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King Crimson - In The Wake Of Poseidon CD (album) cover

IN THE WAKE OF POSEIDON

King Crimson

 

Eclectic Prog

3.79 | 1402 ratings

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James Lee
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Warning (or suggestion): turn the volume way up to catch the hymn-like "Peace- A beginning", and then be blasted by the first notes of "Pictures". KING CRIMSON rarely has difficulty making an impression with their opening tracks...

The issue of similarity is an important one with this album. If you loved ITCOTCK, this album dishes out much of the same flavor. Since one of my criticisms of the first KC album involved McDonald's overbearing Mellotron, you'd think I'd prefer this release. Also, the now-complete reunion of the delightfully experimental virtuosos of "Giles, Giles, and Fripp" provide the foundation for Lake's expressive vocals and Mel Collins' inimitable sax. So why is this not as satisfying an experience as ITCOTCK?

Certainly not for lack of trying. "Pictures" is every bit as heavy and acidic as "20th Century Schizoid Man" and replaces some of the latter's unfocused noodling with more interesting instrumental insanity. The tightly shuffling beat and minor-key intensity even presages later works (I can hear the jazzy middle section of "Starless" especially). Yet "Pictures" is somehow less individualistic than its earlier comrade; Fripp's guitarwork towards the end is curiously conventional and there are even sections when the band adopts a straight-time three-chord blues progression!

"Cadence and Cascade", however, is soft bliss...poor maligned Haskell delivers a quietly emotive vocal over lovely piano-and acoustic guitar backing. The lyrics, like most of those on the album, are strangely minimalist for Sinfield; however, they depict in few choice words a timeless tale of fame and frailty. The multi-talented Collins shows he can be as expressive and interesting on the flute as McDonald. And yet once again I can't say this song is as memorable as "I Talk to the Wind".

The biggest reminder of ITCOTCK comes in "Epitaph"...oops, I mean in the album's title track. The Mellotron returns to the fore, as do the classical references in the lyrics. About halfway through the song, I am shocked to realize that it sounds slightly plodding- not usually a big problem with KC. Indeed, the epic track feels somewhat rote and made-to- order following the uniqueness of the first album. Still, if you wished that there had been one more song on ITCOTCK, this will fully satisfy you.

"Peace- a theme" is respectable and pleasant and a must-hear for Fripp fans, who tend to get a little short-changed when it comes to solo acoustic pieces. But necessary? I'm not convinced.

And then there's "Cat Food". Less stuffy folks may disagree, but the tone strikes me as very un-King Crimson-like, though it shares notable elements with the future "Indoor Games" (which I also don't much care for, although fans of Gabriel's more playful writing for GENESIS may indeed find it attractive). In fact, I'm tentatively suggesting that "Cat Food" and "Indoor Games" are pretty much the same song, right down to the jazzy rhythms and acoustic guitar punctuation. Perhaps it's just a matter of style- a lesser band could have made a career out of this type of sound, but I wouldn't be a fan.

"The Devil's Triangle" is also less like KING CRIMSON than the spookier washes of Ummagumma-era PINK FLOYD (which I do like very much). I suppose this is where instrumental epics from "Lark's Tongues" to "The Sheltering Sky" began, but I'm still tempted to skip it, except that it provides such a wonderfully contrasting lead-in to the final "Peace- an End". The album is tied together- or given contrast- by these short, inter- related segments, and I'm sure someone can come up with a good reason for them being here, but to me they're mainly throwaways that fail to provide a structure to a disjointed and not fully-realized conceptual experience (and this coming from a guy who loved "Tales from Topographic Oceans"!).

It pains me to be so critical of a KING CRIMSON release, but honestly I cannot recommend this even to casual fans of the band, let alone to newcomers. There's just not enough essential material here; it's too much like ITCOTCK and shows only brief hints of the queasy experimental majesty of "Lizard". On the plus side, it's much less shrill and brittle than ITCOTCK and the "Peace" segments are an intriguing prod to contemplation. And it goes without saying that the worst KING CRIMSON album (which "Wake" is definitely not; that dubious honor goes to a later release) is still better than the best that most other bands have to offer.

James Lee | 3/5 |

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