Reviewed by David Lynch, Fri., Dec. 10, 2004
King CrimsonThe 21st Century Guide to King Crimson Volume One 1969-1974 (Discipline Global Mobile)
Mellotronist and guitarist Robert Fripp is the only founding member of King Crimson still in the influential progressive rock band. As such, he's the ideal candidate to put together this new, official history of the band's formative years. Noted for its poetic lyrics, opaque riffs, orchestral arrangements, fantastic imagery, and minor key, oddly-timed odysseys, King Crimson is arguably progressive rock's most seminal outfit, inspiring peers like ELP, Rush, UK, and Genesis, as well as new sonic blacksmiths Primus, Living Colour, and Tool, with whom KC toured in 2001. Along with featuring musicians who overlapped with groups as varied as Yes and Foreigner, Crimson also incorporated such un-rock instruments as the cornet and oboe. Like the mysterious century plant, KC only blooms when the proper conditions exist, resulting in a disjointed history. Founded in London in 1969, the Mighty KC performed ahead of the Rolling Stones at that year's famous Hyde Park show, one of the largest live concerts on record. Yet the band suffered through myriad lineup changes during the following albums and tours, fueling a hiatus in 1974 that ended with a new incarnation in 1981. Thanks to recent courtroom and copyright victories, all of KC's recorded output is finally housed in Fripp's DGM institute, making this digitally remastered assemblage possible. Its structure two studio and two live platters blends parts of the extant The Great Deceiver: Live 1973-1974 and the mostly studio The Essential King Crimson Frame by Frame. The only previously unreleased cut is the galvanizing live improv "Augsburg." This is because DGM has already released loads of material from this era, not because they're stingy. One may question why multiple versions of the same tune are featured here, but Professor Fripp uses the box's space to present developmental Crimsonizing. For example, "21st Century Schizoid Man" appears three times: The first is the definitive 1969 recording, the second an instrumental version from the 1972 American tour, and the third a matured interpretation from the preimplosion 1974 tour. With rare pix and a tour calendar stuffed with press and diary entries, 21st Century Guide is sure to ignite the salivary glands of die-hard fans (who next year can expect volume two, 1981-present, featuring Austin's own percussion sage Pat Mastelotto). But the Guide also documents a good chunk of progressive's and hard rock's foundings, as well as the source material of many big names on the scene today. Long live the King.