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King Crimson - Lizard CD (album) cover

LIZARD

King Crimson

 

Eclectic Prog

4.12 | 2112 ratings

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jamesbaldwin
Prog Reviewer
4 stars With Lizard the first phase of King Crimson continues without preserving any of the musicians of the first, seminal, epochal, album (of course except Fripp and Sinfield) . The progrock of KC is no longer romantic, epic, as it was on "In the Court of ..." The crystalline melodies of McDonald are now part of the past. Lake's celestial singing is gone. The music has become abstract, glacial, liquid; at times the atmosphere is mysterious and subtle. There is not even the bombastic existential angst of "21st Century Schizoid Man".

There is, if anything, the development of the long jazz improvisation of "Moonchild" in songs dominated by the keyboards (Keith Tippet, remained from the previous album); orchestral, obsessive and paranoid songs. The jazz, after peeping into "Cat Food" (In The Wake of Poseidon) here is expanded and developed with piano, keyboards, saxophones (the faithful Mel Collins) and horns (trombone, cornet) and wooden instruments (cor anglais) an overflowing battery (Andy McCulloch), which is never content to keep the rhythm. The guitar is almost absent: Fripp is limited to being the conductor and to play Mellotron, synth and organ.

Side A. "Cirkus" (including Entry Of The Chameleons, vote 8+) is a half past six minutes song dominated by the horns, which trace a threatening and obsessive melody that reaches epic moments. The drums are sometimes excessive while Fripp's acoustic guitar solo is fantastic. The voice of Gordon Haskell is powerful but definitely devoid of charisma, and lacks those romantic and delicate nuances that Greg Lake was capable of. Anyway, it's a great initial piece, which gives to KC a new sound and that immediately makes it clear that the carat of this album is greater than the one of "In The Wake of Poseidon", which began quietly and repeated the patterns of the debut.

The second song (Indoor Games, vote 7+) and the third (Happy Family, vote 6,5), dedicated to the dissolution of the Beatles, are clearly inferior to the opening piece but maintain the jazzy sound that characterizes the abum: carpet of keyboards, horns to trace the melody, an iconic drum that follows a completely unpredictable rhythmic line, acoustic and rhythmic (electric) guitar in a secondary role, instrumental pieces with jazz dissonant improvisations (especially in Happy Family, where the piano played by Tippet in the foreground is nothing but jazz). The dissonance in Happy Family makes it very difficult to listen. The fourth track, "Lady Of The Dancing Water" (vote 7) is a short song (almost three minutes), nice, melodic (acoustic guitar and flute) but not remarkable. Haskell's voice does not have the nuances suited to the atmosphere of the piece. The side, after the excellent start, ends in a fall of inspiration but still it remains good for the quality of the sound and arrangement. In This side good melodies are missing. Medium quality side A: 7,33 (wihout Lady). Vote side A: 8+.

Side B is completely dedicated to the suite called "Lizard". divided into 4 movements. The first, "Prince Rupert Awakes", with Jon Anderson singing (the effect is wonderful), is the only catchy piece of the entire album, and it is a simple song strophe-refrain. Then, starts the second movement: "Bolero - The Peacock's Tale", instrumental, where the melody of the first movement is developed by a chamber ensemble halfway between classical music and jazz, reaching enchanting, very poignant, romantic moments; then, when it is about to become cloying, the melody is distorted, becomes dissonant, undergoes variations that lead to jazz improvisation. The third movement, "The Battle Of The Glass Tears" opens with "Dawn Song" where the cor anglais accompains the whisper of Haskell; is a calm, almost sad moment. "Last Skirmish", the next piece, is an instrumental that reaches moments of dissonance and cacophony never touched by the KC; the sound is symphonic thanks to the use of Mellotron, and the trombone and the piece is prolonged in a totally dissonant free jazz, which sometimes resume the initial melody, touching peaks that only "21st Century Schizoid Man" had reached. McCulloch can unleash himself in this piece, demonstrating his virtuosity. In the end, the last piece ("Prince Rupert's Lament") of the third movement takes over, led by Fripp's electric guitar (it still exists!) and by the bass of Haskell.

The fouth movement, "Big Top" (one minute and 13 seconds) is an ironic joke in "crescendo"; the sound is that of a circus clown. Lizard is a wonderful suite, maybe only too repetitive and dilated in some moments. Vote side B: 8,5/9. Overall the suite that occupies all the second side, perhaps the first case in the history of rock music, is better than the 4 songs of the first. The album is close to being a masterpiece both for this suite and for the menacing and jazzy liquid sound that Fripp managed to build. What is missing, to be a true masterpiece, are better songs on the first side and a wider range of varieties and good melodies (and a better singer).

Average of the sides: 8,04. Vote album: 8,5/9. Rating: Four (and a half) Stars.

jamesbaldwin | 4/5 |

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