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King Crimson - Red CD (album) cover


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

4.55 | 3247 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Quite possibly the last great complete progressive outing by the forefathers of the very genre.

That hardly makes it their very best, though.

Indeed, "Red" was the last album released under the King Crimson moniker before "Discipline" heralded in the '80's. The decent song lengths already pulled me in from a standstill, and I figured this would be just like albums such as "Court Of The Crimson King" and "Starless And Bible Black". Well, after turning the volume up on track #1, "Red", I got a mixed result.

It may have been only a 5 year separation, but the sound is drastically different from "21st Century Schizoid Man". Instantly, my audible canal was bombarded with a harsh, heavy sound, quite possibly the band's take on the hard rock sound the 70's were mostly famed for. However, further listens lead me into a slow chugging of a string section, something I would've expected from King Crimson, but it's darker. A darker sound I hear. Through that, however, I take notice in Bill Bruford's exceptional drumming while still yearning for more out of Robert Fripp's guitar, and out of it all, just like the very last chord, I'm left hanging over a cliff, expecting more.

Thus, the smooth touch of "Fallen Angel" plays, and John Wetton's smooth voice changes the mood in an uplifting ballad of sorts. But at this point, I notice a huge change in the sound of King Crimson, and it's only 1974! The bland synthesizer chords and electronic drumming of the 1980's haven't kicked in yet, so why does it feel like I've already lost touch with the band? Luckily, the blaring cornet of Mark Charig snaps me out of it, and I continue to listen to Bruford's playing, as I, a drummer myself, continue to take notice. Fripp's 5 chord progression towards the end of the piece lightens my spirit, although Charig's cornet makes me feel like I just listened to a slow ballad by a Californian ska band. Hmm....

"One More Red Nightmare" begins in a dark, foreboding tone, instantly grasping my attention in the thought that this track will bring me to terms with this album and that I haven't lost touch with King Crimson. However, Wetton's voice brings with it a sort of cheesy chorus and stupid clapping that makes me feel like the '80's came early, but once the singing stops, I feel the energy from Fripp's guitar again in another dark and heavy tone. Thus, the song begins this "tug-a-war" effect, where the musicianship of Bruford and Fripp bring the progressive tone, and then suddenly Wetton drags me into this funky 2-step that seems to be quite out of the ordinary, even for King Crimson's standards, which were quite out of the ordinary.

Then there's "Providence", which really is dark and foreboding. Although I'm not a huge horror movie fan and not too big on ambien soundscapes, the instant cutoff from "Nightmare" wakes me up to a lone violin. This could be the King Crimson I heard from albums past. And then...the squealing of the violins, and the slow drone. I'm literally shivering at this point. By this point, I'm also sold on this album. However, the errie xylophone somehow brings me to a quandry: How come it took me 20 minutes and half of the album to come to a favorable conclusion? Usually an album by a band that pretty much began the genre of progressive rock in 1969, especially only after 5 years, should automatically be a hit. It just seemed like the filler tracks were the first tracks, and the real treats were hiding in the back. 5 minutes in, "Providence" already has me sold, with Bruford backing another eerie bass line and Fripp just, well, playing whatever the hell he likes.

That brought me to the fifth and final track, "Starless", which obviously meant something: This album was entertaining enough for me to listen the whole way through to the final track, which was entirely true. Of course, by the slow intro, and due to the fact I naturally think way too far into things sometimes, I've pretty much come to a conclusion that this album is indecisive to me. I don't love it, but I don't hate it, and for a music lover like me, that decision is a rare one for me to make. The smooth jazz feel of "Starless" already has me hooked, but I'm still stuck on the first three tracks. The progressive style is there, but so too is the creeping white elephant that is, was, and always will be "commercialism". Naturally, during this point in time, every rock band at some point submitted to the 80's and created garbage for their record labels, but King Crimson still breathed some life into prog with "Theela Hun Ginjeet" off of "Discipline" and "Three Is A Perfect Pair" off the same album, before dying with a gasp of coroded ash with "Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Pt. III".

Of course, that being said, I don't hate this album. Far from it (I still am listening to it occasionally), but the disc still pales in comparison to "Court" and "Starless". In fact, it is that fifth track that I still bear a smile to, especially the last 3 minutes. However, putting it all into perspective, it was the last two tracks that hailed back to the wonderfully progressive days of 1970, but it was the first three tracks that already foreshadowed the doom of so many heavy hitting rock and roll bands, a fate that King Crimson would soon endure and, unfortunately, never recover from. Sure, the atonal chords of "The ConstruKtion Of Light" were interesting, about for a good 5 minutes. But it just seems to be "Red", that last great epic to be released under King Crimson, a band name that, in my humble opinion, will forever go down as the single forefather to the birth of progressive rock.

Wicket | 4/5 |


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