Live From the Past

Absent Lovers: Live in Montreal, 1984 (DGM)
King Crimson

By Tim Roberts

It's hard to find anyone who feels ambivalent about progressive rock. Its fans love it for its epic scope and boundlessness. They grow water-kneed at Emerson, Lake & Palmer's "Lucky Man" or anything from Rush's 2112. Detractors feel it is overblown and pretentious, background music piped directly from Hell. The former group of folks will scramble to get Absent Lovers.

Absent is a two-disc recording of the final concert King Crimson performed as a group in the 1980s. Recorded at The Spectrum in Montreal in July of 1984, this version of King Crimson contained Adrian Belew on guitar and lead vocals, Robert Fripp on guitar, Tony Levin on bass, Chapman stick and vocals, and Bill Bruford on drums (electric and acoustic) and other percussive items. Originally broadcast over radio, this performance is a self-bootleg that has been waiting around in a can for 14 years. It is released as part of a series of archival King Crimson performances.

Limited space prohibits a brief description of what you'll hear on all the tracks. In summary, then, the musicianship on Absent's selections is tight. Yes, the songs are long but there is a drive behind them, thanks to bassist Levin and drummer Bruford. No overextended synthesizer solos here. There's also a sensitivity behind the slower ones, such as "Matte Kudasai." The band also flirts with a techno-dance rhythm in "Waiting Man" and "Sleepless."

Robert Fripp's liner notes, wherein he replies to the critics of the band (and of progressive rock, in general), give a history of the production and a rather exhaustive reply to critics in which he names names and goes on the defensive. The music on the two discs is refutation enough to critics. With Absent Lovers, King Crimson has released 100 minutes' worth of thoughtful, intense, crisp music captured in the spontaneity of a live performance.