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King Crimson - In The Court Of The Crimson King CD (album) cover

IN THE COURT OF THE CRIMSON KING

King Crimson

 

Eclectic Prog

4.61 | 3689 ratings

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Luqueasaur
5 stars INTRODUCTION FEATURING "EXPLANATION OF WHY THIS ALBUM IS SO MEANINGFUL"

If you attempt to picture yourself in 1969 and think of what are the other great "progressive rock" acts going on, you'll find plenty of good stuff. However as you may put, though, most of them were pretty mild. They didn't achieve their full potential in this sense, they were still ascending into a higher form of prog being. Look at YES, GENESIS, CAMEL, etc. All of them are genre-defining bands that, by 1969, were pretty tame. So under this context, KING CRIMSON was groundbreaking.

If you still can't picture the situation, let me give you an analogy. In the early 20th Century, Europe's avant-garde Modernist movements influenced and dictated many peripheric nations' cultural endeavors. This was the case for Brazil, too, until an ambitious young lad called Mário de Andrade, hoping to give his nation's culture identity, shoot out for the whole world to see the Cannibal Manifesto, which shook the nation and brought Brazil forward to the Modernist era. Naturally, Mário wasn't the first with this revolutionary dream, as many contemporaries of his were "militant" Modernists as well; but the thing is: Mário was the man that materialized it. That made it go from "hopes and dreams of progressive artists" into "a truly concrete movement".

Now, try to swap "Brazil" with "rock", "Europe's avant-garde movements" with "popular, repetitive and radio- friendly approach", "Mário de Andrade" with "King Crimson" and you'll be able to picture what I'm talking about. Right? Right? Great.

So, say what you want, but IN THE COURT OF THE CRIMSON KING is a compulsory item in the catalog of any prog enthusiast, for historical value. Undeniably, this album is overrated. But assuming of its importance for the genre, it's fair. Let people worship it, even if it's a little out of proportion... what harm does it make?

Now, regarding musical value, to how enjoyable this is... that's a whole different story. In general, the album is highly diverse and there's no way to label it as of, say, "well, if you like jazz, listen to this stuff" (which in my opinion is the most progressive thing to be). If you read the definition of "what is prog rock" and listen to several five-stars albums, you'll find said definition a little out of touch, as if there's not much connection between what is spoken and what really happens. Not with this. "There's a change from blues influence to jazz/classical music"? CHECK. "It's highly complex"? Look at Mirrors (21st Century Schizoid Man's instrumental part), CHECK. "It tries to be distinct from the pop type of music of the time"? Well, just how many songs are similar to the homonymic track? CHECK.

So, in short, we've got three adjectives for those lads: DISTINCTIVE. INNOVATIVE. UNIQUE.

A SMALL COMMENTARY ON EACH BAND MEMBER (FROM MOST TO LEAST HIGHLIGHTED).

MICHAEL GILES, just as fellow reviewer ProgMetaller2112 says, brings this up a notch. Not only his virtuosity is amazing, but he is immensely creative and present on EACH FRIGGIN' TRACK. I can bet that on every single song you'll notice him and his drumming shenanigans. He's the star of this whole damn thing.

IAN MACDONALD's superb performance at the instrumental parts "Mirrors" and "The Return of the Fire Witch" are the next big thing on this album. It's amazing that a man at one moment can be deranged and insane while on the other so calm and efficient.

ROBERT FRIPP's performance on both the acoustic and electric guitar are superb. His performance on Mirrors and In the Court of the Crimson King are spectacular, to say the least.

GREG LAKE's vocals are, above everything, FITTING, for each track. Which the way I see is more important than being "good" or "enjoyable".

PETER SINFIELD's lyrics are interesting. Even though he (probably) repeats the topic three times (Vietnam War & Politics on 21st Century Schizoid Man/Epitaph/In the Court of the Crimson King), the theme doesn't feel repetitive.

NOW, I PRESENT YOU, EACH TRACK. INDIVIDUALLY "ANALYZED".

21st Century Schizoid Man is the first thing Fripp and his lads brings to you, with what I personally consider the true "embodiment, archetype, paragon" of progressive rock - alternatively of what I deem the popular opinion is - and not In the Court of the Crimson King. Well, this might be a little because I prefer songs with three-digit tempos. Here we have the most marvelous fusion between jazz and rock I've seen, folks. It's a maddened and aggressive, as I've read somewhere, "proto-heavy metal" (or should it be progressive metal? Or would it be jazzgressive metal?). I believe it's in the vein of freestyle jazz. It features distorted vocals and a disorderly vibe. Intentional, you might deduce correctly; this song is a criticism of the Vietnam War and politics (Sinclair's first attempt to tackle the subject). The instrumental piece "Mirrors" (aforementioned, like, ten times by now?) is the pinnacle of musicianship in this album, where the saxophone, drums, and guitars altogether jam an insanely delightful cacophony. You get another verse & chorus and then the chaotic outro, which, in comparison to the next track, is a shock.

I Talk to the Wind is a calm song with three verses and two chorus repetitions, and overall simple and straightforward lyricism (accordingly to Genius.com, it's about religiousness, as "the wind" is a metaphor for God). Don't be fooled to associate "calm" with "uninteresting" or "boring", though (leave this to Epitaph). In spite of the track's tranquil atmosphere, the drums are potent, MacDonald's flute solo is serene, but attention-grabbing. I'm not a fan of slow/mellow songs, but even so, I'll definitively give this song more than only one shot.

Epitaph is a slow but definitively not calm song. It's now leaning towards a more emotional approach. It hasn't called my attention, both instrumental parts - the bridge "March for No Reason" and the outro "Tomorrow and Tomorrow" - are forgettable, just the song as a whole. It is vigorous if you put in perspective Lake's passionate performance as he sings the lyrics - themed by a lack of faith on humanity as we march towards an apocalypse because those in power are fools... and because of nukes, too - but otherwise, its just... bland. The very definition of "60's unhopeful song about Vietnam War". I find this the low point of the album.

Moonchild is another calm song, although not in the same sense of "I Talk to the Wind" (serene). I'd, instead, use the word soothing. The first part, "The Dream", brings me images of nighttime, melancholy and loneliness as the tale of the Moonchild are told (possibly referring to Aleister Crowley's 1917 novel, 'Moonchild'). Eventually, part two begins - The Illusion. Imagine if King Crimson decided to make an instrumental lullaby only with three instruments: a piano, a vacillating guitar, and maddened drums. For ten minutes. Impromptu. Yeah. Well, it's nowhere as bad as it seems, BUT the instruments are flickering. It can just go calm and rather boring right after an interesting drum passage. And, most importantly, out of nowhere you hear a blasting Mellotron that gets you thinking, "Hey, that's not Moonchild, that's In the Court of the Crimson King!".

Finally, the legendary In the Court of the Crimson KIII-III-III-III-III-IIIIIING. Folks, this is an amazing song. The Mellotron riff makes you think "Now that's some real psychedelic stuff" (and in a good way!), it's so simple yet so effective at being distinctive and easily recognizable. This is yet another track criticizing Vietnam War. 21st Century Schizoid Man did so by predicting a lot of bad stuff happening, and being angry about it. Epitaph did that too, but this time, by being emotionally appealing. In the Court of the Crimson King does so by being highly poetic and mesmerizing, and variating from powerful passages (such as the chorus) to smooth ones (such as the flute solo of "The Return of the Fire Witch"). Right after the last chorus, as the outro "The Dance of the Puppets"'s silence ends, a rather... unexpected, short piece comes in. "Is this Zelda? Nintendo? On '69?" You'll ask yourself. Would I be surprised to know this song influenced 8-bit music? Not one bit (no pun intended).

SO, IN THE END..

. this is an essential masterpiece of progressive rock music. Personally, I can't consider this one of my favorite albums - although 21st Century Schizoid Man is my newest darling - but I don't even need it to be to recognize how amazing KING CRIMSON was. To think of this as a debut (well, to be honest KING CRIMSON'S debut was actually live to, like, 250,000 people maybe?) just gets me even more amazed. Anyone who's new to the genre should listen to this. Anyone who's old should listen again. Anyone who likes good music should listen to this. Anyone who hates Vietnam War and wants it to end should listen to it. Anyone who likes Mellotron should listen to this.

Okay, I'll make myself simpler: anyone, and that includes everyone, should listen to this.

Luqueasaur | 5/5 |

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