For almost two decades before King Crimson's catalog became a minefield of odd retrospectives, live oddities, and archival treasure troves, A Young Person's Guide to King Crimson was the only worthwhile retrospective the band had ever had -- or seemed likely to receive. Originally released in 1976 following the band's apparently irrevocable split of the year before, this Robert Fripp-compiled double album rounded up an excellent, if somewhat idiosyncratic, survey of the group's seven years together, its contents ranging from the unimpeachable classics to unimaginable rarities -- the pre-Crimson demo of "I Talk to the Wind" was a collector's dream at the time, while the presence of "Groon" took the heat off anyone who missed out on its sole previous appearance, as the B-side of 1970's "Cat Food" single. Of the other tracks, three-fifths of the debut album included the anthemic poles of "21st Century Schizoid Man" and "Epitaph," and served to remind just how powerful In the Court of the Crimson King was on release, while more recent highlights included both "Red" and "Starless" from the band's final album (Red), Starless and Bible Black's eternally atmospheric "The Night Watch," and, as if to prove that the band's sense of humor was never far from the surface, the ribald saga of "Ladies of the Road." A vast booklet of facts and figures, again compiled by Fripp and drawing from his own squirrel-like horde of King Crimson memorabilia, rounded off the package. It's a sign of just how well conceived this collection was that, no matter how many more so-called "best-ofs" the band has endured, A Young Person's Guide remains the definitive study of the original King Crimson.
AllMusic Review by Dave Thompson