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King Crimson - Lizard CD (album) cover

LIZARD

King Crimson

 

Eclectic Prog

4.12 | 2114 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars "Happy family, pale applause, each to his revolving door"

The turmoil in terms of line up changes which were to plague King Crimson over the years continued for the recording of "Lizard". Greg Lake had left during the making of the previous album ("Poseidon"), with Gordon Haskell taking over on lead vocals. Now we bizarrely see Jon Anderson turning up as vocalist on one track here. In addition to the other well documented and ongoing changes, a number of guests are brought in for "Lizard", primarily bringing with them wind instruments.

"Lizard" was released almost exactly a year after "In the court of the crimson king", yet the change of style and sound is so jarring as to suggest the albums are by two completely different bands (which in reality, it could be argued they are). Pretty much gone are the majestic mellotron sweeps and strong, tight melodies, to be replaced by an altogether much looser, more jazz orientated atmosphere.

On the face of it, the signs are largely positive, especially since the second side of the album contains a side long suite bearing the album's name. Indeed, the opening track "Cirkus" has echoes of both "21st Century schizoid man" and "Epitaph", the symphonic mellotrons spoilt only by Mel Collins sax noodling. The track has a rather disturbing atmosphere, driven on by a lyrical nightmare.

The mood quickly changes though with "Indoor games", a sort of jazz precursor to Peter Gabriel's "Games without frontiers". The improvised sections of the track give the distinct impression that the band is not quite sure what to play here! The lyrics of "Happy family" deal with the concurrent break up of the Beatles, but ironically they could also apply to the situation King Crimson found themselves in after the recording of this album. As with "Indoor games" though, the song is messy and unconvincing. No, actually if I am honest, it is quite awful! Side one closes with the brief ballad "Lady dancing on the water".

Those who, like me, grew up in the age of the LP record, will know what I mean when I say you could get some idea of the music on the record simply by looking at it. The grooves softer sections have a noticeably different appearance to the louder ones. Looking at the "Lizard" suite on side two of this album, it is immediately apparent that a considerable proportion of it is quiet. The opening "Prince Rupert awakes", the track which features Jon Anderson on vocals, is the best part of the entire album. Delicate soft passages alternate with mellotron driven louder ones, Anderson contributing a fine performance. As the suite develops, pleasant soft oboe and CorAnglais played by guest Robin Miller are unceremoniously pushed aside by Mel Collins and Keith Tippet, who appear to vie for centre stage. Unfortunately, neither seems intent on actually playing anything constructive, the piece rapidly degenerating in a wilderness of soft noise. There are bursts of melody as the suite progresses, spurred on by waves of mellotron, but all too soon, the jazz influences come to the fore once more. For me, the "Lizard" suite is too long and woefully unfocused. Undoubtedly, it does have some fine parts, but it simply fails to hang together and retain my attention for its 23 minutes (is that all it was?!).

For many, "Lizard" represents the final part of King Crimson's debut trilogy, and from a chronological standpoint, that is a fair assessment. From a musical perspective, I got off this particular bus at the stop before this one.

Easy Livin | 2/5 |

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