This comes as a complete surprise to me, but King Crimson has opened a site dedicated to offering downloads of live material, similar in concept to the King Crimson Collector’s Club but minus packaging, shipping, etc. There’s already a considerable amount of material available in the archive and it looks to me like they’re just going to keep adding stuff. This is great for the fans who’ve found the Club’s generally incredible but limited selection too restrictive – Robert Fripp can now offer anything and everything and it’s always available.
This project fills in the gaps around the Club releases – for instance, you can now purchase the March 31, 1974 show to go along with the March 29 and 30 shows that are already available in the Club. The bonus is that now there are previews for everything – so we can make informed decisions on where to spend our money, instead of getting burned as so many of us feel we did on the recent Brighton 1971 release, which had what might be the worst sound quality I’ve ever heard on a bootleg, and I’ve heard a LOT of bootlegs. For the record, the sound quality of the 3/31/74 shows is fantastic – a pure, unmixed soundboard recording (there are some audience recordings, so be sure and listen to the clips first.) This is, without a doubt, heaven for King Crimson collectors (and Robert Fripp fans – so far one full set of soundscapes (from which some of the beautiful Love Cannot Bear was sourced) is available, with more to come, surely.)
A couple of minor grumbles: one thing that is worrisome – the site’s FAQ states that all downloads must be completed within 72 hours of purchase, and if you do not complete the download within that time period, you must re-purchase it! That’s going to have to change – I won’t have any problems downloading this stuff even in FLAC format on my cable connection, but even bigger mp3s are going to cause problems for those stuck on modems. The other grumble I have is charging a flat fee for everything, whether it be two full audio CDs worth of files or less than a single CDs worth, you still pay either $9.95 for mp3 or $12.95 for FLAC. Mind you, I don’t want to see the prices go up – rather I want to see them come down a bit for shorter shows. However, this is still cheaper than the CDs would be on their own, so the complaint is minor.
The difficult decision here is not whether to purchase any of these but where to start.