Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Giles, Giles & Fripp: Cheerful Insanity

As he’s hardly discouraged a reputation as a sour crank, it’s sometimes easy to forget that Robert Fripp has a sense of humor. A glance at the British cover of The Cheerful Insanity Of Giles, Giles And Fripp, depicting the band members grinning idiotically, should be enough to cause shaking of heads among fans seeking out anything related to King Crimson.
The band consisted of brothers Michael and Peter Giles on bass and drums (and vocals), with Fripp on guitar. The album credits list Nicky Hopkins among the session musicians. The album sounds somewhere between early Moody Blues, later Zombies, a little Syd Barrett, the Bonzo Dog Band and, especially, the whimsy of side two of Small Faces’ Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake. Much of this comes from the interspersing throughout side one of “The Saga Of Rodney Toady”, a spoken word piece from Fripp, who sounds like he either has a mild stutter or he can’t read his own handwriting. Side two is glued together by “Just George”, wherein the same two couplets are repeated in a variety of Monty Python-type voices. Silly as they are, the inserts do provide something of a sorbet in between the albums tracks proper. Fripp’s high-speed jazz guitar is featured throughout, with precious little of the distortion, sustain, or feedback that would be most associated with him, save on the closing “Erudite Eyes”, the closest thing to a freakout. There is the occasional Mellotron, but possibly the most interesting portion to Crimson fans would be the middle section of “Suite No. 1”, which predicts “Prelude: Song Of The Gulls”.
In the ‘90s, when the labels were digging up anything worth reissuing, The Cheerful Insanity Of Giles, Giles And Fripp made its official CD debut worldwide, with standardized cover art, liner notes, and additional tracks in the form of single mixes plus two unreleased tracks from a final session. These last are of great interest as they feature Ian McDonald, who would play a larger role in the next Fripp and Giles project. (The streaming version includes all these, but none of the spoken links.)
Normally that would be that, but for those who have to have everything, a collection called The Brondesbury Tapes has gone in and out of print over the years, and presents a hodgepodge of home recordings and multi-tracking experiments by the three, plus McDonald. Further Frippery is to be beheld here, with a few more solo pieces and early sketches of what would become standard Crimson fare, including “Drop In”. Some lyrics are contributed by one Peter Sinfield. “I Talk To The Wind” is one of several tunes featuring the vocals of Judy Dyble, recently of Fairport Convention; this track had already appeared as far back as 1976, on the prematurely posthumous A Young Person’s Guide To King Crimson double LP.

Giles, Giles And Fripp The Cheerful Insanity Of Giles, Giles And Fripp (1968)—2
1992 CD reissue: same as 1968, plus 6 extra tracks
Giles, Giles And Fripp The Brondesbury Tapes (2001)—

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