Discipline / Beat / Three of a Perfect Pair
(Virgin / Caroline)

KING CRIMSON: Discipline / Beat / Three of a Perfect Pair (Virgin / Caroline)"King Crimson is completely over. For ever and ever." - Robert Fripp, October 18, 1974

Well, not quite. In April of 1981, Fripp formed a new group called Discipline with drummer Bill Bruford, bassist Tony Levin, and ex-Talking Head & Zappa alumnus, Adrian Belew on guitar and vocals. By the time the album hit the stores, Fripp changed the group's name to King Crimson. The band had a completely different sound from any of the group's previous lineups. Although they toured and recorded regularly over the next few years, they split up after two more albums, 1982's Beat, and 1984's Three of a Perfect Pair. All three albums were recently reissued as part the band's 30th anniversary series, remastered in 24-bit by Fripp himself.

KING CRIMSON: Discipline photo shoot Discipline was the first new studio album from the band since 1974's Red. At first, combining the abstract style of Adrian Belew with the textures of Fripp doesn't sound like it would be a viable match. But the pairing of these two guitarists worked out better than they could've imagined. From Levin's stick intro on "Elephant Talk" to the ending of the album's title track, Discipline is arguably the band's finest moment. Uncluttered by the snap, crackle & pop of vinyl, these tracks burst from your speakers with unbridled power. They're not all 'in your face,' though. Songs like "Matte Kudasai" and the atmospheric instrumental, "The Sheltering Sky" offer a striking contrast to the raw intensity of songs like "Indiscipline." The sonic clarity on the new remaster is stunning, especially for a recording of this time period. Now it sounds even better, thanks to the impeccable production work of Rhett Davies. But the most amazing thing is how well it holds up today--20 years after it's initial release. An alternate version of "Matte Kudasai" is added on as a bonus track.

KING CRIMSON: In the studio during the Beat sessionsBeat marked the first time that King Crimson had the same personnel for two albums in a row. The majority of Beat was inspired by 50's beat poet, Jack Kerouac. Overall, the material isn't as good as Discipline, but it definitely has its moments. "Heartbeat" is the most accessible song on the album, and it quickly became a concert favorite for many fans. Belew's delivery (both vocally and musically) is more assured and stylistically his own on Beat. Fripp's contributions are more frequent and longer, but it's Belew that dominates the spotlight. "Waiting Man" takes you on an excursion into world music with its polyrhythmic beats, while "Neurotica" conjures up images of a large city, with its irregular rhythms and tense vocals. Over the years, people have accused KC of being little more than noise; and with tracks like this and "Requiem" in particular, it's hard to argue the point. Still, nobody does noise like the Crims. The sound quality on the new remaster is quite good, although only slightly better than the 1989 version.

KING CRIMSON: On stage during the Three of a Perfect Pair tourThree of a Perfect Pair is the most commercial of the 3 CDs. It's also the third album in a row with the same personnel--a feat that hasn't happened since. Like Beat, Three of a Perfect Pair doesn't quite meet the standards set on the Discipline album, but it does contain more than a few Crimson treats. The 'left side' of the CD finds the band's experimental leanings emerging from a more mainstream sound. The title track is a quirky, yet enticing tune that the band still plays in concert. "Sleepless" is the highlight here, with Levin's aggressive bass work being the main attraction. "Man With The Open Heart" sounds eerily similar to Talking Heads, especially the vocals. The 'right side' is more explorative, with each member of the band searching for new territory on their respective instruments.

Another thing that the band has been accused of in the past was a lack of humor. Hopefully, that accusation will be put to rest when people hear "The King Crimson Barber Shop." After Belew joined the band, he became the catalyst Fripp needed to loosen up a bit. There's no way you would have ever heard King Crimson effectively poking fun at themselves (in barbershop quartet style, no less) before Adrian joined the group. There are five additional bonus tracks (two different outtakes of "Industry" and three versions of "Sleepless"), but the best bonus track of them all is "The King Crimson Barber Shop." The sound quality on this reissue has more depth and detail than the previously issued versions, but it's not a huge difference.

To sum things up, Discipline is essential King Crimson and should be a part of any serious music collection (even if you already have the previous version). Beat is somewhat of a mixed bag, and the only one without bonus tracks. Three of a Perfect Pair falls somewhere in between the other two, but is still recommended. The packaging for all three discs duplicates the original vinyl artwork (now with gatefold sleeves). Each disc includes a booklet with newspaper reviews (both good and bad), set lists, tour dates and other odds and ends.

© 2001 Steve Marshall