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King Crimson: The Condensed 21st Century Guide to King Crimson 1969-2003

Still haven't taken the plunge into the world of King Crimson? Curious to do so but don't know where to start? The Condensed 21st Century Guide to King Crimson 1969-2003 is as good a place to begin as any. This 2CD set compiles 32 songs from the band and covers most of their releases (sadly, nothing from 1970's Lizard is included), making it a very good primer to acquaint yourself with the music of this legendary group.

The first three tracks are arguably the pinnacle of early progressive rock; "21st Century Man", "Epitaph", and "The Court of the Crimson King", all off the debut album In the Court of the Crimson King, released in 1969. The band at this time featured a young Greg Lake on bass & vocals, Ian McDonald on reeds, woodwinds, Mellotron, keyboards, and vibes, Michael Giles on drums, Robert Fripp on guitar, and Peter Sinfield, who wrote the lyrics. The first song is a complex heavy rocker, and the latter two classic examples of the use of the Mellotron, which the band made sure to fully exploit throughout their early albums. Their follow-up release In the Wake of Poseidon, also with Lake on vocals (who soon left to form ELP) was similar in style to the debut, perhaps a bit more jazzy, and sees two tracks appear on this set, "Cat Food" and "Cadence and Cascade". There might have been better tunes from that album, but most are extremely lengthy and wouldn't have made sense from a time perspective considering the limitation of CD lengths. As I mentioned earlier, nothing from Lizard is included here, but two tracks from 1971's Islands are featured, the gritty jazz-rocker "Ladies of the Road" and "Sailors Tale". The album saw yet another complete line-up restructuring, with Mel Collins, Boz Burrell, Ian Wallace, and Peter Sinfield in the band, however briefly. Next up, a more solidifed King Crimson featuring former Yes drummer Bill Bruford, ex-Family bassist/vocalist John Wetton, and violin player David Cross, came together and released a few albums together, perhaps the most volatile and thunderous line-up in the bands history. The remaining tracks on CD1 are from this era, including classics like "Red", "Starless", "Larks Tongues in Aspic Part 1", and others, as the band took prog rock to new levels of volume and virtuosity. Sadly, the band would cease to exist by 1975 as leader/guitarist Robert Fripp split the group up, and it was not until 1981 that King Crimson would reappear.

When they did, King Crimson was an entirely different beast altogether. The 80's brought about new sounds and trends in music, and Fripp chose to take the band in new directions. With that came a brand new line-up, with Bruford returning on drums, Tony Levin on Stick and bass, and Adrian Below on guitars and vocals. The material was more song based (you can hear influences like The Police, Talking Heads, Frank Zappa, and Roxy Music), but this band also knew how to shred with the best of them. Rhythmic, groove laden rockers like "Elephant Talk", "Discipline", "Heartbeat", "Matte Kudasai", and "Three of a Perfect Pair" had hooks as well as complex instrumental virtuosity, showing that prog-rock could also sound modern. In 1984 the band went on hiatus for 10 years, before resurfacing again with the same line-up, plus the addition of Trey Gunn and Pat Mastelotto, making it a "double trio". Bruford eventually left the band once again, as did Levin (who is now back again), but the band continues to record music, and there's a nice selection of songs here from the latter part of the 1990's and the 2003 release The Power to Believe.

The booklet included with this CD set is very informative and has some great photographs, making this a fantastic introductory collection for King Crimson newbies. Sure, the avid fan will hem & haw over some song omissions, but let's face it, those folks already have all this stuff anyway. The sound quality is wonderful, making this a great exploration for those wanting to experience this legendary band for the first time.

Track Listing
Disc: 1
1. 21st Century Schizoid Man
2. Epitaph
3. The Court Of The Crimson King (Abridged)
4. Cat Food (Single Version)
5. Cadence And Cascade
6. Ladies Of The Road
7. Sailor's Tale (Abridged)
8. Larks' Tongues In Aspic Part I (Abridged)
9. Book Of Saturday
10. Fracture (Abridged)
11. Starless (Abridged)
12. Red
13. Fallen Angel
Disc: 2
1. Elephant Talk
2. Frame By Frame
3. Matte Kudasai
4. Discipline
5. Heartbeat
6. Waiting Man
7. Neurotica
8. Three Of A Perfect Pair
9. Sleepless (Abridged)
11. Coda: Marine 475 (Abridged)
12. Dinosaur (Single Version)
13. Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream
14. The Power To Believe I
15. Level Five
16. Eyes Wide Open
17. Happy With What You Have/To Be Happy With (EP Version Abridged)
18. The Power To Believe III
19. The Power To Believe IV

Added: May 28th 2007
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Discipline Global Music
Hits: 3620
Language: english

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