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USA was recorded towards the end of King Crimson's final US tour of the 70s in June 1974 and was issued as an epitaph for the band in Spring 1975.
Deleted towards the end of the vinyl era in the mid 80s, it remained unreleased in the CD era until the expanded edition was finally issued in October 2002. In common with much of Crimson's output, it was not well received at the time by critics, though its critical reputation has grown immeasurably in the intervening years to the point where a recent review of the '21st Century Guide to King Crimson' box set identifies the album as the point 'where Fripp maps out the guitar blueprint for the entire post-punk movement.'
If that claim sounds somewhat exaggerated, a casual listen to the opening minutes of the album - where the ethereal 'walk on..' tape of Fripp & Eno's 'No Pussyfooting' gives way to the sonic assault of 'Larks II' - provides ample evidence to back up the claim. It's also worth noting the audience response to the band - especially at the end of 'Starless', a track yet to be recorded at that point. The mid 70s Crimson touring lineup had been the most stable of the band's career to date, particularly popular with US audiences & would go on, over time, to become immensely influential.
The addition of 'Fracture' & 'Starless' to the original vinyl edition enables the presentation of a near complete performance by one of the key bands of the era playing at its peak. (Some studio overdubs for violin parts on 2 tracks and a keyboard part on a 3rd were necessary due to erratic microphone contact from the original shows with Eddie Jobson taking the place of an unavailable David Cross.) While it may have been issued at the time as an artifact from a recently disbanded rock group, and the availability of other live recordings of the band from the same period (notably the 4CD comprehensive 'Great Deceiver' set & the 4th CD of the '21st Century Guide' set), give a more complete overview of the band live, the sense of completeness permitted by the additional tracks & the reputation now enjoyed by that particular incarnation of King Crimson, have all contributed to USA's current status as one of the best live albums of its time.
Walk on' No Pussyfooting
Larks' Tongues In Aspic Part II
21st Century Schizoid Man