Ladies Of the Road, originally issued for a limited period in 2003, presents a fascinating and expansive overview of the second King Crimson‘s live adventures. The untimely deaths of both Boz Burrell (Sept. 06) and Ian Wallace (Feb. 07), inevitably overshadow anything written about the second, perhaps most misunderstood, of all the King Crimson touring lineups, as it was that band which brought both musicians to the attention of a wider rock audience. This was the first lineup of Crimson to issue a live recording ‘Earthbound‘ also the first ever ‘official bootleg‘, drawn from stereo cassette recordings of the 1972 US tour that ended with the dissolution of the band. While that album now sounds greatly enhanced by improved mastering, it only ever told a partial tale of the lineup‘s ability and breadth of material. ‘Ladies of the Road‘, originally issued for a limited period in 2003, presents a far more complete picture of the band‘s concerts.
CD1 consists of tracks drawn from a series of live recordings, from early Zoom Club gigs in Germany in 1971, through to the final US ‘Earthbound‘ tour barely a year later. Material from each of the four Crimson studio albums then released is performed, (though oddly the Islands track that provides the title of this album doesn‘t feature).. For fans of the band there‘s the fascination of hearing how pieces such as ‘Cirkus‘, ‘Pictures of a City‘ and ‘In the Court of King Crimson‘ are played live by a very different lineup to the original studio recordings.
CD2 presents a 2002 compilation drawn from Mel and Robert‘s improvisations on ‘21st Century Schizoid Man‘. Close in spirit to ‘THRaKaTTaK‘ the improv album by the 1990s Crimson lineup, and more reminiscent of the sort of rock/jazz improvs associated with the likes of John Zorn, the collage represents a unique dialogue between the twin soloists utterly unlike anything else from that period.