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King Crimson - Red CD (album) cover

RED

King Crimson

 

Eclectic Prog

4.52 | 2292 ratings

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zravkapt
Special Collaborator
Post/Math Rock Team
4 stars Featuring possibly the lamest album cover in Crimson's entire discography, this is a very heavy album for the mid-70s. David Cross is now gone and the band are left as a "power trio". Fripp ended the band after this was recorded but before it was released. Oddly enough, some former members of Crimson appear here as if the whole thing was planned as a swan song to begin with. Crimson co-founder Ian McDonald plays sax and in fact wanted to rejoin the group and continue without Fripp. Wetton and Bruford wanted to continue as well, but Fripp decided there would be no KC without him. Bruford would be a session musician for a few years; Wetton joined Uriah Heep; and McDonald ended up in Foreigner.

Besides McDonald, Mel Collins also plays some sax. In addition, some of the reed players from the Sinflield-era are present as well. Not only do some of the guest musicians recall earlier Crimson, but Red has some similarities to ITCOTKC as well. Both have 5 songs, one of them being a pointless improvisation. The first tracks on both albums are also the most rocking. The second songs on both albums are ballads. The last songs on both albums are the most varied. On Red, Bruford is getting more interesting as a drummer and Wetton's singing is improving.

In some ways you could call the title track one of the very first "prog metal" songs. One of KC's best instrumentals. Love the riffs here. The cello(?) part in the middle is sublime. Apparently, Fripp did not like Bruford's drumming on this song; he wanted more of a typical hard rock style drumming. "Fallen Angel" is the only song to feature acoustic guitar. Basically a ballad with more upbeat drumming. A good song but it's the least 'proggy' on the album. Nice use of guest musicians here. Fripp seems to be inspired by the Beatles' "I Want You(She's So Heavy)"; he uses different variations on that riff on the album.

Next to the title track, "One More Red Nightmare" is my favourite song on side one. Bruford's drumming here is very inventive. I like the oddball handclap sounds(supposedly that is Bruford hitting a broken cymbal). Nice sax solo during the middle section. More "I Want You" inspired guitar playing towards the end with some more sax. "Providence" is actually an edited improv recorded live in Providence, Rhode Island. The full version can be heard on the box set The Great Deceiver. As that box set proves, KC did much better improvs at the time than this. This is similar to the more avant and experimetal improvs on Starless And Bible Black. Being a live recording, this is the only song to feature Cross. It stands out like a sore thumb to the rest of the album. This album loses a whole star because of this track.

An earlier version of "Starless" was supposed to be the title track of SABB, but Fripp and Bruford didn't like it. Supposedly Wetton wrote some of the lyrics to the final version, in addition to the lyrics of Richard Palmer-James. This version is the highlight of the album and one of Crimson's best songs. The guitar and Mellotron melodies at the beginning and end are just fantastic. The addition of guest musicians makes this the definitive version. I love how the Mellotron dies out and is replaced by a cello(?) for a moment. Later a repeated bass part sets up the piece for some minimalistic guitar playing and odd sounds. This part becomes more intense and louder as it progresses. After 9 minutes goes into a jazzy section with sax. The main theme is reprised on some wind instrument briefly and the band comes back full throttle with Fripp doing an amazing solo on one string. Main theme comes back at the end in a very majestic fashion. Superb - one of the greatest endings to any song ever.

Basically a trio, Fripp overdubs his guitar a lot on Red. This album was definitely a major influence on later, more harder-edged prog bands. It's hard to say what they could have come up with after this...with or without Fripp. It may have been better than this, or alternately, nowhere near as good. Overall, this is a great album but "Providence" stops everything dead in it's tracks. Of all the improvs they recorded at the time, why did they choose that one? 4 stars.

zravkapt | 4/5 |

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