- Forget the Polydor and EG reissues (and anything that’s come along lately) – these early British pressings are the only way to hear this album sound the way it should
- Contains the rare pre-Crimson Robert Fripp demo of I Talk To The Wind, recorded with a female lead vocalist [which can be found at the end of side one]
- 4 1/2 stars: “…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 definitive study of the original King Crimson.”
This original pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
Subtitled “A Personal Collection compiled by Robert Fripp for EG Records”
No doubt one can find original British copies of the albums from which these songs are taken that sound better, but they tend to be quite expensive and extremely hard to find in clean condition. This gets you most of the more important King Crimson material in one handy 2 LP album.
The Polydor reissues we’ve played were passable at best, and the Editions EG recut is a complete disaster. I’m sure the cassette produced back in the day had better fidelity.
What the best sides of this British Prog Rock album have to offer is not hard to hear
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1976
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
Size and Space
One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.
Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.
We often have to go back and downgrade the copies that we were initially impressed with in light of such a standout pressing. Who knew the recording could be that huge, spacious and three dimensional? We sure didn’t, not until we played the copy that had those qualities, and that copy might have been number 8 or 9 in the rotation. Think about it: if you had only seven copies, you might not have ever gotten to hear a copy that sounded so open and clear. And how many even dedicated audiophiles would have more than one or two clean original British copies with which to do a shootout?
One further point needs to be made: most of the time these very special pressings just plain rock harder. When you hear a copy do what this copy can, it’s an entirely different – and dare I say unforgettable — listening experience.
What We’re Listening For on A Young Person’s Guide to King Crimson
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Cadence and Cascade
Ladies of the Road
I Talk to the Wind (Demo)
The Night Watch
Book of Saturdays
Peace – A Theme
Cat Food (Single version)
Coda From Larks’ Tongues in Aspic (Part One)
In the Court of the Crimson King
AMG 4 1/2 Star Review
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.