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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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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Clearly, In the Court of the Crimson King is a historically important work. As a Yes fan, I recognize the unlikelihood that Close to the Edge would exist without the influence of In the Court of the Crimson King. Along with Van der Graaf Generator's early work, the use of syncopated reed-instrument parts on In the Court of the Crimson King would be emulated by bands for years. Beyond that, this album seems to have prefigured a whole strain of non-blues-based "heavy prog," and, I have to believe, a progenitor of many works by progressive metal bands.

But while In the Court of the Crimson King has been one of the most influential progressive rock albums ever, the album (and the band) isn't without its own influences, some of which, to me, seem fairly clear. For example, the heavier songs owe a debt to "In- A-Gadda-Da-Vida" and to groups like Vanilla Fudge. There are also echoes, so to speak, of Pink Floyd in these songs, as well as in some of the experimental sections of the album. Parts of "I Talk to the Wind" sounds a little like Traffic, and all of "Epitaph" sounds a lot like the Moody Blues. Nonetheless, In the Court of the Crimson King is an original amalgam of a number of styles; as a whole, it is anything but derivative.

In the Court of the Crimson King relies as much on production as on composition or musicianship, and the production is superb. Fripp's use of effects on vocals and instruments is appropriately offbeat. The sound quality is also top-notch. (In terms of sound, the edition I'm reviewing here - - the fortieth anniversary CD with the 2009 Steven Wilson / Robert Fripp remixes - - sounds like it was recorded yesterday. In terms of mixing, it doesn't vary radically from versions of these songs on The 21st Century Guide to King Crimson - - Volume One: 1969-1974, which contains nearly the entirety of In the Court of the Crimson King.)

The performances range from good to very good, and rarely detract from the listening experience. The only exception is the vocal harmonizing on "I Talk to the Wind," which wavers off-key a bit too much for my taste. While Michael Giles's drumming is good throughout, it's occurred to me more than once that it made sense that King Crimson bandleader Robert Fripp would eventually covet Bill Bruford for the band.

The relative weakness of In the Court of the Crimson King is in its composition. The quality of the songwriting is within the normal range for artistic rock of the period. I acknowledge that Peter Sinfield's lyrics are more sophisticated than were those of nearly any rock lyricist of the time, but like Neil Peart's early works, each clever turn of phrase is matched by an equally clumsy one elsewhere. Repeated listens have illuminated aspects of the presentation of the songs on In the Court of the Crimson King, but, for me, have not deepened my understanding of the composition.

I'm assigning this album three stars. It's hard to say that an album as important as In the Court of the Crimson King is "not essential," which is part of what a three-star rating means on this site. This album has been essential to the development of Steven Wilson, Andy Tillison, and many other great modern prog musicians. But as a part of a prog-rock record collection, I'd suggest first purchasing one of the band's 1980s albums with Adrian Belew, or perhaps Red, King Crimson's last 1970s album.

patrickq | 3/5 |


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