This is King Crimson 2014: Left to right, Tony Levin, Bill Rieflin, Gavin Harrison, Jakko Jakszyk, Robert Fripp, Mel Collins and Pat Mastelotto.  It is what it is.  Photo courtesy DGM.

This is King Crimson 2014: Left to right, Tony Levin, Bill Rieflin, Gavin Harrison, Jakko Jakszyk, Robert Fripp, Mel Collins and Pat Mastelotto. It is what it is. Photo courtesy DGM.

Trust me, I am aware of the implication and ramifications of resurrecting that title. But I have been ruminating about the current state of King Crimson and I have some theories about how this band split into two separate factions.

Let’s catch up first…

Those of you who are faithful to this blog may remember me sticking my size 11 shoe in my mouth when I quoted text from Robert Fripp’s blog claiming he is done with King Crimson because Adrian Belew scheduled dates with his power trio during a Fripp-imposed blackout period to reserve those dates for a possible KC tour on the West coast (so all those TOOL sycophants can make unjust comparisons). This was around April 2009 or so.

The first time I used that headline (sans the “Part Two”), I had some pretty hefty vitriol towards Belew. He even commented on the old syndication site. It’s still an amazing feeling to hear from your heroes, even if it is to bitch slap you back to your senses. Upon further investigation, I found that the issue with the miscommunication between crimsos originated from the Fripp camp (not naming names, don’t need more death threats).

So when I found out Belew (with Julie Slick) was playing my club hangout in Philly, World Café Live, I made it a point to first, get proper clearance to review the album he had just released, ‘e’, then second make things right with Belew. See the header photo on my blog, the photo of Belew and I was taken after I made my public apology to Belew. Ever gracious, he accepted and was super friendly towards my whole team who was present to document the event. (See the repost of the review on this blog site).

Meanwhile, Fripp was embroiled in a battle with each and every major label whose subsidiaries or main labels and any and all websites who had distributed KC material illegally. Thanks to the tenacity of one Sid Smith, Fripp found himself victorious against ALL of these empires (they even helped to topple one, EMI was sold to Sony/Universal). From four big labels down to three.

Once the settlements started rolling in, Fripp reversed his decision to retire from touring, retire from public life, and retire from King Crimson by announcing their revival!

Oh, the exquisite joy, you are thinking…

However, Fripp’s new incarnation of the band revealed this line-up:

Robert Fripp: Guitar, Soundscapes, delicious cakes

Tony Levin: Bass, Stick, Backing Vocals

Pat Mastelotto: Percussion, acoustic and electronic

Gavin Harrison: Drums

At this point you are saying to yourself ‘OK, this sound familiar as this is the same line-up as the final touring lineup in 2008. However, this is the rest of the band’s lineup:

Mel Colins: Winds (a former member from the pre-Belew days)

Bill Rieflin: Drums, Percussion, Allsorts

Jakko Jakszyk: Guitar, Vocals

What the fuck? NO ADRIAN BELEW? OUTRAGE!!!

For me, if John Wetton is not doing the vocals, the defacto vocalist and lyricist for King Crimson, in my eyes, is Adrian Belew.

With the addition of Rieflin, that gives this line up THREE drummers. With the return of Mel Collins, this pushes them in a more madrigal direction reminiscent of the early days (In The Court Of The Crimson King, In The Wake Of Poseidon, Islands, Lizard).

Great, the one period of King Crimson I personally have little use for.

Not wanting to be accused of being closed-minded, I listened to a couple of leaked tracks online. I sat, I listened, and I am depressed that I couldn’t get through ANY of the leaked material all the way through. Boring, little movement, and when there was movement, it was stilted and benign. From a band that once blew the doors off of the Tower Theater in Philadelphia during the Thrak/Vroom period, remained a whimpering, milk toast of an offering.

More depression.

Then came news of a “Fripp sanctioned” spin-off band called The Crimson ProjeKct. This sextet includes the merging of two Crimson-related bands, The Adrian Belew power trio, and Stick Men (UGH), featuring Markus Reuter, Tony Levin, and Pat Mastelotto. Julie Slick, Tobias Ralph, and Belew (of course) make up the power trio.


OK, who sees the initial, inherent problem with this? That issue is Mastelotto and Levin. With both of them in both versions of Crimsons, this lends itself to a scheduling nightmare. I propose that it was a scheduling mishap that led to the initial rift in King Crimson in 2009. This also means if one band is touring, the other is docked.

The King Crimson ProjeKct which is in no way similar to King Crimson.  Left to right: Tobias Ralph, Markus Reuter, Adrian Belew, Julie Slick, Pat Mastelotto and Tony Levin.

The King Crimson ProjeKct which is in no way similar to King Crimson. Left to right: Tobias Ralph, Markus Reuter, Adrian Belew, Julie Slick, Pat Mastelotto and Tony Levin. Photo courtesy Crimson Project website.

As I had discussed with some Facebook people, this is a conundrum. If you can only afford to see one band, which do you choose? The creator’s version, or the version with the guy who wrote and sang all the lyrics since 1980?

My vote goes to the Crimson ProjecKt. Why? They put on a show that makes the price of admission worthwhile. First, the Stick Men come on and do a set (perfect for me, I like showing up fashionably late and blowing off the opening act), then the Power Trio does a set. Finally both lineups converge and play Crimson favorites with Belew on vocals.

I could go on and on about the minor flaws in both these bands, but that would just be my airing my personal gripes (although, I am NOT afraid to say to Tony Levin, ‘I told you Magno Distributors was mismanaged, poorly operated, and a little too sensitive to be dealing with all kinds of personality types who may want to purchase products’).

I know of someone who dealt with Magno, and the person they were dealing with at the ‘label’ was an absolute moron, who couldn’t process a credit card order to save their life. They banned this person for life, and this person bought what they wanted elsewhere. So Magno’s sensitive staff cost the label money. Do we wonder why they are defunct now? And yes, this person is still alive, and outlived their juvenile ban.

One for the good guys…

But this duality does have a minor positive side. If both versions of KC tour, Fripp can collect royalties from EACH version. His hand is in both financial pies. It wasn’t until Fripp settled with the labels that he rescinded his retirement. If he was awarded that much money (reports vary on the exact amount) from the settlements, and his wife Toyah is working (she has a band, The Humans, Rieflin was part of that band in the beginning, she also appears in plays, TV shows, not to mention all the appearances the Fripps have been making lately, and more that I am sure I am forgetting), there remains one question:

Does he really need that much more money?

Granted, he was living skint for a long time thanks to EG, Adler and Fenwick, the labels, piracy, etc. But is a fat bank account at age 67 that important? To eschew any and all integrity he has upheld for the majority of his career, based on the accusations by fans that he took the British out of King Crimson when he let Levin and Belew in?

I think I will end there, after all, if I had not made some accusations of my own, I would have never gotten to meet Belew, and it remains one of the highlights of my life.

Choose your version, choose your allegiance, or make no decision and follow both. Hope you’re wealthy…

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  1. lakirk Says:

    I’m afraid I just don’t see what the problem is. As far as I’m concerned, two “Crimsons” is better than one — at least as long as they are very different beasts.

    On the one hand, you seem concerned that two “Crimsons” poses a vexing conundrum — i.e., if you had to choose, which would you go see? — but on the other hand you seem concerned that (because of shared personnel) the two bands cannot ever be on tour simultaneously. Don’t these two “problems” kinda cancel each other out? It seems to me that if I’m lucky, I might get to see both bands within a given year, probably months apart. As far as I’m concerned, this is win-win.

    Also, why should you or I care if Fripp is making money off both tours? And who are we to judge whether he “needs the money” or not?


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