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King Crimson - Lizard CD (album) cover

LIZARD

King Crimson

 

Eclectic Prog

4.12 | 2104 ratings

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NetsNJFan
Prog Reviewer
4 stars In 1970, King Crimson was an unstable band, that surprisingly managed to produce excellent albums, landmarks in progressive rock. At this point, much of the original band had departed, with the exception of band leader Robert Fripp and lyricist Peter Sinfield. Luckily, they bring in many talented musicians in to round out the band. This lineup only lasted for the recording of LIZARD and never toured. Gordon Haskell is brought on as vocalist/bassist to replace Greg Lake, and does an admirable job. His raspy, brooding vocals fit the material perfectly. Andy McCulloch is competent as drummer, and his presence is felt, giving pace to the often chaotic jazz interludes. The addition of many woodwind and brass players gave King Crimson a much richer, jazzier sound. Keith Tippet's strongly Jazz flavored keys are an added plus (Keith was asked to join the band, but passed). The material found on LIZARD also has a much jazzier edge than its two predecessors, and is also much darker and complex. While it does mark a step towards Jazz-Fusion, that's not to say this is The Soft Machine style free- Jazz; LIZARD is much more composed, and it is still very much in the Progressive Rock camp, with prominent guitars and stereotypical 'epic' progressive lyrics. One gets the feeling Robert Fripp and Sinfield carefully orchestrated this whole album, and it successfully builds a certain (creepy-demented) theme throughout.

LIZARD opens strongly with Cirkus, a frightening track featuring Crimson at their most insane. This track features excellent acoustic guitar from Fripp, as well as dramatic vocals by the underrated Haskell, and wonderfully arranged horns and keyboard flourishes. It alternates perfectly between soft vocal segments, and cacophonous jazz flavored instrumental bridges, creating a true circus atmosphere, with a sinister twist. This is a near perfect early-Crimson track, and shows just how scary these guys could be. The next piece lightens up a bit, featuring a wonderful jazz introduction from the brass section. Haskell's distinctive vocals give the song it's Crimson touch. Overall, it is quite good, but not nearly as interesting as the other tracks found here, and follows a more straight-jazz approach, with occasional Fripp Guitar breaks. Happy Family resumes the dark feel of Cirkus, with eerie distorted vocals, and more guitar and keyboards than on the previous tracks. It also has great flute touches. (note: It is rumored that this track was written by Sinfield about the Beatles' breakup, and many further contend that the figures found on the elaborate record sleeve under the 'I' are the Beatles...This is also one of the best cover's ever on a Crimson album, designed by Sinfield). Side One closes with Lady of the Dancing Water. This represents the obligatory, light acoustic piece on a King Crimson album, and is much in the vein of Cadence and Cascade and I Talk to the Wind. It is very enjoyable and light, providing a brief respite from the insanity surrounding it, but by this point, the formula was getting old for this sort of song. Side Two features the side- long epic, Lizard. The title track is a twenty-three minute suite, with four distinct movements. This piece is one of the most ambitious songs ever attempted by Fripp and Co. It opens with Prince Rupert Awakens. Surprisingly, Jon Anderson of Yes sings vocals on this piece, as Gordon Haskell never finished. This is an excellent touch. Anderson's light, ethereal vocals give the folksy-traditional prog song a definite boost. This song has beautiful melodies, and it is nice to hear Anderson sing semi-coherent lyrics, as oppose to his Yes work. The next two sections, Bolero and The Battle... are Jazz pieces, and feature impressive playing from all members. McCulloch's drums are especially good, giving The Battle... a warlike feel. The horn section is also excellent. These pieces are well done, but a bit drawn out and longwinded. Lizard closes with Big Top, a short reprise of Cirkus, giving the album a fitting close and a cyclical feel.

Many fans and Robert Fripp himself do not like this album, and it is not easy to define. LIZARD is King Crimson's darkest, and least accessible album. It is also their farthest removed from traditional rock. It is a progression over their last album, IN THE WAKE OF POSEIDON (1970), and it is a shame that this potent lineup didn't last. Four stars, due to some weak moments on Lizard. This is one that rewards repeated listens, a definite essential for fans of King Crimson or Jazzier Rock.

NetsNJFan | 4/5 |

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