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


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

4.63 | 4245 ratings

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It's never easy to judge an exact moment when a genre becomes defined. There are many blurred edges, and many contenders pushing from several directions for a say in where music is going at any one time in history. Yet I keep coming back to the release of this album as the most certain instant when something of the future gelled.

Having said that, it's glaringly obvious that the inspiration for this came from Fripp's well attested visits to see 1-2-3 (Clouds) at the Marquee in early 1967. Listen to this description of King Crimson's music from a publicity blurb for this album. "the trademark Crimson would stick to throughout their career is shown here--dynamic variations between soft/lyrical and raucous/experimental. This was seen not just between songs but in the drastic dynamic shifts between sections in a single composition." This could be a blueprint of a 1-2-3 performance, as Brian Hogg, speaking of a 1966 performance, noted in "The History of Scottish Rock". "Their set comprised of original songs and standards, but these latter pieces were studiously reshaped, to become, in essence, new. It anticipated the techniques later used by America's Vanilla Fudge, but where the US group slowed their creations down for melodramatic emphasis, 1-2-3 were more concerned with dynamics and jazz-like swing, and used the pieces as stepping stones to self-expression, rather than a means in themselves. Yet they balanced this esoteric desire with a conspicuous focus on melody. There was nothing else remotely like it around."

The inspiration and concept may well have come from 1-2-3, but it must be said that Crimson took it to a level of confidence and sophistication that brought the new genre to the marketplace in a way that 1-2-3 or anybody else was unable to do, perhaps in the case of the Scottish band, because they were simply too early, in 1966 and 1967, audiences were not yet ready for that level of sophistication. Nevertheless, the seeds were sown, and bands like Crimson, Yes, ELP were the rich commercial harvest of these early experiments.

The real jewel of the album is the first track, shocking to untrained ears in its sudden vibrant shattering of mainstream conventions. The melodies of this and the other outstanding track, In the Court of the Crimson King are very recognizably Lake's, but the urgent improvisation and superb synchronizations are very much the province of the band as a whole. Outstanding instrumental technique abounds, and the freshness and vitality is something that few bands could match at that time. 5 stars.

resurrection | 5/5 |


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