Monday, August 13, 2012

Robert Fripp 1: Exposure

Something of a sabbatical followed Robert Fripp’s most recent disbanding of King Crimson. He immersed himself in a spiritual philosophy, to which he adheres and practices to this day. Musically, he explored the possibilities of Frippertronics, the guitar/tape loop method he’d first developed with Brian Eno. He also spent time in the Greenwich Village punk scene, producing the Roches and working with Daryl Hall, adding his touches to David Bowie’s “Heroes” album, and even accompanying Peter Gabriel on his first solo tour. That experience led him to produce Gabriel’s second album, which features the piece that also is the title of the album at hand.

Exposure is presented as a suite, incorporating eavesdropped conversations, interviews old and new, and Fripp’s own compositions. Easily the most striking thing about the album is the appearance of Daryl Hall, singing in the voice that sold bazillions of Top 40 records, yet fitting very well into the album.

Other, more learned “Fripp scholars” have delved deeply into the evolution of this album, and on paper (or screen) it reads a lot more out there than it actually is. What stands out is just how accessible it is. “Preface” is akin to an orchestra tuning up, jostled by the straight rock of “You Burn Me Up I’m A Cigarette”, which features the most basic chord changes in Fripp’s catalog under Daryl Hall’s pounding piano and vocal. That said, “Breathless” sounds the most like Crimson (the Red era, at least). “Disengage” starts quietly before what sounds like Daryl Hall again but is really Peter Hammill shrieking his way through the jam. Hall’s more at home on “North Star”, while Hammill sounds downright vampiric on “Chicago”. “NY3” pits a furious fusion jam against a shouting match from Fripp’s neighbors, so that the much softer “Mary”, with its pretty vocal, plucked guitar and Frippertronics, provides welcome relief.

The title track is basically an alternate mix of the Gabriel version, but augmented by Terre Roche singing and screaming the title to the point of distress while Fripp and Eno spell it. Another series of aphorisms punctuates “Häaden Two”, the mild cacophony giving way to the bleak “Urban Landscape”. Suddenly “I May Not Have Had Enough Of Me But I’ve Had Enough Of You” crashes through with a more “melodic” lovers’ spat. An allegedly condensed lecture provides a burst (worthy of John & Yoko) before the sequence that ends the album. “Water Music I” presents Frippertronics accompanied by another lecture, segueing into a lovely Peter Gabriel piano-and-vocal rendition of his own “Here Comes The Flood”, followed by a moment of silence and the evocative sound painting of “Water Music II”. The “Postscript” echoes “Preface”.

The album has been rejigged more times than necessary, mostly because Fripp’s original plan to have more Daryl Hall was not approved by the singer’s label before it was even released in the first place. (Nor did they like the solo album Fripp produced for him.) He remixed Exposure for digital in the mid-‘80s, and a so-called “Definitive Edition” was the only way to get it on CD, although here “Water Music II” ran a few minutes longer. In this century, the album was reissued in a set with its original mix on one disc, with a “Third Edition” on a second, which presented the remix with Daryl Hall’s vocal tracks (and occasionally, alternate lyrics) reinstated where applicable. In this context, not only is it easier to see a bridge to the Adrian Belew era of King Crimson, but makes one ponder a bizarro world those early ‘80s Hall & Oates hits didn’t exist, given Hall’s continued collaboration with Fripp. (A later “Fourth Edition” paired a new remix by Stephen Wilson on a CD with a DVD containing a surround mix of same, a remaster of the Third Edition, and an early sequence when the album was to be called Last Of The Great New York Heartthrobs and featuring all of Hall’s original vocals. All editions were part of the 2022’s massive Exposures box set, which—to oversimplify it—culled the majority of the music Fripp created in the years between the 1974 and 1980s Crimson lineups, on CD and again in higher definition on DVD and/or Blu-ray. A fifth version of Exposure, titled Breathless, Or How I Gradually Internalised The Social Reality Of Manhattan Until It Seemed To Be A Very Reasonable Way Of Life, was exclusive to the box, and included Wilson remixes of the Heartthrobs sequence.)

Because of its disparate musical styles, even Crimson fans might find Exposure less than satisfying. It was obviously a big deal to Fripp, and thirty years of hindsight better show where it fits into the story at large. (As for the Daryl Hall album, Sacred Songs was finally released a year later, and mixed standard Hall & Oates blue-eyed soul with Frippertronics, most notably halfway through side two in the middle of “Babs And Babs”, leading to “Urban Landscape” and “NYCNY”, which was “I May Have Had Enough Of Me” with different lyrics and melody from Hall. The rest of the players include three guys from the Hall & Oates band who’d most recently been in Elton John’s band. How this album and the Peter Gabriel album fit into Fripp’s grand trilogy concept remains elusive.)

Robert Fripp Exposure (1979)—3
2006 CD reissue: same as 1979, plus 22 extra tracks

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