The Concise King Crimson

King Crimson

Caroline, 1993

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Boy, that title doesn't lie. This is about as concise as you can get when summing up an entire career of a progressive rock outfit. Fortunately, the compilers have a pretty good idea of Crimson's best work, making this a great introduction.

This single-disc overview came out in 1993, right before the band reconvened for its fourth incarnation, meaning in 14 tracks the disc spans 10 albums and 14 years of work. Whole albums are skipped over and two tracks are shortened, with preference given to some other albums, but it does a good job of telling the story's highlights. It's fair to say if you like what's here, you'll want to delve into the more difficult music.

Running chronologically, the disc opens with three full-length tracks from The Court Of The Crimson King, which remains a progressive rock cornerstone and a great nighttime listen. "21st Century Schizoid Man" and "Epitaph" both offer a slightly political lyrical bent coupled with Mellotron-heavy passages and distorted guitars, making doomy industrial music popular long before Trent Reznor ever thought of it. The title track is slightly lesser than those two but still solid; the stupid "puppet's dance" section is cut out, which makes the track stronger.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

From there, the band would devolve into showy self-indulgence during its first incarnation, but two of the more accessible songs are here in "Cat Food" and "Ladies Of The Road." Neither is representative of its parent album (In The Wake Of Poseidon and Islands, respectively), but both are fun listens. Including "Cadence and Cascade" or "Sailor's Tale" would have been better, but such is life. Lizard is skipped over, and for good reason.

However, the second incarnation of Crimson made some of the band's best music, and the first two albums there are skipped for no reason. Larks' Tongues In Aspic needs some representation here, as it showed a lean and hungry band with impressive musical chops, but neither the title track nor "The Talking Drum" are to be found. This is about the only place where the collection is really lacking, as that album is a fan favorite.

But three songs from Red are included, which kind of makes up for it. A short version of the moody ballad "Starless" is included, as is the heavy rock of the title track and "Fallen Angel;" these three are among the most straight-ahead pieces the band recorded and work well on this overview.

The last third of the disc is given over to the band's progressive new wave phase, the point where Adrian Belew jumped on board and breathed new life into this band. Discipline remains an amazing album throughout, so choosing any three songs from it would be tough, but the ones here are fine -- the gorgeous "love" song "Matte Kudasai," the kinetic "Frame By Frame" and the twisted new wave of "Elephant Talk," with Belew doing his best David Byrne. The disc rounds out with the pop of "Heartbeat," "Three Of A Perfect Pair" and the bass-driven "Sleepless," which are the best songs from their respective discs.

Now, it should be noted that this is not Crimson's best work, but rather its most accessible, the sort of collection that will make you want to dig. It's a fine primer and works well for a quick Crimson fix or introduction.

Rating: B+

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