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King Crimson - Lizard CD (album) cover


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

4.12 | 2112 ratings

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5 stars LIZARD is perhaps the most "difficult" of the early King Crimson albums, yet, for that very reason, it is also ultimately one of the most rewarding. The third release from Robert Fripp and company sees the band moving in a new and radical direction. The classically-inspired sweeping grandeur and controlled cacophony that typified the first two Crimson discs has been here largely (but not entirely) replaced by a sound that has its roots much more deeply embedded in jazz.

LIZARD was highly avant-garde and demanding of its audience when it was released in 1970, and it remains a powerfully unique, almost disquieting listening experience today. While IN THE WAKE OF POSEIDON's sardonic "Cat Food" may have hinted at the path about to be explored, nothing could have fully prepared fans for the truly bizarre, almost eerie colours of abstract sound paintings like LIZARD's first three songs: "Cirkus," "Indoor Games," and "Happy Family." Much of the credit for the feel of these tracks must be accorded to new vocalist Gordon Haskell, who had supplied the almost ethereal vocals for Poseidon's lovely "Cadence and Cascade." With Greg Lake departed for ELP, Haskell gets the space to reveal a voice of power and depth, which is by turns intimate, theatrical, scornful, fey and raving. The end of "Indoor Games" finds him cackling like a madman, but the delicately pretty "Lady of the Dancing Water" (the disc's most immediately accessible song) sees him don the guise of a sensitive poet-troubadour, paying court to his lady-love on the bank of a laughing stream.

The second half of the disc (the old LP's side two) is given to the title suite. The first section of this masterful three-part song cycle features Jon Anderson of Yes on vocals, providing yet another savory flavour for LIZARD's exotic musical mélange. There is less of the jazzy experimentation which was heard on previous tracks; the direction here is more conventionally "progressive rock," with grandiose mellotrons, courtly subject-matter, and classically-oriented arrangements -- at this point almost a welcome respite from (or counter-balance to) the overt strangeness of the first half. The final installment, "Big Top," fades up to repeat the "Cirkus" theme, before diminishing hauntingly away, thus neatly framing this unique work of art. (Indeed, as art, this album is the total package -- the cover artwork is breathtaking, and the Pete Sinfield lyrics, with lines such as "Night, her sable dome scattered with diamonds," are some of the best poetry he has ever written.)

LIZARD may be an acquired taste, but it has stood the test of time as a lustrous example of early progressive rock at its most inventive. It is decidedly not for the faint-of-heart, but it is well worth taking the time to appreciate!

Peter | 5/5 |


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