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King Crimson - In the Court of the Crimson King CD (album) cover

IN THE COURT OF THE CRIMSON KING

King Crimson

 

Eclectic Prog

4.64 | 4760 ratings

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Axel Dyberg
5 stars In The Court of The Crimson King was, very cliché, my first progressive rock album. Now these days, I can tell you that I listen to nothing but progressive rock (and electronic of course) but many years ago I was still a classic rock head, banging out to more linear songs. Seeing how this album came when I was listening to completely other things, such a radical change of music for me left me absolutely stunned. I had never heard anything like it before. This album used so many different styles of music, from the atonality of the dual saxophone ''solo'' in the furious Proto-Progressive Metal opener 21st Century Schizoid Man, the heavy stomp-chord like intersection of Epitaph to the abrupt free form jazz jamming of Moonchild. None of those ever make it into the ''usual'' set of music, but luckily, us progheads are able to enjoy this little oasis of our own. And will we ever!

Now, enough about me and my stupid nonsensical talk. Lets get on with the music, shall we?

'21st Century Schizoid Man' was the first progressive rock song ever to grace my ears. But... What's this!?!? It opens up with AMBIENT NOISE. A 'rock' song had never been mixed with that before, blending musique concréte with powerchords was just... Out of the line. But these guys dared. Anyway, it sounds like the recording of a truck stopping, and a man walks by. At 00:28, the furious guitar chords blending with the psychedelic saxophones jumps into gear, with Michael Giles' incredible drumming immediately setting us into action. The madman riff repeats not once, not twice, but thrice, before leading into the awesome verse with Fripp's usual disillusioned chords and Greg Lake screaming out the paranoid lyrics, through a distorted amplifier which celebrates the songs purpose incredibly! This goes on into the second verse, as powerful as the first ever was, and of course, here comes the middle part... Mirrors.

'Mirrors' is the midle part of 21st Century Schizoid Man, starting out with a spiraling riff from nowhere, with Michaels stressed drumming ringing out of the speakers. An LSD-influenced guitar solo comes out of Robert Fripp's masterful hands, with bends, vibratos, feedback and of course, the usual cutting of notes which Fripp is known for. Michaels powerful tom fills in the background helps us no less to get absolutely obsessed with this part, and now...

The extremely avant garde saxophone solo comes in. Incredibly loud, two tracks of noodling nonsense blasts out, it literally sounds like a tank grinding on train tracks! It's truly crazy, and after it, the last furious notes ring out before the section that led us into Mirrors reappears in front of is, and now...

The arpeggios from hell. This section is amongst the fastest you'll ever hear in prog. How one can play the guitar so fast is beyond me, and the saxophone helps it out as well. A softer intersection leads us with the intro of the Arpeggios from Hell, with an amazing drum fill leading us out again...

The songs introduction is reminiscent again, with Fripp leading us into the riff with a notorious slide from the twelth fret, dwelling into Lake's paranoia-soaked lyrics. Of course, the song has to end remarkably? In a strange way, yes. Intense, loud, freefrom distorted jazz noodling grasps us by the throat, chokes us, and lets us go just before we give up!

'I Talk To The Wind' is a whole nother deal. Opening up with soothing horn instruments, Lake's tired voice comes at us with great lyrics. The chorus comes up after a short while, and I have to say that Lake's voice is very beautiful. The drumming again is extraordinary, I myself say that Michael Giles may be the best drummer of all time. The second verse has very powerful lyrics by Peter Sinfield of course, the masterful poet. Another chorus briefly plays, with the exhausted vocals really setting the mood, yet keeps our attention throughout. A third verse opens up, with a little more sting in the vocals, but it's barely noticable. Of course, the chorus is as soothing as it ever will be, and at almost 3 minutes into the song, it's almost ever. A beautiful flute solo comes into by play by Ian McDonald, my favourite out of King Crimson's various horn sectino performers. The guy is amazing! Fripp's beautiful guitar solo takes off where McDonald left.

The chorus reappears again, and the first verse follows shortly afterwards. The intro notes of the song are heard again, and when you think it ends, the last 1 and a half minute of the song is a wonderful flute solo by Ian, but we can only wait for the next song. This flute solo topples the first in the song by a miles range, and is really catchy. Again, Giles' drumming is uncompared. The ending leads into...

'Epitaph'. This song grasps me by the heart. It's so sad, yet so mysterious. It opens up with majestic percussion, the medeival guitar lines and an overwhelming guitar arpeggio section. Greg Lake's vocals are his best here, so powerful even though they are ever so quiet. Michael's drumming is rather upbeat, but somehow it works so greatly. The mellotron makes it's brilliant introdution here, Fripp himself playing it. The mellotron mimics a string section, adding to the beauty that is this song.

The chorus is is a jazzy, emotional macabre of a section, and when Lake sings 'And I fear tomorrow I'll be crying' the mellotron is louder than before, which adds so much to it that it's unbelivable. A short instrumental section (the intro appearing again) it leads into the second verse, where Lake sings much louder, and Giles masterfully works the ride cymbal. After the second verse, we are led into a mysterious section where the mellotron dazzles, increibly loud. It leads out into the medeival guitar lines again, and here comes the best section of this song...

The stom chord section. The horns play very low notes, and after a while, Giles bangs the percussion as hard as possible, when Fripp plays the chords out of nowhere! It carries on for a while, and while it may not sound as brilliant as it ultimately is, this is incredibly powerful. A slow drum fill gives us the chorus again, which repeats a very long time, with the mellotron taking it's time to become louder and louder, and percussion added on top. It's intense, and beautiful. It slowly fades out.

'Moonchild' is to many the downside of the album, since the latter seven minutes of it is freeform jamming. Growing up with several free jazz album (My dad's an enthusiast) I can only love this section even more than the introduction, however it will certainly vary.

It opens up with the most beautiful riff I've ever heard. A loud guitar note which slides back and forth takes us by the heart. Eventually Lake's soothing vocals (In a very bright tone) sings the optimistical lyrics. The mellotron is added in the second verse, adding more to the atmosphere than Epitaph's ever did. Michael plays around on the cymbals and the toms, and at 02.14 the last words are heard, before seguing into a heavy mellotron intersection. A wall of sound surrounds us, and playful percussion is played. Jazzy guitar textures fade in soon, and adds up to the atmosphere. After a while, the mellotron fades out.

Here begins, at ca. 03:30 the free jazz jamming comes in. At the beginning is has a certain structure, following the A minor chord of the song. At 04.30 is sort of loses it, which I love myself. An atonal horn chord pops in, and Fripp noodles around on the guitar. The same goes for Michael, bashing on the toms for his life. This is certainly avant garde, and I love the abrupt drumming of Michael. It's so random, which leaves me suprised everytime. The treble turns up on the guitar, which strange chords never heard before dazzles our ears. Fripp plays around with a little arpeggio notes, and lets the other play whatever they feel like. This goes on until 09:00 where the song takes the A minor theme again, and Fripp improvises around it. But there is still atonality inbetween, but Michael's marchy drumming helps it keep a beat. Soon it goes back to the free form jamming again.

At 11:00 a beautiful heart grasping theme comes into play, with the stunning percussion leaving me to love it. Fripp's playing soothes me as always during this particular section. It soon ends this long song.

'The Court Of The Crimson King' rips up with a loud drum fill, and the incredible, incredible... INCREDIBLE mellotron notes blend with the guitar. Medeival guitar lines leaves us with the best lyrics ever written in the history of music, with mad flute notes coming all over the place. The choir-esqué loud chorus dazzles my mind like few songs have ever done and is incredibly fitting for the songs mood. A second verse interplays, but not without Michael's standard drumming. Leaving us with one more incredible chorus! This segues into the third verse which is as masterful as all the others, this time with a different guitar pattern which is stunning. Of course no need to talk about the chorus, you all know it, and love it. Then comes...

'The Return of The Firewitch' which is a cover name for the beautiful, amazing flute solo that Ian delivers to us, with Michael playing away on the ride cymbal. It's very good. Quite long in length, afterwards we segue into...

The fourth, and last verse of this 9 minute progfest that closes of this magnificent album! With new guitar patterns, there is no repetitiveness at all. 2 choruses in a row close of the album. Or do they? On the loudest mellotron note you'll ever hear the song ''ends''. But what's this?...

'The Dance of The Puppets' is a funny little horn section of the song which is unaccompanied. Opening up with optimistical flute notes, lower key instruments soon join of course, and after a while, all goes quiet...

...until Michael's loudest drum fill ever blasts out through the speakers, Fripp's guitar has been changed for an electric one (distorted as well) while everybody replays the chorus main theme. Intense and heavy, this powerful section delivers us the most well known riff in prog. At 09 minutes in, one of the fastest drum fills by Michael segues into the ending, which sounds an awful lot like the intense ending of 21st Century Schizoid Man. It fades out very abruptly, whithin a second or two it all goes *POOF* and we have just been through one of the best, if not the best, albums of all time.

Of course, King Crimson would soon leave most of the ballads we've seen on here, for the very dark melodies and overall, dark atmospheres of later albums such as Larks' Tongues In Aspic and Red, something they shared in common with Van der Graaf Generator at the time. These later albums made the metal bands of the time sound like bubble-gum pop, and thus this first album is a bit of an odd one when compared to them. King Crimson were, like Yes, a more optimistic symphonic band at first, however if you dare to buy In The Wake of Poseidon after this amazing album, one can only dare to wonder how dark they will become in sound and atmosphere later on...

Thank you very much for reading this long review! //Axel Dyberg

Axel Dyberg | 5/5 |

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