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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

4.60 | 2988 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

James Lee
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I'd fallen in love with the band the first time I heard the just-released "Discipline", and soon rushed out to fill in the missing decade or so of their history. That was, in hindsight, probably a bad idea; not only did I have no guide like this website to help me sift through the prodigious discography, I didn't have anyone to tell me how different they sounded from album to album. Luckily, I immediately took to the raw power and delicate beauty of "Starless" and "Red" and "Lark's Tongues"...but their initial releases, even the almost universally lauded debut album, has always been in the second tier for me.

Each song on this album has impressive strengths but also some regrettable low points. "21st Century Schizoid Man" is a great way to start the album, and their career, with huge distorted riffs and caustic vocals. When the song speeds up, the musicianship becomes more apparent, even if the latter half of the song ("Mirrors"?) seems a bit unfocused and even unnecessary. "I Talk to the Wind" shows that the band has no fear of mellow sounds, and Giles' drums are quietly excellent. While the flute is nice, the extended improvisation over the same repeated chord structure seems a just a little too much, adding nothing important to the song's simple beauty. "Epitaph" demonstrates Lake's emotive power, with a moody backdrop saturated by dramatic washes of sound (including the relatively rare Fripp acoustic). McDonald isn't as creative a manipulator of the mellotron as some (Mike Pinder, for instance), and its slightly harsh presence can get a bit overbearing on this song, and the album as a whole. "Moonchild" is a different kind of drama, a dark pastoral mystery of a song that suffers from some strange instrumental decisions- why that banal cymbal rhythm is repeated, and so high in the mix during the verses, for instance. I won't criticize the extended, amorphous second part, as the band members have openly admitted that the album was too short and they had to fill space. Finally, the grand and immediately recognizable title track is a progger's dream; archaic flavors and instrumental exploration in balance, and truly evocative of the Frederick II (et cetera) courtly mood.

As my relationship with this album (and the band) matures, I have to come to the sad conclusion that Peter Sinfield and Ian McDonald are two of my least favorite major players; Sinfield has a pretentious, academic writing style that emphasizes Lake's latent pomposity instead of his singular pathos, and McDonald adds plenty of texture but little character- his parts are suitable, at best, but more often overbearing. My impression of KING CRIMSON is that of a band that combines raw, hard-hitting sonics with unconventional beauty via evocative, virtuoso musical exploration, and there isn't enough of any of those elements on this album. I think the main problem is that there's just not enough Fripp in the equation; sometimes the band of "In the Court of the Crimson King" sounds like one he was in before he found his musical calling, rather than the first chapter of a magnificent legacy. Don't get me wrong- it's a classic and you really should have it. Parts of it are magnificent and timeless...it's just not the flawless masterpiece some would have you believe.

James Lee | 4/5 |

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