Apparently the new CD by the Stick Men +, “Midori”, will not be sold in stores or through online outlets, instead, its only available through the MoonJune label and the band’s live shows. It only takes one listen to understand why, although the music from the two live concerts on here is mostly good, something went wrong with the recording levels, or the post-production, and the end result is music that is not mixed very well. It’s hard to tell where things got off, but overall, Markus Reuter’s guitar is mixed too low, and Pat Mastelotto’s drums and percussion are mixed too high, add to that a general murkiness with everything else and you end up with a spirited performance struggling to be heard.
The original Stick Men already have many ties to jazz-rock legends King Crimson, what with two band members having served time in KC, and many cover tunes from the KC catalog in their set list, but when you add ex-KC violinist David Cross to the band to become Stick Men +, its practically a KC band under a different name, which of course is not a bad thing. The music on here is quite good and encompasses many ambient and groove driven improvs, plus some original tunes, several KC cover tunes and in a big surprise, a brilliant re-orchestration of sections from Stravinsky’s “Firebird”. This track in particular deserves a much better recording, its hard to believe only four people are handling all of these interweaving parts.
Fans of the Stick Men, as well as various post-KC ‘Projekts’, may be able to overlook the sound issues and enjoy all the great music on here, but first time listeners should probably start with something else. In closing though, it should be pointed out that the biggest plus on here is a just return for David Cross to reap his share of the KC legacy to which he is an under-rated contributor. When KC re-invented their sound on “Larks Tongues in Aspic”, David Cross was a big part of that. Unfortunately his more intricate contributions were soon literally muscled out of the band by John Wetton’s massive bass sound and stadium rock sensibilities. Once Cross was out of the band, the resultant KC album, “Red”, featured a big powerful stadium type sound, but it was low on compositional ideas and was dull and repetitive compared to previous KC efforts. Needless to say, that album was a swan song for a dying band. So in short, its great to see David take his rightful place back on stage playing classic songs he helped create, plus some new things as well.