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Sunday, February 7, 2016

King Crimson: In The Court Of The Crimson King (IAS #006)

Back to the world of truly great music with today's IAS review:

King Crimson: In The Court Of The Crimson King


  1. Regarding Fripp disowning the 'romantic" period of the band it appears he's made his peace with it. He's recently gone on tour with a KC lineup that seems constructed just to play these old tunes. He was even able to dig up Mel Collins from somewhere. This is probably his career swansong.

  2. Thanks! That warmed my loner's heart.

    Your take on 'Moonchild' is my favorite - screw the formal aspects, it's about the mood. It's hard to like the whole thing as 'a song', but as a mood piece it's exceptional. And in the sequence of the album, it fits as the mysterious night, sometimes calm, sometimes fun, sometimes unsettling, before the harsh dawn of 'In the Court of the Crimson King'.

    What you say about the production is hilarious. I've often wondered if it was intentional. Listening to the album makes me feel clausterphobic, even on the calmer, friendlier tracks.

    This album has always kick-started my imagination like few others. The songs have a picturesque quality to me. They are not easy to 'relate to', but they continue to open up a sort of parallel world to me. Or perhaps it's better to say that they are like dark mirrors of our own? The odd production helps: everything sounds a little off. The lyrics add to it, too, their mannerisms and imagery creating distance, like something from another time and place. It would be hard to take them seriously, if the music were not so compelling, though I think that the lyrics fit better to the music here than on any subsequent KC album of the initial phase to 1974.

  3. Maybe Velvet Underground inspired a million people to form indie bands, but King Crimson must have inspired equally as many people to read and write fantasy.

  4. This is an excellent review. Have you ever loved a record so much you didn't want to play it? That is how I always felt about it even back in 1969

  5. I always liked Moonchild just for the ambiance, I think its 10 minutes of soothing pretty noise, it never bothered me. I love this album, its like a high romance picture book from the age of chivalry. I always preferred KC's first period even if its unbelievably twee; all this ancient fantasy land stuff appealed to the guy who grew up reading CS Lewis. Fripp is all into the esoteric stuff

    1. oh i forgot to add, good review George. Nice to see how you've mellowed to some of this art rock stuff

  6. I was introduced to King Crimson through Red and it is still the best KC album for me, but I like all KC albums from 1969 - 1974 period. In the Court of Crimson King is absolutely great, but Moonchild could have been 5 minutes shorter.

  7. This was the first progressive rock album that I've heard. I was 13 and it blew my mind. It still sounds fresh and exciting. To my taste, King Crimson never managed to top it, though all of 1969-1974 period albums are great in their own way.
    Good review, too!

  8. "then we introduce The Romantic Hero, performed by Mr. Lake"
    More like The Cheesy Hero. Romanticism is about strong passions. Only the opening track can be called passionate. The rest I think as boring as a romance novel. That specifically includes Moonchild. Kudos for using new musical means though.

  9. you mentioned trimming down the title track. i did exactly that (about 7 minutes where micheal giles very lighty taps the cymbals then silence before they played some sort of bell thing if i remember rightly , I don't miss it at all but others might.

  10. The production on the drums struck me too -- a very odd, almost distant sound, and yet it has a constant, compelling presence in the music, never drowned out by the guitar or mellotron (the same can't be said of Andy McCulloch and Ian Wallace's playing on "Lizard" and "Islands").

    The sound of wind in a song has become somewhat of a cliche, but it can be and has been used well -- I still jump when the "Schizoid" riff suddenly erupts out of the ambiance.

    I don't know if I'd call Greg Lake's singing "wooden", but I think I get your point, specifically for "Epitaph". The song demands a passionate delivery; Greg has that, but he goes for the "Romantic Hero" mode, and the emotion in that nonetheless is certainly removed from the pain that the character should be feeling. Reminds me of a power metal vocalist like Hansi Kürsch -- such bombast is there for the show, not authenticity. The approach works better for the other songs, which have a more observatory tone to their narrative; but "Epitaph" may very well have been enhanced by Peter Hammill or Peter Gabriel singing it.

  11. Maybe the wimpy drum sound was an homage to Tommy? (The Who, even more influential on prog rock than previously realized!)

  12. For a while I considered this a 2-track album, although "Talk to the Wind" is just fine when I'm in the mood, and have no problem with Moonchild once Greg Lake goes away. It sounds kind of like a prototype for the mid-70's KC improv jams.

    For me, it's Epitaph (not Moonchild) that sinks the experience of listening to this album the whole way through. WHY is the mellotron so loud??? Why does it sound like Greg Lake is singing into a tin can? For a direct comparison, the mixing sounds just fine on the last track. Why did this one go so horribly wrong?

  13. On the Giles, Giles & Fripp album, The Brondesbury Tapes (thank you, George, for that recommendation), Peter Giles or Ian McDonald sing on an earlier version of "I Talk to the Wind". I now prefer it over Lakes'. Both versions are great, though.