(All Album Reviews by Hippy Pants)
Crimson since its early days has put out a lot of live material, but I still go back to this "offical" release from many years back. The band was in peak form, recorded live in NYC in June of 1974. A short pastoral soundscape begins the intro before "Larks' Tongues" begins like a rushing headlong freight train. One of the prominent features on the first song is the violin playing of David Cross as he propels the song along while each band member punctuates the rhythm.
"Lament" begins with John Wetton singing in a nice mellow way only to change into something more visceral. This shows Crimson's ability to start, stop and turn on a dime, but perhaps ends a bit too abruptly. "Exiles", again with Wetton singing, is one of the standouts on USA. His vocals add a bit of mellifluous melancholy as Cross swells the dynamics on violin and Fripp joins in with mellotron.
"Asbury Park" is where they amp it up a couple of levels. Wetton on bass and Fripp's guitars sound like molten slabs of industrialized metal. Trading off licks, they battle with each other, as Bruford fills in with his thoughtworthy percussion. The version of "Easy Money" on the album displays Crimson's versatility in interpretative skills--nice mellotron passages too. The album ends on a climax too soon with one of their many versions of "21st Century Schizoid Man".