21st Century Crimson Glory

21stcenturyKing Crimson is reincarnate this year with Robert Fripp and Jakko Jakszyk leading the band, joined by winds wizard Mel Collins along with Tony Levin on bass and three drummers – Gavin Harrison, Pat Mastelotto, and Bill Rieflin.  This will represent a major event in progressive rock circles as Fripp and his Crimson vehicle have a rich history as pioneers and practitioners of the form.

Of particular note for this new lineup is the inclusion of Jakko Jakszyk up front.  Jakko led an alumnus group of former Crimson band members called 21st Century Schizoid Band in the early 2000’s.  He was joined by brothers Michael & Peter Giles, Ian McDonald, and Mel Collins each from early versions of the band. They were captured live in Japan via high quality video production aptly titled “21st Century Schizoid Band – Live in Japan” in 2002, available from Gonzo Multimedia.

For any fan of live concert video and the early work of King Crimson, this disc is a must have both for it’s content and expert production values.  The track list is rich with early Crimson gems, absent from the stage for so many years.  After the end of the 1970’s, Fripp primarily performed “Lark’s Tongue in Aspic part II”, and “Red,” from the 70’s period, both amazing instrumental classics, but representing a pretty limited span of the band’s rich history.  Occasionally another early track has been performed, but this release includes a wealth of material from their first four albums including four songs from their debut, In the Court of the Crimson King.  Other gems like “Catfood” from In the Wake of Posieden, “Formentera Lady” and “Ladies of the Road” from Islands, two from McDonald and Giles, and other solo work are included. Another early live release available on CD, Pictures of a City -Live in New York, includes tracks from Lizard, which had never been performed live.

21st century schizoid band 1Jakko’s vocal delivery in this live setting are perfectly suited to the variety of early material, particularly given the the number of vocalists represented during these early shifting lineups. The rest of the band is in great form each being themselves quality musicians.  The alumni association did not last more than a few years so this DVD of the show in Japan is an important and thoroughly enjoyable document.

Looking back now, this video offers an exciting preview of what could be possible with a new band fronted by Fripp & Jakszyk, joined by Mel Collins and the rest of the band. Fripp stated in a recent interview that there will not be new music this year but rather “reconfigured” older material.  Might they pay tribute to their earliest work with Jakko up front, or will Robert keep the nostalgia in check – either way, the new band will be welcomed in all it’s Crimson glory.

First Concert – Cat Stevens

Inspired to Embroider!

Just read that Cat Stevens is going to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and it made me think of my first ever concert experience.  By the time I hit age 13 in 1973, my friends and I started to collect records of our chosing, rather than only listening to the radio.  That same year, my 7th grade Social Studies teacher brought into class the album Tea for the Tillerman by Cat Stevens, reading us the thoughtful lyrics and talking about the impact of music and poetry on society.  I’ve always wanted to look up that teacher and thank her profusely.  As it turned out, Cat Stevens, born Stephen Georgiou in London 1948, wrote a series of records that seemed to be the soundtrack of a long search for peace and spiritual truth in life.  I found something beautiful about his work, as did so many of the class who received a great gift at school that day – a deeper understanding of the meaningful impact music could have on their lives.  I began collecting Cat’s albums starting with Mona Bone Jakon (1970) up through Numbers (1975).

At the time Numbers came out, I had not yet been allowed to go to concerts.  However, my older sister had gone to a few shows and she arranged for us to see Cat Stevens, at the Los Angeles Forum, February 6, 1976.  This was to be my first rock concert, and it took place in a location I would frequent regularly in the following years.  The show did not disappoint, and in fact set a sort of bar for me in terms of the level of performance and showmanship I would regard as most fitting to meaningful rock music.

majikat_catCat Stevens had arranged the Numbers tour to begin with a magic show that ended with the appearance of a live tiger.  It was dubbed The Majikat tour.  After the opening bit, Cat appeared in a puff of smoke to quietly begin the show with acoustic tracks, “The Wind,” and “Moonshadow”, followed by “Where Do The Children Play.”  When he hit the lyric:

Well you’ve cracked the sky, scrapers fill the air
But will you keep on building higher
‘Till there’s no more room up there?

the rest of the band lit up and joined in the dramatic conclusion.  Then ensued the core show, that included a couple of tracks from Numbers, which played along with projections from Cat’s artwork, his best yet, that helped tell the story of  Novim on his planet of Numerologist humanoids.  The show was fabulous, and as hoped, Cat had a way of presenting himself, of moving when he sang these touching spiritual lyrics, so that the impact of his work was enhanced by the live experience.  I’ve sought this kind of heartfelt delivery from every performer in every show since that night, as being a patron of the rock arts has been my lifelong hobby.  I was so inspired by the album and concert with it’s Majikat theme, that I embroidered the logo on a jean shirt – how ’70’s was that!

We were so plcatcover2eased in 2004 when footage of this Numbers tour was uncovered and released on DVD.  Titled Cat Stevens: Majikat Special Edition the disc includes the full concert, along with a few early live appearances culled from television reels.  This is an excellent document of the show, and highly recommended for music lovers whose taste includes 1970’s era singer songwriters.  I along with so many fans was heartbroken when Cat became Yusuf Islam not long after this show was recorded, and for more than 20 years did not perform.  Having this document helps at least a bit!

And, in 2014, Cat will finally be recognized in the states by an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Sure we complain about this hall of fame, and how frequently the best musicians and bands are either chosen for induction so late, or are not included at all.  But this year seems special, as Cat Stevens will take this honor alongside Peter Gabriel – a fitting pair of musical geniuses.  Whatever his later beliefs have become, the searching was the thing I remember, and seeing Yusuf today, his journey seems to have come to a peaceful place, and he remains special in my heart.