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Robert Fripp - Exposure

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Artist: Robert Fripp

Album: Exposure

Label: DGM

Review date: Mar. 6, 2007

Finally, definitively, one of the late 1970s most eclectic discographical statements is given its proper due in a double disc reissue. Contrary to Mr. Fripp’s new liners, I wouldn’t say that Exposure begins or ends an era; rather, it is as concise and complete a summary of the things that make Fripp’s past and present contributions unique and vital.

Yes, I’ve heard all the revisionist arguments, extolling Fripp as nothing less than an inventor of ambience and vilifying him as a mere copycat with a huge ego and a penchant for overmystification. Both miss the point, especially where this Fripp masterpiece is concerned. He had his finger on the pulse, that huge, vibrant and ultimately inexplicable thing that was happening in late 1970s New York, not to mention the multiple histories that made such convergences possible. To me, Exposure is a celebration, both of Fripp’s recent return to music on David Bowie’s Heroes and of the stylistic diversity that surely excited him to such fantastic songcraft.

“Preface” and “You Burn me up, I’m a Cigarette” tell the tale. Eno-influenced keyboard vocalizations – beyond anything 10cc had done – go crashing headlong into the slightly nostalgic but most assuredly punk-ass whimsy of “Burn me Up.” Daryl Hall sounds more frantic and harried than I’ve ever heard him, and his range of expression on tracks like the crooner ballad “North Star,” anticipating “Matte Kudesai,” justifies even further Fripp’s extraordinarily high praise of his abilities.

A list of the talent on this album would be superfluous, especially as the accompanying booklet is so well prepared. For those still unfamiliar with the record, Peter Gabriel gives us a pared-down and starkly beautiful version of “Here Comes the Flood,” originally on his first solo record and here accompanied only by piano and Frippertronics. One of Exposure’s highlights. Perhaps my favorite track is “Disengage,” screamed, writhed and tortured most effectively by Peter Hammill. Phil Collins, Narada Michael Walden and a scarily exuberant Terre Roche all contribute with gusto. The music encompasses all that Fripp had done and has done to this day, from sultry ambient cascades of near silence to the hard-edged instrumental complexities that would come to typify later Crimson. They are interspersed and edited skillfully together to form a rollercoaster of a connected whole.

The album is a statement on many levels, and Fripp’s notes speaking to the vision of terror that led him out of the music scene in 1974 certainly justify “Flood”’s presence. More than that, it’s a stylistic encyclopedia; dreamlike, it captures many stylistic possibilities then nascent and never explored by Crimson that still speak strongly to the fabled but elusive underground. As far as I’m concerned, pure musique concrete, humorous retrospection and deeply introspective experimentation have not been assembled in this way again.

The first disc offers the album in its original form, which I had not heard until now. The second disc comprises the first CD release, radically remixed as it turns out, but now, we are treated to a few more Daryl Hall vocals that were removed from the original, as his management thought his relationship with Fripp would damage his career. Compared to my late-’80s copy, the sound is worlds better, everything more open and each detail more focused. This is now, without question, the version to have, a handful of bonus tracks completing an absolutely superb package.

By Marc Medwin

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