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King Crimson - Lizard CD (album) cover

LIZARD

King Crimson

 

Eclectic Prog

4.12 | 1891 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Luqueasaur
5 stars Planned spontaneity: 10/10

Clown, juggler, acrobat, sword swallower, lion tamer, it can only mean one thing... the circus has come to town! For their upcoming show, they have brought along a special guest: the iconoclastic and now jazzy KING CRIMSON, featuring Robert Fripp, Gordon Haskell, Mel Collins, Andy McCulloch, Keith Tippet, Robin Miller, Mark Charig, Nick Evans. The purpose of this unconventional partnership is to present tonight's theatrically bombastic show, the conceptual piece called LIZARD.

"People, oh all good people," says the announcer (who is actually Jon Anderson with a mustache. Boy, I wonder why is he hiding his identity), "This will be a unique experience! It will take you to lands so eerie you would never expect to visit!". Fripp, with a cold smile, continues. "I can guarantee you: this will be unlike anything ever seen."

LIZARD is... strange. Here, KING CRIMSON plays an in-between of free jazz and jazz fusion. Nowhere nearly as accessible or straightforwardly technical as MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA, but also hardly grasping the absolute unorthodoxy of oddities like BITCHES BREW, LIZARD can be described at best as "free jazz with structure", something that sounds like an absurd oxymoron, but isn't. The jazz is improvisational, however, with limits demarked by the songs' skeletal chords and rhythm. Basically, the musicians perform a controlled experiment. It ends up sounding bizarre, unpredictable, but not really alienating.

Sadly, LIZARD's status as "not this nor that", its inhabitation in that grey area makes it underrated (rather than accessed) by both extremities. At one tip, settled by a demanding minority of bold avant-jazz lovers who expect nothing less than deranged subversiveness, it's not adventurous enough. To the numerous jazz fusion fans on the opposite hemisphere, it's too weird, too chaotic, and most importantly, it doesn't sound like 21st Century Schizoid Man. It doesn't sound like anything that resembles the first incarnation of KING CRIMSON at all, actually. "Jesus, dude. IN THE WAKE OF POSEIDON was such a great followup... why did you need to do... this?"

I'll give them a break, it must have been a shocker. In the dawn of 1970 KING CRIMSON was playing mellow and atmospheric symphonic prog but only a few months later they changed their style completely. Now, they're playing weird jazz. Weirder than 21st Century Schizoid Man (which isn't even weird, to begin with). This is visible since the opener: LIZARD begins with a somber tone, brought by Cirkus. Right away, KING CRIMSON's new incarnation brings solid musicianship through an organized polyphonic instrumental jamming (under Haskell's rude vocals). Although the track seems to indicate a certain conceptual (or atmospheric) seriousness, this is an erroneous assumption, promptly corrected on the next track. Indoor Games' brass melody has an air of mockery and Gordon Haskell's reverbed vocals sound cheerful in a rather... mischievous way. Happy Family continues with this frolic mood. But it is also the most inaccessible and anarchical song. Everything: the guitars, the keyboards, the Mellotron, the flute, the oboe; they all together jam with autonomy, absolutely disconnected, almost cacophonically. Starkly contrasting with this madness, Lady of the Dancing Water is warm and delicate, like a lullaby. Fripp gentle strums the guitar, Collins calmly blows the flute. Images of a lake come to your mind. Well, if it didn't before, I hope it does now you've read this.

The big boy occupies the second side. LIZARD . The eponymous track. From the Old French lesarde. (Aren't them beautiful words? Both lizard and lesarde.) Dynamic, medievalesque, ever-changing and spectacularly composed and played (even if somewhat disjunct), it brings up a notch the already formidable songwriting. The abstract lyrics construct imageries of a whimsical world dwelled by sentient lizards and brave princes (which so happen to be the name of coastal Canadian cities) who participate in poetic battles of symbolic proportions and cryptical significances. Or... something like that, I guess. It's a beautiful, powerful and boldly creative song and deservedly hailed as one of KING CRIMSON's finest pieces. It features Jon Anderson (the main vocalist of YES). By the way, that's the reason Anderson was hiding his identity. He didn't want to spoil the surprise. Seriously, when I spontaneously discovered it was him (I was listening to this at school) I giggled like a fan girl "It's Jon Anderson, oh my god". Luckily, no one was around.

Big Top is the [song and album's] outro. A circus-esque melody begins at the right speaker and fades from the left, simulating the passage a musical act right in front of the listener. And thus the show is over. The circus left town with its fanciful world of adventures and eclectic improvisational jazz fusion. Some who experienced LIZARD deems it as bland, boring, disconnected, too coldly calculated, too inaccessible, or directionless. Others, like me, call it inspirational, superb, breathtaking, yadda yadda yadda. It's all a matter of perspective. For anyone willing to give a shot at a slightly weird and unorthodox jazz, but only slightly, LIZARD's at your service. The circus is willing to play their show again, and again, and again... if you're willing to listen to it.

Luqueasaur | 5/5 |

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