ROBERT FRIPP, Exposures (Inner Knot). King Crimson founder Robert Fripp’s disappearance from and gradual return to the music industry is chronicled via Exposures, a mammoth box set surrounding the guitarists first solo album, Exposure, as well as other non-King Crimson works from 1977-83. It is not for the timid. But it is quite worth the adventure.
First things first: One does not come to this collection casually. Box sets are almost always deemed to be for “completists,” the super fans wanting to know every detail about the band or album they love. If you’re asking yourself whether or not this journey is for you because you haven’t gotten deeply into this album, then you have already answered your own question. Step away from the box and opt for the fresh reissue of Exposure instead.
Secondly: Based on the album’s sequencing, many will be tempted to “cut to the chase,” as it were, and check out Exposure proper without taking in what precedes it. This is a BAD idea. One does not climb a mountain from the top, down. Nor does one build a house starting with the roof. In order to truly understand how Exposure came to be, one must invest time appreciating the foundation. This enhances the overall listening experience. If this doesn’t sound interesting, again consider just getting the album-only release.
While CirdecSongs is all about the “rapid-fire” record reviews, in this case that is all but impossible. But in order to keep your eyes from crossing, we’ll divide this review into parts. That way it can be savored like a multi-course meal.
All set? Let’s dig in.
Like every other King Crimson box set, this collection is beautifully packaged. It is well-assembled and loaded with trinkets. These include reproductions of concert posters, press releases, and promotional photos. While there is nothing wrong with the idea of framing and displaying these baubles, many will no doubt prefer to keep this set completely intact.
While other boxes have seemed chock-full at 24 or so discs, this collection bursts at the seams at a whopping 32 discs, 25 of them audio. It’s the response to anyone saying, “I want to hear everything Fripp did up to and around Exposure.” Well, you wanted it. And now you’ve got it!
There’s no need to waste time discussing at length Fripp’s post-Crimson spiritual awakening and subsequent move from England to New York City. All of this is covered (and then some) courtesy of the remarkably comprehensive liner notes written by Sid Smith. As always, he does a bang-up job bringing us up to speed on all we need to know in order to put the music into proper context. The book containing said notes is loaded with vintage photos and extensive notes on Fripp’s recordings and live gigs during this period. It’s guaranteed to keep the reader busy with or without the accompanying music.
Fripp once cheekily referred to his latter-day soundscapes recordings as “so much bleating and droning.” Still, the sound is revolutionary, and every revolution has its origin story. In this case, Soundscapes found its origin in “Fripperteonics,” the tape-delay system Fripp and Brian Eno developed for No Pussyfooting in ‘73.
The first four CDs of this collection are rooted in Frippertronics, most of them unreleased until this collection. Now, this is where it is revealed why skipping over these discs to get to the album would be a mistake. The loops form one of the essential tentacles on the body that becomes Exposure. A great deal of what goes on in the background of the main recording is based on these loops, or loops inspired by these works. Chances are, there will be a couple of “So that’s where that comes from” moments.
Of course, some loops are more interesting than others. Many of them are quite melodic, or at least solid in terms of rhythm. Others come off as so many fits and starts. But it’s all part of the process.
The first tentacle attaches itself and the bigger picture begins to swim into focus.
THINGS TAKE SHAPE
Fripp intended Exposure to be the third part of his so-called “MOR Trilogy.” The second part was his production of Peter Gabriel’s second album (commonly known among fans as Scratch, since PG’s early releases were self-titled). The first part was a recording Fripp produced for singer Daryl Hall in 1977 called Sacred Songs. Naturally, Hall’s record company had NO idea what to do with this collaboration and shelved it until 1980.
Disc 5 consists of tracks destined for the Exposure album, with all vocals recorded by Hall, titled Last of the New York Heartthrobs. There are also alternate takes and rough mixes of tunes like “Disengage,” “NY3,” and “Chicago,” among others. Disc 6 is the original edition of Exposure, released in ‘79 and remastered in 2005. Despite everything else Fripp had been doing in terms of collaboration and production since moving to New York in ‘75, this is when he considered himself to once again be a part of the music industry. Take that how you will.
Exposure is definitely a different album with Hall on all the vocals. It’s also quite good. And his voice is barely distinguishable from Gabriel’s on “Here Comes the Flood.” If not for Hall’s American accent, it would be easy to be fooled. The album’s sequencing is also slightly different from the Disc 6 release, but it still flows quite nicely. This is a truly fascinating look down the road not taken.
We’ll pick it up from here next time.
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