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King Crimson: Neal and Jack and Me

John Kelman By

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Nearly two years later, and just a few short months before this version of Crimson would disband until reforming ten years later as the double trio that would record Thrak , Three of a Perfect Pair: Live in Japan 1984 finds the group at their absolute peak. With a full show at their disposal, the band takes more liberties with the dynamic flow of the set, ranging from Fripp's awe-inspiring arpeggios that signal the beginning of "Larks' Tongues in Aspic Part III" (also notable for Fripp's solo, where he is about as visually animated as he's ever been) to the danceable pop of "Man With an Open Heart" and "Sleepless."

The group knows how to balance their experimental and approachable sides by surrounding the more obscure pieces "Indiscipline," "Industry" and "Dig Me" with the lyrical "Matte Kudesai" and more rhythm-friendly instrumental "Sartori in Tangier." Closing with "Elephant Talk," where Belew takes a solo that is the epitome of controlled chaos, and the more radio-friendly "Heartbeat," Crimson demonstrate that it is possible to be artistically pure, experimental and textural without losing one's accessibility.

There are precious few extras on the DVD—a promotional video of "Sleepless," a collage of tour photos from Levin's collection, and a discography of the '81-'84 band that includes the studio releases, the live release and the King Crimson Collector's Club releases —but with nearly two-and-a-half hours of vintage live footage between the two shows, extras are superfluous. Neal and Jack and Me , placed beside Crimson's other DVD releases, '99's Deja Vroom which documents the mid-'90s double trio, and '03's Eyes Wide Open , which documents the '00-'02 quartet (now no longer, with Trey Gunn gone and Tony Levin back), gives fans the opportunity to place this important incarnation in historical perspective. While each version of Crimson brings something new, and definitely looks forward rather than back, when placed in context one is able to see that the process of continuous change in the band, and the growth that has occurred, not only makes perfect sense, it is an absolutely logical evolution. Now, is it too much to hope that some archival footage of the '70s incarnations is found and released?

Tracks and Personnel

Three of a Perfect Pair: Live in Japan 1984
Tracks: Three of a Perfect Pair; No Warning; Larks' Tongues in Aspic Part III; Thela Hun Ginjeet; Frame by Frame; Matte Kudesai; Industry; Dig Me; Indiscipline; Sartori in Tangier; Man With an Open Heart; Waiting Man; Sleepless; Larks' Tongues in Aspic Part II; Elephant Talk; Heartbeat.

The Noise: Live in Frejus 1982
Tracks: Waiting Man; Matte Kudesai; The Sheltering Sky; Neal and Jack and Me; Indiscipline; Heartbeat; Larks' Tongues in Aspic Part II.

Personnel: Adrian Belew: guitar, vocals; Robert Fripp: guitar; Tony Levin: bass, stick, synth, background vocal; Bill Bruford: acoustic and electronic drums.

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