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King Crimson

How is it that of nearly all the progressive rock combos of the 1970s, King Crimson sounds today the least dated and most relevant (aside from the fact it's still around off and on these days, albeit with a different lineup)? Unlike, say, the Moody Blues or Genesis, Crimson — especially the 1973-74 edition — played with an overt, thorny, and often feverish edge, born of rock 'n' roll aggression and jazz improvisation. Proof: the searing, torrential rave-ups of the April '74 versions of "Starless" and the building from rhapsody to near-thrash "Talking Drum." Although many bands would drift into la-la land with interminable, ego-soaked solos, Crimson's approach was more oriented to group interaction (that jazz influence again). The band would often completely improvise selections ("Wilton Carpet," "Is There Life Out There?") that retained and sometimes even exceeded the vitality and excitement of its regular set while keeping solos relatively concise. Further, leader/guitarist Robert Fripp kept an ear to the horizon — Deceiver 2 features indications ("No Pussyfooting") of his '70s/'80s duo adventures with experimental rock-icon-to-be Brian Eno. If you're a devotee, you've got to get this; and for younger listeners, it's a great place to start.

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Mark Keresman