For an affordable and short (really short -- 23 minutes) introduction to the wonders of King Crimson, The Abbreviated King Crimson: Heartbeat will do the trick. The EP was released to coincide with the appearance of the mammoth box set The Essential King Crimson: Frame By Frame back in late 1991. Split almost 50-50 between early Crimson and the later '80s version of the group, many classic tracks are left off (nothing off the fan favorite Red is present), so it's certainly not a definitive King Crimson anthology. Still, the band's attention to detail and perfection are nearly unparalleled, as evidenced by Adrian Belew's Police-sounding guitar gracing the ballad "Matte Kudesai," and Tony Levin's bass showcase "Elephant Talk." And the two above-mentioned tracks show why Crimson was one of the few progressive art-rock bands to be embraced by the late-'70s/early-'80s new wave movement. Nearly all of the songs are either in edited or abbreviated versions, but the early classics "21st Century Schizoid Man" and "In the Court of the Crimson King" shine even as shorter compositions. And of interest to King Crimson completists are the presence of such oddities as "Medley" (a combination of all the tracks on the album) and "The King Crimson Barber Shop" (Tony Levin shows that he's talented as a vocalist as well, handling all the vocals via modern technology).
AllMusic Review by Greg Prato