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Alternate Take: King Crimson's Royal Remix Treatment

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When Steven Wilson of the English band Porcupine Tree, a lifelong King Crimson fan, began work on reissues of Crimson's 10 1969-74 and '81-84 studio albums — remixing for CD and DVD-audio, excavating outtakes — one of the first he wanted to tackle was 1970's Lizard, a notoriously turbulent merger of art rock and modern jazz. Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp was shocked. "His eyebrows went up," Wilson says. "He said, 'Really? That's the least-popular album.' I said, 'I'm going to change people's minds.' "

Wilson's remix of Lizard (Inner Knot) is the record Fripp intended, minus the LP's original murk. Up front, in "Cirkus" and the title epic, is the intricate interplay of mellotron and Fripp's scouring guitar with the horns and pianist Keith Tippett's glass cascades, like a classical-gas explosion of Tool and Arcade Fire. Wilson cites "the baritone saxes where you normally have heavy guitars" in "Indoor Games." After he heard the remix, Fripp said to Wilson, "Thank you. That's the first time I've actually heard the music."

Also out now are 1974's Red, one of the fiercest prog-rock albums of all time, and Crimson's '69 titanic-psychedelia debut, In the Court of the Crimson King. On the latter's DVD-audio disc, Wilson presents an entire alternate LP, including the live backing track for "21st Century Schizoid Man." "It's furious burning rock," says Wilson, "like nothing else on Earth." Coming in April: 1971's eerie, underrated Islands. "It has a spacious quality," Wilson says. But one of the bonus tracks, found on a session reel, is an untitled piece with riffs that later turned up on the 1973 avant-metal killer Larks' Tongues in Aspic. "It's a fascinating link," Wilson says. "The music was not right for that version of the band, and Robert knew that."

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ABOUT THIS BLOG

David Fricke

Rolling Stone senior writer David Fricke has more than 10,000 albums in his New York apartment. His first record review for the magazine was Frank Zappa's 'Sheik Yerbouti' (RS 290).

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