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King Crimson - Red CD (album) cover


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

4.56 | 3540 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars The Sinking of the Tritonic - Captain Scuttles the Ship

As far as I can tell, this was the last 70's King Crimson album released before Fripp disbanded the entity to allow him more time for 'head shopping' at Mystical Apocalyptic Visions R'Us (G. I. Gurdjieff - prop).

'Red' - The tritone (augmented 4th) interval has been exploited by many rock musicians over the years and is particularly beloved of the cartoon subversives who currently inhabit the metal domain. However, when used with originality, there are great examples of it's disorienting frisson on Symptom of the Universe by Black Sabbath, YYZ by Rush, Purple Haze by Hendrix & Black Sabbath by erm...Black Sabbath.

Unlike Tony Iommi however, Fripp & Co are not remotely stirred by the boyish blasphemies of those utilizing the diabolus in musica as outlawed by the church music authorities in medieval times. There is a leanness and acuity in Red that seems to be borne of a new found economy in much of Fripp's writing. Everything is very concisely structured and the innate extemporizing instincts are tightly reined in, which gives this track a brooding malevolent power that you feel if completely unleashed, would probably pull hats from rabbits and blood from a tax inspector. The first hint of the metallic slant that would be further explored on their later output eg Thrak - Power to Believe etc

'Fallen Angel' - Not more references to the horny goateed one lads? (tsk...) Another moving vocal performance from the infallible Wetton in a song that exploits more traditional harmonic structures to marvelous effect. It's amazing how Crimson can inhabit territory that is not a million miles away from say, Rush, and make the latter sound like field mice still stinging from their first shave. The middle section where Fripp and Wetton duet on a tightly woven instrumental passage is unnervingly beautiful with exemplary balance between the electric band and the various horns that weave their way throughout the song. In many ways perhaps this is what 'Lizard' side two was SUPPOSED to sound like?

Switchblade stings in one tenth of a moment, Better get back to the car

PS Note to Peter Gabriel - When writing from the perspective of a Puerto Rican street punk from New York, it is not mandatory to affect a laughable American accent to approach authenticity. (see The Lamb Gives Up the Ghost on Broadway)

'One More Red Nightmare' - I am always struck by Bruford's percussion arsenal on this track as it seems he has taken a leaf (or in this case, a very heavy piece of sheet metal) out of Jamie Muir's book and employed same to mesmerizing effect. The drumming on this record is incredible and if any proof were needed as to how innovative and 'musical' a player Bill is, just point the doubters towards any track on this album. Like many Crim tracks from around this period, it veers off after the song section into what on first listen, appears a completely unrelated area, but somehow they conspire to make these devious tangents all reach a satisfying destination in the end. Uncanny. Trivia Fans - the only brilliant song I can think of that features hand-claps.

'Providence' - Oh lordy...having recently lauded the lads to the heavens for their inspired improvs on Starless & Bible Black it is with a heavy heart that I have to say this is the one wet eggy fart in the lovely shiny red space suit. There MUST have been scores of alternative improvisations they could have used surely? As ever the playing and dynamics are faultless but it's an unstructured mess. The furious filling of air pockets by oxygen thieves. Like Moonchild I am sure if you had been there, you would have exhaled softly and muttered 'incredible' with a far away look in your eye, (before promptly exiting the studio via an upstairs window on hearing the playback).

'Starless' - Given that it's a mighty crowded area, this is shoving its way to the front of the queue as best Crimson track EVER. Fripp's sobbing guitar lead on the opening is so beautiful it audibly aches. The 'song' section is the finest melodic construction in the Crim catalogue and manifests a finely honed refinement of what Epitaph and In the Wake of Poseidon etc only hinted at.

Sundown dazzling day, Gold through my eyes, But my eyes turned within, Only see, Starless and bible black

The slow building crescendo section that follows features our old buddy the tritone in Wetton's pensive bass-line over which Fripp contents himself with a skeletal 'one note ostinato' that is transposed accordingly to suit the harmonic progression in an edgy an increasingly spooky transition. As far as controlled dynamics, pace, texture and suspense are concerned, this should be compulsory listening to the prog/math metal wannabes who fashion light and shade out of 'fast very loud' and 'faster louder still.' What follows is a passage in what sounds like double time using the same (or very similar) musical material with the addition of jazzy flourishes from sax, trumpet and flute. This culminates in the denouement of the piece where the whole band embark on a majestic reprise of the main theme to a very satisfying conclusion. The band delay slightly their rejoinder to telling effect here, and the resultant weight and 'oomph' of the result is a climax of indefatigable beauty. (oooh you naughty man)

Were it not for the freeform widdley chops wank lapse represented by Providence this would have been a 5 star effort. Notwithstanding the foregoing, a very fine album by a band at one of their many creative peaks during a 40 year roller coaster career.

ExittheLemming | 4/5 |


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