Posts Tagged ‘King Crimson’

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Up until this month, King Crimson were among the final streaming-service holdouts from the classic rock era. And it made sense. Robert Fripp has famously stated that his pioneering prog outfit isn’t simply a band but also a “way of doing things.” Often, that way of doing things involves resisting the obvious path sometimes at the expense of the band’s stability. The past 50 years of Fripp and King Crimson have been defined by restlessness, thanks to an ever-changing line-up and a sound that’s always searching (typically in odd tunings and time signatures). In one song, they’re a gnarly rock trio with tritone riffs; in another, they’re a gorgeous folk outfit with flutes and fantastical lyrics. Combine that tendency with their myriad spin-off projects (referred to as ProjeKcts), collaborative releases, and elaborate box sets, and you have one of the more intimidating bodies of work in rock history. But now that the majority of their catalogue has finally arrived on Spotify, Apple Music, and others, it’s never been easier to join the Court of King Crimson.

Start with these six albums, and explore the rest at your own pace.

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In the Court of the Crimson King (1969)

King Crimson’s debut album presents their most recognizable face. It’s there on the cover—the iconic painting by Bary Godber—but it’s also in the restless, symphonic music. Songs like “21st Century Schizoid Man” and “The Court of the Crimson King” have lost none of their paranoid energy, and ballads like “I Talk to the Wind” and “Moonchild” remain among their most memorable deep cuts.

The defining sounds of the record Ian McDonald’s Mellotron and the passionate vocals of Greg Lake would soon be phased out, as Fripp began experimenting more. But it would take years for the rest of the world to catch up to the vision of In the Court of the Crimson King.

If you like this, consider listening to: King Crimson’s 1970 follow-up, In the Wake of Poseidon. It essentially recreates the formula of this album, to varying degrees of success.



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Islands (1971)

The title is fitting: These jazzy, string-accompanied tracks are somewhat disconnected from King Crimson’s larger body of work, but they’re worth a visit. Their final album to feature the lyrics of Peter Sinfield, Islands is a transitional work, showing a band on the way to a tighter, bolder sound. While this exercise in jazz fusion was a brief phase, it was also an essential one.

The album’s gorgeous story-songs, like the title track, and psychedelic saxophone parts courtesy of Mel Collins show the band at its most escapist. A minor work for King Crimson, Islands would have been the highlight of many other acts’ discographies. If you like this, consider listening to: the “Sailors Tales” box set, from 2017. It collects every existing live show from this era, building a completist shrine out of what may have seemed like a curio.


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Larks’ Tongues in Aspic (1973)

This marked the beginning of King Crimson’s most consistent line-up of the ’70s. With the assistance of bassist/vocalist John Wetton and virtuosic drummer Bill Bruford, along with violinist David Cross and percussionist Jamie Muir, Fripp was able to conjure a deeper, darker sound. “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic” spans relatively straightforward highlights like “Easy Money,” to classical-influenced set pieces like the two-part title track. With it came a period of King Crimson’s career in which composition and live improvisation shared equal billing.

Essentially, Larks’ Tongues in Aspic is the sound of a band figuring out how to incorporate the chaos around them into the songs themselves. Consider listening to: the live recordings from this era. They are just as essential and there’s no shortage of them to choose from. From the half-live follow-up album “Starless and Bible Black” to massive box sets like The Road to Red, you can hear King Crimson evolving with every performance.


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Red (1974)

For an act often defined by its uncontainable adventurousness, “Red” is a window into the sleeker side of King Crimson. At this point, the band was essentially a trio Robert Fripp on guitar, Bill Bruford on drums, and John Wetton on bass and vocals and its songs were newly direct, both musically and lyrically. The title track is an instrumental proto-metal megalith, and the imagistic ballad “Starless” though 12 minutes long aims straight for the heart, with Wetton’s poignant vocal delivery and Fripp’s slow-building guitar solo. While most King Crimson albums are notable for signalling rebirths, Red is alone in feeling like a grand finale: the gripping conclusion to a half-decade of work, with not a note wasted. It’s one of King Crimson’s undeniable masterpieces.

If you like this, Fripp’s other work outside of Crimson. From his collaborative ambient masterpieces with Brian Eno (1973’s (No Pussyfooting) and 1975’s Evening Star), to the daring art-pop album he produced for Daryl Hall (1980’s Sacred Songs), Fripp’s ambition kept him busy outside of the prog world he inspired.


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Discipline (1981)

After a seven-year hiatus during the second half of the ’70s,  the eighth studio album by English progressive rock band King Crimson, released on September 22nd, 1981 by E.G. Records .King Crimson marked their return with a new line-up, a new sound, and, if Fripp had had his way, a new name. “Discipline” was slated to be the moniker for this endeavor, featuring new recruits Adrian Belew on guitar and vocals and Tony Levin on bass and Chapman Stick. But after an early rehearsal, it became clear that this was no mere side project it was the future of King Crimson, with a knotty, new wave sound that imagined if Talking Heads had met at music school instead of art school. 

Discipline” was the first in a trio of releases that found the band flirting, however hermetically, with the pop world in the form of music videos and dance remixes. Centered on the inventive guitar interplay between Fripp and Belew, the ever-cerebral material proved that King Crimson’s DNA could sustain even the most dramatic reinvention. Check out “Absent Lovers: Live in Montreal”. The ’80s incarnation of Crimson did their best work in concert, and this retrospective release captures their final show of the decade, held in 1984.


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THRAK (1995)

Thrak” (stylised in all caps) is the eleventh studio album by the band King Crimson released in 1995 through Virgin Records. It was preceded by the mini-album Vrooom in 1994. It is their first full-length studio album since Three of a Perfect Pair eleven years earlier, and the only full album to feature the 1994-1997 line-up of Robert Fripp, Adrian Belew, Tony Levin, Trey Gunn, Bill Bruford and Pat Mastelotto.

THRAK succeeds by doing exactly what you don’t expect a King Crimson album to do: sound like King Crimson. Their sole studio full-length from the ’90s is their most self-referential work (“Dinosaur” quotes the riff from 1970’s “Cirkus,” while “VROOM” calls back to the title track of Red). It’s also among their most accessible. Adrian Belew is an unabashed Beatles fan, and these songs showcase the pop craftsmanship lurking beneath King Crimson’s best work, from the quietly psychedelic “Walking on Air” to the jumpy, philosophical “People.” 

Recorded at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios in Box, Wiltshire, U.K. The recording presents the group in a series of unique ways. With the band consisting of two guitarists, two bassists and two drummers, the opening track begins with all six musicians in the centre of the audio mix. As the album progresses, they are split into two trios, with one guitarist, bassist and drummer heard in the left channel and the other guitarist, bassist and drummer heard coming from the right channel.

THRAK was also a structural reinvention, introducing the “double trio” formation of the group, with two of each instrument. Bigger in both sound and scope, it’s the ideal late-career prog album. Listen to: 2003’s The Power to Believe, which remains King Crimson’s most recent album of new material. It continues in THRAK’s path, led by Belew’s nervy vocal style and familiar motifs from throughout the band’s discography.

King Crimson’s “Discipline” is an adventurous, experimental and ground-breaking collection from one of rock’s truly singular bands, By the dawn of the 80s, punk had rock music to its foundations. So much so that even one-time prog rockers were streamlining their sound/approach. King Crimson were one such band, as evidenced by 1981’s exceptional “Discipline”. 

When leader/guitarist Robert Fripp decided to form a ‘new Crimson’ band, overindulgences were trimmed and replaced with a sound heavy on rhythm and experimentation. A chance meeting would shape the rest of the line-up. 

“I met Robert Fripp one night in New York, at a club called the Bottom Line,” remembers singer/ guitarist Adrian Belew. “I was playing with David Bowie at the time [1979/1980] and [we] went to see Steve Reich. When the lights came up, Robert was at the table next to us. So I went over, and he wrote his hotel number on my arm. We had coffee, and got to know each other. 

“In nineteen-eighty I started with the Talking Heads, and when they arrived in England I got a call from Robert saying: ‘I’m starting a new band with [drummer] Bill Bruford and myself. Would you like to be a part of it?’ I jumped at the chance.” 

After an extended hiatus and just as prog’s first decade ended, Fripp got behind the wheel for another series of remarkable efforts. Retaining Bruford and recruiting agile bassist Tony Levin, it was the audacious decision to employ a second guitarist (Adrian Belew, who also handled vocal duties) that gives this collective its characteristic sound. Fripp’s exposure to new wave, complemented by an increasingly globe-ranging palette, alongside Belew’s supple support, results in material that is challenging yet concise. On songs like “The Sheltering Sky” Fripp incorporates virtually every trick in his arsenal, creating something that integrates multiple source-points (African, Indian, and Western). The title track is like a business card for the new decade: Fripp asked a lot of his audience, but he’s always asked more of himself.

“I don’t think any of us knew we were creating something so unusual,” Belew says. “But now that I look back, it’s easy to see – every one of us had new technology. I was the first to have a guitar synthesiser, and Robert was probably the second. Tony had the Chapman Stick, which no one had used before, and Bill was fooling with electronic drums. So you had these four monkeys in a cage together with new toys. Something was bound to happen.”  Something did indeed happen. With funky workout “Elephant Talk”, ambient soundscapes (Sheltering Sky), tranquil moments (Matte Kudasai) and controlled freak-outs (Thela Hun Ginjeet, Indiscipline), 1981’s Discipline sounded like nothing before it. 

An interesting occurrence developed during sessions for Thela Hun Ginjeet. Belew remembers it vividly: “John Lennon had been killed, and he was my hero. So I tried to write a lyric about being molested with a gun on the streets of a city. I tried to think of phrases, as though it was an interview on the street after the occurrence. 

“We were in a part of London that was a dangerous area, but I didn’t know that. I had a tape recorder, and Robert said: ‘If you want to get realistic sounds, why don’t you walk around on the street and say your lines?’

“I walked down one of the streets, and there was illegal gambling going on by a group of Rastafarian guys – pretty tough-looking. And they’d gathered around me. They thought I was an undercover policeman. They were about to kill me! At one point the ‘leader’ grabbed my tape recorder and played back what I had just been saying: ‘He had a gun!’ [laughs] The guy freaked out. ‘What gun?!’ They finally let me go, I’m not sure why. 

“I went back to the studio. I was so shook up, and I ran into the control room and was telling Robert the story. Meanwhile, he had whispered to the engineer to record it, and that’s what you hear on the record.” 

Although Discipline wasn’t a big hit, it re-established King Crimson, and touched a legion of young musicians. Says Belew: “It certainly wasn’t a record that your average person would know, but it had an affect on Primus, Tool, Trent Reznor and so many people. That record affected the way they saw music. And for me, that’s even better than saying we had a big hit record.”

The album released (September 22nd) in 1981: UK progressive rock band King Crimson released their 8th studio album, ‘Discipline’, on E.G. Records (UK)/Warner Bros. (US) – their first following a 7-year hiatus; only founder Robert Fripp & later addition Bill Bruford remained from previous incarnations, joined by Adrian Belew (guitar, lead vocals) & Tony Levin (bass guitar, Chapman Stick, backing vocals); displaying a more updated ’80s new wave-oriented sound, the album reached #41 on the UK charts; Pitchfork later ranked it #56 on their list of ‘The Top 100 Albums of the 1980s’.

Since 2014, King Crimson has chronicled its annual tours by releasing a Tour Box that incorporates rehearsal tracks, live performance tracks, alternate tracks, and some previously unreleased live performance tracks from the past as far back as 1969. Compiled by Sid Smith for the band, the 2Cd boxes comes filled with music, photos, tour memorabilia, notes, and a lengthy essay. This has come to be expected by fans. But 2020 was unkind to the band with its constraints. However, King Crimson is resilient and non-conforming and so a 2CD Elements 2020 is now on the calendar.

On September 4th, King Crimson will release “The Elements 2020″ over 2CDs. As with previous sets, The Elements 2020 will include live performance tracks from the past previously unreleased on CD that will include some from the distant past, some as early as 1969.

The Elements 2020 will include a 24-page booklet that will include an introduction by Robert Fripp, the expected photos and memorabilia collection, and a 2000-word essay by compiler, Sid Smith.

The Elements 2020 will be housed in a DVD-style Digipak book case. The tradition continues. for fans, this is a happy moment.

The 30th Anniversary edition of King Crimson’s “THRAK” is now available to download. Released in 1995, it features the Double Trio of Fripp, Gunn, Mastelotto, Belew, Levin & Bruford and was the first full-length King Crimson album since 1984’s Three Of A Perfect Pair. “Thrak”, was the eleventh studio album from King Crimson was released 25 years ago today. Appearing a decade after Three Of A Perfect Pair an expanded six-piece King Crimson consisting of the 80s quartet of Fripp, Belew, Levin, and Bruford augmented by Trey Gunn (touch guitar) and Pat Mastelotto (drums and percussion), reconvened and set about creating Thrak.

While I didn’t love this era of King Crimson as much as the John Wetton era there was no way I was missing out on this box set. I began buying these with “The Road To Red” and although it set me back a few hundred quid I went out and got the other three (“ITKOK”, “Larks Tongue In Aspic” and last year’s “Starless”). While the price might appear hefty on the surface, the contents are a bargain, currently this box is retailing at £95 for 12 CDs, 2 DVDs & 2 Blu Rays, you do the math, it’s a steal. At the time most fans were taken aback at the unexpected appearance of the mini-album, VROOOM. in October 1994, announcing as it did, the return of King Crimson to active service. Thrak followed in April 1995 to widespread critical acclaim.  Replete with a snarling metallic edge,the band could be heard taking a decisive leap forwards. The Double Trio, as Fripp dubbed them, deliver a brace of brand new Crimson classics, with the bulldozing riffs of VROOOM clearing the way. Dinosaur’s ironic, hook-laden choruses lurches into epic pop song territory, while the title track plunges deep into stormy, turbulent ensemble improvisation.

King Crimson has always had a habit of surprising its audiences. Since stepping off the stage at Montreal’s Le Spectrum in July 1984, Fripp, Levin, Belew, and Bruford had gone their separate ways. Although its dissolution had not been accompanied by the sombre pronouncement that King Crimson had ceased to exist forever as it had been in 1974, fans and observers could have been forgiven for assuming that there was little or no chance of King Crimson treading onto a concert stage ever again.

Onto the contents, while nowhere near as exhaustive as the Wetton era sets the emphasis hear is on quality rather than quantity.There are 3 complete live shows on CD, 2 on Blu Ray and video (an upgraded “Deja VROOOM” and an unreleased show from San Fransisco, the SF show picture quality is a long way from the rumoured HD visuals but the soundtrack is superb), an expanded version of the long out-of-print “VROOOM” EP, an audio documentary about the making of the album using outtakes from the studio session reels, the original and 2015 mixes of “Thrak” (the 5:1 mix really showcases The Double Trio as it should be heard), a CD of improvs and a CD of B-sides, outtakes and odds-and-sods.

On top of that you get a full colour book, posters, postcards and other memorabilia. Giving “Thrak” this new lease of life has really opened my eyes to what an incredible and unique album it is, I enjoyed it before but it never had the same impact on me that the likes of “Red” or “Discipline” had, now it has. King Crimson are setting the standard for this format, opening the vaults for fans in a way that no other band has, roll on the next one!

Fripp’s decision to put King Crimson back together had been made in the second half of 1990 though, as he later noted, without a clear idea of what the band would look like at that point. Clarification came two years later during the period he was working with David Sylvian.

Here’s what the Thrak Box looks like when it’s unboxed…A 16 disc limited edition box set featuring studio and live recordings – many previously unreleased – from King Crimson’s mid-1990s double trio line-up.

Highlights include a new ’21st Century stereo reimagining’ of THRAK (by Jakko Jakszyk and Robert Fripp), ATTAKcATHRAK (a David Singleton edited collection of improvs), and Max VROOOM, which sees a release for the long out of print mini-album VROOOMThe second blu-ray includes concert films, a Thrak epk and Tony Levin’s Road Movies.

Much of the material is presented in new 5.1 Surround & Hi-Resolution stereo mixes.

I came to the King Crimson party a little late in my rock fandom life. I didn’t buy Court Of the Crimson King until about six years ago, and I know this will cause some to scream .Despite that initial reaction I decided to investigate the album ‘Red’ a few years ago when I heard that it had a big influence on Kurt Cobain’s sound, now that did hit the mark and I still rate it as my favourite Crimson album. Suddenly I was looking for more King Crimson and Lark’s Tongues and Starless arrived in my collection. Also, having recently invested in a new toy to play 5.1 surround sound I was buying these CD+DVD-A versions each one impressing me both musically and in their 5.1 mixes, Steven Wilson, as usual, having done an excellent job. Then last year I thought it might be time to check out a bit of later King Crimson and decided to go for Thrak, the title just suggested it would be closer in sound to Red. Those first crashing chords to VROOOM seemed to confirm that. Another good investment I thought, that is until this summer when all of a sudden we found that a new CD DVD-A version was to be released (Along with a 16 disc box set for those with large bank accounts).

The surround sound mixes have been really impressive with all the previous Steven Wilson 5.1 mixes, Crimson are perfect for 5.1 and Mr Wilson knows just how to envelope you in their sound, but of course it’s not Steven Wilson who has mixed this album it is Robert Fripp and current guitarist and vocalist Jakko Jakszyk. It seems Wilson is not the only one who knows how to do a 5.1 mix. Fripp and Jakko have done an excellent job, of course the double trio format that Robert Fripp introduced on this album suits 5.1 perfectly with six instruments spread around your room, this is great fun. Of course it’s not just the 5.1 mix we have here but also a brand new stereo mix as well. On the previous albums I had bought in this dual format I had been unable to compare the new stereo mixes as these were the only versions I had, but for the first time with a Crimson album I can compare and contrast the new and old stereo mixes (Isn’t that supposed to be half the fun). I have to say I like this new mix, it wasn’t that I had previously thought there was anything wrong with the previous mix, but all of a sudden the two drums are brought further up in the mix and all of sudden many of the tracks become so much more interesting hearing those two drummers up front, just take a listen to VROOOM to really hear it. The whole album has an even better feel to it, whether it be the grungy guitars of VROOOM, and THRAK, Adrian Belew’s attempt at Alice Cooper style vocals on Dinosaur or his Beatlesesque vocals on Walking On Air, a track that also feels like a throwback to the first album, you do feel that the new mix has improved an already impressive album.

* CD 1 JurassiKc THRAK – an assemblage of material from the recording sessions for the album – placing the listener in the studio with the band as the material was composed and recorded including seven pieces that didn’t make it onto the final album.

* CD2: Max VROOOM – features the long-unavailable mini-album VROOOM, augmented with tracks and edits from the KC Club release: The VROOOM Sessions. All material re-compiled & remastered at DGM.

* CD3: THRAK – is the 2002 remaster of the original album

* CD4: ATTAKcATHRAK (The Vicar’s THRAK) is a sort of sequel to THRaKaTTaK insofar as it’s assembled from live improvs, but is also very different. One of David Singleton’s best pieces of production, the editing process for the new improv album provides more form and function to the material without compromising the spirit of the original improvs. Unlike THRaKaTTaK, which was based on stereo board recordings, this album is newly mixed, in both stereo and 5.1 Surround Sound, from multi-track tapes.

* CD5: THRAK – is the transformative 2015 Jakko Jakszyk/Robert Fripp remix of the original album, described by Robert Fripp as a “Re-imagining of stereo in the early 21st century.”

* CD6: Byte Size THRAK – is a compilation of singles edits, live tracks from promos, a 12″ mix edit – some of which are making their debut appearance on commercially available disc and extracts from writing sessions from the final Nashville rehearsals in 1997.

* CDs7/8: Kcensington THRAK -is a newly mixed release of the band’s London concerts in 1995. Mixed from multi-track tapes by Jakko Jakszyk, and mastered by David Singleton and Robert Fripp (“To make it rock even harder”). Other than video releases, it is also the first live show from this band available in surround sound.

* CDs 9/10: New YorKc THRAK – features a complete setlist from the 1995 run of shows in the city, some material previously released on VROOOM VROOOM (now deleted) and the KC Club release On Broadway. Drawn from multi-track tapes, mixed by Adrian Belew & Ken Latchney. All newly remastered at DGM.

* CDs 11/12: AzteKc THRAK – features a complete setlist from the Mexico City concerts in 1996 – released, in part, on VROOOM VROOOM – mixed from the original multi-tracks by Robert Fripp, R Chris Murphy and David Singleton, and recently remastered at DGM.

Starless and Bible Black, 30th Anniversary Edition

When it was released in spring 1974, not even the record company knew that King Crimson’s ‘Starless & Bible Black’ album was essentially a live recording. Such secrecy by the band might have resulted from knowing that record labels paid a reduced royalty rate on live albums. The truth only emerged several years after Crimson had split up.

Bassist/vocalist John Wetton was proud of the results: “For me, it shows us moving into another dimension as far as being a band is concerned. We’d found our feet; we’d been on the road for the best part of a year. We knew what we wanted to do & we were getting creative. Not only is the album chronologically the bridge between Larks’ Tongues In Aspic, & Red, but it’s also a bridge in many more ways..

in 1973 King Crimson weren’t simply touring in order to pursue rutting opportunities. There was the not inconsiderable matter of recording a follow-up to Larks’ Tongues In Aspic. The album had sold well but the band were less than happy with the results of the time they had spent during January and February in Piccadilly’s Command Studios. “Collapse Studios more like – that’s what we used to call it,” shudders Wetton.

Despite the classic nature of the material and many inventive moments peppered throughout LTIA, the Crimson camp felt that whatever magic had touched them as they played in concert during the winter of ’72, the recording of the album in the New Year had quite simply failed to capture any of that power or intensity which had moved not only the band themselves, but also many commentators and fans. Putting a brave face on their combined disappointment, by the time the album hit the shops, the quartet were already on their way around the UK, Europe and, in mid-April, the USA. The Crimson that returned to the UK in July ’73 was not only tired after notching up over 60 gigs, but also in dire need of new material to refresh the setlist and prepare for a new album.

Reconvening after a three-week holiday, spirits and tempers were frayed, rather than rested. What had been a break for some turned out to be a busman’s holiday for Robert Fripp, who emerged from his Dorset cottage with Fracture, The Night Watch and Lament.  As the group worked on the new tunes, bad tempers flashed. According to Bill Bruford, Crimson’s writing processes were exercises in “excruciating, teeth-pullingly difficult music making. The tunes Robert has written all the way through, such as Fracture, these are good, and had there been greater output from Robert, we’d have got on quicker and faster. Robert’s always done this. He’s started off these bands with one-and-a-half tunes that point the general direction, and Fracture would have been one of them.”

“I was never given the time to write,” counters Fripp. “The band had a three-and-a-half-week holiday. I had three days. I recall on another occasion saying to the band that I needed time to write, rather than just continuing to rehearse. Bill, in a schoolmasterly and rather grudging fashion, would only agree if I really would do the writing, as opposed to what he implied was goofing off.” The gnawing antipathy that became a defining characteristic of Fripp and Bruford’s subsequent professional relationship first surfaced in these rehearsal sessions, sewing the seeds of the band’s demise a year later.

Putting their differences aside, Crimson took to the road with their newly composed repertoire and their near-telepathic ability to create complex and nuanced improvisations off the top of their heads. When they played at Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, a mobile recording studio captured the band in full aleatoric flight.

Few bands of the era offered as much variety in material from night to night. King Crimson’s propensity for improvisation & fondness for playing its newest material – often unreleased on record at the time of the concerts – is legendary. Fewer bands still, whether by accident or design, recorded so many of their live shows.

Back in the UK in January 1974, and with three new tracks in the can at George Martin’s AIR Studios, the band sifted through the many live multi-tracks from the tour, choosing the best improvisations and scrupulously editing the tapes to remove any hint of audience noise or applause. It was impossible to tell what had been improvised in concert and what had been recorded in the studio.

The only songs recorded entirely in the studio were the first two tracks, “The Great Deceiver” and “Lament”. “We’ll Let You Know” was an entirely improvised piece recorded in Glasgow. “The Mincer” was another improvised piece, originally recorded in concert in Zürich but overdubbed with Wetton’s vocals in the studio ,The track was the edited-out middle section of a longer improvisation, the other parts released on The Great Deceiver as “The Law of Maximum Distress”. “Trio”, “Starless and Bible Black” and “Fracture” (the last of which Robert Fripp has cited as one of the most difficult guitar pieces he has ever played were recorded live at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. Also recorded at the Concertgebouw was the introduction to “The Night Watch” (the band’s Mellotron broke down at the start of the next section, meaning that the remainder of the song needed to be recorded in the studio and dubbed in later). In all cases, live applause was removed from the recordings wherever possible (although the remains of it can be heard by an attentive listener). The complete Amsterdam Concertgebouw concert was eventually released by the band in 1997 as The Night Watch.

“Trio” was notable for being a quartet piece with only three active players – John Wetton on bass guitar, David Cross on viola and Robert Fripp on “flute” Mellotron. Bruford spent the entire piece with his drumsticks crossed over his chest, waiting for the right moment to join in but eventually realized that the improvised piece was progressing better without him. His decision not to add any percussion was seen by the rest of the band as a crucial choice, and he received co-writing credit for the piece.

When it was released in that spring, not even the record company knew that “Starless And Bible Black” was essentially a live recording. Such secrecy by the band might have resulted from knowing that record labels paid a reduced royalty rate on live albums. The truth only emerged several years after Crimson had split up.

Starless and Bible Black offers an in depth overview of one of the era’s most significant bands in its most celebrated live line-up. John Wetton is proud of the results: “For me, it shows us moving into another dimension as far as being a band is concerned. We’d found our feet; we’d been on the road for the best part of a year. We knew what we wanted to do and we were getting creative. Not only is the album chronologically the bridge between LTIA and Red, but it’s also a bridge in many more ways. We were getting more experimental, trying different recording techniques, really screwing with the system, removing applause from live tracks so they sound like studio tracks – the exact opposite of what people do today where they add applause to a studio track and pretend it’s live. We’d removed the audience because that was the only way we could get the atmosphere we were after. Before Red, we could never recreate that kind of power in the studio – it just wouldn’t happen. You’re in a sterile environment, whereas on stage you’d got all that air and people and you’d got energy.” The bassist looks back on the period in which the album was made with real affection

Autumn 1973: As King Crimson’s second lengthy US tour of that year was coming to a close, a short series of UK concerts for the end of October, followed by a more extensive European tour in November was already planned. Three of these concerts Glasgow, Zurich & Amsterdam were recorded as full multi-track recordings, with material from the Amsterdam show being used as core material for the January 1974 recording of “Starless & Bible Black”. From mid-March to the start of April, the band was on the road in Europe again, promoting the album with their final European concerts of the decade, prior to undertaking a further US tour. A number of these concerts were recorded on stereo reel to reel machines, fed directly from the signal as sent to the PA system on the night of the performance. These soundboards are often referred to as “The Blue Tapes”, named after the outer colour of the original tape boxes & are especially valued for both the quality of recording & performance.

This boxed set presents eighteen CDs of live concert performances, seven of them mixed from the 1973 multi-track tapes and a further eleven presenting the complete run of “The Blue Tapes” for the first time. CDs of the ORTF Paris TV performance & the 2011 stereo mix of Starless & Bible Black also feature. Two DVD-A discs & two Blu-Ray discs contain concert & studio recordings in stereo, quadraphonic & full 5.1 surround sound – all presented in high-resolution audio.

  • 19 CDs of live performance material.
  • 7 CDs taken from multi-track tape including 4CDs of material from the Glasgow & Zurich shows, freshly assembled & mastered in Hi-Res from the original Great Deceiver mixes by David Singleton at DGM Soundworld in 2014, the Amsterdam show The Nightwatch mixed by Steven Wilson & a previously unheard preparatory of material from the same show prepared by George Chkiantz (engineer of all live KC shows of the era & the Red album).
  • 11 CDs drawn from high quality stereo reel to reel soundboard tapes. 8 making their first appearance on CD with the remaining three re-mastered or drawn from new tape sources.
  • 1 CD presenting the performance from the ORTF Paris TV broadcast
  • CD 20 features the 2011 stereo mix of Starless & Bible Black by Steven Wilson & Robert Fripp
  • DVD-A 1 features the Starless & Bible Black album in 5.1 Surround, with new & original stereo album mixes in High Resolution Stereo plus bonus audio material.
  • DVD-A 2 features material from Mainz (mixed by David Singleton), Amsterdam (mixed by Steven Wilson) & a later show from Pittsburgh (mixed by George Chkiantz) in quadraphonic audio & High-Resolution Stereo.
  • Both DVD-A discs are region 0 playable in all areas & compatible with all DVD players & DVD Rom players

 

  • Blu-Ray Disc 1 features full lossless audio 24/192 transfers of material from the Glasgow & Zurich shows, freshly assembled & mastered from the original Great Deceiver mixes by David Singleton at DGM Soundworld in 2014 in LPCM stereo.
  • Blu-Ray Disc 1 also features the Amsterdam show The Nightwatch, mixed by Steven Wilson & the George Chkiantz preparatory mix stereo in 24/96 High-resolution stereo & a 24/96 transfer of the original David Singleton/Robert Fripp mix of The Nightwatch.
  • Blu-Ray Disc 2 features Starless & Bible Black in 5.1 Surround (DTS-HD MAS & LPCM 24/96) alongside new & original stereo masters of the album, a needledrop of an original vinyl pressing + audio extras.
  • Blu-Ray Disc 2 also features the Quad mixes of material from the Mainz, Amsterdam & Pittsburgh concerts.
  • Blu-Ray Disc 2 also features the ORTF Paris TV footage in a new hi-res transfer from the original source files.
  • Discs packaged in 8 individual 3 disc digi-packs within an album sized box
  • 3 additional bonus CDs of audio restored soundboard/bootlegs & audio curios are also included.
  • 1 further concert (bootleg quality audio) is also available via included download ticket.
  • Album sized booklet with rare/unseen photos, new sleeve notes by Sid Smith, technical notes on the recordings by David Singleton, eye-witness accounts from fans who attended the gigs + memorabilia including an album print, poster, replica concert ticket, press release with folder, photos & more besides.
  • King Crimson
    • Robert Fripp – guitar, Mellotron, devices, Hohner pianet, production
    • John Wetton – bass, vocals, production
    • Bill Bruford – drums, percussion, production
    • David Cross – violin, viola, Mellotron, Hohner pianet, production

 

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50th anniversary edition of King Crimson’s first non-album single ‘Cat Food‘. This is a four song single which features the original single version of Cat Food. A live version of the song recorded on September 14th, 2019 recorded in Toronto by the current line up. 2019 was the first live performance of the song since 1973 during the band’s Bill Bruford/David Cross/Robert Fripp/John Wetton era. It’s a really good version with Jeremy vamping on the keys and Mel blowing like a madman. Thumbs up for sure. Next up, is the 2019 alternate mix version that was put up last year during the weekly 50th Anniversary Download Series. This is it’s first vinyl appearance.

The final song is the original single b-side version of the non album song Groon. The cover is based on the original single cover, All in all, a nice release even though it’s on the short side at around 17 or so minutes.

– Expanded to a 4 track EP & issued on 10” vinyl
– Features Cat Food (single version) & Groon (original single B-side)
– Features a live version of Cat Food performed by the current line-up in Toronto in September 2019
– Included is an alternate mix of the album version of Cat Food prepared by David Singleton as part of the KC50 digital series
– Artwork derived from Peter Sinfield’s original 7” sleeve art

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Recorded in the aftermath of King Crimson’s implosion in 1969, when two of its founding members unexpectedly quit the band, “In the Wake Of Poseidon” is an eclectic and experimental mix of bone-crunching riffs, Beatles-ish pop, tender ballads, soaring mellotron-drenched anthems and inscrutable atonal episodes. Highlights include Fripp’s savage guitar throughout Pictures Of A City and Greg Lake’s stunning vocal on the title track – his last with the group before his departure to form ELP. Thanks to the success of their 1969 debut, when In The Wake Of Poseidon was released in May 1970 it peaked at No.4 in the UK charts with one journalist proclaiming “If Wagner were alive today he’d work with King Crimson.”

47 years ago this album was, King Crimson’s second album, In The Wake Of Poseidon was released. Recorded in the aftermath of King Crimson’s implosion during their US tour in 1969, In The Wake Of Poseidon is the sound of an idea that simply refused to quit in the teeth of extreme adversity and apparently insurmountable odds. Understandably, the shock departure of half of the group had dented the confidence that had characterised King Crimson’s demeanour during much of the previous 12 months. Yet in a remarkable display of personal and artistic determination, Poseidon meets the challenge of retaining and developing the fierce originality of ideas that helped fuel King Crimson’s debut album. Whilst Court Of The Crimson King had been a truly collective endeavour, it was undeniably moulded to a large degree around Ian McDonald’s writing and musicality. With Fripp now in sole command of King Crimson’s musical direction, there’s a move into harder-edged, less rock orientated territories which would be expanded upon further in later Crimson records. Despite a superficial resemblance to Court, caused largely by a decision to sequencing the tracks in a way which mirrors the dynamics of side one of Crimson’s debut, In The Wake Of Poseidon deserves to be judged on its own merits and not merely as an adjunct of its more famous predecessor.

Without a working band, Fripp asked Greg Lake, then biding his time until the newly formed ELP could start work, to stay on as guest vocalist whilst also recruiting drummer Michael Giles (along with his bass playing brother, Peter) to return as session musicians. This was a solution that was practical as it was pragmatic. Having lived and worked together as Giles, Giles & Fripp during most of 1968, the core team responsible for laying down the tracks for the album had a proven track record of working quickly and efficiently. The pressure to maintain the commercial momentum of In The Court Of The Crimson King produced a surprise single release. Cat Food (backed with Groon) was issued in March 1970 was about as far removed from the debut album as it was possible to get. The anarchic mood of the song occasioned by Keith Tippett’s freewheeling piano and Greg’s mid-song laughter (caused by Fripp dropping his trousers whilst Lake was singing) made this one of the most unlikely single releases of the year.

Despite these factors, not to mention Peter Sinfield’s satirical lyrics, King Crimson’s profile at the time was such that the band were asked to lip-sync a performance of the song for the BBC’s prime time TV show, Top of the Pops. Perhaps unsurprisingly it failed to catch the ear of mainstream pop-pickers. Nevertheless, it signalled to critics and fans that Crimson was a going concern, and just as importantly, their ability to turn heads remained undiminished.

The haunting melody of Peace – A Theme (whose music dates back to 1968) opening and closing the album, provides a delicate and simple frame into which all kinds of stunning musicianship, dramatic themes and turbulent motifs, jostle and compete for attention. Pictures of a City is brimming with numerous guitar overdubs, a tour de force of densely- wrought picking. Here Fripp gathers the implications of Schizoid Man’s fast running lines, and constructs them into hurtling force in with his trademark dexterity and love of bone-crunching power chords is brilliantly harnessed. The heavyweight nature of Pictures is enhanced still further by guest sax player Mel Collins’ additional firepower. At the time of recording, Mel was still a member of Cirkus – a band which had shared the bill with Crimson and Keith Tippett’s group as part of the Marquee’s New Directions series of gigs the previous year. His work on this track, and in particular the sublime flute on Cadence and Cascade, ensured his recruitment to a new incarnation of King Crimson.

One of the last songs to be completed in the sessions, Cadence and Cascade like POAC, dated from 1969. Substantially revised in the Poseidon sessions, it quickly becomes one of Fripp and Sinfield’s most memorable collaborations. With Lake now off to ELP, he was unavailable for the final recording and his place on this track was taken by Fripp’s old friend, Gordon Haskell. Echoing both the sombre aspect of Epitaph and the hymnal qualities of Court, In The Wake of Poseidon is nevertheless an outstanding track in its own right. Its magnificent mellotron-driven chorus, inspired acoustic guitar interventions, astonishing drumming throughout, and the fragile beauty of Libra’s Theme contained within, is one of Fripp’s most heartfelt melodies every bit as equal to the yearning romanticism found in Peacock’s Tale (Lizard), the title track from Islands and the main instrumental melody from Starless.

When the album was released in May 1970 it was well received in the press, giving rise to the classic Melody Maker headline “If Wagner were alive he’d work with King Crimson”. Thanks to an irresistible combination of anticipation sparked by the runaway success of the debut, along with an overwhelming curiosity to find out what King Crimson would do next, Poseidon actually outsold Court in the UK album charts where it reached No.4. Poseidon was one of the King Crimson albums Steven Wilson was especially looking forward to remixing for 5.1. However, he was disappointed to discover that the multi-tracks for the Devil’s Triangle no longer existed. “Because it’s a bit of a soup, being able to go in and bring out some clarity and detail might have really helped it. As with so much other Crimson stuff, it has got a sense of ‘otherness’ that transcends so many of the other experimental pieces of the same era which haven’t dated well. Harmonically it’s very bizarre but it’s also a kind of prototype of the kind of thing they would try on Lizard in terms of its density and use of free-jazz piano. So there’s basically 12 minutes in the second half of the record where we’re having to rely upon the original stereo master. I think we have to count our blessings that we’ve been able to do what we’ve done so far because to go back and hope to find and work with tapes that are 40 years old is a tall order.”

Robert Fripp guitars & Mellotron, Michael Giles drums, Peter Giles bass Greg Lake vocals with guests Mel Collins saxes & flute, Keith Tippett piano, Gordon Haskell vocals. Appears on In The Wake of Poseidon

On the evening of Monday January 13th, 1969, King Crimson formally began rehearsals in the basement of the Fulham Palace Road Cafe. After hauling their equipment down the stairs into their cramped rehearsal room Greg Lake, Ian McDonald, Michael Giles, Robert Fripp plugged in their instruments, and with Peter Sinfield operating lights and sound, played and worked on material for the next hour and a half.

King Crimson’s debut album, “In The Court Of The Crimson King”, was released. The recorded entered the UK charts and later, the US charts and catapulted King Crimson from underground cult act to mainstream success.

It was Fripp’s idea to subtitle the album “An Observation By King Crimson”, which had the effect of framing the five pieces within an implied concept of sorts. Fripp also his suggestion that there be no print anywhere on the exterior artwork. John Gaydon, Crimson’s co-manager at the time recalls Island Records were worried about objections from retailers who would be confused about the lack of information on the sleeve. “Fripp said, well, it’ll be the only record in the shop without anything down the spine on it, so they’ll know which one it is. Which was brilliant when you think about it.”

Housed in its distinctive cover painted by Peter Sinfield’s friend, Barry Godber, it remains the most widely recognised album by King Crimson.

This is the “Ur” record of progressive rock. It is by turns jarring and aggressive, lush, gorgeous and ethereal, depending on the track. It is an essential album because, even if you don’t think you like “Prog Rock,” it has such a variety of sounds, styles and moods, there is bound to be something you’ll find appealing.

Writing in the booklet accompanying the Epitaph box set Robert Fripp recalled “The cover was as strange and powerful as anything else to do with this group. Barry Godber, and Dik the Roadie, was not an artist but a computer programmer. This was the only album cover he painted. Barry died in bed in Feb­ru­ary 1970 at the age of 24.

The cover was as much a defining statement, and a classic, as the album. And they both belonged together. The Schizoid face was really scary, especially if a display filled an entire shop window.

Peter brought the cover into Wessex Studios in Highgate during a session. At the time Michael Giles refused to commit himself to it, nor has he yet. But Michael has also never agreed to the name King Crimson. We went ahead anyway.

The original artwork hung on a wall in 63a, Kings Road, in full daylight for several years. This was the centre of EG activities from 1970 and remains so today, albeit in its diminished and truncated form. For several years I watched the colours drain from the Schizoid and Crimson King faces until, finally, I announced that unless it was hung where it was protected from daylight, I would remove it. Several months later I removed it and it is now stored at Discipline Global Mobile World Central.”

In 1969, Rhett Davies, who would come to work with King Crimson on Discipline in 1981, was then employed in the Liverpool Street branch of Harlequin Records in London. He ensured that Crimson’s debut album occupied a whole window of the store. “I phoned up the label and asked them to send me over twenty album sleeves and I stuck a joint in one of the mouths!”

Rarely had an album sleeve so accurately echoed the shock-and-awe reaction which this extraordinary music produced in its listeners. Even the advent of the CD and the jewel-case has done little to dilute its iconic power.

Reflecting on the factors surrounding the making of the album, Fripp said “Any group working together has to have a common aim. The ‘69 band’s common aim was to be the best band in the world, whatever we understand by that, but that was the shared aim. Not the most successful band in the world, not the most famous band in the world – the best band in the world. And while you share that aim, and that is your primary focus together, things might happen.” Things certainly did happen for Crimson and at a dizzying speed. Just days after Lake, McDonald, Giles, Fripp and Sinfield began rehearsing in January 1969 in the basement beneath a Turkish cafe on the Fulham Palace Road, record companies were being invited down to listen to their hybrid mix of folk, rock, jazz and symphonic-hued compositions. As word began to spread about the group’s extraordinarily audacious abilities, one early interested party were The Moody Blues who fancied King Crimson might be the first outside signing for their soon-to-be-established Threshold label. “One or two of them came down with their producer Tony Clarke and we played two or three songs and they were impressed” recalls Fripp. A few days later the entire band came to see Crimson play at The Speakeasy. “They hadn’t heard the heavy stuff such as Schizoid Man or Court at that point. We were meant to be going to out on tour with them but they came and saw us live.” After that, Crimson were dropped from the support slot. “They knew we’d blow them off stage” concludes the guitarist.

The association with the Moody Blues continued however with Clarke as the would-be producer of Crimson’s debut album. After only a few sessions however, first in Morgan Studios and then Wessex Studios, Crimson found themselves increasingly dissatisfied with the results, opting to produce themselves. Given that they still had only a handful of gigs under their collective belt, one can’t help but think that this band must have had balls of steel to tell one of the best-selling producers his services were no longer required. “It wasn’t balls of steel it was just this wasn’t right. Look at it a different way; this has to be right. It wasn’t right. I believe we had a meeting in the EG Volkswagen Beetle and the decision was taken: if we produce ourselves we’ll make mistakes but they’ll be our mistakes and not someone else’s. Tony Clarke would get me strumming rhythm chords to I Talk To The Wind for hours through the night. Well, through the night is not my best time for working. Strumming lots of chords is not the best use of me as a guitar player. In other words, he didn’t see these artists; he didn’t see this band. Not really. He saw what he obviously thought was a good band at the very least and it would be good for him as a producer and he probably gave it his best shot, but it wasn’t the production for us. That’s not a criticism of him as a producer. It was just a mismatch between producer and artist. I saw him a few years after that at Heathrow. I can’t remember exactly what was said but there was an edge there. There was something not resolved for him. He seemed to have a bit of attitude about it. For me it was clear he wasn’t the producer for this band. It doesn’t mean the band’s bad or wrong or the producer; it’s just not the match.”

In the years that have followed its release the self-produced album has been widely regarded by many as having kick-started progressive rock. By July of that year, the band was performing in Hyde Park on the same bill as The Rolling Stones to an audience of up to 500,000 people. By October, the debut album: “In the Court of the Crimson King” was in the Top 5 of the UK album charts, shortly followed by a top 30 position in the US album charts and a No 1 slot – replacing Abbey Road – in the Japanese international chart. By December, following a series of US concerts finishing at San Francisco’s Fillmore West, the band’s first line-up had imploded.

1001 Albums You Must Here Before You Die cites Scizoid Man as “perhaps the first alternative anthem, featuring a gargantuan main riff,squalling sax and apocalytic visions.”

Mojo said “The intense brew of classical melodies, jazz and hard rock, matched with fantastical lyrics – and housed in an intriguing, lurid sleeve – created the template for progressive rock. All the more remarkable, then, that the music was created in a week.”

That’s a view that Steven Wilson, who remixed the album in 2009 shares. ”For me this the birth of progressive rock. Yes, there were other albums before that; you could say Sgt Pepper or The Moody Blues’ Days of Future Passed have a claim to laying down a blueprint of progressive rock, but In the Court.. really is the first time you have such technical prowess allied to musical experiments, great songwriting and a conceptual feeling all tied together in one record.”

While fans will argue the pros and cons of such an argument there’s no disagreement that Court represents one of the most coherent, cohesive and collectively powerful debut albums of the era.

As new generations of fans discover the album, barely a month goes by without an online reassessment of the record and barely a day goes by without it being cited as one of the most significant and influential rock albums to emerge from the 1960s.

Here’s how some of the music papers of the day reacted to In The Court of The Crimson King.

Melody Maker:
This eagerly-awaited first album is no disappointment, and confirms their reputation as one of the most important new groups for some time. It gives little idea of their true power on stage, but still packs tremendous impact especially the brutally exciting “21st Century Schizoid Man” and the eerie title track, with its frightening mellotron sounds. It’s not all high power stuff though – there’s some nice flute from Ian McDonald on the beautiful “I Talk To The Wind” and “Moonchild” is pretty, though too long. The vocals are clear and controlled and the instrumental work can hardly be faulted. This is one you should try and hear.

Disc:
The first LP from the group heralded by those who know to be the most exciting discovery of the year. Get over the most horrific cover of the year and you’ll find the pundits are not wrong. A brilliant mixture of melody and freakout, fast and slow, atmospheric and electric, all heightened by the words of Peter Sinfield.

International Times:
The Ultimate Album. There is little one can fault with it: the arrangements make masterful use of multi-tracking, compressing and reducing, the standard of playing almost defies belief at time, the vocals are merely excellent and the numbers are brilliantly and excitedly written.

I don’t like one of the numbers, despite my total commitment as a Crimson-Bopper, which is ‘Moonchild’ and is too long. Otherwise a gassy, jazzy, heavy, complex, smooth and totally magnificent album: written, arranged, played and produced by the most original group since …….. (fill in your answers to Apple Ltd., Saville Row, London., for instance.

NME
Long-awaited first album from the remarkable King Crimson, a group which manages to provoke either loathing or fanatical devotion but which is undoubtedly capable of building for itself a sizeable reputation. This stunningly-packaged LP provides a varied selection of King Crimson’s style, although it lacks some of the drive of the stage performances that have made their name. Nevertheless as a first album it is extremely good.

Daily Sketch
If you want to know where pop is going in the 70s listen to this. It is magnificent.

Finally, the American edition of Rolling Stone had this to say:

“There are certain problems to be encountered by any band that is consciously avant-garde. In attempting to sound “farout” the musicians inevitably impose on themselves restrictions as real as if they were trying to stay in a Top-40 groove. There’s usually a tendency to regard weirdness as an end in itself, and excesses often ruin good ideas.

Happily, King Crimson avoids these obstacles most of the time. Their debut album drags in places, but for the most part they have managed to effectively convey their own vision of Desolation Row. And the more I listen, the more things fall into place and the better it gets.

The album begins by setting the scene with ‘21st Century Schizoid Man’. The song is grinding and chaotic, and the transition into the melodic flute which opens ‘I Talk to the Wind’ is abrupt and breathtaking. Each song on this album is a new movement of the same work, and King Crimson’s favorite trick is to move suddenly and forcefully from thought to thought. ‘Epitaph’ speaks for itself: “The wall on which the prophets wrote/Is cracking at the seams…Confusion will be my epitaph.”

‘Moonchild’ opens the second side, and this is the only weak song on the album. Most of its twelve minutes is taken up with short statements by one or several instruments. More judicious editing would have heightened their impact; as it is, you’re likely to lose interest. But the band grabs you right back when it booms into the majestic, symphonic theme of ‘The Court of the Crimson King’. This song is the album’s grand climax; it summarizes everything that has gone before it: “The yellow jester does not play/But gently pulls the strings/ And smiles as the puppets dance / In the court of the Crimson King.”

This set was an ambitious project, to say the least. King Crimson will probably be condemned by some for pompousness, but that criticism isn’t really valid. They have combined aspects of many musical forms to create a surreal work of force and originality.

Besides which they’re good musicians. Guitarist Robert Fripp and Ian McDonald (reeds, woodwinds, vibes, keyboards, mellotron) both handle rock, jazz, or classical with equal ease. Bassist Greg Lake and drummer Michael Giles can provide the beat, fill in the holes, or play free-form. While Dylan and Lennon are still safe, lyricist Peter Sinfield does show a gift (macabre as it may be) for free association imagery.

How effectively this music can be on stage is, admittedly, a big question. The answer is probably not too well. Still, King Crimson’s first album is successful; hopefully, there is more to come.”

At the time of its release in the States, the track that seemed to get the most play was “21st Century Schizoid Man” a disturbing piece of sonic violence. But, there’s “I Talk to the Wind,” a guileless song with harmonies that remind me of sixties soft pop. “Moonchild (including the Dream and the Illusion)” is a narcoleptic study of contrasts, a mix of sparkling cymbal play over Ennio Morricone -stylized string parts (played, as best I can tell, on a Mellotron), transitioning to a series of softly ringing vibraphone sounds, discordant jazz guitar, keyboards, drum rattles and cymbal swells. In short, there is something for everyone, if you are willing to take the trip.

Pressings: there’s lot’s of controversy and some degree of mystery here. The early UK pink labels have matrix information showing A2/ B 2 or 3 or 4; there are even earlier copies with at least an A1 side and some that apparently share an A1/B1 matrix. (My copy is an A3/B3).

Then there’s the legend of the missing tape; the misaligned tape heads and the nasty distortion on the original mix down tape. (I always thought that was by design on Schizoid Man). My UK pink rim, with “U” designations has quieter surfaces than the earlier pink label, but doesn’t really sound any better. There’s a George Peckham (‘Porky’) mastered version floating around (I think those are all pink rims, not pink labels, so they shouldn’t bear a heavy price tag). There are multiple reissues, most of which I haven’t heard.

I did buy the 2010 vinyl re-do, re-mastered digitally and taken from the “missing” first generation mix tapes that had been re-discovered. That “re-do” sounds flatter and less full-dimensioned than either the pink label or pink rim, but that’s most apparent on the “soft” tracks; however, when I switch to the pink label, where I can get more “dimension,” I’m also hearing more distortion and surface noise, particularly on these softer tracks. If you are going head-on with Schizoid Man, it’s a toss up- a biting, nasty piece of work at best.

The Steve Wilson remix, which is offered in a variety of formats (I have yet to see or hear a vinyl version of that), with alternate tracks, apparently relieves some of the distortion. If you are into obscurities, the album was originally released in New Zealand as a Vertigo Swirl!

Which one(s) would I buy? Probably an early Island UK pink rim if it is cheap enough. The sonics of this album are challenging, but it is worth having a copy when you are in the mood, and possibly, even when you are not.

24-disc box set featuring CDs, blu-ray and DVD-As • Combo CD+DVD-A sets of two studio albums also available

King Crimson will release another one of their mega box sets in May. Heaven & Earth is the seventh in their ongoing series and focuses on the period from December 1997 to August 2008. This box set features 18 CDs, 3 x blu-ray audio, one blu-ray video and two DVD-Audio discs. The first three CDs are devoted to enhanced version of the studio albums The ConstruKction Of Light (2000) and The Power to Believe (2003). The former has been remixed (by Don Gunn) and features all new drums by Pat Mastelotto and has a new moniker The ReconstruKction Of Light. The Power to Believe is featured as an extended/enhanced stereo mix and includes the studio version of Happy With What You Have To Be Happy With and Level 5.

The next four CDs feature the instrumental/improvised ProjeKcts, er, projects, described as “research and development” by Robert Fripp. These are all new to CD and each ‘ProjeKct’ each CD features a different line-up.

A further 11 CDs feature live recordings (several new to CD, with some material previously unreleased) from the 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2008 tours.

Of the three blu-ray audios:

  • Disc One contains the complete recordings of ProjeKcts 1, 3, 4 & 6 – every single concert plus additional material the ProjeKcts released, it features the complete albums: ProjeKct 1– Space Groove, The ProjeKcts – 4CD box, ProjeKct 1 – Jazz Café Suite, ProjeKct X – Heaven & Earth, BPM&M – ExtraKcts & ArtifaKcts and Rieflin/Fripp/Gunn – Repercussions of Angelic Behaviour
  • Disc Two contains the complete recordings of ProjeKct 2 (every single concert). More than 30 shows plus an album’s worth of rehearsals.
  • Disc Three contains The ReconstruKction Of Light – the album in stereo and 5.1 mixes with the drums completely re-recorded by Pat Mastelotto – stereo mixes by Don Gunn, 5.1 mixes by David Singleton and the original album in hi-res stereo, The Power to Believe – expanded/enhanced 2019 master (2 tracks with additional elements plus 3 extra tracks assembled/mixed by David Singleton) and 5.1 surround mixes by David Singleton – all mixes executive produced by Robert Fripp – plus the Happy With What You Have To Be Happy WithandLevel 5 mini-albums, the 2000 show from London, the EleKtriK live album from 2003 and a video of a tour of the KC studio/live equipment setup from 2002.

There is also blu-Ray video disc of Europe 2000 – The Bootleg TV tour, which features around 10 hours of audio/video mostly never seen/heard since the concerts with versions of selected songs and improvs (usually two per night of each) from almost every show. Includes footage and music from 20 performances.

Finally, two DVD-As (compatible with all dvd players) feature The ReconstruKction of Light (new stereo/5.1/original stereo mixes plus ProjeKct X – Heaven & Earth) and The Power to Believe (2019 stereo/5.1/original master mixes plus Happy With What You Have To Be Happy With mini-album).

A detailed track listing will be available soon, but you get the general idea! As with the previous sets this box comes presented in a 12-inch box with booklet, memorabilia and new sleeve-notes by Sid Smith and David Singleton.

Heaven & Earth will be released on 31st May 2019 via Panegyric Recordings. If the big box is just too much you can opt for CD+DVD-A combos of The ReconstruKction Of Light and The Power to Believe.

The looming dissolution of the Beatles, after a stirring run of creative genius, signaled that everything would be different in the ’70s. They released their final album in Abbey Road, though the earlier-recorded Let It Be would follow, after some post-session doctoring from Phil Spector. They weren’t the only ones who departed: The original Jimi Hendrix Experience, Eric Burdon and the Animals and the Jeff Beck Group fell apart, even as Rolling Stones co-founder Brian Jones died. The warm feelings of Woodstock were quickly forgotten in the bloody aftermath of Altamont.

The death of Brian Jones, July 3rd , Brian Jones had long since relinquished his role as a major contributor to the band he founded, the Rolling Stones, when he drowned in his swimming pool at his home in Cotchford Farm, the estate formerly owned by A.A. Milnes, author of the ever popular children’s book, Winnie the Pooh. He had been fired by the Stones the month before due to drug use and increasingly erratic behavior, leaving Jones more or less out in the cold as far as any further recording ventures were concerned. Initially ruled “death by misadventure,” the verdict was later questioned when rumors spread that a construction worker named Frank Thorogood actually murdered Jones and had made a deathbed confession to a confidante. In 2008, the Sussex police department declared it was no longer investigating the claim. Nevertheless, Jones became the first member of the so-called 27 club, whose membership now includes Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Amy Whitehouse and a number of other artists whose lives ended at the fateful age of 27. His death also ended a prolific and profound era for the Stones, which many still argue, was the most creative period of their collective career.

At the same time, bands appeared that would dominate the decade to come. Led Zeppelin released their acclaimed first and second albums in ’69, laying a sturdy foundation for superstardom. Zeppelin seemed to arrive as a fully formed new blues-rock variant, harder and louder than anything that had come before. In fact, after touring together extensively, the band arrived in the studio with this material so well rehearsed that they only needed 36 hours spread out over two weeks to complete the album. Its influence, however, has endured – not just as a template for their own career, but also for untold legions of soon-to-be-famous heavy-metal purveyors.

In the summer of 1969, Zeppelin was a band on the rise. Its self-titled first album, released in January of that year, reached Number 10 on the Billboard charts in the U.S., and peaked at Number 6 in the U.K. The band’s pairing of blues, folk and psychedelia eventually would make it the biggest band of the 1970s, “as influential in that decade as The Beatles were in the previous one,”  Zeppelin would play more than 40 gigs on their Summer of 69 tour of U.S.A.

Chicago issued the first of what will eventually be four straight multi-album projects, A band with a bright horn section and a scalding guitarist, Chicago was really all about dichotomy back then. Four songs from their introductory double album would enter the charts, through to 1972’s Chicago V. 

Mick Taylor joined The Stones, sparking their most heralded period – though one that was marked by a turn toward darker subject matter. Rolling Stones, ‘Let It Bleed’ was aptly titled, the second in a quartet of genius albums by the Stones echoed all of the very real apprehensions surrounding this era – like a gritty yin to the Beatles’ utopian yang on ‘Abbey Road.’ Mick Taylor’s arrival also ushered in a harder-edged sound, which combined to create one of rock’s most visceral triumphs. It’s sexy, foreboding, topical and dangerous, sometimes all at once.

Altamont – December 6th was one of the darkest days in music history, Altamont sealed the lid on the promise of peace and love that was capped by Woodstock, and did so within mere months following that celebratory event itself. The Stones, who headlined the sprawling festival in the California desert, may have had good intentions to offer a free concert, but enlisting the Hell’s Angels as security was a terrible idea. Though the line-up was stellar—CSNY, Santana and Jefferson Airplane reprised their roles from Woodstock, along with the Flying Burrito Brothers providing an excellent add-on—an aura of violence and uncertainty pervaded the proceedings. Both Jagger and Airplane singer Marty Balin were accosted the former as he left his chopper, the latter onstage and the death of concert goer Meredith Hunter by a pack of Angels who claimed they saw him wielding a gun, ensured the fact that an idyllic utopian era of the ’60s was quickly come to an end.

‘Abbey Road’ was always a far more fitting send off for the Beatles than ‘Let It Be’ could have ever been. It’s among Paul McCartney’s brightest, most artistically satisfying, moments. But John Lennon’s punctuations (and, to a quickly emerging degree, George Harrison’s) undoubtably make it so. Moments away from imploding, they arrived for these sessions as distinct individuals, rather than stylized mop-topped group. Yet, for a moment in time and for this one last time, the Beatles’ separate personalities seemed to work again in service of the whole.

The Beatles Final Concert, January 30th, Although the Beatles’ impromptu performance on the rooftop of their Apple headquarters in London’s central environs was rumored to be a tryout for a return to live concerts, it was in fact part of the band’s final hurrah. The tumultuous sessions for their album Let It Be exposed a group in disarray, and indeed, a mere nine months after this live six song set—all culled from tracks they had been working on at the time The Beatles were officially broken. Filmed to provide a cap on the ill-fated Let It Be film, it’s still an exhilarating experience to watch the four former Fabs giving it a final go for the curious crowds below. “Hope we passed the audition,” John says before vacating the premises on orders from the police. Yes, Mr. Lennon, indeed you did.

Nick Drake, ‘Five Leaves Left’ was an autumnal yearning which surrounds these folk-rock recordings, and that’s likely the reason Drake was overlooked in his time. Even smart assists from Richard Thompson, then of Fairport Convention fame, couldn’t push this delicately conveyed album into the public consciousness back then. Sadly, Drake only had five years left. He died at age 26 in 1974 of an overdose.

This daring debut by prog rock band King Crimson, ‘In the Court of the Crimson King’ still remains prog’s standard bearer, the best example of a then-emerging movement that sought to combine musical concepts with rock. ‘In the Court of the Crimson King’ was also a template for how this seemingly ever-evolving band would operate, as their lineup almost immediately flew apart. The core pair of Robert Fripp and Greg Lake was all that remained by the time King Crimson set about recording a follow-up.

The Kinks ‘Arthur,’ a triumph of rock with a British sensibility subtitled “Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire,” never gets the short-hand praise of contemporary works like the Who’s ‘Tommy.’ That’s likely because it’s less ambitious. But it’s also far more listenable – like a rock musical, rather than a rock opera. Hailed as one of rock’s first great concept albums, ‘Tommy’ – like so many examples in that genre – sometimes suffers creatively at the expense of furthering the plot. But at its best, this represents the Who at their finest. And there’s no questioning how the album opened up new narrative possibilities for pop composers.

The Who Performed Tommy for the First Time, April 22nd Notably, the concert in Devon, England, preceded the album’s official release by a month. Although other offerings can claim to be the first real rock operas—The Pretty Things’ S.F, Sorrow and the Kinks’ Arthur, among them—The Who were the only band to take the unusual step of performing an album in its entirety. They’d later take Tommy to some of the world’s great opera houses, elevating rock in both intellect and intent.

The debut of supergroup Blind Faith, June 7th, Heralded as the first true “super group”—a term that would resurface continuously in the years that followed Blind Faith was based on an all-star union between guitarist Eric Clapton and drummer Ginger Baker of Cream and vocalist/keyboard player Steve Winwood of Traffic, with bassist Ric Grech, formerly of Family, added later on. Although Clapton in particular was wary of the implications involved in such a high profile ensemble and equally concerned about inviting the tempestuous Baker into the fold—he agreed to pursue the possibilities, owing in small part to the fact that he and Winwood had worked together in a short-lived ad hoc outfit called Powerhouse a few years before. The group’s less than spectacular live debut at Hyde Park further exacerbated Clapton’s concerns, and after a single spotty album and tours of Scandinavia and the U.S., the group disbanded later that year.

Dylan Reemerges at the Isle of Wight, August 31st, Dylan had been largely absent from public view since a 1966 motorcycle accident drove him into self-imposed seclusion. Other than his work with the Band at Big Pink, he chose to spend time with his family and record an album, Nashville Skyline, a shocking departure from any album he had offered before. Consequently, the announcement of his appearance at England’s Isle of Wight Festival attracted an extraordinary amount of interest, including the curiosity of various Beatles, a Stone, Eric Clapton, Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett and a still gestating Elton John. Rumor had it that Lennon, Harrison and Starr might join Dylan onstage, and although that proved false, Dylan alone was enough to mesmerize the masses. Dressed in a beige suit, his hair cut short, he performed a 17-song set with backing from the Band, a concert that included several classics from his catalog as well as tracks from Nashville Skyline and its immediate predecessor, John Wesley Harding. It’s still considered a landmark performance today.

That was probably to be expected for a generation still reeling from shocking assassinations and an ever-escalating war. So, too, was a move toward nostalgia for the old ways. Bob Dylan Having hinted at his intentions on the more rustic ‘John Wesley Harding,’ Dylan definitively left behind protest music for a head-long dive into deep country for the charming, determinedly happy ‘Nashville Skyline.’ In its own way, this was revolutionary too as he went country, even as his old backing musicians in The Band released a determinedly homespun self-titled masterpiece. The Byrds also splintered, with two members Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman left to dive deeper into their passion for country and western music. The resulting album, unfortunately, did little on the charts – but it proved to be a well-spring of inspiration for descendent bands like the Eagles. breaking away to form the Americana-focused Flying Burrito Brothers.

Although there had been several gingerly moves to find common ground between the disparate realms of country music and rock ’n’ roll early rock pioneers Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Everly Brothers and Rick Nelson all had claims on country—in the divided America of the late ’60s, followers of the two styles were decidedly distinct. Nevertheless, the Byrds and the Buffalo Springfield effectively made efforts to narrow that divide, making it only natural that the two groups they spawned, the Flying Burrito Brothers and Poco respectively, would, to paraphrase the title of the latter’s debut album, pick up the pieces. As a result of releases like The Flying Burrito Brothers’ debut, The Gilded Palace of Sin, in February 1969, country-rock blossomed, spearheaded by the influence of “cosmic cowboy” Gram Parsons (a member of both the Byrds and the Burritos) before later finding a permanent bond with the release of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Will the Circle Be Unbroken, featuring members of both the new guard and the old, two years later.

The Stooges, ‘The Stooges’ This album’s wiry, first-take feel was no put on: Three songs from the Stooges‘ titanic debut were written in a single day, after their label said the album needed more material, then banged them out live. The ferocious results gave the nascent heavy metal genre new fire, presupposed far-off punk, and scared the hell out of parents everywhere.

Creedence Clearwater Revival began to come into their own here, reaching heralded high points with “Born on the Bayou” and “Proud Mary.” The rest of ‘Bayou Country’ doesn’t always reach that level, but the album is nevertheless surrounded by a sense of expectancy. They’re discovering themselves with every revolution of this album, and it’s a fizzy joy to hear. The second of an incredible run of three CCR albums from 1969 codifies every great thing the earlier ‘Bayou Country’ pointed toward. Sharply drawn, ‘Green River’ is just as sharply played – with none of the period-piece noodling that had occasionally seeped into their first two albums. John Fogerty dilated his muse on ageless cuts like “Bad Moon Rising,” the title track and “Lodi,” and Creedence finally found its true voice.

The Allman Brothers Band an accomplished debut as they blended rock, blues, jazz and a distinctly Southern sensibility to came up with something uniquely and forever their own. Taken for granted in today’s multi-cultural melting pot, ‘Santana’ marked the big bang of Latin rock. Within a year, congas and timbales had found their way into the music of the Rolling Stones, Sly Stone, Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis, among many others. But it all started here, as ‘Santana’ blended mind-blowing, genre-bending musical explorations with more compact songs like the rambunctious Top 10 hit ‘Evil Ways’.

Jimi Hendrix forms the Band of Gypsies, October and with the release of Electric Ladyland, Jimi Hendrix was at the height of his prowess, but the break-up of the Experience left him without a band and bereft of new recordings. His band at Woodstock, ostensively dubbed “Gypsy Sun and Rainbows,” found him expanding his original trio concept and reuniting with his former army buddy, Billy Cox. The aggregate, which Hendrix referred to as “a band of gypsies” when interviewed on The Dick Cavett Show, fell apart soon after, although Cox continued on bass and joined Hendrix for some informal recording dates with Buddy Miles. It was a natural combination; Miles had subbed for Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell on two tracks used for Electric Ladyland, and the trio went on to record a few demos and rehearse for an upcoming concert at the Fillmore East that would span New Year’s Eve. The self-titled album, released on Capitol Records to satisfy a contractual obligation, became the band’s only official recording, but clearly pointed the way to a more racially charged sound Hendrix was working on for the future.

Woodstock, August 15th-18th, If ever there was a single gathering that served to define the spirit of the ’60s, those three days spent in the muddy fields of Yasgur’s farm in upstate New York takes the prize. It wasn’t always pleasant—despite an amazing array of rock’s most influential artists (Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, CSNY, Santana, Jefferson Airplane, Richie Havens, et. al.), the traffic, the mud and the scarcity of supplies (other than the acid of course) tended to test the resolve of all involved. Still, it was that spirit of love, peace and music that pervaded the proceedings over all, assuring a communal embrace while setting the precedent for festival gatherings, a basic blueprint that remains relevant to this day.

Jefferson Airplane, ‘Volunteers’ was the last album to feature both Marty Balin and Spencer Dryden, ‘Volunteers’ blended a few bucolic moments (featuring guest stars Jerry Garcia and members of CSNY) in with the now-expected psychedelic rock – but that’s not this album’s best-remembered legacy. Instead, it’s a series of molten, occasionally profanity-laced rebukes of the American status quo. They left the ’60s with a bang.

Joining together for the first of what would become a string of free-wheeling, muscular successes alongside his band Crazy Horse, Neil Young blows a hole in the comfy folk-rock conventions of ‘Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere’ in fact, has a lot more in common with the wild eclecticism of his work with Buffalo Springfield, but with a new tone that’s both sharper and looser.

Records in  heavy rotation in my bedroom included the debut album from Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II, The Beatles Abbey Road , The Who’s Tommy, King Crimson’s In The Court Of The Crimson King a great record,one that for its time was truly unique, The Rolling Stones Beggar’s Banquet which never left my turntable and the follow-up release Let It Bleed, Neil Young’s masterpiece Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, Zappa’s Hot Rats which help change my musical perspective, Fleetwood Mac’s Then Play On, CSN debut, Blind Faith’s one and only official release which is also a very strange record, Nashville Skyline by Bob Dylan, The MC5’s Kick Out The Jams, Isaac Hayes’ Hot Buttered Soul which arrived unexpectedly when I did not respond in time to a record company selection deadline and glad I got this gem,Chicago Transit Authority double set before they shortened their name to Chicago,  Jethro Tull’s Stand Up, Live Dead, The Doors Soft Parade, Pink Floyd’s Live Ummagumma, Jefferson Airplane’s Volunteers, and Procol Harum’s A Salty Dog.

Few events in American history caused as much upheaval as the war in Vietnam. Young people took to streets and college campuses, protesting a conflict that they viewed as little more than an excuse for a murder machine entangling thousands of young draftees. Not surprisingly, musicians supplied the soundtrack against which protest was pursued. With the sound and imagery flashing across television screens night after night, it was only natural that people would find respite in an array of anthems—“Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Street Fighting Man from the Rolling Stones,” “For What It’s Worth (written about the riots on Sunset Strip) by Buffalo Springfield, “Machine Gun” from Jimi Hendrix, Country Joe and the Fish’s “Vietnam Song” and “Volunteers” which came courtesy of Jefferson Airplane. All served to remind the youth of the country that they weren’t alone in their determination to sway some sentiment and avoid the bloodshed overseas.

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