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King Crimson - Lizard CD (album) cover


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

4.13 | 2218 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars "Stake a Lizard by the throat", sings Jon Anderson in the ironically cheerful chorus to Prince Rupert Awakes, a line which blends theatrical humour with overbearing darkness. Such is true of the entire Lizard album. That dark feel is achieved by the band literally 'standing in the shadow' of their debut (the same can be said for 'Poseidon'), whilst the humour seems to come from the increasingly whimsical brain of Peter Sinfield. This, combined with the new line-up, the jazzy, brassy, and YES-y guest musicians, and the invention of the VCS3, is what makes Lizard so oddly unique amongst King Crimson's catalogue, and indeed in music generally.

...Not that that's a bad thing. Although in practise this appears to be a recipe for disaster, it seems to work to Bob Fripp's advantage on this record. There are medieval themes within the cover artwork and lyrics, something which you either like, or don't, and the music is similarly divided. But those who enjoy Crimson's offbeat original style, are bound to fall on the positive side. Side 1 treats us to 'Cirkus', which is reminiscent of the first album with it's poetic verses and chilling melltron breaks, although it distinguishes itself with the busy overdubbing of brass, flute and acoustic guitar. 'Indoor Games' and 'Happy Family' are less serious, working to their advantage. Their lyrics (which one can mull over and be none the wiser) are almost annoying, but the tunes are quirky and upbeat nonetheless, with interesting instrumental breaks that are worth grooving to. 'Lady of the Dancing Water' is a welcome break; very light, melodical and almost madrigal-like. I have to agree though, with the other people that have said it feels 'out of place' amongst the heavy-natured, jazz-rock tomfoolery that makes up 95% of Lizard.

The title track is very rewarding, once you get your head around the different sections and sub-sections. 'Prince Ruper Awakes' is almost a sing-along folk song, which Jon Anderson's voice is well suited to (just look at Yes's 'We Have Heaven'). This section blends nicely into the extended bolero, an excersise in jazz improvisation with increasing instrumentation that leads to a beautiful climax, decorated with more Tippet brass and tinkly piano. The battle that ensues (with it's brief introduction by Haskell, who at this point has already decided to leave the band), increases in intensity as well, this time with the signature Crimson darkness and paranoid complexity. This section is one of the finest moments of the album, dragging the listener through a battlefield of opposing mellotrons, guitars and saxophones, in a way which makes you want to turn up the volume, close your eyes, and bask in the wall of sound with the knowledge that you aren't involved in the fighting itself. After a funeral-esque guitar fanfare, and an out-of-place circus reprise, Lizard is over, and the entire 23 minute experience seems irritatingly brief. But overall, the track is worthy of closing an album such as 'Court of the Crimson King', for on Lizard, it is often overlooked. The song isn't perfect, at times messy; a 'fractured masterpiece', but it brings the listener a sense of fear and delight that makes you keep returning to it. This can be said of the whole album. For me, Lizard stands the test of time better than most other Crimson records.

thehallway | 5/5 |


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