Seven years after the demise of King Crimson after the album ‘Red’ in 1974, Robert Fripp decided it was time to return to the ‘first division’ and put together a quartet of musicians under the guise of Discipline. Fripp, who had spent many of the interim years in New York, was au fait with the New Wave bands on both sides of the Atlantic and accordingly recruited Americans Adrian Belew (Talking Heads, Frank Zappa, David Bowie) and Tony Levin (Peter Gabriel). Bill Bruford – a link to previous incarnations of King Crimson – completed the quartet, and although the music bore little resemblance to Fripp’s 1970s band, Discipline changed their name to King Crimson as the project gained momentum.
The three resulting albums – 1981’s ‘Discipline’, 1982’s ‘Beat’ and 1984’s ‘Three Of A Perfect Pair’ – have a more updated New Wave sound, partly due to Belew’s distinctive vocals and second guitar. Fripp was also looking to create ‘gamelan’ style of interlocking rhythms – an early influence for the math-rock bands of today? – and his complex arpeggios dovetailed with Belew’s range of angular guitar sounds.
Although ultimately short-lived – the band was dissolved after the 1984 tour by Fripp – this line up remains a popular one among aficionados. It was also the first time in Crimson history that the same band had recorded more than one album. Interestingly, until the very recent inclusion of ‘Indiscipline’ in the setlist, the 1980’s period has been ignored by Robert Fripp and the latest incarnation of King Crimson as they tour today.
Clearly, as with all box sets, this release isn’t aimed at attracting new fans. As the 1980s led us to commercialism and certain prog bands’ biggest selling (and worst) albums, King Crimson avoided falling into that trap. As a result, these three albums sound more current than most of Yes’ or Genesis’ 1980s output. The new mixes are (predictably) sonically stunning, and the plethora of material contained here makes this box a must-have for any fan of 1980s Crimson.
Luckily Robert Fripp owns all the rights to King Crimson’s recordings, a process that was not without a struggle. This of course means he has the freedom to release these large box sets. Somehow, sadly, I doubt we’ll ever see ‘Close To The Edge’ or ‘The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway’ receive the same treatment……