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King Crimson - Beat CD (album) cover


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

3.08 | 1216 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Review Nš 306

In my humble opinion, King Crimson, Gentle Giant and Van Der Graaf Generator are the three best eclectic progressive rock bands in the progressive rock history. The bigest differences between these bands is that King Crimson always has been a much respected band by a large number of fans of progressive rock world, while Gentle Giant and Van Der Graaf Generator have always been bands less checked. However, they always had a small but loyal cult of fans. But, above all, those three progressive rock bands belong to some of the best and most influential prog rock bands ever.

'Beat' is the ninth studio album of King Crimson and was released in 1982. The album does several references to the 'Beat Generation', what can perfectly have to do with its own name. It was focused on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the publication of the novel 'On The Road' by Jack Kerouac, a pioneer of the 'Beat Generation'. So, 'Beat' is almost a unique album in all King Crimson's discography because it's, in a certain way, a sole conceptual album that deals with various icons of the 'Beat Generation'. All its eight tracks are focused on some of the various icons of that generation.

The line up of the album is Robert Fripp (guitar, organ and Frippertronics), Adrian Belew (lead vocals, guitar and drums), Tony Levin (backing vocals, bass guitar and Chapman stick) and Bill Bruford (drums).

'Beat' has eight tracks. The lyrics are from Belew and the music is from Fripp, Belew, Levin and Bruford, except 'Two Hands' wich has lyrics by Belew and Margaret Belew. The first track 'Neal And Jack And Me' has a clear overt reference to the Beatnick write duo Neal Cassidy and Jack Kerouac. It's a song filled with a driving beat and opens the album with a series of guitar loops. Belew's is shouted, whispered and sung, distorted and clean, wrapped in interlocking guitars, which are the real highlight all over the track. The second track 'Heartbeat' is the song taken to be released as their single from this album. The song was also recorded by Belew for his 1990 solo album 'Young Lions'. It has beautiful guitar tones, a good bass line and nice lyrics and vocals. This is undeniably a cheesy and pop song, but this is still a great song. Probably, you may actually heard it on the radio from time to time, which is a real rarity with King Crimson. The third track 'Sartori In Tangier' is an instrumental track and represents the antithesis of a pop song. It opens with a pseudo classical intro that quickly moves through Hammond and guitar leads. This is an excellent track with all sorts and weird musical textures creating a very impressive musical image. The title is a clever twist of Kerouac's classic 'Satori In Paris'. The fourth track 'Waiting Man' is very similar to 'Discipline'. This song reflects King Crimson's fascination with the world music. It's a very nice song where Bruford uses his electronic percussion to create a real counterpoint to the bass line. The final result is a very intricate guitar rhythm section interplay, very interesting and good. The fifth track 'Neurotica' is a very freaky and bizarre song, even in King Crimson's style, with paranoid lyrics and full of demented imagery that describes perfectly well the complete insanity of a big city at night. All band's members make a very impressive musical performance providing all sorts of lunatic scrails, for a good final result and a great break on the album. The sixth track 'Two Hands' is no more than a simple pop song. The rhythm section and the guitar touches sound nice and evoke a kind of a certain decadent romanticism. However, it has nothing to do with the quality level of the rest of the album. It's the album's lower point and represents its Achilles' heel. The seventh track 'The Howler' is a clear reference to Allan Ginsberg's classic poem, 'Howl'. It's a pretty complex musical composition and it just screams out filler with every note. This is a faster paced piece of music that picks up where the madness of 'Neurotica' left off. It doesn't hold up nearly as well as 'Neurotica', but it still refreshingly very weird too. The eighth track 'Requiem' is the second instrumental on the album and it was chosen to be the B side of their album's single, 'Heartbeat'. This song has an incredible original display that begins with a very distinctive Fripp's guitar solo, Bruford's jazz drumming and Levin's subtle additions, making of it one of the darkest King Crimson's pieces of music.

Conclusion: 'Beat' is very similar in style to 'Discipline', but it's significantly less good than its predecessor. The main difference is that the energy contained on 'Discipline' is pretty much gone, and the cohesivity that we can see all over 'Discipline' has gone too. The playing on the album isn't much worse than on 'Discipline', or anything like that, but the sense of controlled permanent insanity that cross 'Discipline' and its crazy creativity that made of it so good has been replaced by a kind of 'normality'. In general, I would say that 'Beat', although not uniformly good, has some very nice tracks on it too. There's some good material here and some of the tracks are pretty enjoyable. But, it doesn't have the depth of 'Discipline', which it otherwise only closely have some resemblances. Concluding, 'Beat' is a good album made in a terrible time to the progressive rock music. The highlights on the album are 'Neal And Jack And Me', 'Neurotica' and especially 'Sartori In Tangier'. However, 'Heartbeat' is also a very good song despite its pop style.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 3/5 |


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