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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

4.59 | 2921 ratings

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Chicapah
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Before I knew of this group I read in a music magazine that Pete Townsend of The Who had pronounced the first King Crimson album as being "an uncanny masterpiece." Coming from one of my heroes I considered this an overwhelming endorsement and looked forward to hearing it. In late 1969 many of us young rock music aficionados felt that we had "heard it all" and there was nothing new under the sun but we were dead wrong. Once this album was unleashed we knew there were still vast, uncharted territories out there to explore as we entered the next decade.

"21st Century Schizoid Man including Mirrors" (no one, absolutely no one had song titles like these guys!) hit the still free and unsanitized FM airwaves like an aural sledgehammer with its stunning combination of saxophone and distorted guitar blasting through the speakers. Greg Lake's electronically altered vocal was additionally effective in creating what could only be considered "new music." As the song progressed into passages featuring Michael Giles' maniacal drum patterns and Robert Fripp's bizarre guitar riffs we knew that this band was unlike any other on the face of the planet and it was exciting beyond description. The stark contrast they presented with the next cut was definitely straight out of left field. "I Talk to the Wind" is a quiet, peaceful tune that features a gorgeous flute solo from Ian McDonald and a subtle guitar lead. Giles, instead of laying down a normal beat for a ballad, doesn't stay still and plays deftly all around the song but never interferes with the cool ambiance. Huge Mellotron chords draw us into "Epitaph including March for No Reason & Tomorrow and Tomorrow." This is Lake's finest vocal on the album and the lyrics supplied by Pete Sinfield on this tune were the easiest to relate to. It was a turbulent year for the planet and words like "The fate of all mankind, I fear, is in the hands of fools" rang disturbingly true for most of us. After a brooding dirge from the woodwinds we hear Lake's mournful "I feel tomorrow I'll be crying" repeated over and over. Giles' drum work is extraordinarily unconventional throughout the record but especially toward the end of this song. By now we thought we had a bead on this group but not so. "Moonchild including The Dream and The Illusion" is yet another sharp curve in the road. Starting out as another peaceful ballad, Fripp then surprises us all with a delicate jazz guitar passage, then a long give-and-take sequence with the drums and vibes. It's totally unexpected and brilliantly performed. "The Court of the Crimson King including The Return of the Fire Witch and The Dance of the Puppets" is the fifth and final tune and what a monster it is! McDonald's massive Mellotron sound creates a cavernous atmosphere, Giles continues to fly all over the skins, and Lake provides an ominous vocal as this signature song moves in like a swirling, hot sand storm. It has everything that makes this album unique yet accessible. A Mellotron lead, another fantastic flute performance, a false ending and a calliope precedes the return to the memorable chorus melody featuring Giles' most energetic moments on the drums. Spectacular.

To call this a landmark album is an enormous understatement. It influenced countless musicians and opened up minds to a myriad of possibilities. Unfortunately, this particular lineup would not survive their tour of the USA and one can only wonder what they might have created beyond this. As we now know, King Crimson was to become a temporary harbor for many talented musicians in the years to come and we learned to always anticipate the unexpected from Mr. Fripp & company for better and for worse. However, only a handful of albums can claim to have shocked the music world as much as this one did.

Chicapah | 5/5 |

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