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King Crimson - In the Court of the Crimson King CD (album) cover


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

4.63 | 4525 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars It is disputed as to whether or not this was the first "true" progressive rock album. If so, that's rather a neat little achievement for the humdrum county of Dorset; 2.5 square km of farmland and Jurassic coastlines that myself and the original members of King Crimson had the good fortune to be born within. It is indeed lucky that this debut album was as celebrated as it was; or we really would have to rely on "the second largest natural harbour in the world!"

In the illustrious 'Court of the Crimson King', one can discover five songs that blend whimsical folk melodies, dark jazz workouts and paranoid polyrhythms in an enormous symphonic vessel, drenched with thick mellotron and that 'quintessential English charm' that prog fans always bang on about. The lyrics are about as poetic as things get around here (think Thomas Hardy on acid?) and the instrumentalists deliver virtuosity and emotion in seemingly correct ratios; that is, constant lightning-fast drum fills trapped beneath melodic bass lines, with delicate yet calculated guitar and some beautiful flute decoration. Occasionally the saxophonist blows his own trumpet, resulting in confusion all around. The first track 'Schizoid Man' is deceptively cool. After a dosage of heavy jazz riffs and distorted vocals (Metallica take note) the whole affair shifts into an improvisational workout, carrying Fripp's first ever maniacal guitar solo, although perhaps thankfully the only one on this album. While something in the vein of Larks' Tongues in Aspic would benefit from the guitarist's angular and dissonant style, this record suits the modest, 'Wimbourne village' side of Fripp (since when were place names adjectives though?). Two double-tracked squealing saxes follow and the steadier opening theme is reprised. Structure brings clarity to chaos; a successful formula.

Remaining tracks fit into the epic symphonic category or the calm jazz one. Each one creates a mood; easier said than done, although it's notable that none of these moods are particularly optimistic. Medieval, apocalyptic, schizophrenic? it's no wonder Mr Fripp seeks to create mostly instrumental music these days! The highlights on this album come not from Peter Sinfield's baroque rambling, but rather the emotions bleeding from the Spanish guitars, woodwinds and of course, that omnipresent mellotron. An epic finale of a title-track leaves the listener satisfied and likely to come back for more, but the band would outgrow this style (and indeed most of these members) within the next couple of years.

Largely without flaws, 'In the Court of the Crimson King' retains a certain power each time I take it for a spin. Complimented by a strikingly apt cover image and an (unfortunately short-lived) chemistry within the band, this debut already says a lot about the genre it popularised. Things would get a lot more interesting from here on in.

thehallway | 5/5 |


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