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King Crimson - Lizard CD (album) cover

LIZARD

King Crimson

 

Eclectic Prog

4.09 | 1489 ratings

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seventhsojourn
Special Collaborator
RPI
3 stars Lizard witnessed a fairly dramatic change of direction from King Crimson, rather than simply being a reproduction of the previous album as had largely been the case with In The Wake Of Poseidon. The sound here is geared more towards avant-garde and the album features several guest musicians drawn from the jazz world. Brass and woodwinds dominate the aural landscape along with Keith Tippett's pianos. On the whole, Robert Fripp's guitar is fairly restrained although there is some sublime acoustic work during the first half of the album. He also makes liberal use of Mellotron throughout the album and lyricist Pete Sinfield even gets in on the act, adding some interesting synthesized effects.

Fripp and Sinfield were still the principle members of KC at this point and had written all the material for the album. Reeds-man Mel Collins remained from ITWOP, with Gordon Haskell and Andy McCulloch joining as full members. McCulloch proved to be a more than adequate replacement for Michael Giles; his drumming is excellent and sounds similar in style to his predecessor. However, bassist and vocalist Gordon Haskell's singing is a sore point for me. In my opinion he can't sing; or rather, he doesn't sing. His vocal range is narrow while his delivery lacks articulation and falls somewhere between his speaking voice and a drone. If this criticism seems harsh, you only need to look to the fact that Jon Anderson was employed to sing the lead on Prince Rupert Awakes. On the subject of Jon Anderson, I've always felt that his voice sounds incongruous on a KC album; that and the handclaps make this song far too dainty for my liking.

The opening track, Cirkus, is arguably the main highlight of the album and features a menacing Mellotron that calls to mind The Devil's Triangle from ITWOP. The song itself is a curious hybrid of styles, alternating between the band's heavy and symphonic sides. The song ends in a cacophony of saxophone, brittle guitar, braying cornet and clattering drums. Indoor Games and Happy Family are a couple of quirky songs with hedonism and The Beatles as their subject matter respectively. Both these songs feature treated vocals; experimentation, or further evidence Haskell wasn't up to the job? Track 4, Lady Of The Dancing Water, features a lovely playful flute by Collins along with some trombone. This song is a throwback to I Talk To The Wind and Cadence And Cascade from the two previous albums. I'm surprised that KC continued to produce this type of song, and in fact would go on doing so after Lizard.

The title track consists of a 23-minute multi-part suite, beginning with the aforementioned Prince Rupert Awakes. This first piece is very much in KC's trademark symphonic style and features a lyrical electric guitar lead and Mellotron-laden crescendos. During the final verse a marching snare-drum beat joins in, which exquisitely heralds the forthcoming Bolero section. The initial cornet and piano of Bolero are soon joined by oboe. Reed and brass instruments then head into an improvised section, throwing in occasional motifs from the standards repertoire, underpinned by Tippett's manic piano. Fripp has been conspicuous by his absence so far in this section, but waves of Mellotron arrive during the reprise of the main theme. A distant cor anglais then introduces the lengthy Battle Of Glass Tears, which features dramatic contrasts of dynamics; another trademark of the KC sound. The brief Big Top closes the album, and along with the opener Cirkus these two songs nicely ring-fence the entire album.

Lizard has the reputation of being a difficult album, mainly as it is quite different to other early KC discs. It's certainly an album that requires repeated plays in order to fully appreciate its complexities. Despite the issues with the two vocalists highlighted above, it's an otherwise fine album and is worthy of a solid 3 stars.

seventhsojourn | 3/5 |

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