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King Crimson - Red CD (album) cover


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

4.55 | 3247 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars Robert Fripp's decision to bring King Crimson to a close following this album (at least until it regenerated Doctor Who style into the avant-New Wave beast of the 1980s) was baffling at the time to those around him - not least remaining band members John Wetton and Bill Bruford. But I think with the more time passes, the more the decision looks like a stroke of genius. Fripp's predictions about the "dinosaurs" of rock music coming to a bad end turned out to be all too true when the punk revolution happened.

Sure, we might bemoan the lack of respect given to musicianship and technical accomplishment during the white heat of punk, but both of those important things crept back into rock afterwards, and the DIY ethos of the punks - which held that anyone could and should be able to put together a band - recalls Fripp's own belief that it would be "small, mobile, intelligent units" that survived after the fall of the dinosaurs. And it has to be said that Fripp chose precisely the moment to cash his chips, selling up just as the peak of prog's mainstream success was passing by. This decision saved King Crimson from the humiliating fate of many of their contemporaries in the late 1970s or early 1980s - not for them the commercial pandering of 90125-era Yes, or Invisible Touch-era Genesis, or Gentle Giant's last three albums. Fripp's decision saved the band from a situation in which they would have to choose between their musical integrity and commercial success; his subsequent revivals of King Crimson have come about because he had a sound that needed to come out under the KC name, not in response to crass commercial considerations.

Robert's predictions about the music industry as a whole took longer to come true, but the dawning of the Internet age and their shambolic response to it also appears to have proved Fripp right. The fact is that if you want to make experimental, cutting-edge, avant-garde progressive music, you're much better off following the mobile unit approach, and whilst Fripp might have arrived at these realisations through a somewhat cranky route, it's hard to deny that his predictions were right - and came years before anyone else saw it, with the possible exception of Peter Hammill (as seen on Nadir's Big Chance).

It was against this background that Red was produced - with Fripp undergoing this enormous personal change, having the unintended and beneficial side effect of Fripp exerting less control over the recording process which he had previously been inclined to. Not that he needed to; it's clear on here that his collaborators are as much in tune with what needs to be accomplished on the record as he is. A classic from beginning to end, from the furious instrumental Red to the hauntingly beautiful Starless (which others have pointed out is rather like a potted history of the band from 1969 to 1974 in its musical structure), Red more than any other album from the 1973-1974 lineup of King Crimson showcases a powerful vision of the future of music, one which in some respects we still haven't caught up to. In the Court of the Crimson King set the blueprint for most of the progressive rock scene, particularly the more symphonic end of it. Red, quite simply, is the peak of the form. There have been new albums since then that have added their own spin to the genre, but I can think of precious few that reach this level of accomplishment.

Warthur | 5/5 |


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