Originally released: 1997
BBC Radio Sessions
- 7'06 21st. Century Schizoid Man (Fripp, Lake, McDonald, Giles, Sinfield)
- 6'27 In The Court of the Crimson King (McDonald, Sinfield)
- 5'59 Get Thy Bearings (Donovan arr. Fripp, Lake, McDonald, Giles)
- 7'08 Epitaph (Fripp, Lake, McDonald, Giles, Sinfield)
Fillmore East, New York, 21 November 1969
- 11'41 A Man, A City (Fripp, Lake, McDonald, Giles, Sinfield)
- 7'42 Epitaph (Fripp, Lake, McDonald, Giles, Sinfield)
- 7'16 21st. Century Schizoid Man (Fripp, Lake, McDonald, Giles, Sinfield)
Fillmore West, San Francisco, 14 December 1969
- 3'47 Mantra (Fripp, Lake, McDonald, Giles, Sinfield)
- 3'15 Travel Weary Capricorn (Fripp, Lake, McDonald, Giles, Sinfield)
- 2'23 Improv - Travel Bleary Capricorn (Fripp, Lake, McDonald, Giles, Sinfield)
- 8'53 Mars (Holst arr. Fripp, Lake, McDonald, Giles, Sinfield)
Fillmore West, San Francisco, 15 December 1969
- 7'13 In The Court of the Crimson King (McDonald, Sinfield)
- 5'14 Drop In (Fripp, Lake, McDonald, Giles)
- 11'19 A Man, A City (Fripp, Lake, McDonald, Giles, Sinfield)
- 7'31 Epitaph (Fripp, Lake, McDonald, Giles, Sinfield)
- 7'37 21st. Century Schizoid Man (Fripp, Lake, McDonald, Giles, Sinfield)
- 9'42 Mars (Holst arr. Fripp, Lake, McDonald, Giles, Sinfield)
Plumpton Festival, 9 August 1969
- 7'14 21st. Century Schizoid Man (Fripp, Lake, McDonald, Giles, Sinfield)
- 10'32 Get Thy Bearings (Donovan arr. Fripp, Lake, McDonald, Giles)
- 6'43 In The Court of the Crimson King (McDonald, Sinfield)
- 8'46 Mantra (Fripp, Lake, McDonald, Giles, Sinfield)
- 3'57 Travel Weary Capricorn (Fripp, Lake, McDonald, Giles, Sinfield)
- 8'54 Improv (Fripp, Lake, McDonald, Giles, Sinfield)
- including By the Sleeping Lagoon (Coates)
- 7'23 Mars (Holst arr. Fripp, Lake, McDonald, Giles, Sinfield)
Chesterfield Jazz Club, 7 September 1969
- 7'57 21st. Century Schizoid Man (Fripp, Lake, McDonald, Giles, Sinfield)
- 6'20 Drop In (Fripp, Lake, McDonald, Giles)
- 7'22 Epitaph (Fripp, Lake, McDonald, Giles, Sinfield)
- 18'10 Get Thy Bearings (Donovan; improv. Fripp, Lake, McDonald, Giles)
- 5'29 Mantra (Fripp, Lake, McDonald, Giles, Sinfield)
- 4'54 Travel Weary Capricorn (Fripp, Lake, McDonald, Giles, Sinfield)
- 4'34 Improv (Fripp, Lake, McDonald, Giles, Sinfield)
- 5'37 Mars (Holst arr. Fripp, Lake, McDonald, Giles, Sinfield)
Reviews are listed in chronological order within each section. Please retain a chronological order when adding new reviews.
Date Submitted: 21-May-97
By: Eric Kearns (kkearns938 at aol dot com)
"I am overcome with joy! This release made my otherwise dreary day a pleasant one. When I read that Fripp actually used bootlegged material as filler for unfound tapes from the BBC....I laughed and smiled as if to say... that is smooth. I also enjoy the wonderful sonics! Great job cleaning up the sound of the tapes. I can only imagine what condition they might have been in... being so far from people who know. The Fillmore West 14th version of "Mars" is the same as the "Frame by Frame" release but I found a discrepancy on the dates ... FbF Box says December 10th '69 and the "Epitaph" box says December 14th.... any takers on this discrepancy? "Mars" (vol. 1) has to be on of the most evil sounding songs ever! The Mellotron wails as if it's being beaten and flogged! Absolutely fantastic! The BBC version of ITCOTKC is a delicate beauty with sharp teeth! Great release.... I can't wait to get the volumes 3 & 4!"
Date Submitted: 26-May-97
By: Daniel Kirkdorffer (DanKirkd at aol dot com)
"Listening to Epitaph was a revelation to me. Like many others I'm sure, I always perceived In The Court... and In The Wake... as the full extent of the creative output of the first King Crimson band. It is quite clear throughout this 4 CD set that this is not entirely true. We are provided with early incarnations of not just "Pictures of a City" ("A Man, A City"), and "The Devil's Triangle" ("Mars"), but also the germination of what was to become "Happy Family" on Lizard ("Improvs"), "The Letters" on Islands ("Drop In"), and even "Exiles" on Larks Tongues' in Aspic ("Mantra")! That's quite a reach! Thus the influence that the first band had on future Crimson music can not be denied. It is interesting to note that although all the band members receive equal credit for these tracks on these CDs, the future recorded versions do not extend writing credits beyond Fripp and Sinfield. These recordings provide additional insight into the make up of the band. It is clear that Fripp played a much lesser role in this version of King Crimson, and that he must have done a lot of practicing to improve his playing beyond what is captured here. Also noteworthy is Ian McDonald's saxophone, which never sounded like this on the studio releases. In fact in hindsight, Fripp's hiring of Mel Collins was surely his attempt to replicate McDonald's playing - something little hinted at heretofore. The quality of these recordings is quite acceptable, the packaging is first rate, and the booklet makes for interesting reading. In short, Epitaph is a definite must for all King Crimson fans."
Date Submitted: 28-May-97
By: Dick Zirkzee (zirkzee at worldonline dot nl)
"Although King Crimson never really was my greatest love in "prog" ( Genesis was and is ), I certainly counted "In The Court Of The Crimson King" and "Red" as belonging to the best records I have in my collection, and I am still regularly listening to them. This Epitaph compilation adds a dimension to what I knew about KC. I bought the set two days ago and the CD's haven't left my CD player since. The most striking for me is the power of the performances compared to the original recording of ITCOTCK, especially Epitaph is wonderful, powerful singing, great guitar parts and the mellotron gives me the shivers. A rare and welcome window in time to those day's."
Date Submitted: 30-May-97
By: Lou Fazio (lfazio at ny dot usanetworks dot com)
"Humble notes from a rabid fan(atic)...EPITAPH is fabulous material! THANK YOU VERY MUCH MR. FRIPP for making these recordings available!! The greatest revelation for me is how confident and authoritative the band sounds, considering they were all in their early 20's (excepting Mr. Giles, at 27), in 1969. Greg Lake's vocals are absolutely stellar, and Ian McDonald's alto saxophone work is frantic and blistering. Great liner notes from all members as well, they seem (very justifiably) proud to have been members of this influential line-up. Must order volumes 3 and 4 ASAP!"
Date Submitted: 6-Jun-97
By: Pawel Swirek (swierk at student dot uci dot agh dot edu dot pl)
"I got 2CD-version of Epitaph. Now I don't have CD 3 & 4 (I may have it in future). It is very good live album. Most of that album was available on many bootlegs. Some songs were repeated 2 or 3 times, but it doesn't matter. Live performance is very good. Radio tracks are good too, but unfortunatelly "Schizoid Man" and "Bearings" are in poor sound quality. I know songs from "Plumpton Festival" from bootleg "The Return Of The Crimson King" by Living Legend Records, but I don't have Chesterfield show. Some songs were released later with new titles, for example "Mantra" was used in opening section of "Exiles" on "Larks'..." and in first gig with Jamie Muir (I heard it from bootleg), "A Man A City" as "Pictures Of A City", improvs from Plumpton were used as "Happy Family" on Lizard album, "Drop In" as "The Letters". Unfortunatelly these very good shows are history and it never come back again. I'll buy 3 and 4 part of "Epitaph" as soon as it is possible"
Date Submitted: 7-Jun-97
By: Geoff Chaplin (CPCUMan at aol dot com)
"A favorite moment is that wonderful last run from the Plumpton show...the performance of Mantra itself is powerful enough, and is soon followed by a cathartic free section which features Fripp playing fast, Groon-like runs while the rest of the band plays with the contrast between noise and silence. Travel Weary Capricorn comes off well-enough (though Giles' voice does leave a bit to be asked), before falling into some more thematic improvisation, where the band plays with several rock themes -- compare this with the Larks-band's style, or a THRAK, for a good contrast. The band concentrates on developing a steady rhythm, playing around in it, then heads into some very dark, free territory, where the instruments (notably Giles' percussion, Fripp's guitar and the mellotron) generate fantastically new and challenging sounds and textures. Fripp throws in a quote from a folk song, after which Giles takes a solo which is quite different than the usual Big Rock fare, focusing instead upon the sounds of individual beats.
"The rest of the release is a wonderful work, both in terms of its musical moments, and the 'necromancy' of David Singleton. Well done! Of course, this only makes it all the more obvious how in need we are of archived Muir-era material, as well as some live Disciple-era band."
Date Submitted: 21-Jun-97
By: David Jacques (djacques at post dot cis dot smu dot edu)
"It was wonderful hearing King Crimson live again... Its been 28 years since I sat in the mud at the West Palm Beach Rock Festival, a cold 14 year-old kid who was OD'ing on some of the greated rock bands ever: Jefferson Airplane, the Stones, Johnny Winter, Janis Joplin, Vanilla Fudge, Sweetwater, Rotary Connection, and many more... But the band who stole the show was this unknown group from England with the strange name... On Friday night I swore I saw a symphony orchestra playing with these incredible musicians... Must have been the air... and there was this strange guitar player who sat on a stool and had a scarf tied around his thigh... and the music soared!
"Its a thrill to hear the recording from Volume 2, knowing that it was recorded only a few days after I first experienced them. And I was treated to two shows, Friday and Saturday night! After Friday's show EVERYONE was talking about King Crimson, and this other new group: Grand Funk Railroad.
"This recording faithfully captures the energy and incredible musicianship of this fine band... Greg Lake's playing is supurb... his singing even better... Michael Giles playing is so amazing, and he always hits the beats.. Robert Fripp is correct in his praise of him (in the liner notes).. And Ian McDonald's mellotron playing is heroic (I used to play one, I know how tempermental they are)...
"King Crimson was a huge influence on me as a young musician. To this day I am inspired by many of the melody lines, especially the mellotron parts. I even use a mellotron sample in my present band... This recording just re-energises me as a musician and as a fan."
Date Submitted: 23-Jun-97
By: John Peterson (johnpete at webtv dot net)
"The packaging is wonderful, and what a relief to hear more from the ancient masters of musical bliss. Especially I like the improvisations and more..."
Date Submitted: 12-Jul-97
By: Andi Bancic (abancic at geocities dot com)
"It is fantastic. I have never been a great fan of early Crimsons and with this CD I started to rediscover them. My favourite is "A Man A City". I even haven't noticed it on "In The Wake Of Poseidon" before. I can't [wait] to hear other live box sets that Fripp plans to release. I like this idea of releasing old live material. It [makes] sense for a band like King Crimson where many musicians took part of. I like the package too, it's in spirit of seventies. It remainds me of old Genesis records."
Date Submitted: 18-Aug-97
By: Bill Nicholas (newguy at cybernex dot net)
"It's not often you get to hear recorded music made before record companies get a chance to label it. Think of Miles and Teo in the studio with rock musicians in '69. Think of San Francisco bands in endless jams in '65. For that matter, think of Larks Tongues in Aspic. Or, just listen to Epitaph.
"Here we have five very smart young men unassumingly playing their way towards a new type of music. Fripp was right when he said that there was no precedent for this type of work in 1969. Therein lays the secret--its power comes spontaneously from the gut. Just listen to how blues grit meets jazz freedom in "Schizoid Man" or "A Man-A City" without conscience effort.
"This album reflects one of the rare moments in rock history where bands were free to work out there art as they went along--in studios, small clubs, and on American FM stations. Crimson were one of the few ensembles truly up to this challenge. Where most bands simply noodled, these five created a brew of ambitious structures armed with shattering visceral impact.
"We now tend to lump KC in with YES or The Moody Blues, but these concerts have much more to do with Wagner and John Coltrane than they do with Jon Anderson or Justin Hayward. This is full freedom shot from both barrels.
"Beautiful music by the most beautiful of bands. Crimson surpass all my expectations once again. *****"
Date Submitted: 23-Aug-97
By: Kevin O'Dowd (kjommo at classic dot msn dot com)
"Epitaph is an incredible listening and reading experience for anyone who "grew up" listening to such things. I was probably too young to be exposed to ITCOTCK at age ten, riding my bike to the local record store, bringing it home and having my brothers and sisters/friends marvel at the outrageous cover, not to mention the unprecedented music and lyrics inside. A heady thing for a ten year old. Of course, trespass, nursery chryme and foxtrot were not far behind. I remember reading that the early "Genesis" band had the ITCOTCK album posted on the wall of their first studio. I'm just relieved that after all these years I've learned some things, like sorting out the good from the bad, the sincere from the cynical, and that I can "sit back and laugh", albeit with an occasional cringe at the excesses of the times. Mostly though, I remember the ITCOTCK "era" as a beautiful time, full of mystery and imagination, unlike these days, where society likes to "tame and familiarize things before we even know what they are" (to plagiarize a recent Time magazine essay about the current Mars exploration). With "Epitaph" as my medium, I've enjoyed reliving those old days. But like the members of the original band, I suppose I've grown up a bit, but not too much. Peace."
Date Submitted: 24-Sep-97
By: (everett at gci-net dot com)
"King Crimson's "In The Court Of The Crimson King" has been a favorite for me since I first heard it in 1970. It was dark, tense, thoughtful, energetic, odd & eerie. It was also great.
"And Then Came "Epitaph"....
"This release is mandatory for any 1969 King Crimson fan. Besides being an excellent snapshot of that time-period King Crimson, it also shows the direction King Crimson would soon be moving in. The 1969 band had five very accomplished musicians who shine on their own. Despite the problems that occur with live recordings, (and "Epitaph" has its' share of them) "Epitaph" is perhaps one of the most interesting releases King Crimson has ever released (in my humble opinion). The sound quality does vary throughout, but keeping in mind what was "state-of-the-art" in 1969, I'm not the least bit disappointed in the sonics. This is a four CD set, with Volumes 1 and 2 sold commercially as a (small) boxed set. To obtain Volumes 3 and 4, you have to order them mail order from:Possible Productions
PO Box 5282
Date Submitted: 3-Nov-97
By: Rojas de la Parra Francisco J. (frojas at telmex dot net)
"This album is the best musical experience of this year, a must for all KC music lovers, the first cd track four is the best version of Epitaph ever written, they left out songs like Moonchild and i talk to the wind, lucky us they give us three versions of schizoid and three of Epitaph which i enjoy far more than the Ian only stuff, bearings and a man a city are also a must for any KC collection "Long live the King". I only wish Frip and Global Mobile Productions could give non nort-american citizens an easer way to get their records."
Date Submitted: 21-Jul-98
By: Edward Batt (edbatt at 1stnetusa dot com)
"Ever since bursting out of nowhere onto the live English rock scene in the early 1969 with their tour de force performances and light shows, the four young musicians who called their band King Crimson, have developed an intense following and respect amongst the initiated audiences and fellow musicians alike which continues to this day.
"When Crimson released their first, and now classic LP titled In the Court of the Crimson King in mid '69, it caused as much a sensation for the music on the vinyl, as for the stunning schizoid face which adorned the LP sleeve, perhaps one of the most striking album covers ever created! This was no toe-tapping, feel-good, party-time rock and roll. No sir, In the Court... was virtuosic, mesmerizing, powerful and beautiful stuff, utilizing the available studio recording know-how and technology to the utmost, with its multi-layered overdubs and lots of that interesting and now just about extinct instrument called mellotron.
"With prophetic Pete Sinfield lyrics like "Knowledge is a deadly friend/When no one sets the rules/The fate of all mankind I see/Is in the hands of fools" from "Epitaph," the title track of the recently released King Crimson double CD collectors box set of rare live recordings of the original lineup in 1969, it's not at all surprising that In the Court... made it to number three on the British top 20 album charts, edging out Led Zeppelin II LP (!) and only trailed the Beatles' Abbey Road, which was naturally at number one. Although KC was a heavily bootlegged band and the early BBC recordings featured on Disc 1 of Epitaph have been circulating with varying degree of quality on the "boot" circuit, all of the recordings on this box set have been digitally enhanced. But the real treat for Crimson fans are the recordings of actual live shows: At Fillmore East, and especially Disc 2, which is the entire final concert of the '69 KC lineup, recorded at Fillmore West, featuring Robert Fripp on guitar, Ian McDonald on flute, saxes and mellotron, Greg Lake on bass guitar and lead vocals, Michael Giles on drums and vocals and Peter Sinfield providing lyrics and "illumination." What's striking about this performance is how jazz-influenced this live Crimson was, thanks to the exceptional playing and improvising by Ian McDonald on saxes. Greg Lake's singing and bass playing are also superb, as is Giles' drumming. The "weakest" link is actually Robert Fripp's guitar. He hadn't yet developed his powerful style and sound, so central to the later reincarnations of KC, and featured on the splendidly reproduced live recordings on the Great Deceiver 1973-74 box set.
"The handsomely designed 60-page booklet provides a wealth of information and rare photos of KC in 1969, and if that's not enough, supplemental discs 3 and 4 can be ordered through Discipline Mail Order. These CDs are the Plumpton Festival and Chesterfield Jazz Club concerts. Listening to these outstanding songs and performances on Epitaph, it's hard to believe that this particular lineup of King Crimson existed only one year! Yet the legacy it left on future generations of serious rock musicians is still felt today. Epitaph is one heck of a box set!"
Date Submitted: 4-Oct-98
By: Anthony Thompson (athom at sherbtel dot net)
"What a wonderful gift that Mr.Fripp has created for fans of the orginal incarnation of KC! I vividly remember my first encounter with ITCOTCK. I was 13 years old in 1969 and listening to the local "Top 40"station (KDWB-63).Midnight came and the station was turned over to a DJ who played progressive rock. When "Court" began, my skin started to tingle. The mystery, majesty and wonder of that music simply overwhelmed me. The next day I went out and got that "strange" album. Now, Mr. Fripp has allowed us another glimpse of the magic. I had often wondered if the original Crimson only occupied a small, far corner of his mind. With "Epitaph", I can clearly see that he and the others of that band have an ongoing fondness for their brief but spectacular collaboration."
Date Submitted: 4-Oct-98
By: John J. Wood (jwood_jw at yahoo dot com)
"When it comes to digital media, I am picky when it comes to sound quality. And on that merit alone, I found well over 3/4ths of the entire Epitaph box set to be very poor; to the point I cannot make it halfway through a single listening of discs 2 through 4. The only reason I can make it through disc 1 is because the BBC tracks are listenable. This has nothing to do with the performances themselves; but I lack the ability to enjoy a performance if its sonics are of poor bootleg-esque quality.
"That poor sound quality is why I have been hesitant to join the DGM Collectors' Club: If future releases are similar in sound to the bulk of Epitaph, all they will do is gather dust on my CD shelves.
"A polite suggestion to DGM: Correspond with Dick Latvala and the Grateful Dead Organization on how they issue their mail-order "Dick's Picks" series. Since its inception 4 years ago, there have been twelve releases; EVERY one of them soundboards of very respectible sound quality. Also, their prices are more reasonable -- consider paying $16 per King Crimson DGM collector's single disk to $23 (incl. shipping) for any Dick's Picks Vol. 4 through 12; each of those are 3-CD sets! In comparison to what the Dead organization has accomplished with "Dick's Picks", DGM has a long way ago before they approach that high standard.
"And here's hoping they do, for the music of King Crimson deserves that treatment."
Date Submitted: 17-Apr-98
By: Andrés Astudillo (pajarosumirlo at yahoo dot com)
"I have enjoyed very much this double CD. I'm a fan of KC since 1970, and of course is great to listen the first band live performances. I love the booklet too. It's very interesting to read Mr. Fripp's points of view about Michael Giles, Greg Lake, Peter Sinfield and Ian McDonald. King Crimson is one of the most beautiful bands I have ever listen, alongside with Van der Graaf Generator, Magma, Henry Cow and some others."
Date Submitted: 9-Jul-00
By: Michael Adashefski (ingoboingo100 at earthlink dot net)
"To begin with, may I say that this is a truly amazing collection of tracks from the first line-up that blew us all away. This is like a Great Deceiver--Volume One as it highlights some of their finest moments before those early shocked audiences, some of whom still haven't fully recovered. If you haven't done so by now--RUN to get this collection as it's something you NEED to do.
"Now here's a factoid for you musical trivia fans: on Volume Three at the Plumpton Festival there is an Improv during which Mr. Fripp can be heard playing a lovely rendition of By The Sleeping Lagoon by a composer named Coates. This track was also a giant hit for the great musician Harry James under the title Sleepy Lagoon and was on a few of his albums of many years ago. For those who want to hear a different version of this melody I reccommend you check out one of Harry's versions as well as the great treatment done by Fripp.
"In the meantime, play all of Epitaph loud and may mellotrons continue to rule!!!"
Date Submitted: 21-Oct-00
By: Eric (ericodijk at wanadoo dot nl)
"I first bought cd 3 and 4 and was a little disappointed. They were in fact bootlegs and personal tapes! The band was great but the recording wasn't. Then I bought the box with cd 1 and 2 and I must say it is a true gem!!! If you are reading this and already have the box, then you'll probably know how I felt when I listened to my favorite disc which is the second one: it blew me away. My fav line-up is still the Wetton/Cross/Bruford/Fripp period, but this comes d#@n close. Just listen to Epitaph..."
Date Submitted: 14-Jan-04
By: Scott McFarland (mcfarland at ac-tech dot com)
"Volumes 1 & 2 are quite worth hearing, though low-fi they capture the band’s sound fairly well. “Get Thy Bearings” and “Drop In” each have a real majesty and power to them, and “Pictures of a City” as played by this band was quite a brilliant number."