The 21st Century Guide to King Crimson, Vol. 1: 1969-1974

King Crimson

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The 21st Century Guide to King Crimson, Vol. 1: 1969-1974 Review

by Lindsay Planer

This set compiles what Robert Fripp contends is "a comprehensive overview for new ears of all that is necessary in the Crimson corpus." Going on to acknowledge that "old-generation completists might disagree with some choices, but material not included here is available for new-generation completists, should they wish." Enthusiasts' personal preferences aside, The 21st Century Guide to King Crimson, Vol. 1: 1969-1974 (2004) is the first of two four-disc volumes gathering the entire recorded output of the band in its variety of personnel. Each CD contains highlights from a specific era, either in the studio or live, and the material is presented in chronological order. Disc one tracks through In the Court of the Crimson King (1969), In the Wake of Poseidon (1970), Lizard (1970), and Islands (1971). Suitably, most of the debut effort is presented from recently recovered master tapes that had been unavailable for all prior pressings of the CD. Other truncated titles are the instrumental edits of the tracks "In the Wake of Poseidon" and "Islands," as well as an abridged version of "Sailor's Tale." Disc two offers a concert counterpart with ten selections from each of the touring incarnations of King Crimson circa 1969-1972. Among the standouts are a hard-driving cover of Donovan's "Get Thy Bearings," the rave-up "Groon," and an instrumental edit of "21st Century Schizoid Man" -- the latter pairing from February 11, 1972. Disc three houses cuts from Larks' Tongues in Aspic (1973), Starless and Bible Black (1974), and Red (1974), with abridged readings of "Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Pt. 1" and "Starless" being the only comparative anomalies. Disc four concludes the collection in epic fashion with what is hands-down the most compelling aggregate of performances ever assembled from the 1973-1974 lineup. The vast majority of the USA (1975) album is featured, with the notable exception of a slightly abridged "Exiles." Additionally, "Improv: Augsburg" is the sole inclusion to be previously unreleased and is excerpted from a March 27, 1974, show. The 24-page booklet has plenty of eye candy and visual ephemera surrounding a detailed chronology and discography of the band through its breakup in 1974.

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