style, as hearing these songs again, in such luxurious quality, is like Heaven on a stick for this prog fan.