ONE ADVANTAGE pop artists have over the rest of us is the ease with which they can reinvent themselves. British rockers seem particularly enamored of this option -- think of the various versions of David Bowie we've seen over the years.
But guitarist Robert Fripp has managed to push things yet a step further. Fripp has changed musical direction every three years or so, ever since launching King Crimson 16 years ago. Now, with "Network" and "God Save the King," Fripp has gone back to "update" some of his older recordings.
These aren't re-recorded oldies, mind you. Fripp has merely edited and revised existing tracks. There are few radical transformations here; in many cases, as with the three songs he excerpts from the much underrated "Exposure" album, he simply makes digital remixes of the existing material.
More to the point, what little major revamping he does is invariably for the better. That's particularly true of "God Save the King" and "Under Heavy Manners." These two tracks were originally part of a lamentable project called "Discotronics," and the extent to which Fripp has refocused his ideas illustrates how much his understanding of dance music has grown over the last six years.
Two concert videos, "The Noise" and "Three of a Perfect Pair," provide convenient bookends for the career of the last incarnation of King Crimson. "The Noise" is taken from the group's first European tour in 1982 and concentrates on material from the band's first Warner Bros. album. "Three of a Perfect Pair" is taken from a swan song tour two years later.
Comparing the two, it's obvious that this band was born full-grown, conceptually, and in the course of those two years was busy extrapolating rather than evolving a sound, a very satisfying mix of new wave brevity and progressive rock's overwhelming technical prowess.
ROBERT FRIPP -- "Network" (EGNLP4) and "God Save the King" (EGED9); King Crimson, "The Noise" (VPV/B 29012) and "Three of a Perfect Pair" (VPV/B29011); Fripp and the League of Crafty Guitarists appear at George Washington University's Marvin Center, Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.