USA was recorded towards the end of King Crimson’s final US tour of the 70s in June 1974. It was issued as an epitaph for the band in Spring 1975 as a single album – at a time when doubles or even triple live albums were more considered the norm for live releases. Deleted towards the end of the vinyl era in the mid-80s, it remained unreleased in the CD era until an 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 grew immeasurably in the intervening years to the point where a review of the ‘21st Century Guide to King Crimson’ boxed set in 2004 identified 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 sonic assault of ‘Larks’ II’ – provides ample evidence to back up the claim. .
The reputation of the 1972/1974 King Crimson line-ups is now revered by critics and fans alike, with the material so sought after that it can justify entire boxed sets of performances by this line-up.
USA, however, was the first official live recording of this band at its most powerful.
As guitarist Steve Vai wrote in his online diary about the mid-1970s King Crimson (amidst a much longer piece eulogizing the band): “It’s impossible to quantify the effect that this band has had on contemporary musicians” –
Steve Vai, July 2004