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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

4.62 | 3876 ratings

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Ludenberger
5 stars This is it... THE progressive rock album. The album that countless prog artists draw inspiration from, even to this day. Simply put, even though progressive rock music was well on the rise in the late 1960s, the "classic wave" of prog was initiated by "In The Court." This album truly defined what prog rock meant, and at the time it was like nothing else the rock genre had ever seen... but you've no doubt heard all of this. Now for the quality of the album as a whole.

"In The Court" brings together a truly spectacular team of musicians, including the early guitar brilliance of Robert Fripp (who, at the time, wasn't as major of a component in the group as he would come to be), the bass and chilling vocals of Greg Lake, Michael Giles's punchy drum lines that vastly increase the depth of each song on here, and the mystical lyrics of Pete Sinfield that rival the writing styles of Lewis Carroll himself. However, the member that I think really shines on this album is Ian McDonald: his intense and artful saxophone playing, his gentle strokes of brilliance from several woodwind instruments, and of course, one of the earliest uses of a prog staple, the mellotron. Each member brings something new to the table, and I love that about this album. If you were to take even one of the band members off of this album, a big chunk of its sheer quality and mastery would be severely missed.

This album also brings together styles of music previously unseen on rock albums, and it also introduced staples that are still being used (and sometimes abused) in prog rock today. Jazz music is an obvious influence here, seen on the improvisation-heavy "Moonchild" and the jazz instrumentation McDonald brings to the table, and other things used include the pop song structure of "I Talk To The Wind," a little bit of blues infused into "Schizoid Man," and even baroque music with the epic flourishes used on McDonald's mellotron.

As for the real shining moments on the album, "21st Century Schizoid Man" is an instant classic that grabs your attention on the very first listen, what with its surprising, striking opening chords and the distorted vocals from Lake. Even music fans who aren't usually too keen on progressive rock can appreciate this one just for its intensity, especially for a rock song from 1969.

"The Court of the Crimson King" is another essential track from this album, including some of Sinfield's finest lyrical work with the band. Michael Giles is also an integral part of this song's brilliance. It is even stronger in the context of the album, because after the quiet, slightly meandering improvisation on "Moonchild," the listener is just hit with a rush of intensity, almost like a musical apocalypse to close the album off.

"Epitaph" is also one of the most successful tracks on the album for similar reasons as the final track. It is an emotional rollercoaster, improved by the musical chemistry on this track between Lake, Giles, and Fripp. The lyrics also expand on the political commentary of "Schizoid Man," making it a fitting track on the album.

Personally, some of my favorite moments come from "I Talk To The Wind," especially McDonald's final flute solo to end off the track. I also really like the fantasy imagery in the lyrics of "Moonchild."

As for weak moments on the album, the only one that is generally pointed out as a weak moment is the improvisation entitled "The Illusion" for the most of "Moonchild." Yes, it's no masterpiece, and it definitely isn't King Crimson's best when it comes to improv that we would later see in the mid-70s, but it is still musically interesting and works just fine in the context of the album, although it is the weakest track.

Overall, this album is a 5/5, and it still holds up today thanks to the fine production. Progressive rock and its many artists wouldn't nearly be as massive if it wasn't for the influence, innovation, and mastery of this classic. It is simply essential, and a must-hear for fans of prog and rock alike.

Ludenberger | 5/5 |

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