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King Crimson - Larks' Tongues in Aspic CD (album) cover


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

4.42 | 2994 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Whether or not you consider Larks' Tongue in Aspic a masterpiece, it is arguably the album where King Crimson break away from the pack of the other well known prog rock acts. Having first demonstrated the scope for structure and extended sections in rock with their debut, King Crimson now seem to want to be liberated from structure. There is no neat sonata form in evidence anywhere on this album. The band seem to zealously avoid linearity of any kind. Unpredictability is the name of the game.

While the other biggies of prog - and by then a good deal bigger than King Crimson - had wonderful musicians indeed, Fripp & Co lay down a starkly different approach to performing the music on this album. The focus is not on any obvious demonstration of virtuosity. Instead, they take the jazz virtue of never playing a note the same way twice to heart. Whether the results of such an approach are blissful or messy probably depend on the listener's preferences and orientation. And it is an album that divides opinion. Depending on who you are, King Crimson's unorthodoxy could be the very thing that draws you to the album or repels you away from it.

As for me, one thing I personally detest about long jams or improvisations is the absence of a mood save that which is very much familiar in that genre of music. E.g A blues jam sounding very bluesy is not exactly what I am looking for. To me, any performance ought to serve a need, a goal and I get off very fast on generic showboating.

That is not a problem with LTIA. The two part title track is very atmospheric and the meandering nature of the music conceals a strong sense of purpose and resolution. The music does move towards a logical conclusion, just not in a particularly logical way. But I am too taken up with Bruford and Muir's creative percussion work to bother too much about that. The musicians create a very sensual experience, and I find it alluring for this reason. As I expressed above, King Crimson avoid obvious ways of interpreting their music. Where a Howe or Barre might play beautiful notes, Fripp finds several different ways to play the notes beautifully and that is a significant difference, at least for me. There are not very many prog rock bands who have consistently favoured this approach and among the big ones, the Wetton-King Crimson lineup is probably the only that adopted it. The result is a sound that is timeless and not dated in any way, much like the last work of this lineup, Red.

Having heaped superlatives on this album thus far, I am afraid it is time for me to nitpick. My problem is Book of Saturday and Exiles don't really fit into this package. The meandering, nomadic approach to music that works so well on the instrumental tracks hampers these vocal based tracks. Unlike Easy Money, they don't rock and don't have the almost frightening dynamic range of that track (just check out towards the end of Easy Money where Bruford explodes like a loud firecracker). It is down to Wetton to do justice to the melody. And the melody of Exile is quite beautiful but to me, he's just not up to it. While the band plays everything differently all the time, Wetton seems to sing everything the same way and that, frankly, makes it pretty hard for me to concentrate on the track even though I like the composition. I also feel that these tracks hark back to an earlier era of King Crimson and don't fit into the bold and abrasive approach of this lineup. Maybe Fripp could have somehow persuaded Lake to sing these two tracks instead?

For this reason, I am afraid I cannot hail this album as a masterpiece. But it is an amazing experience nevertheless. I have intentionally avoided trying to describe too much about these tracks for that would be to take away the element of surprise that pretty much makes this album. 4 stars.

rogerthat | 4/5 |


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