Absent Lovers

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Originally released: 1998
Live recording from the July 11th, 1984 concert at Le Spectrum, Montreal (the last by the 80's formation).


  • Adrian Belew (voice, guitar and drums)
  • Robert Fripp (guitar)
  • Tony Levin (bass, stick, synth and background voice)
  • Bill Bruford (acoustic and electric drumming)



Disc One:

  • Entry Of The Crims
  • Larks' Tongues In Aspic Part III
  • Thela Hun Ginjeet
  • Red
  • Matte Kudasai
  • Industry / Dig Me
  • Three Of A Perfect Pair
  • Indiscipline

Disc Two:

  • Satori In Tangier
  • Frame By Frame
  • Man With An Open Heart
  • Waiting Man
  • Sleepless
  • Larks' Tongues In Aspic Part II
  • Discipline
  • Heartbeat
  • Elephant Talk


Reviews are listed in chronological order within each section. Please retain a chronological order when adding new reviews.

Entire Release

Date Submitted: 6-Jun-98
By: Tero Valkonen (tvalkone at cc dot helsinki dot fi)

"My favourite band of all time is probably the 80s incarnation of King Crimson. They were the most fun, most song-based, most moving, somehow the most accomplished. The quality of music in the earlier bands varied far too much, but the 80s version got it right. However, Three Of A Perfect Pair wasn't much of an album (especially after Discipline and Beat), but it did contain a couple of wonderful songs.

"As you will have gathered, my expectations were very high indeed. And I was not disappointed: Absent Lovers may well be the best live album of all time, if you ask me. I have The Great Deceiver and it is great, and I've heard Epitaph and do enjoy that one, too, but Absent Lovers is so much better. The Great Deceiver fails in having too many pointless improvs thrown in (nothing against improvs, though: THRaKaTTaK is superb), and Epitaph fails in containing only three worthwhile compositions (Schizoid Man, Epitaph and Court). Absent Lovers doesn't fail.

"But it's not quite perfect, either. First, why is the energetic intro of Larks' Tongues In Aspic III reduced to a few seconds only? Bill Bruford doesn't quite handle the song, either: he plays a straight 4/4 in the 7/4 section (and thus turns the beat around every second measure), and it doesn't work too well. The bell-like sound that he uses a lot in the beginning of the song is also quite awful. Is this quibbling? Indubitably. But it is a habit of mine to point out where they (whoever "they" are) didn't make it. But what makes me happy is the ability to point out where they (this time "they" are King Crimson) DID make it. So: Red is brilliant, nothing short of magical. Industry is noisy, frantic, chaotic, oppressive and earth-shaking - and I love it. Indiscipline is neurotic, wacky, silly, painful and tense - and almost undescribably lovely. Waiting Man is the king of the whole set. Haunting and hypnotic, it contains both great musical prowess and emotional depth. I have always regarded Adrian Belew as a very evocative and talented singer, and here he just does it. "It" remains undefined - but moves me. Sleepless is also terribly powerful. My favourite point is midway through the song when Tony Levin returns to the intro riff and Bill Bruford joins him after a few bars. The short while these two play together is so tight and mesmerising that I just reeled. And finally, there is probably the best King Crimson composition of all time: Discipline. A thick rhythmic soup, it is played very well (although there are some minor problems with one of the guitars in the middle) and though I still don't understand the magic of the song, I cannot deny it either. Counter- rhythms, yes, technical brilliance, yes... but that's not "it". But "it" is there.

"On a general level, there is one glaring injustice, if I can call it by such a strong word. There are only three songs from Beat in the set. I would have preferred Neal And Jack And Me over Man With An Open Heart and Neurotica over Dig Me. But then, perhaps the decision of releasing a single concert in its entirety is right. (May I mention here, by the way, Adrian Belew's lovely speeches inbetween the songs? Seems I just did.)

"Every player is at his best - full of energy, enthusiasm and tact. Every one of them does fail here and there, but I would be more surprised if they didn't. The quality of the compositions and the sense of "going for it" easily overweigh all individual mistakes. I reviewed Absent Lovers for a Finnish music magazine and gave it a full ten points. It is a thrill to be able to do that with all sincerity."

Date Submitted: 6-Jul-98
By: Alex Otaola (judo at servidor dot unam dot mx)

"Oddly, I was able to get my hands on the 'new' KC cd 'Absent Lovers' before it was reviewed on ET so I'm sending MY review: First, I should say that I also got B'Boom a couple of days ago and comparisions are inevitable since 8 tracks appear on both. The first thing I noticed was that there were two different colored sleeves: red and blue and from the frames on the back I suppose there'll be a matching one for each of the lineup's studio albums.

"I got the blue one because it somehow was $5 cheaper. Right away the sound is less compressed on AL which makes for a much warmer sounding live recording and somehow the material sounds much more fiercely played ten years earlier than on B'Boom. I've seen the double trio live twice and I don't think they sound stale at all but on record I'd rather have the hindsight to appreciate an awesome night (ie. Epitaph, The Night Watch or Absent Lovers) than an early warmup. Also the artwork is much more nicer and the photos are great!

"The opening track is an amazing Requiem-type improv which serves as a bridge between the LTiA lineup and the ToPP group. Of special mention throughout has to be BB drumming, which becomes the highlight on tunes such as "Red", "Industry", "Waiting Man", "Larks ptII" and the famous duet-intro to "Indiscipline" with Belew on traps.

"There's also pretty much inspired guitar playing on the album, specially on "Thela Hun Ginjeet", "Three of a Perfect Pair", "Sleepless" and "Elephant Talk"; Belew's vocals and the overall vibe are also very uplifting.

"I haven't stopped listening to AL since it got home and I know it's going to be a very long time before I listen to some of B'Boom again..."

"P.S.-Adrian, I'm sure 'Posterity' LOVED IT!"

Date Submitted: 10-Aug-98
By: Bill Nicholas (thekid at cybernex dot net)

"The Element of surprise has always served King Crimson well. This is why Absent Lovers, despite its sonic beauty and flawless playing, comes as a slight disappointment.

"With all the other Crimson live albums, a few songs from the studio releases are played, and then the net is removed and its time to let the music happen as it may. Thus Epataph, Great Deciever and Night Watch all give you experiances which are completely removed from Crimson's studio distography. You get to hear the band in a whole new way.

"With Absent lovers, the songs from the albums are lined up and played quite well. Yet there's not much diviation from the script--there's no fresh life breathed into known material, nor are new pieces tested. The snese of moving into uncharted waters to test new possibilites on stage is absent on this album, making it only excellent as opposed to what we've come to take for granted from King Crimson....

"Absolutely Brilliant."

Date Submitted: 5-Sep-98
By: Edward Batt (edbatt at 1stnetusa dot com)

"Absent Lovers is the fourth installment of the archival live recordings of one of the most innovative bands in the history of rock music. (The other three sets are: The Great Deceiver 1973-74, Epitaph 1969 and The Night Watch, a 1973 concert recorded in Amsterdam). This beautifully packaged double CD set is the final live performance of the 1981-84 edition of King Crimson, featuring Adrian Belew, Tony Levin, Bill Bruford and Robert Fripp. As expected, Absent Lovers captures the Crims in a knockout performance, ranging from dissonant, industrial improvisational pieces like "Entry Of The Crims" and "Industry" to the inviting and melodic "Matte Kudasai" and "Man with an Open Heart." This release also features material from the three studio albums with this line-up - Discipline, Beat and Three of a Perfect Pair - as well as this incarnations' interpretation of the kick-ass Crimson classics "Larks' Tongues In Aspic (Part II)" and "Red."

"Throughout its various reincarnations, from its inception in 1969, up to the current "double trio" format, King Crimson has exhibited a remarkable ability not only to reflect the era in which the given edition of the band was active, but to stay one step ahead in the future. In the process, they've ensured that no matter what era of the band one wishes to sample, whether in the studio, or in live format, as on Absent Lovers, the Crimson music never ceases to amaze, whether from the standpoint of virtuosic musicianship or when it comes to the breadth and scope of the songwriting. It's little wonder that KC has amassed a sizable and devoted following amongst discriminating lovers of challenging rock music all over the globe. Even though Absent Lovers is once again intended primarily for such KC devotees, those who take their rock music seriously should find this item as valuable an addition to their collections as any other King Crimson recording."

Date Submitted: 24-Sep-98
By: tedeschi (tedeschi at une dot edu dot ve)

"Just smoke... play the CD... sit down and FLY!!!!



Date Submitted: 4-Oct-98
By: Daniel Shapiro (dshapiro at jps dot net)

"The Fripp/Belew/Levin/Bruford version of King Crimson is my personal favorite, better musicianship and writing than earlier incarnations but less noisy and cluttered than the current double trio lineup. Absent Lovers catches the band on a stellar night (did they ever have a bad one?) at the end of a tough tour with the psychic chemistry and tightness that simply isn't present on BBOOM. The only weakness of this particular outing is that a certain lack of spontinaiety and improvisational energy is missing from the procedings in favor of shredding the tunes, but no diehard Crimson fan would be without every release that DGM cranks out of the Crimson archives."

Date Submitted: 4-Mar-99
By: Dai McClurg (dai at u dot washington dot edu)

"Having seen the double trio 9 times on the last couple of tours, and loving every second of it, I can also say that the 1984 quartet was a great band. Absent Lovers documents that period magnificently. The sound quality is absolutely amazing for a live recording. Just phenomenal.

"I'm really writing just to rave about the version of Industry, which is quite remarkable, for me, mostly because of Robert Fripp's guitar and synth work, which is rather different from the studio recording. This tune is far far far far too short! I could have listened to 30 minutes of similar music.

"I read an article around 1984 after Three in a Perfect Pair came out, in which the recording sessions were discussed. Seems they had created an entire album's worth of material like Industry, but scrapped half of it in favor of lighter material including "Man with an Open Heart", and "Model Man", which are OK. What I wouldn't give to hear the rest of the instrumental material from those sessions. If they exist, perhaps they will appear sometime on a DGM collectors club release. Would that it were true."

Date Submitted: 15-Mar-99
By: Keith Chu (KeithFromNJ at webtv dot net)

"I think you guys have stolen most of my thunder. Anyway, Absent Lovers is one of the most magnificent live albums of all time. Sound quality is superb, they are playing their hearts out almost as if they knew this would be the last major show for a long time."

Date Submitted: 14-Jan-04
By: Scott McFarland (mcfarland at ac-tech dot com)

"Incredible performance, great recording. More proof that these guys were probably the best band in the world during their time together."