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King Crimson - Red CD (album) cover

RED

King Crimson

 

Eclectic Prog

4.53 | 2329 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Review 29, Red, King Crimson, 1974

StarStarStarStar

Three features mark this album very prominently. First, Fripp's decided to be 'more of a guitarist' for the album, and thus contributes some shrieking and powerful work, even if the smaller line-up gives him less opportunities to strut his stuff in solos. Second, the trio have some difficulties in handling a rich sound without occasionally repeating themselves, and guest musicians are a limited help. Finally, it's consistently pretty heavy, for a Crimson record, which may be more pleasing to some than to others. Personally, I really like the album, but it simply never reaches (even on Starless) any of the glorious heights of Larks' or Fracture. Providence, Starless and One More Red Nightmare are great tracks, but the opener and Fallen Angel drag a little. It comes highly recommended, but is by no means the high point of Crimson.

Red launches off the album in classic style, with a screaming Fripp guitar and rolling percussion from Bruford. Fripp begins the song with his continued riff, while Wetton changes what the bass is doing often and without much notice. Bruford contributes with an excellent, varied drum part (of course), and the warping nature of all three musicians is consistently interesting. After an unusual slower break, with just as much edge as the main song, the riff kicks in again. The problem with this song is not the composition or the playing, which is top notch throughout, but the feel, which is simply as if you are listening to the same thing constantly, and the lack of any imagery associated with the song. As much as I intellectually reason that I'm not, it feels as if I am simply hearing the same idea for 6:20. I think the sheer musicality of the piece just makes it difficult for me to connect.

Fallen Angel is another similar dose of music. I like just about all of the components, but the end result doesn't actually affect me that much. From the throbbing, thick guitar and mellotron of the opening, Fripp's acoustic and a characteristic soft Bruford-Wetton rhythm section spring out, foreshadowing a later line of the chorus. John Wetton's excellent vocal carries the song neatly, with the acoustic supplementing the ideas. A rather noisy burst, particularly from Bruford, gives way to the chorus-line (a rather awkward 'Faaaaalleen Aaaaaangeel'), and an interesting oboe-cornet duo. The core trio dominate the song again until the return of the vocals with electrics and oboe instead dominating it. Fripp does a good job of mocking a sax. Again, all the components are here, even if I'm not a great fan of fades or that tiresome chorus-line, but the emotional resonance is lacking.

One More Red Nightmare is where the album really takes off for me, with its slightly more upbeat tune and political sarcasm. A saxophone shows up for the extended instrumental break, which is dominated by Bruford's rolling percussion and Fripp's combination of 3-second solos and rhythmic playing. Very nicely done, because as well as being great music in and of itself, it contributes to the militaristic, yet sarcastic atmosphere of the song and leads up very neatly to the return of the vocals. An obscenely thick bass sound hums throughout the remainder of the song, while the sax, probably McDonald, continues to throw out a stream of notes. Very abruptly, it simply stops. Great, high energy Crimson, with matching lyrics.

Providence is another of the extended Crimson jams that you might well find on Starless And Bible Black. Fortunately, it's more of the Fracture kind, with a steadily increasing power and violin and thick, very powerful playing from Wetton and Fripp combined with occasional atmospheric touches from Bruford. For the first five or so minutes, it's constantly almost spinning out of control, yet constantly being reigned in. Cross provides an unusually anarchic lead-in to the monstrous main theme, with Wetton then standing out in the improvisation with several improvised solos while Fripp and Bruford hold the piece down. Rolling Bruford percussion leads up to a couple of lightning-fast Fripp solos, which in turn lead to a chaotic cooperation from everyone, which in turn leads back to Cross. Everything flows perfectly, with duets, solos and group moments combining effortlessly. An absolutely superb piece of work, improvisational or not, even if it may take some time to grow.

Starless is the album's obvious choice, with its combination of a very nice, intensely melodic opening, with humming mellotron, a high emotional guitar part, a deeply moving vocal from Wetton (with accompanying, excellent, if very dark lyrics from Richard Palmer-James), and a softer rhythm section that moves the song and holds up a basic, gentle feel at the same time. Saxophones (and David Cross, on violin, though he's somewhat quietened by the mix) glide along with the verses, combining in perfectly.

After the third verse, almost five minutes into the song, the extended jamming session begins, with the shrieking violin from Cross reaching an emotional height not yet handled by the album. The clopping and tingling percussion and cymbals from Bruford are superbly timed and handled, while Fripp pulls off some surprisingly convincing two-note solos. Wetton's overwhelming bass continues hold up the basic framework of the piece together. After this slow escalation has reached a steady climax, a punchy, almost-electronic bass-guitar duo leads us back to a much faster section with a fast, spinning sax, which eventually echoes the vocal melody before leading us back to another brief fast-paced monster jam, with some brilliant playing from Fripp and Wetton, shrieking out of control, as well as some very neat foreshadowing. The overwhelming bass part moves on powerfully to a final conclusion, with the saxophone slowly leading us to a humming close.

Not an easy album to describe, because it just isn't. The sounds and combination are sometimes difficult to recognise, and the music is top notch throughout. The only way this fails to grip as fully as possibly is emotionally and experimentally, with Fallen Angel and Red not conveying really any imagery at all. Pleasant to listen to, but not nearly as enjoyable as Larks' or Starless And Bible Black, and not as interesting to me, either. It is, however, essential for any collection, and I'm sure there are many who consider this a full-fledged masterpiece.

Rating: Four Stars

Favourite Track: Providence

Edit: well, down to three. It's all in the general cuts and the so forth. Yes, well, I haven't listened to this once in a long time, relative to the huge number of plays Starless and Larks' have got... I suppose that's because I feel they have something more to offer me... this doesn't really do that, though it is a good album.

TGM: Orb | 3/5 |

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