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King Crimson - Red CD (album) cover


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

4.55 | 3218 ratings

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5 stars Though King Crimson made some terrific albums before and after, I wholeheartedly believe that this is the band's strongest release, the apex of their progressive discography.

The energy, the aggression, the creativity, the talent, the unique blend of melody and dissonance, the haunting soundscapes--all are here, and all are at their best here. Robert Fripp is at his ultimate best playing the guitar, from deadly riffs to power drill solos to gentle melodies to wild improvisations. John Wetton's voice not only sounds wonderful here, but it fits the music exactly like it should. Bill Bruford drums like an absolutely madman when he should, and I can't think of any drummer who grooves and slams as tastefully as he does here. A few spots from guest musicians rounds out the sound, blessing the fans of King Crimson with a wonderfully well rounded album full of inspiring melodies, explosive musical action, and what I believe is the best song the band ever wrote.

The first side opens with the title track, an aggressive (some would even say it's the first progressive metal song ever recorded) instrumental with darkly distorted guitars and wonderful harmonies. The drums fairly annihilate standards of rhythm, though not always in a manner as obvious as it would seem they should. As much as I love this track, it's very easily summed up and hard to keep talking about.

Fallen Angel sounds at first like it might be one of those standard King Crimson ballad bits, but that would be a grave error. What we have here is, after a fair bit of wonderful vocal extravagance from Wetton (and yes, he sounds absolutely amazing here), a heavy middle section. In this section comes Fripp on the guitar, rocking the power drill and absolutely tearing up his guitar in pursuit of what may be the most impressive solo in his career. It wraps up nicely with the vocals carrying out the melody, sounding so melancholic and haunting yet not depressive at all.

One More Red Nightmare draws a lot of flak from people, though I can't see why. What we have is an interestingly laid out riff that gives Bruford massive amounts of room to groove. Give it a high-energy verse with a catchy melody and (gasp!) handclaps, and you've got an exciting tune that even someone not so into progressive music can sit down and enjoy as a quality song. The saxophone here lays down some wonderful counterpoint and syncopation as it concludes the song with an extended solo section. Very much a fun, rocking song.

The weakest track on the album is the experimental and slightly noodly sounscape Providence, which, I think, when compared with the other same sorts of songs by the band, is second only to The Devil's Triangle in terms of compositional structure and overall effectiveness. It builds with some spectacular bass by Wetton (and I mean spectacular), grinding to a very awesome conclusive climax, preparing the listener in the only way possible for the album closer.

Starless wraps up Red quite effectively. I do consider this to be the best song the band ever wrote. The first four minutes are a gentle sort of throwback to earlier Crimson spacey tunes, with the mellotron backing John Wetton's strongest vocal performance that I have ever come across. After the third chorus, however, the song switches into a minimalist soundscape. Bruford then takes over, with the guitar and bass locked in a groove, and he kicks some serious funk into the song for a good length. It all comes to a head with some interesting delay effects on the guitar and an absolutely sick bass riff that would make just about anyone who tries to write parts for that instrument jealous. It is a song that must be heard, and it must be heard multiple times.

This is, in my opinion, the strongest album that King Crimson every wrote, as well as being powerfully accessible. People who are not very familiar with the band can dive right in and enjoy the first half of the LP for sure, and the second half eventually. I'd highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys progressive music that isn't just the standard sorts like Yes and Genesis. King Crimson were still the prog rebels in this era (in truth, they are now, still), and this aggressive album does dramatic and powerful things with music without being too pretentious or painfully indigestible.

Yeah. As highly recommended as I know how. Probably the best-constructed album of the 70s.

LiquidEternity | 5/5 |


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