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King Crimson - Beat CD (album) cover

BEAT

King Crimson

 

Eclectic Prog

3.05 | 1130 ratings

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TCat
4 stars Everyone knows that the line up in King Crimson was always in flux. Part of this is from musicians wanting to move on to other projects, and part of this is from Robert Fripp forming the group in different line ups to meet the sound he wanted to achieve at the time. So, with the release of "Beat", which was the 9th studio album from King Crimson, we have the very first time that the band had the exact same line up as their previous album "Discipline". This is one reason why this album is so similar to the previous one, plus there was much more room to explore this sound.

Most everyone also knows that, even though this album sold very well and was the songs were received well in concert, it is probably their weakest album. Now, as excellent of a band as KC is, their weakest album still outshines the best of a lot of other bands. I tend to think that, even though I also consider it their weakest album, it is underrated because of the high bar of material they have put out throughout their discography.

There were plenty of in-group problems throughout the recording of the album. At one point, Adrian Belew told Robert Fripp to leave during the recording of the track "Requiem". Fripp was offended, of course, and disappeared for 3 days. Belew apologized to Fripp in a long phone call and soon everything was patched up, but the group had disbanded during this time and didn't tour again until later that year. Also, even though Belew and Bill Bruford thought this album was better than "Discipline" at first, Belew later contradicted that saying that some of the songs should not have been included in the album. Fripp never did like the album much and thought it was a reflection of how far the band had wandered from their original vision.

All this being said, I still enjoy this album and consider it to be better than what most people say it is. A lot of it is focuses upon the Beat Generation, which is the real meaning to the album title. It especially was inspired by the 25th anniversary of the book "On the Road" by Jack Kerouac.

The first track takes right off where "Discipline" left off. "Neal and Jack and Me", the title of this track, refers to Jack Kerouac and his best friend Neal Cassidy. The lyrics allude to the "Me" character as the vehicles the pair toured in. It features that same industrial feeling that was prevalent on "Discipline" and has both Belew and Fripp's guitars playing in counter meters of 5 / 4 and 7 / 8. It also has that mechanical feel to it, almost like automation, helped along with Tony Levin's bass and Bruford's tricky drum patterns. It is a hard driving song that is one of the best on the album.

"Heartbeat" is inspired by Neal Cassidy's wife and her memoirs of the same name of her time with Beats. It is one of the songs that Belew claimed should have been left off the album. It is a more mellow tune, but with a changing meter throughout. Belew continues with his expressive voice as in the previous track, but a little more restrained. It follows a more standard rock structure as far as chorus/verse, but also utilizes Frippertronic style playing, as Fripp was interested in using this style in music that was more accessible, which he was actually successful in doing for various other artists.

"Sartori in Tangier" is an instrumental that starts off with Levin's bass in an atomospheric sound. Drums soon come in establishing an excellent driving rhythm along with the awesome bass. Then a really cool squealing guitar comes in providing the melody, which is probably mostly improvised. Again, you can hear Frippertronics deep in the mix on the last half of the song. The name of the track comes from Tangier, Morocco being the place of choice for the Beats for inspiration.

"Waiting Man" starts off again with that dual-guitar-face-off sound of automation and Belew's voice joins in with no other accompaniment. His vocals seem more improvised in this track with certain lyrics repeated to stress importance. Drums don't kick in until half way through when there is an instrumental break, with a continuation of the mechanical sound and other atmospheric textures being coaxed out of the guitars. When Belew's vocals return, it is in harmony, possibly with himself.

"Neurotica" takes it's name from a Beat-era magazine. Belew's vocals are spoken this time, and he sounds like someone rambling quickly with some kind of paranoia or something. The beginning of the track is actually taken from one of Fripp's solo albums where he is experimenting with Frippertronics. Later, Belew sings a few short passages, but the industrial sound of the guitars is also apparent. Just when you think Belew has reached some level of sanity, he goes off raving again.

"Two Hands" is the other song Belew wished they had left off the album. It starts off with a metallic sounding riff, but this is soon replaced with a soft percussive noise and a more mellow track. Belew takes on the same vocal Beatnick style as on "Waiting Man". While I find the guitar work very interesting, I don't care for Belew's delivery or the lyrics on this one, and I find it one of my least favorite KC tracks.

"The Howler" is inspired by the Beat poem "Howl" by Alan Ginsburg. The vocals are not as annoying as the last one, but has Belew utilizing his voice in a strange way, but it works here. Throughout the song, there is a 15 / 8 guitar riff that is similar to one Belew used for "Tom Tom Club"s song "Genius of Love".

The last track is an instrumental called "Requiem" which starts out using Frippertronics to build atmosphere. There is a drone in the background, and those are the only sounds utilized until about 2 minutes in when you hear bass and percussion thrown in. Belew also adds some tortured guitar sounds throughout. This one is entirely experimental and improvised, but just listen to the sounds these two geniuses get out of their guitars. Simply amazing. The 40th anniversary edition has a longer version of this which is twice as long, but I haven't heard it, so I can't really say how it is. But this version of the avant- prog track is quite intriguing.

The album, overall, is way too short, and that proves to be to its detriment. But I continue to believe that the album just gets a bad rap, mostly because it comes from a band that has such a high bar. Yes there are a few weak songs here, and because of the shortness of the album, these songs work against it to a higher degree than normal. Nevertheless, I still consider this a 4 star album that I like to return to on occasion when I feel like "Discipline" just isn't long enough. The two of them together would have made an amazing album.

TCat | 4/5 |

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