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King Crimson - Red CD (album) cover

RED

King Crimson

 

Eclectic Prog

4.53 | 2338 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Roundabot
5 stars First released on: riversofreverb.blogspot.dk

King Crimson is one of those mythical bands that unfortunately haven't got the fame that other bands of their time did. Although this can be said of many bands from the 70's, King Crimson is a special case. Their music has been so influential along the decades, and their songs have reach such level of reverence among the progressive rock community, that it's difficult to understand how they haven't reach the levels of popularity some of their contemporaries have.

Red (1974) is the third installment of what has been referred to as the "heavy metal trilogy", a series of albums beginning with the 1973 release of Larks' Tongues in Aspic and followed by Starless and Bible Black (1974) that experimented with jazzy improvisations, heavier riffs and dynamic changes of pace and volume. Red is the one with less improvisational material and more compositions from the trilogy, and is probably the most focused work. This is an astonishing accomplishment as the band was about to split when the album was in the making, and was already defunct by the time of its release.

From the first riffs of Red until the climax of Starless the listener is taken for a ride through all the influences this band has shown across years. Their classical background is displayed in the structure and composition of the songs, while their jazzier side becomes evident in the most climatic and heavy moments, especially in the percussion department. Being one of the founders of the progressive rock movement of the 70's, all these elements take a very complex turn, with unusual tempos and featuring the musicians' talents as crucial elements.

Brufford shines throughout the album, showing how talented a musician he is, and why he is such an important figure in the music world. He gives the album its jazzy undertone with his magnificently diverse percussions. The bass, played wonderfully by Wetton is the backbone of the album, creating its menacing atmosphere. Finally, Robert Fripp with his innovative and heavy guitar work is the essential player in this album. He gives substance to all tracks, creating fantastic dissonant melodies and amazing layers of sound in each of them.

The songs here are some of the most memorable in the vast King Crimson catalogue. The instrumental composition Red is probably the most well-known and maybe the most influential song, mainly because of the heavy guitar lead, and its violent riffs. It has elements from previous instrumentals like Larks' Tongues in Aspic Part II and Fracture, but with King Crimson at the top in composition skills and musicianship. It shows a band in their peak of maturity, able to write compositions that seem chaotic but have a structure within them, unlike previous experiments.

The importance of the wind section is very big in Red. This is noticeable in songs like Fallen Angel, a track that owes most of its dreamlike feeling to the oboe and the saxophone in it. What starts as a nice dream becomes a nightmare when Fripp's weeping guitar comes in and Wetton's voice calls for the fallen angel in the title. The saxophone plays a big part in this transition, which is as sudden as beautifully performed.

One More Red Nightmare continues the nightmarish and threatening dynamic with its violent bass riff and incredible percussion. The saxophone plays a crucial role here as well, working along with the guitar to create the plane crash effect of the song's instrumental sections, which go along with its lyrics written by Wetton.

The second side of the album features the instrumental Providence which is a live track, and features David Cross on violin, as he was still part of the band then. It is a minimalistic track, featuring delightful percussion from Brufford and menacing guitar work from Fripp. Wetton then comes in as the band jams until the improvisation ends.

Finishing the album is the epic Starless. This track is the ultimate King Crimson experience being one of their most accomplished compositions and probably the best one in the album. Divided in three parts, the first section has one of the most gorgeous mellotron melodies ever and has Wetton almost crying the lyrics out with his melancholic voice. The second part is a very jazzy and avant-garde build-up, with Brufford in the forefront and Wetton and Fripp delivering hypnotic sounds until it gets to the climax. The apocalyptic ending of Starless is probably one of the most impressive existing musical sections, featuring as tight a musicianship as you can get, with all the musicians playing at their top.

What this album shows is a band in top form in every sense possible, and some of the best compositions in the rock realm. This is an album that deserves the mythic status that it has, a work of pure art by three of the best musicians in the business. Though Fripp would reform King Crimson in the 80's, the band never got their 70's sound back, and I can think of no better swan song for that King Crimson generation than this album. Red is no question a work of genius that should be remembered for its creativity and its elegance as an essential album in music history.

Roundabot | 5/5 |

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