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King Crimson - Lizard CD (album) cover

LIZARD

King Crimson

 

Eclectic Prog

4.13 | 2212 ratings

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SteveG
5 stars Ah, Lizard. The King Crimson album that former band members seemed to hate and disown. Particularly guitarist/mellotron meister and creative mastermind Robert Fripp. Short tenured bassist and vocalist Gordon Haskell took it a step further and actually disowned Mr. Fripp himself after the recording of this album. And drummer Andy McCulloch is still suffering PTSD as a result of the studio bullying he received from Mr. F. as to the quality of his playing. Strange stuff indeed. But as a homage to my now departed friend, Mr. Haskell (may he rest easy in some kind of Lizard-less and Fripp-less heaven), I'd liked to throw my 6 pence into the LIzard hall of reviews.

The third album by King Crimson that follows the piecemeal and member challenged In The Wake Of Poseidon, with Fripp, returning lyricist Pete Sinfield, with woodwind virtuoso Mel Collins joining the afore mentioned Messrs. Haskell and McCulloch, Lizard is a dense, ornate and heady mix of symphonic prog, jazz prog with many classical and folk motifs thrown in for good measure. The lead off track "Cirkus" is one of my all-time favorite Crimson pieces and it's dark theme coupled with Haskell's cynical carnival barker like vocals almost works flawlessly. I say almost as Mr. Fripp choose to incorporate almost all of the disparate song styles found on the previous two albums and combine them all for this song. We have heavy discordant electric guitar chords, near classical acoustic guitar arpeggios along with ethereal mellotron strings juxtaposed with jazz melodies supplied by Collins' deft sax playing. Throw in the spacey musings of a VCS3 synth and we have quite a musical concoction. The only problem was Fripp and co. trying to get the measured symphonic sections to smoothly transition and overlap into the more jagged jazz section. There was really no way to do this smoothly and these juxtapositions in musical themes and styles are awkward. However, the music of each differing section is so engaging and well played that it seems a small price to pay in creating such startlingly inventive music. The dense sound mix also rewards repeated listens as music this rich and detailed cannot be taken in in a single outing.

"Indoor Games" is another personal favorite that is completely jazz rock with a funky grove around earworm sax melodies from Collins. McCulloch does well to approximate the deft playing of former drummer KC Mike Giles on this one. Fripp adds subtle accents and counter melodies on electric guitar along with loud strummed acoustic guitar on the song's choruses. Haskell's cynical vocals again work well with this one. "Indoor Games" segues smoothly into "Happy Family", another jazzy rock number. However, Haskell's manipulated, panned and heavily echoed vocals are annoying and do the song no favors, and is the only major misstep on the album. I would be remis if I didn't mention that Keith Tippet returns with more glorious freeform piano to elevate the previous four songs to another level. The beautiful acoustic based "Lady Of The Dancing Water" is not light years away from songs light "Cadence And Cascade" from In The Wake Of Poseidon. What gives this song a slight edge over past others is the beautiful ethereal flute of Collins and the type of wistful vocal delivery that was tailor made for Haskell. Considered out of place by others, I find that this type of ballad seems to ground the album prior to the following of an epic song.

The title track "Lizard" is just that. A twenty plus minute multi suite song that spanned the vinyl LP's side two, it has all of the hallmarks of a Crimson classic. Soaring mellotron, great drumming by McCulloch (who was stellar through the entire album) , avant jazz interludes, and wonderful classical motifs played by guest players on oboe, cor anglais, trumpet and cornet. A smoldering electric guitar solo winds down this magnificent smorgasbord of styles and instruments that is again rewarded by repeated listens, as even the most subtle details are a revalation. The fact that the first part is sung by the great Jon Anderson of Yes is icing on the cake, as it's the music that's first and foremost the star . This song naturally suffers again from a few awkward transitions between the symphonic and jazz rock sections but are less pronounced than that found on "Cirkus".

Lizard does have a few glaring faults such as the wildly uneven volume between instruments and vocals in the sound mixes of the album's first four songs being the most egregious. Along with the previously noted awkward musical transitions and overlaps the album is not perfect. But man, did Fripp and company come close. 4.5 stars rounded up to 5.

SteveG | 5/5 |

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