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

IN THE COURT OF THE CRIMSON KING

King Crimson

 

Eclectic Prog

4.63 | 4079 ratings

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Wicket
Prog Reviewer
5 stars As of writing this review, King Crimson recently (and finally) put their discography out on Spotify (my go-to media listening solution now), and all the world rejoiced.

And by the world, I mean me. Just me, basically.

And it's a shame, really. When Tool put their discography on Spotify just days earlier to celebrate their new album (which the world also rejoiced), everyone freaked out. Tool, even to fans of mainstream hard rock is like considered THE cult band, at least amongst my friends. But King Crimson? Never mentioned. Never uttered. Even when I tell people who like "Power" by Kanye West about the sample used, they're like "yeah cool whatever".

And that's just a damn shame.

To me, "Sgt. Pepper" was the birth of prog rock. Lyrically, sonically, musically, it was revolutionary on so many fronts thanks to its Indian and psychedelic influences. But I do NOT consider it prog rock.

This album, to me, is the first truly progressive rock album. One that stands the test of time, and will continue to stand the test of time so long as humanity exists.

Everything about the music bucked the norm. "21st Century Schizoid Man" begins with one of the most iconic intro riffs of all time. Lyrically it was unique, sonically the jams just kicked ass, the late Greg Lake with his signature voice (which he would later contribute to his work in Emerson, Lake & Palmer), and just the cacophonic outro. This is one of their most iconic songs, with a kickass hook that just plays on repeat in your head once it's there, and then the legendary Robert Fripp just rocks your head off. Accessible, yet so distinctly prog, it's the best of both worlds honestly. One of my all time favorite tracks.

From the ridiculous to the sublime, "I Talk to the Wind" almost hearkens the softer ballad type love songs from British Invasion groups like the Hollies, the Zombies, Herman's Hermits and the like, only elongated and exaggerated in typical progressive fashion, with subtle guitar licks and wonderful flute playing. Just a wonderful little tune that provides a nice sharp contrast to "Schizoid Man". "Epitaph" takes that same formula and adds some extra drama in the form of background synths and an almost operatic singing approach from Lake, a slow and plodding monster heavy on the chords.

"Moonchild" is by far the black sheep of the lot. The longest and most difficult of the songs on this album, it begins in a similar fashion to "I Talk to the Wind", but veers hard into classical and contemporary influences, essentially turning into a contemporary percussion ensemble six minutes in. Scatter vibes, stuttering guitars, frantic drumming and stick clicking, all key elements in contemporary and new music ensembles (I've played my fair share of them). In reality, the first few minutes are nothing like the rest of the track, as the vocals disappear and popular music song structure is completely abolished. This wouldn't be the first song in popular music to emulate contemporary composers (see the Beatles "Revolution 9" for an example), but I believe the classically influenced prog works to follow (Such as that of ELP) could be traced back here, only simplified to make it more pleasing for the casual audience listener.

The capstone self titled track is also a classic that doesn't really need an introduction. The moment it starts it begins just as bombastic as when it ends. The magic in this song has nothing to do with the structure or musicality (although the bridges and interludes break up and add some different texture from the verses and choruses) , but more with Greg Lake's storytelling. There's an eerie air, of drama and circumstance, of twisted worlds and twisted minds, and subtle sounds and textures such as the mellotron organ roughly seven minutes in add to that effect. Is it a bit repetitive? Absolutely, for a 10 minute closer it's unnecessarily massive, and the weird organ sounds at the end after like 40 seconds of silence is redundant.

In fact, if there's a negative connotation to take from this album, I'd say that each song is just a tad too long. The weird 20 second build up in "Schizoid Man", the end of "Crimson King" and you could easily take a minute out of "Epitaph" and a few minutes out of "Moonchild" and none of the drama and effect would be lost. Regardless, it was polarizing then and it's still polarizing now. All of these songs have influenced future King Crimson lineups and indeed future prog bands to begin their own projects, and "Schizoid Man" remains one of my all time favorite jams, live versions especially (check the Night Watch from Amsterdam '73).

And the world rejoices...

Wicket | 5/5 |

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