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King Crimson - In The Court Of The Crimson King CD (album) cover


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

4.63 | 4188 ratings

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4 stars King Crimson's debut is considered by many to be a cornerstone of progressive rock music. My feelings about it change for better or for worse each time I hear it. One overwhelmingly positive thing I can say about not just this album, but the first four King Crimson albums, regard Peter Sinfield's lyrical contributions. His words are full of intrigue and taciturn wisdom, using enigmatic phrases and mysterious concepts that give the hearer something to contemplate, and people have done plenty of that, what with the rampant speculation involving Frederick II of the Holy Roman Empire and the identity of the Crimson King. Where the lyrics succeed, however, the music fails; the latter tends to be either repetitive or anarchic, or both. A generous portion of the album is filler, plain and simple. The argument that one should like King Crimson (or the Beatles, for that matter) because of how influential they were, and that we wouldn't have progressive rock as we know it if it weren't for Robert Fripp, is specious at best. It's tantamount to claiming that if one enjoys the work of a certain author, one must likewise think highly of the literature of those who influenced said author. This reviewer is young, and I believe I have an advantage in being able to judge the music on its own merits rather than through the heavy bias of historic musical importance.

"21st Century Schizoid Man" The first track is the most boisterous, with crunchy electric guitars, wailing saxophone, heavy tom fills, and the greatly distorted voice of a young Greg Lake. The music runs through several time signatures (including free time). The lyrics consist of mostly sentence fragments describing (at least in part) the perceived chaos of the Vietnam War; before a live audience, Fripp stated that the song was dedicated "an American political personality whom we all know and love dearly. His name is Spiro Agnew." There are other valid interpretations that are worth exploring that will not be recounted here. The song concludes with cacophonic improvisation.

"I Talk to the Wind" What the first song is, this song isn't. The distortion is gone from Lake's voice, and only a velvety harmony remains. The song is flute-laden, and is perhaps comparable to early Camel in sound and structure. It is pleasant in many ways, calming even.

"Epitaph" The heavy waves of Mellotron and the acoustic guitar that open "Epitaph" is one of the best moments of this album. Lake's voice is undeniably good here, and the strikes of acoustic guitar that punctuate the piece are impressive even though it's a small addition. The Mellotron's saturation of this piece is also part of what makes this one of the better tracks present. The problem with this song is that there's simply too much of it; at almost nine minutes, there are no noteworthy changes in pace or structure, only in intensity, so the song has a propensity to become tired after so long.

"Moonchild" One might not expect a third soft song in a row, but this is as quiet as it gets on this album. The vocal section is very good, though, with guitar work that was the harbinger of Fripp's sound. There's not much more one can say after that: Everything after four minutes is directionless improvisation. This is the musical equivalent of an artist who is hailed as genius for randomly smearing and splattering paint on a canvas. It could be forgivable, but no- it takes up three-quarters of the album's longest track. Quite a bit of what is going on here makes me think the band left the studio unlocked, with everything still running, and a gaggle of seven-year-olds with a couple of dogs snuck in and began enjoying themselves. It's unbelievable.

"The Court of the Crimson King" Once again we have a song that overstays its welcome, at nearly ten minutes. The Mellotron riff is a classic example of its use in progressive rock, although it is seriously overused throughout the song (and especially at the end). It is heard at least nine times, not counting instances when there are no vocals. The verse sections are fantastically written, and the words are haunting. The first instrumental section is upbeat but brief. The flute-led second instrumental section in the middle is simply beautiful. Regardless of the above criticisms, the song stands as one of the best offerings from King Crimson, and the reason I can't rate this album less than three stars.

Epignosis | 4/5 |


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