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King Crimson - Lizard CD (album) cover

LIZARD

King Crimson

 

Eclectic Prog

4.09 | 1494 ratings

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LiquidEternity
Prog Reviewer
5 stars This is probably one of King Crimson's best albums ever, ranking up there with their debut and Red, but in a very different way.

The haunting and melancholy moods of the first few KC releases have now given way to the next direction the band will take: a more active, more energetic side of the band. Also, the melodies on this album finally get their feet. The whole way through, the vocals, though unfortunately no longer provided by Greg Lake, work with some wonderful tunes and produce a handful of songs that are still inspiring in their own way today. While fans of prog will, if completely unaware of King Crimson's style, be drawn to this album because of the sidelong track, the true beauty of this album is in its whole. Mel Collins is on fire throughout the release, playing saxophone like he was born with it in his hands and mouth. Robert Fripp takes more of a lead with his guitar work here, beginning to reveal to the world why they will soon refer to him as one of the greats of the guitar world (I'm referring to the aspect of the world that doesn't keep rating Kurt Cobain as the best guitarist of all time).

The album opens with the highly aggressive Circus, driven by some stellar six string loving from Robert Fripp. A catchy chorus and some nice saxophone in the middle turn this song into another unique opener for the band, proving that, though it hearkens back somewhat to their first two releases, they were never going to do the same thing again. Indoor Games continues the feel here, with distorted vocals and neat acoustic guitar. The saxophone gives the song a slightly goofy, lilting feel. A slightly meandering experimental middle section is punctuated by neat guitar and sax work, returning to the main theme of the song with a wild abandon after what might be the first true guitar solo by Robert Fripp. The next song, Happy Family, is another dark tune with a strange sense of disparate tempos. The vocals are once again lighthearted and odd, feeling built in to the music. The guitar builds a groundwork for some odd keyboard noodling that actually sounds cool here. The main musical theme here is a really menacing and progressing bit. The side wraps up with the quiet ballad Lady of the Dancing Water, which is somewhat a let-down after the previous few tracks. The flute, however, is gorgeous here.

Then, of course, we have the second side, featuring the big old title track. Within moments, we notice something is odd. What happened to Gordon's voice? Jon Anderson of Yes makes a wonderful debut on the first three or four minutes of this song, sounding more perfect for this music than he usually does for his own (and I like Yes). The little chorus of this section is pure gold, a wonderful melody that just fits in timber and tone with Anderson's voice and the mood of the music. This is a wildly difficult song to digest, on the whole, as while most of it is great, a lot of the little bits go beyond experimental and into something more like RIO. When it all realigns each time, though, it's is splendid. I can't really break down this tune piece by piece, but I can tell you that it moves into a spacey bit about halfway through, which segues to one of the more aggressive moments on the song about 14 minutes in. The song builds off this, continuing to get darker and fuller. Lastly, the song dies down about 20 or so minutes in, throwing a mournful guitar over a bolero feel. Well, lastly meaning the song proper is about over, except then a strange circus bit comes in and tears the ending of the song to delightful pieces. This might be one of the strongest songs the band ever wrote, as weird and as inconsistent as it might seem. It just feels right on the whole.

In short, this is a wonderful release. One of the few essential releases by King Crimson. It's more along the lines of regular symphonic prog than most of the rest of their output, so it's a nice place to start if you are, say, a big Yes fan and always wondered what convinced Jon to throw some vocal tracks over here. A perfectly splendid album.

LiquidEternity | 5/5 |

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