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Why Is King Crimson’s Audio Diary Boxed Set Possibly The Best Music Bargain Today?

Mark Smotroff gets his prog rock in high fidelity and high quantity…

Robert Fripp — founder, visionary, guitarist, composer and over-arching spiritual leader of legendary progressive rock band King Crimson — offers an interesting quote in the current tour program guide (originally appearing on his diary blog) worth considering for a moment:

AR-KingCrimson50TourBookCover450.jpg“A primary aim for the King Crimson Celebration Tour of 2019, celebrating fifty years of KC in the world, is to find innocent ears: ears that have never heard KC music; and ears-of-experience able to enter the musical moment as if for the first time. It is of greater interest to me that King Crimson is heard and seen, as it is and for what it is, free from the weight of Received Opinion and the baggage of expectation, than that KC is actually liked.”

Elsewhere on the King Crimson website he discusses a recent concert epiphany: 

“In Pompeii, a large percentage of the audience was young couples; KC moved into the mainstream in Italy. I walked onstage knowing that this band’s position in the world has changed level.” 

Indeed, one of the immediate things I noticed at the two shows I saw here in the San Francisco Bay Area (Fox Theater Oakland, September 5 & 6) was that there were many more Women there than I’d seen in the past. Many were there with spouses. King Crimson as family entertainment? Perhaps!

AR-KingCrimsonAudioDiary450.jpgThese details connect to a quite brilliant marketing gem I discovered at the “merch” table outside the concert hall: a value-priced, five — count ’em 5 ! — CD boxed set chronicling the rise of what is arguably the fourth great incarnation of King Crimson. For $35, it is a tremendous value and a great primer both for newbies and older fans not familiar with this new incarnation of the band.  

From the band’s website, they detail what’s in the King Crimson Audio Diary 2014-2018:

“King Crimson in its best environment – recorded live. Described as an audio diary, this 5 CD set includes one set per year of live material recorded from 2014 through 2018. The 2014 material is fully mixed from multi-track tapes by Robert Fripp and Jakko Jakszyk. The 2015-2018 performances were taken directly from the band’s stereo board mixes. Drawn from concerts worldwide in the five years period represented, from the first public concert in Albany, NY in 2014, to one of the final concerts in Japan in December, 2018. Packaged in a rigid slipcase featuring artwork from the beloved and dearly missed Francesca Sundsten, containing 3 gatefold sleeves containing the 5 individual CDs, plus a 24-page full color booklet with previously unseen photographs.”

AR-KingCrimsonBandOnTheRun450.jpgWhen they describe these as “stereo board mixes” please note that they are mixed for listening and are not awkward monitor mixes we sometimes hear on archival releases from the past. These concert recordings sound fabulous (play loud!) and the performances are exemplary. 

Its impossible to fully explain how this band sounds but I’ll by offering this analogy:  you’ll be hearing the engine of a finely oiled muscle car revving up and discovering horsepower hidden under its sizable engine’s hood. 

Yes that is right folks, you can drive your very own new King Crimson on the ride to 2020 and beyond… 

One of the things about this new era of King Crimson is that lead singer and co-lead guitarist Jakko Jaksyk has an incredible facility to capture the vocal essence of earlier versions of the band (when Greg Lake, Boz Burrell and John Wetton were lead singers). So, not surprisingly, this incarnation leans heavily on that earlier era of music which hadn’t been played in ages, much of it not since the early 1970s. 

AR-KingCrimson50LOGO450.jpgThus, King Crimson Audio Diary 2014-2018 is an ideal toe in the water collection for fans new and old alike. New fans get to hear all this music presented by the current version of the group they have seen in concert and long time fans get to hear more of what they know and love coming into full flower. Its a win win situation, if you will.. 

I’m still working my way through this massive boxed set but some of my favorite tracks thus far include”One More Red Nightmare” from Chicago in 2014 and tracks from the shows I saw here in San Francisco that year! I was really happy to find included live performances of newer music (from a King Crimson side project which is an essential precursor to the current band), such as the beautiful title track to their album “A Scarcity of Miracles.”  You’ll also hear the more recent composition “Radical Action” evolving. 

There is so much here on the King Crimson Audio Diary 2014-2018! You get nearly 60 tracks for $35?  That is about 60 cents a track (even less if you buy through Amazon, click on any of the underlined titles here and you’ll jump to that page where you can order it online, released on September 20).  Getting this set you don’t have to hassle with downloads and you’ll also get the lovely packaging and a full color 24 page book! 

King Crimson Audio Diary 2014-2018 may be the best bang-for-your-buck music buy today and a great way to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the debut of this groundbreaking and continually inspiring group of musicians. 

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