This is an excellent recording and if you are a fan of the group you definitely should download it immediately. As advertised, this is a novel formation of the band with three drummers – the effect of which is somewhat reminiscent of Clear Light (not the Clearlight of “Forever Blowing Bubbles” but the late 1960s LA group), which had two drummers. It includes songs from almost every era of the band’s various incarnations – the only one I could find missing was something from “Lizard,” which is more of a chamber music record anyway. You will find pleasing versions of “Starless” and “21st Century Schizoid Man,” though frankly I am as tired of hearing the latter tune as Mr. Fripp surely must be performing it. Mel Collins on woodwinds also must be somewhat bemused by the fact that he is replaying songs that he originally played some 45 years ago. Many of the songs have been reconceptualized, for example, “Easy Money” now features a lovely interlude that sounds like a different piece altogether. Jakko Jakszyk is an excellent singer – less pitchy and with far better intonation than some of his predecessors. On the negative side, Mr. Fripp employs altogether too much flanging and other modulation effects, you don’t need two Eventide Harmonizers and four TC2290 delays, one of each (or even none of each) is sufficient. It’s enough to make one yearn for the days of the black Les Paul, the fuzz pedal, and the Hiwatt amplifier. It would have been nice to hear (say) a violin to complement Mr. Collins’ flute playing. And, the massed drummers on “Hell Hounds of Krim” are frankly reminiscent of Ginger Baker’s “Toad”; why drummers insist on these types of solo bits is unknown.
For me, the most interesting thing about the record is its choice of material. I might quibble with some of the selections – songs like “VROOM” fall flat, and I would have liked to hear “Exiles” and “Night Watch.” I distinctly recall “Pictures of a City” and “Epitaph” from my days as a troubled adolescent, and these versions sound terrific. Especially noteworthy is the inclusion of several songs from “Islands,” which at one point Mr. Fripp had completely renounced. 1971-1972 was a horrible, miserable, dreadful, awful, horrific, and unpleasant time of my life, and “Islands” was its soundtrack, in particular, the song “The Letter,” this version of which sends chills up and down my spine. As Mr. Fripp correctly has observed, each of us extracts from the band’s oeuvre those pieces that impact us personally, and I am well aware of my limitations and biases in that regard. He offers all of them to us, inviting us to partake of what we will. It is a measure of his spiritual progress that he has developed a relationship of tranquil equanimity with his repertoire. Yes, in principle, the songs could have been anything else; the notes could have been different; the lyrics could have been different; and who knows if this iteration of them is the maximally aesthetic version. Yet, the fact remains that these are the songs that were iterated, these are the notes that were played. This is the legacy with which Mr. Fripp is associated, and these are the songs for which he will be known. This is a difficult ontology to navigate, achieving equipoise is difficult, and Mr. Fripp is to be commended for having done so.