This four-CD box provides the perfect introduction to one of rock’s most influential bands. Two discs cover studio recordings from the distinctly different periods of 1969-1971 and 1972-1974, and two present corresponding live performances. The majority of the studio tracks are culled from the band’s stunning 1969 debut, In the Court of the Crimson King (utilizing recently re-discovered master tapes) and 1973’s Larks Tongues in Aspic—arguably the group’s most significant pre-’80s albums. You also get a 24-page booklet containing a list of all the band’s gigs, a diary-like running commentary by guitarist Robert Fripp, and a bevy of cool photos and other graphic memorabilia.
The selections from the band’s first seven studio albums are well-chosen, and the song sequencing makes for an enjoyable listen, but it’s the live material that provides the greatest insight into what this group—or groups, as there are actually several different incarnations represented—was all about. From the clangorous guitar, menacing Mellotron, fuzz bass, and flute on the December ’69 Fillmore West performance of The Court of the Crimson King, to the positively alchemical Providence, improvised in Rhode Island during June ’74, the live discs come as close as possible to capturing Crimson’s raison d’etre. DGM. —Barry Cleveland