Not sure where to start on which album of King Crimson to get? Well the folks at DGM issued a compilation called The Condensed 21st Century Guide to King Crimson 1969-2003. It’s probably one of the best places to sample the entire (almost) catalog of King Crimson without shelling out the big bucks blindly. The band went through various line-up changes through the years with Robert Fripp remaining a constant member.
On this 2CD, 32 song compilation they feature some essential tracks from all eras of the band except the 1970’s release Lizard. Some of my personal favorite racks include "Epitaph", "The Court of the Crimson King" (from the 1969 debut, In the Court of the Crimson King). The band at this time consisted of Greg Lake (bass & vocals), Ian McDonald (reeds, woodwinds, Mellotron, keyboards, and vibes), Michael Giles (drums), Robert Fripp (guitar) and Peter Sinfield, (lyrics).
The quirky "Cat Food" from the follow-up release In the Wake of Poseidon which was similar in some ways to the debut but contained a slightly jazzier element. As mentioned previously, nothing is featured from Lizard which really boggles my mind because I rather enjoy that album.
"Ladies of the Road" from 1971's Islands. This album in many ways showed what was to come next with the band’s ever evolving line-up and sound. Aside from Robert Fripp, there was a new line-up on this album which included Mel Collins (saxophone), Boz Burrell (Bass, vocals), Ian Wallace (drums).
Next selections are my favorite era of the band’s early history which was my introduction. They had a more metallic feel than the previous albums. The band now consisted of Bill Bruford of Yes (drums), Jaime Muir (percussions), John Wetton of Family (bass, vocals), and David Cross (violin). The songs from ‘Larks' Tongues In Aspic‘ are “Larks' Tongues In Aspic Part I (Abridged)”, and “Book Of Saturday” Then from ‘Starless And Bible Black ’ only one song is featured called “ Fracture (Abridged)” .From ’Red’ an abridged version of “Starless (my favorite), “Red” and “Fallen Angel”.
The band went dormant between 1975-1981 as leader/guitarist Robert Fripp split the group up When the band returned, it was a completely different sounding band. A new band and a new decade gave Fripp ideas to look forward rather than take up where the previous line-up left off. Only Bill Bruford (drums) returned to the fold. Joining Robert & Bill were Tony Levin (Stick, bass) and Adrian Below (guitars, vocals).
One of the differences is the music was more song based with a new wave/punk attitude while retaining a complex progressive edge. Songs from this ear are "Elephant Talk", "Discipline", "Matte Kudasai" (from ‘Discipline‘), "Heartbeat" (from ‘Beat‘), and "Three of a Perfect Pair" (from ‘Three Of A Perfect Pair‘).
Then in 1984 Fripp retired the band for a decade and resurfaced with yet another line-up in 1994. This time retaining the same band from the 80‘s formation and adding Trey Gunn (Stick, bass, Warr guitar) and Pat Mastelotto (drums), making it a "double trio". I was fortunate to see this version of the band live. Then the band scaled down in 2000 for The ConstuKction of Light without Levin and Bruford. They also recorded in 2003 The Power to Believe with this line-up.
After several listens this compilation is the perfect introduction to King Crimson even though it’s truly not a complete as an avid fan such as myself would like. Perhaps if they made it a 3cd set, they could cover all the bases. Other than that, this is a very nice compilation.
Reviewed by Ron Fuchs on June 12th, 2007