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No more excuses: even if you’ve just beamed in from Jupiter and never heard “the first and only (proper) Robert Fripp solo album” released in 1979 on EG, now’s the time to grab a copy of this special two CD set containing the original Exposure and its remixed / remastered edition from 1985, now called the “third version” because of some (mostly vocal) modifications, plus five previously unreleased bonus tracks, all alternate renditions of pre-existing pieces. This album, which appeared two years after Fripp’s return to the music business after a long hiatus that ended with his appearance on David Bowie’s Heroes, is a wonderful trait d’union between the post-punk tendencies of that era and the masterful technical command of the guitarist, whose acute (if at times a little brash) sensitivity and ferocious digital dexterity always carried a lot of weight in the wider rock scene. On Exposure he managed to spread a virus of open-mindedness among musicians who were at the time considered as good as dead (to say the least), bringing them back to their enthusiastic best. The most notable example is Daryl Hall, the veritable protagonist of this reissue, whose problems with RCA stemming from his collaboration with Fripp on this and his fantastic Sacred Songs are well known: his management feared Hall’s commercial appeal would sink once marked by the guitarist’s feral touch. The alternate take of “Mary” here is Hall at his very best, his voice transforming the melancholic song into a delicate thing of beauty to rival the already excellent, gently heartfelt version sung by Terre Roche in 1979. Hall is also highly emotional on “North Star” (a ballad whose structure would later form the backbone of “Matte Kudasai” on King Crimson’s Discipline), but when one compares the different interpretations of “Chicago”, a great oblique blues if ever there was one, he stumbles somewhat, seemingly uncertain about which path to follow. Peter Hammill’s vintage roar on the original wins by a TKO; the same can be said of “Disengage”. The oldies prevail on the title track, too: I love the contained anguish in Hall’s approach to “Exposure”, but Roche’s looped screaming on the original edition still gives me goosebumps, gut desperation uncoiling out of her throat to wrap round your neck like a boa. Incidentally, this song is also featured in Peter Gabriel’s second album, in an adaptation I always considered a little tame. Talking of Gabriel, both discs contain “Here Comes The Flood”, in two different mixes: apparently, the more recent one avoids compression and sounds more spontaneous and sensitive (you can even hear the creaks of his piano stool). Overall, the later mixes emphasise previously unnoticeable “extraneous” particulars – the preliminary deep breath by Roche before “Mary” is so beautiful – the separation between the instruments is clearer, with Fripp’s scorching dissonances and enigmatic Frippertronics further forward in the audio picture. A case in point is the classic “Breathless” – one of Red‘s many bastard children – with its muscular interplay between Tony Levin and Narada Michael Walden igniting the odd minimalism and fractured (pun intended) rhythm of Fripp’s guitars. Amongst the things that remain more or less the same are the spoken snippets courtesy Gurdjieff scholar J.G. Bennett, Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel and Fripp’s own mother Edie, the opening “Preface” (which I’ve now learned is a superimposition of Daryl Halls, whereas I’d always thought it was a real choir) and the ever-enthralling Frippertronic stasis of “Urban Landscape”, “Water Music” and “Haaden Two” (the latter was later used as the intro to “Neurotica” on King Crimson’s Beat). Finally, my personal focal points: “I May Not Have Enough Of Me But I’ve Had Enough Of You”, a brutally acid attack of guitar and organ (Barry Andrews) supporting a great duet between Hammill and Roche singing a wordgame text by Joanna Walton, culminating in a slow elegy of distorted chords. I prefer the first translation of this song, which was also tackled by Hall in Sacred Songs under the name of “NYCNY”. But on the alternate take of “NY3″, entitled “New York New York New York” and once again sung by Hall in the 1985 version, the absence of Andrews’ organ somehow highlights the music’s merciless drive; the family row surreptitiously taped by Fripp reflects a state of angry acrimony and disrespect for the basics of human relationships that’s all too familiar in today’s life. “Your house/My house.” “Well get out, there’s the door”. These anonymous voices still burn, and Fripp’s bloodthirsty lines just add fuel to the flame.

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