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King Crimson - In The Wake Of Poseidon CD (album) cover


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

3.83 | 2040 ratings

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TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Review 18, In The Wake Of Poseidon, King Crimson, 1970


This album had the unfortunate disadvantage of following In The Court Of The Crimson King. After such a stunning debut, it seemed unlikely that a somewhat changed and unstable line-up (with Peter Giles replacing Greg Lake's bass, Keith Tippett's jazz piano contributions and Mel Collins replacing Ian McDonald's saxes and flutes. Fripp takes over the mellotron, and Gordon Haskell provides one vocal) could possibly follow up on the band's promise. The resulting album, In The Wake Of Poseidon is an absolutely superb effort, and in no way the 'sticking to the formula' that some have accused it of being. Superficially, you have a fairly fast jazz rock song featuring sax, an 'epic' with mellotron, and a softer song on both, but really that's about the extent of the similarity. This is, even if not quite as mindblowing as Court, an absolutely essential album, because of The Devil's Triangle, the acoustics on the title track, and Mike Giles' second dose of absolutely amazing drumming.

The album begins with a distant vocal from Lake, the first of the three enjoyable peace segments, with a couple of taps on acoustics at the end. Peace - A Theme, is a pure acoustic guitar solo, which is enjoyable, but not really a standout track. The final Peace - An End section begins with Greg Lake's vocal as quite unsteady, presumably to show Sinfield's ideas of moving towards a conclusion, but really, I think it just seems weak here. It is a lovely ending though, with a little more minimalist acoustic playing from Fripp, and lyrically beautiful.

Pictures Of A City is the faster jazz rock piece mentioned earlier. Opened mostly by Peter Giles' twanging bass and a smoky sax from Collins, with a tremendous drum roll thing, Lake enters the song, with his gripping vocal. After a couple of verses, Fripp kicks in with his insane fast jazz guitar, and then moves to a softer bass-and-drums-dominated break, to a faster pace lead back into the final verse (lyrically it merges parts of the previous two). The music and lyrics are joined perfectly, a series of images, flashing past. Lyrically, I think this is also the song that best lives up to what Pete Sinfield achieved on Court. Gripping, working well independently and in the context of its album. It ends by ascending into chaos, and sharply contrasts with the soft follower, which is really the biggest (in my opinion, the only) justification of the Court doppelganger comments of many reviewers.

Cadence And Cascade is the album's problem for me. Gordon Haskell really seems quite weak as a vocalist compared to the superb Greg Lake and, despite the truly superb work from all the musicians involved, the song fails to really grip me. Tippet and Mike Giles really stand out on this one, though, and the flute part from Collins is enjoyable.

The mellotron-and-drums powerhouse of In The Wake Of Poseidon's opening is one of Crimson's finest moments, and the continuation is very strong, if a little too reliant on the mellotron. Lake provides absolutely stunning vocals, and Sinfield's lyrics have really grown on me from a poor start. The real highlight of this song, though, is Fripp's finest work on acoustic guitars, providing twinges that subtly alter the feel of any individual word. Mel Collins adds a bit of flute in here. It bears basically no relationship to Epitaph, as far as I can see, except in the possession of a chorus. Mike Giles on drums, again, stands out. A truly superb drummer.

The jazzy Cat Food was hate at first listen, but I've really grown to enjoy it. A bass-driven song, to which Tippet's chaotic piano provides the real substance, while the drums tap away in a suitably unpredictable fashion. Following the end of the vocals, Fripp comes in with a few good acoustic chords, and adds something else to the song. Lyrically, a fairly clever hammering of commercial advertising.

The Devil's Triangle is perhaps the most visceral reinterpretation of a classical piece, ever. Based on Holst's 'Mars, The Bringer Of War', it takes the basic outline and ideas of the original and provides savage biting ideas, dark atmosphere, and a general utter amelodic chaos to the mix. On Merday Morn, Fripp shows off the whining guitar sound that he'll master on Prince Rupert's Lament and ample mellotron handling, while Tippet and Collins are the other two standouts. Collins for just playing notes that don't seem to fit, but add to the feel very perfectly, and Tippet for his ability to use a piano to create angry textures even if it's unconventional. The Garden Of Scion, I think, begins with a chaotic windy section that'd be seen later on Pink Floyd's Meddle album, and continues in a much more jazzy style, with Tippet, Pete Giles and Collins carrying all before them. This moves to an almost comical drawn out violin-like wail and an echo of Court's vocal harmonies, and slowly and chaotically just generally does what the hell it likes before Collins' flute and Fripp's acoustics bring it back to the final peace section. I've got to give Sinfield credit for his choice of names, and I'm quite glad that the band was actually refused permission to use the classical piece's name: this creation is far too unique for that. An experimental, daring piece. Not to be missed.

Perhaps the most unfortunate feature of the remaster (see Tales From Topographic Oceans or Brain Salad Surgery for comparison. Same problem.) is the inclusion of bonus material. While having Groon and the single version of Cat Food in some form wouldn't otherwise be a bad thing, they completely ruin the effect of the album's three Peace sections and damage the lyrical ideas built up throughout the song.

This album failed to live up to the previous album in a couple of ways: lyrically, Court is more immediate and resonant, while this is clever in a way that usually succeeds, but doesn't have the same impact. Second, there are two small flaws in this album: Gordon Haskell's vocal on Cadence And Cascade, and the over-extension of In The Wake Of Poseidon. However, it's nonetheless, as I have suggested, a vital and very individual album.

Favourite Track: Pictures Of A City (with a nod to The Devil's Triangle) Rating: Four Stars

TGM: Orb | 4/5 |


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