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King Crimson - Lizard CD (album) cover

LIZARD

King Crimson

 

Eclectic Prog

4.12 | 2104 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars While still struggling (unsuccessfully) to keep a permanent line-up on the road, Fripp and Sinfield managed to keep KC busy on studio recording. Their constant (and at times conflictive) flow of creativity allowed them to bring out material for a third album, "Lizard", not too long after their previous "Poseidon" album - it turned out to be their most ambitious 69-72 era work. The scores and arrangements are labyrinthine, which is to a large degree due to the heavy use of wind instruments (the oboe, trombone and cornet join Collins' saxes and flutes here and there) and keyboards (the role Tippett's grand and electric pianos becomes as crucial as that of the guitar and mellotron, in charge of Fripp). There's also the fact that the vinyl's B-side was exclusively absorbed by the sidelong namesake suite, a monumental piece that comprises lots of epic passages and majestic multi-layered orchestrations. But the symphonic factor is not the only featured element here: in fact, the symphonic stuff is more evident in the structure of most of the album's tracks than in the performing style per se. When it comes down to the solos (mostly on wind instruments), interplays and McCullough's confidently intricate drumming, you can tell that the most prominent musical colors are tinted in jazzy tones and nuances. The funny, exquisite 'Indoor Games' is a showcase for that, and so is the Beatles parody-tribute 'Happy Family', which takes up the jazz thing to the explosive realms of free jazz in a disturbing, yet captivating manner. The acoustic ballad 'Lady of the Dancing Water' creates a bucolic portrait of gentle love slightly based on Renaissance ambiences: the trombone textures that appear during the lust sung verse add, once again, a touch of jazz that, oddly enough, melts into the song's evocative spirit quite fluidly. The sinister opener 'Cirkus' and the aforementioned 'Lizard' suite are the tracks that mix symphonic prog and jazz with a delicate sense of balance, something that shouldn't be mistaken by lack of energy: on the contrary, the band's typical energy can easily be sensed here, only if wrapped under a more sophisticated clothing and a more polished sense of ensemble shared by all musicians involved. 'Cirkus' makes an impressive opener, since it maintains a solid cohesiveness all throughout its mood shifts and diverse adornments employed for the recurring main themes: a special mention goes to the excellent acoustic guitar flourishes delivered by Fripp. The main virtues of the 'Lizard' suite lie on the accomplished elaboration of a sense of drama, in this way creating the impression of story telling even in the instrumental passages (which are many, since the lyrics are not too abundant). Its most prominent highlights are: the beautiful opening section, featuring Jon Anderson's lead voice and a dreamy mellotron-driven climax; the eerie oboe motif in the 'Bolero'; the interaction between the mellotron and the horns in 'The Battle of Glass Tears', robustly sustained by McCullough; the soaring guitar solo for 'Prince Rupert's Lament', coming to the listener's ears like a chocking wail in the distance. The only minus (and it's a very minus minus in the grand scheme of "Lizard" things) for this album is incarnated in Gordon Haskell's persona. His bass playing is merely precise, certainly not as solid as to complement his talented rhythm partner McCullough competently; what's more, his baritone timber can only work in the softer numbers, since it feels too weak and inexpressive for the most energetic passages (his successor Burrell did a great job in 'Cirkus' on tour, although I'm not a big fan of his obsessively bluesy style neither., but anyway, that's a matter for a different review.), almost ruining the overall result. Fortunately, he's not as powerful as to cause an artistic disaster for "Lizard" - in fact, this my favourite Sinfield- era KC album, and so, I label it as a masterpiece, no less than that.
Cesar Inca | 5/5 |

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