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Old 01-21-2008, 06:25 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default In the Court of King Crimson - The King Crimson Education/Review Thread

I've been working on this thread on another forum, but I thought I'd copy it here too, even if Boo Boo has already done this. Reviews take a long time to write, so please be patient!

King Crimson is truly a dinosaur of progressive rock. As a band which is constantly changing its sound, progressing and innovating, they are the very definition of a prog rock band. King Crimson's sound has evolved over time and is darker than that of their peers. While King Crimson is undoubtedly incredibly skilled in the technical department, they place great emphasis on originality and songwriting, and apply a more textural approach to songwriting than many prog bands.

Robert Fripp, Michael Giles and Peter Giles formed Giles, Giles and Fripp in 1967 which was largely unsuccessful. Having broken up, Robert Fripp and Michael Giles planned the formation of King Crimson with the lyricist Peter Sinfield, Ian McDonald of Foreigner fame and Greg Lake who would later form Emerson, Lake and Palmer. The band name was Sinfield's creation and intended as a synonym for Beelzebub, the Prince of Demons. Given their experimentation and some of the chilling music they would later create, and the fact that they've been described as 'organised chaos', this name is apt.

Since their inception in 1969, King Crimson have gone through 20 members and Robert Fripp has been the only constant member. Aside from the members already mentioned and Robert Fripp, the genius himself, some notable members are:
  • Tony Levin - Extremely influential prog bassist, having also written material for and played with Yes, Peter Gabriel, Liquid Tension Experiment, David Bowie, Deodato, Lou Reed, Pink Floyd etc. He is well known for his use of the Chapman Stick as well. He is very technically adept, yet is also a master of minimalism and groove. Levin is a current member of the group and has been with Crimson for 22 years.

  • Bill Bruford - The granddaddy of prog drummers, having also played for Yes in their prime era, Genesis, Gong and fusion jazz group Brand X. Bruford's style is highly complex, polyrhythmic and jazz-influenced. Bruford spent 26 years with Crimson.

  • Mel Collins - A well-travelled saxophonist/flautist, having also played for the Alan Parsons Project, Camel, Caravan, Bad Company Humble Pie, Joe ****er, the Rolling Stones, Uriah Heep, Roger Waters, Robert Palmer, Eric Clapton and Meat Loaf. With this impressive resume, he only ended up sticking with Crimson for 4 years.

  • Adrian Belew - His primary role in King Crimson is that of guitarist and vocalist. He is often overlooked in light of Fripp's presence, but he is a fairly remarkable guitarist himself and his vocal style is often compared to David Byrne of the Talking Heads. He has contributed to Frank Zappa, David Bowie, Nine Inch Nails, Talking Heads, Cyndi Lauper and Porcupine Tree. Adrian Belew is a current member who has been with Crimson for 26 years.
So despite the numerous lineup changes, there have also been musicians who have held a long tenure within King Crimson. As an interesting side note, Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree's drummer) has recently joined King Crimson. Robert Fripp himself has said that King Crimson is a 'way of doing things rather than a particular group of musicians'. This leads to their varied discography, but even then, King Crimson have consistently delivered interesting, innovative and challenging music with few exceptions. And this brings us to Robert Fripp who, being the only constant member and a primary songwriter, plays a big part in Crimson's sound. He is quite simply, a musical genius, and I don't use that word lightly. He and Belew are the primary proponents of the quirkiness and textural songwriting style of King Crimson. Fripp is known for his use of Frippertronics, and pays as much attention to soundscapes as post-rock musicians - in fact, he created the soundscapes/audio for Windows Vista. Along with his solo material, Fripp has also written for and played with Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel, David Bowie and Porcupine Tree.

As for where King Crimson stands in the music world... aside from influencing practically every prog rock/metal band, they reach surprisingly far into the metal crowd too. In fact, Tool and Mars Volta, two of the biggest prog bands around today, were both hugely influenced by King Crimson.

Current Line-Up:
* Robert Fripp — guitar and mellotron (1969–present)
* Adrian Belew — guitar and vocals (1981–present)
* Tony Levin — bass and Chapman stick (1981–1999; 2003–present)
* Pat Mastelotto — drums (1994–present)
* Gavin Harrison — drums (2007–present)

Best album to start out with:
In the Court of the Crimson King
Best album full stop (IMO): Red
Most underrated album: THRAK
Most overlooked album: The Power to Believe
Greatest song: Starless

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