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King Crimson - Larks' Tongues In Aspic CD (album) cover

LARKS' TONGUES IN ASPIC

King Crimson

 

Eclectic Prog

4.42 | 2788 ratings

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Frenetic Zetetic
4 stars 1973's Larks' Tongues in Aspic (which is, in fact, a fine English delicacy composed of said bird tongues suspended in a clear Jell-O like mold; those crafty Brits!), arguably King Crimson's finest hour of experimentation, albeit a slightly marred hour due to a few (minor) flaws.

King Crimson are responsible for influencing slews of progressive and technical metal bands in the early to mid 2000s, especially with this particular release. The sound, tone, and approach to the music, especially on the two part title track, sounds like it was lifted straight from a Behold The Arctopus or Gorguts recording session...no exaggeration. While the album, musically, is eclectic progressive perfection - there are a few glaring technical issues that hold this, arguably King Crimson's finest experimental hour, back just a tad.

Let's get the "bad" out of the way first. To be blunt, this album SOUNDS like shit. Not the glorious music itself, but rather the production quality. I'm writing this review based on the 30th Anniversary Disc that came out in 2003/2004, and I can only imagine original CD copies sounding even worse! The mix is WAY too thin, volume levels are askew ("Easy Money" - one of my fave KC songs - is so loud during the intro, and so quiet during the verses, it's nearly impossible to listen to successfully in the car), and there are several points where vocals are mixed and panned sub-optimally.

Another example of this slight annoyance is during "The Talking Drum". Yes, I know it's an intro track to LTIA Pt 2. Besides that point - the track is too damn quiet! I find myself having to fast forward or double take just to realize the disc is still in fact running. Even when fast forwarding about 3 minutes in, at peak volume, the band is still very low! Why did this happen, and why wasn't it corrected? I have all the Van Der Graaf Generator rereleased and they sound INCREDIBLE! Why couldn't the same be done for a band that absolutely had more pull and budget?!

Why, Fripp?! WHY?!

Now on to the good (of which there's plenty here). First and foremost, this album ATTACKS you with its music. Fripp's guitar riffs are light years ahead of what Black Sabbath were achieving at this very same time. Yes, I know that's sacrilege to say, but KC are what BS wish they were. The jarring, twisting riffs of Robert Fripp absolutely inspired some of the more interesting, creative, and groundbreaking prog and tech metal bands of the 90's, 2000's, and 2010's. The music is jarring, abrupt, unpredictable, and most importantly of all - AGGRESSIVE!

Wetton is the real underrated one here, however! His bass playing is TOP NOTCH! As a bass player myself, I marvel at his finger technique and timing. Most of what John appears on through his career has a very unique bass feel to it. He always manages to make even the simplest passages "prog". The mark of a truly great player. His voice is something I personally enjoy, though others complain. He might be a little under-experienced vocally on this record, but that fact doesn't hurt the overall score as much as the production itself does. Wetton rules!

Bill Bruford. What more can I say? Every single record this guy plays on is a 10/10. For real. He has the Midas touch. His timing, feel, etc are absolutely perfect. Nobody else could leave YES and somehow continue climbing higher into the progressive rock echelons. Nothing more needs to be said.

This leads us to the violin and crazy off-the-wall percussion section. David Cross is absolutely amazing on the violin. Plenty of bands were using said instrument in 1973 (Mahavishnu Orchestra comes to mind most immediately), and it doesn't feel out of place at all. Jamie Muir had a very interesting job in KC for this short period (he lasted less than one tour); simply run around and hit things! Baking sheets, bells, whistles, car parts - it all somehow works and never sounds out of place. It's too bad this lineup didn't last longer (Muir's role was absorbed by Bruford during the tour for this album).

I'm not going to do a track-by-track review, because that's up to YOU, the listener, to decide. My job is to explain the logistics of the record, why it's good, and where its faults lie. This is one of those records you have to listen to on your own and formulate an opinion. It's well worth your time, and is a crash course in all the elements that make progressive music as awesome as it is!

1973 saw the release of Larks' Tongues in Aspic, King Crimson's (arguably) most experimental moment in time, responsible for inspiring slews of prog/tech metal bands 25-30 years down the line...DESPITE its shoddy production issues.

Musically, this album is 5/5 stars.

Production wise, it's 4/5.

This averages out, and unfortunately holds the score of the music back for a total score of 4.5/5 stars.

This is an essential masterpiece of prog rock; don't let the production take that away from your experience.

Frenetic Zetetic | 4/5 |

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