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


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

4.63 | 4078 ratings

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Mr. Soot Gremlin
5 stars I discovered the song "In The Court of the Crimson King", and more importantly the album, after looking up "best progressive rock songs" on google. Since being introduced to Jethro Tull a few years ago, I have become a true prog rock fan, and so I merely wanted to find out other people's opinions on progressive rock. On this particular list of prog rock songs, which included some of my favorite bands (Yes, Jethro Tull, ELP, etc), I happened to find "In The Court of the Crimson King" at the number one position. Next to it was one of the most bizarre album covers I had ever seen, and the review praised it for encompassing all that was possible of progressive rock. I had heard of King Crimson before, but their music and members were completely unknown to me. Curious, I went to YouTube to listen to a bit of the title track. What I heard blew my mind.

The album is the most haunting, dark, beautiful, and complex album I have ever heard, and I guarantee that it will leave a lasting impression on anyone who takes the time to listen to and understand it. It begins with "21st Century Schizoid Man", without a doubt the loudest, most powerful song on the album. The vocals are terrifically raw and the guitars are loud and amazingly well done, especially when Fripp breaks into the first solo. The lyrics are as sharp as the sound of the song, with vivid anti-war lyrics that still paint startling pictures in my mind. And after this powerhouse of a song, things only get better.

"I Talk To The Wind" follows the opener, and it is for me what sets the wonderful sound and mood for the rest of the album. At a little over six minutes long, it is the shortest song on the album, but arguably the most beautiful to listen to. The flutes come in first with an airy, surreal sound and are then followed by the gentle singing voice of Greg Lake, so much more melodic and rich than it was in "21st Century Schizoid Man". All throughout the piece, the airy flutes and woodwinds play the part of the wind and ensure that the song doesn't simply move, but truly flows. Just listening to "I Talk To The Wind" transported me to a state of mind much calmer and open than I had experienced before.

Next comes "Epitaph", the song I find myself singing more often than the others. There is something special about the lyrics of this song, in the way they paint pictures in your mind much like "21st Century Schizoid Man". Snippets of the lyrics can show this, like "upon the instruments of death/The sunlight brightly gleams", or "Confusion will be my epitaph./As I crawl a cracked and broken path". Can't get much better than that. The mellotron also really kicks in on this song, adding the delightfully spooky sound that helps make this album what it is.

Then there is "Moonchild", the song that I have found has gathered the most criticism on the album. The actual song is only about two minutes long, and is another calm, spooky piece with slightly altered and dreamy vocals from Lake. The next ten minutes of the piece is a strange, varied improvisation sequence that ranges from flowing solo guitar to clicking, staggered percussion, guitar, and bells all together. Many people do not like this segment of "Moonchild", it seems. Many didn't even like it when the album was first released. But I'm sure there are plenty who enjoy it; I know I do. While those ten minutes of improv don't showcase blinding fast guitar or percussion solos, and even though it generally remains pretty mellow, it still is very intriguing to listen to, and acts as a lead-in to the true masterpiece song of the masterpiece album.

Just as the last notes of "Moonchild" drift away, and you're left wondering what on earth could be coming (or if you're fast asleep, if you didn't care for the improvisation), the beginning of "In The Court of the Crimson King" jolts you with its sharp drum intro, followed by thundering mellotron that is truly out of this world. The entire song transports you to a different time and place and mood, with the woodwinds, the mellotron, the percussion, the vocals, and the still fantastic lyrics all working together now in perfect harmony. There's no reason to even wonder how a band could create sounds this unique, there's only the music to be enveloped in.

So does "In The Court of the Crimson King" deserve a 5-star rating? Yes. I can't imagine I could have called myself a true prog fan without first having listened to this album, and that's not just because the critics and the collectors say that it's the masterpiece of progressive rock. It's because I listened to it, and I decided within a few minutes that it WAS a masterpiece of progressive rock. Nowhere else will you find lyrics as evocative as Peter Sinfield's, nowhere will you find guitar playing as powerful as Robert Fripp's, or drumming as unique as Michael Giles', woodwind playing as amazing as Ian McDonald's, and vocals with such a range as Greg Lake's all together in one perfect form. And never will there be an album cover as horrifically beautiful as Barry Godber's. "In The Court of the Crimson King" is not the greatest album in history, nor even the greatest in progressive rock. Words like "greatest" shouldn't be attributed to music. But this album is still a masterpiece, no matter how you look at it.

Mr. Soot Gremlin | 5/5 |


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