Posted by Sid Smith on Nov 12, 2017

All About Jazz critic John Kelman has been listening to all 27 discs of the Sailors' Tale boxed set which was released last week. In a typically exhaustive and detailed review, John goes where most critics fear to tread. Here's a snapshot of just part of John's review...

With an initially despondent Fripp largely leaving Collins to audition prospective band members before finding Wallace and, once again, believing that Crimson might actually continue, the search was now on for a bassist and vocalist. One well-known sailor's tale is that a pre-Roxy Music Bryan Ferry auditioned for the vocal chair but, despite being deemed unsuitable for Crimson, impressed Fripp enough to refer him to Crimson co-manager David Enthoven...and the rest, as they say...

Meanwhile, a series of bassists ranging from good to dreadful auditioned, and it's the recent discovery of some reel-to-reel recordings of three rehearsal/audition "blows" that stand as one of Sailors' Tales most significant finds. While identifying the bassist(s) on these tapes has been lost to time, suspicions are that they might include Keith Bailey, who had worked with Graham Bond, and Rick Kemp, already established with singer/songwriter Michael Chapman. Kemp impressed Fripp and Collins enough to receive an invite to join the band. He accepted, but changed his mind two weeks later, believing himself to not be up to the level of the rest of his Crimson band mates. While he'd decided, in fact, to retire from music, he was already an in-demand session player and, just a year later, was asked to join British folk rock band Steeleye Span...and, once again, the rest is...

The roughly 95 minutes of audition jams are not just nice finds; they demonstrate Fripp, Collins and Wallace as uniquely qualified to play everything from jagged, aggressive, rock-edged music to bona fide jazz swing...and its more sophisticated harmonic language, something with which Fripp had proved eminently capable as far back as his Giles, Giles and Fripp days but increasingly so now, across Crimson's first three releases. These three recordings move fluidly from pulse-driven explorations to entirely free passages, and from full-band workouts to more graceful a cappella moments. Collins' mettle as an improviser is rendered clearer still. If Crimson's early releases aren't enough to prove Fripp's credentials in jazz and beyond, the short, early John McLaughlin-esque "Groon" not only demonstrates Fripp's freer disposition, but ultimately became a lengthy show-stopper for the next touring version of the band. Originally the b-side of the "Cat Food" single, even more alternate "Groon" takes have been located and included here than on the original 2010 remix/reissue of Poseidon.

You can read all of John's review here.

In case you missed it, Sailors' Tales is available from Inner Knot (US) and Burning Shed (UK & EUR)

Here's a short guided tour of the contents of the big box...