Saturday, December 3, 2016

King Crimson - 1975 [1990] "A Young Person's Guide To King Crimson"

A Young Person's Guide to King Crimson is a 2-LP compilation album by the band King Crimson, released in 1976. At the time the band had split. The track selection was by Robert Fripp.
Its name is most likely derived either from the famous orchestral work The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra from composer Benjamin Britten or the 1960s television series Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, created by conductor/composer Leonard Bernstein.
The gatefold-sleeve featured, as the front and back cover, artwork by Scottish artist Fergus Hall. Included as part of the package was a booklet, replete with photographs, and detailing gig history and notable events: this was compiled by Robert Fripp from his own archive.
To date, its sole CD release has been in Japan, in 1990. This 2-CD set, which faithfully duplicated the vinyl running-order, included a reproduction of the booklet, scaled-down. Playing times are approximately 40 minutes long for CD1, and 35 minutes for CD2.

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.

"A Young Person's Guide to King Crimson is a very good compilation, containing a wide variety of tracks from 1968-1974. One will notice that it was compiled by Fripp himself in 1976 and, yes, both Schizoid Man and any representation of the Lizard album are missing, at least sonically. The inclusion of a rare and rough (although sprightly) Giles Dyble Giles Fripp version of I Talk to the Wind from 1968 AND the accompanying scrap-booklet, however, are the best features of this release. They alone are worth the hiked up price at most used record stores. The insert contains a list of every gig KC performed from 1969-1974 with the omission of the surprise Wolverhampton gig of 1971, and a ton of pictures, many of which haven't seen the light of day anywhere else since then. There are rare photographs of the 69 incarnation on stage and in transit during tours, some capturing the brief 1970 incarnation with Haskell, Tippett and McCulloch, many from the 71-72 line-up at Hyde Park, and some really neat pictures of Jamie Muir and his battery of instruments on stage with the band dressed in his animal skins circa late 1972. Plus, the album cover is really spacey!"

 This is a great collection and contains most of the band's best music. The material was recorded between 1969 and 1974. There are 15 tracks and it lasts 74 minutes. In my opinion, the band recorded two classic albums: "In the Court of Crimson King" (1969) and "Red" (1974). This record also includes the best tracks from the band's five other studio albums.

The original version of the band included Robert Fripp, Ian McDonald, Greg Lake and Mike Giles. Jimi Hendrix saw them play at the Marquee Club In London and declared them the best band in the world. Their debut in 1969, In the Court of the Crimson King, was probably the first progressive rock album. The band set a benchmark for rock that has rarely been surpassed, combining high standards of musicianship with an urge to experiment.

Ian McDonald wrote a lot of the music on the band's first album including the songs "In the Court of Crimson King" and "I Talk to the Wind." McDonald and Giles left the band after the first US tour unable to deal with the pressures of sudden fame. Greg Lake left in 1970 to join ELP because he thought the band would not be the same without McDonald & Giles.

Musicians needed serious chops to play Crimson's music and Fripp became a demanding bandleader. Fripp is one of rock's finest guitarists and not many players can live up to his standards. After the break-up of the first band, line-ups changed frequently. Fripp remains something of an enigma. During the 1970s he seemed to fall-out with many of his former band mates. McDonald was due to rejoin in 1974, but Fripp decided to take a break from the music business in order to enter a spiritual retreat in his native Dorset. This ended the band's first era of existence. Crimson returned in 1981 with a new line-up. For me, the later versions of Crimson were a disappointment. The musicians were good, but the music was less interesting.

I have always loved the version of "I Talk to the Wind" on this album, although it sounds like a demo. It was recorded at a flat in 93A Brondesbury Road in London. It features Judy Dyble on lead vocals. Dyble was a founder member of Fairport Convention and Fripp's landlady in the early 1970s. The musicians include Fripp, Mike Giles, Peter Giles and MacDonald. This is my favourite version of the song.

Everything is brilliant. There are several great tracks which feature the violin playing of David Cross. He added another dimension to the music, but he only managed to stay for two and a half albums.

The original vinyl release came with a booklet which told the history of the band through album reviews and interviews with former band members in the music press. It is a fascinating read, mainly because it is so honest. It documents the tensions within the band. It was edited by the then "Bob" Fripp, who mysteriously chose to not reveal his side of the story.

Tracks Listing

Disc 1
1. Epitaph (8:52)
2. Cadence and cascade (3:36)
3. Ladies of the road (5:27)
4. I talk to the wind (3:15)
5. Red (6:18)
6. Starless (12:17)

Disc 2
1. The night watch (4:38)
2. Book of Saturday (2:52)
3. Peace - A theme (1:14)
4. Cat food (2:43)
5. Groon (3:30)
6. Coda from Larks' Tongues in aspic part one (2:09)
7. Moonchild (2:24)
8. Trio (5:38)
9. In the court of the Crimson King (9:21)

Total Time: 74:14

Line-up / Musicians

- Bill Bruford / drums, percussion (5, 6, 7, 12 & 14)
- Boz Burrell / bass, vocals (3)
- Mel Collins / saxes, flute (2, 3 & 6)
- David Cross / violin (7, 8 & 14) viola & voice (12)
- Judy Dyble / vocals (4)
- Robert Fripp / guitars, mellotron, devices (all)
- Michael Giles / drums, percussion, backing vocals (1, 2, 4, 10, 11, 13 & 15)
- Peter Giles / bass (4, 10 & 11)
- Gordon Haskell / vocals (2)
- Greg Lake / bass, vocals (1, 10, 13 & 15)
- Ian McDonald / woodwinds, reeds, keyboards, mellotron, vocals (1, 4, 6, 13 & 15)
- Robin Miller / oboe (6)
- Jamie Muir / percussion, voice (12)
- Peter Sinfield / words (1, 2 & 15)
- Keith Tippett / piano (2 & 10)
- Ian Wallace / drums (3)
- John Wetton / bass, vocals (5, 6, 7, 8, 12 & 14)

7 comments:

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  2. Hey S.
    Just found your blog.
    Impressive !
    Good luck !

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  3. I shelled out $75.00 USD plus shipping on eBay quite a few years ago for a Japanese version of this on CD. Don't know if it's legit or not, but that doesn't matter, I have it.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sincere thanks. This one is virtually impossible to find, nowadays.
    All the best.

    ReplyDelete