This compilation presents two very different views into the performance life of King Crimson. The first disc gathers live material from the 1971/1972 quartet, a majority of which was culled from the Live at Summit Studios, Live at Plymouth, 1971, and Live in Detroit, MI 1971 archival recordings. The second disc, subtitled "Schizoid Men," contains a single 54-minute rendering of "21st Century Schizoid Man" that consists of ten separate sax and guitar solos seamlessly combined together. These were taken from various performances throughout the 1971/1972 era -- although exact dates are conspicuously absent in the packaging. Although the track is indexed for easier access to the edits, there are no interruptions or fades from blow to blow.
Up until the late '90s, there was precious little in the way of legitimate live recordings featuring the combo of Boz Burrell (bass/vocals), Mel Collins (saxes/flute/mellotron), Ian Wallace (drums), and Robert Fripp (guitar/mellotron). Ladies of the Road provides something for both the casual enthusiast as well as the hardcore collector by gathering not only a generous sampling of prime moments from the archival releases, but also an intense and previously unearthed rendering of Donovan's "Get Thy Bearings" -- which had also been covered to great effect by the original 1969 incarnation of King Crimson. The origins of the highly stylized "Schizoid Men" disc can be traced back over a half-decade to the Schizoid Man, No. 2 (1996) EP, which included five independent recordings of the song. In addition to the original LP version and edit, there are three respective live observations by the 1969, 1972, and 1974 combos. Although the idea may seem a bit over the top, the execution is flawless. On this disc, the various solos -- all taken from shows during the 1972 North American tour -- are spliced together and present a frenetic improvisational masterpiece. This is done by providing a rare insight into the real-time evolutionary processes involved in perpetually reinventing "21st Century Schizoid Man" live on-stage night after night. The song has not only become King Crimson's signature composition, but also the only tune performed by every incarnation of the band...so far.