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


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

4.63 | 4185 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars The Birth of Progressive Rock?

Well no, not quite. There are certainly quite a few albums before this that had a progressive feel to them, 'Shine On Brightly' by Procol Harum being a perfect example. 'In The Court Of The Crimson King' was more the kickstart that prog needed to become a fully fledged genre of it's own. Because of songs like Epitaph, many bands decided to buy themselves mellotrons and create longer pieces of music. Without this album, it's safe to say that prog rock would not exist the way it does today.

One of the many prog traditions this album adheres to (possibly by founding altogether!) is 5 tracks on a single album. You may not have noticed before, but 5 seems to be the magical number that assures a brilliant album (at least on vinyl anyway). Other albums that follow this tradition include Mirage by Camel, In the Land of Grey and Pink by Caravan, Ys by Il Balletto Di Bronzo, Tales from the Lush Attic by IQ, Red by King Crimson, Per Un Amico by Premiata Forneria Marconi, H to He, Who am the Only One, Still Life and World Record by Van Der Graaf Generator and Going For The One by Yes. There's just something about having either 2 songs on one side and 3 on the other or 1 side long song with 4 others that keeps the album simple yet complex. The 5 songs on this album are all unique and memorable.

The first of these tracks is the tour de force 21st Century Schizoid Man. Beginning with a 30 second wind sample (another great prog tradition), this is a really energetic song. Despite being over 7 minutes long, the structure is quite simple: two short verses, a mammoth breakneck instrumental, and another verse at the end. This 'instrumental sandwich' is yet another prog tradition that has been followed in songs like By-Tor and the Snow Dog and Firth of Fifth. The astounding thing about this song is that it was recorded in it's entirety, without vocals or multi-tracked guitars, in just one take! All the stops have been pulled out to make this a brilliant and memorable song.

Surprisingly, the next track is far more mellow. As one might be able to tell from the opening bars, I Talk To The Wind is dominated by the flute. This is a beautiful, melodic track which shows the pastoral side of King Crimson. The flute solo in the middle and near the end are both very pretty indeed.

Next up is Epitaph, a slow sombre track. If you didn't know who he was already, you might be able to guess the singer was Greg Lake from Emerson, Lake and Palmer, because of his dramatic singing on this track. The most memorable thing about this song is the use of mellotron. Without being overpowering, the keyboard gives this song an otherworldly feel that other bands would try and copy in years to come. This is the most drawn out song on the whole record, and in 9 minutes there are just two choruses. ELP would occasionally cover this song, as they do during Tarkus on their live album 'Welcome back my friends...'

Just as Revolution 9 seperates fans on the Beatles' White Album, Moonchild does so for this album. While the track is listed as being twelve minutes in length, the song itself is only 2:23 in length, and is followed by a ten-minute improvisation. The song part is lovely, with beautiful lyrics and instrumentation which makes me think of an Avatar-esque world. The improvisation is a completely different kettle of fish. On the first few listens, it sounds like Fripp and co. are happy to play notes randomly. On the whole, this is a very quiet section. When you listen more closely, you notice that the improvisation starts slowly and semi-melodically, gets more cacophonous towards the centre, and then reaches something of a happy and cute conclusion towards the end. This ever-so-subtle change in dynamics and style is really quite remarkable, although I can't say that I enjoy listening to it that often. This track deserves more credit than people usually give to it. It seems Fripp himself is in the bad camp about this song, as he edited over 3 minutes of the improv out for the latest remaster.

After the quiet Moonchild, The Court Of The Crimson King really wakes you up with a loud drum fill. This anthemic song has 4 verses interspersed with various instrumentals. The lyrics are brilliant and memorable, and the extension of the word 'King' over the mellotron is just breathtaking. After 7 minutes the song comes to an end before an instrumental epilogue begins. This epilogue uses the theme from the title track. All in all, a brilliant end to a revolutionary album.

Housed in a beautiful gatefold cover (another great prog tradition), this album has become the archetype of all that is progressive. The screaming man on the cover has become a mascot for the genre. With such radically different songs to all that had gone before, King Crimson knew they were the start of something special. Even without the history and significance, this is still a fun and interesting album to listen to. Everything about this album screams progressive, and if this isn't an essential album then I don't know what is!

baz91 | 5/5 |


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