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-   -   The King Crimson Marathon (https://www.musicbanter.com/album-reviews/16371-king-crimson-marathon.html)

boo boo 05-26-2006 04:33 AM

The King Crimson Marathon
 
Because i'm too lazy to just pick one, i'll review every King Crimson studio album starting with the earliest... The band has gone a long way since opening for groups like Iron Butterfly, Fleetwood Mac, Janis Joplin and The Rolling Stones... IMO the only band who formed in the 60s that is still making challenging music now and beyond.... I won't waste anyones time with a ratings system... So lets start, shall we?

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In The Court Of The Crimson King - 1969

Personnel:
Robert Fripp - Guitar.
Greg Lake - Bass, Lead Vocals.
Michael Giles - Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals.
Ian McDonald - Reeds, Woodwinds, Vibes, Mellotron, Backing Vocals.
Peter Sinfield - Lyrics.

After Giles, Giles and Fripp disbanded (thanks to Peter Giles departure) remaining members Robert Fripp and Peter's bro Michael deciding to form a new experiemental band with music illuminist Peter Sinfield (who went on to work with ELP and Roxy Music, among others) that would break new ground in pyschedelic rock, creating what eventually would become progressive rock... With future ELP frontman Lake and former GG&F member McDonald along for the ride, Fripp and co. did much more than accomplish their mission, they indirectly started a musical revolution, resulting in one of the best albums of the 60s... Anyway enough with the history lessions, one of the unique factors about ITCOTCK is that it abandons the standard rock formula completely, no blues influence in sight... Basically redefining what can make a rock band a rock band... KC perfectly married sophisticated medieval-esque melodys and instrumentation with jazzy improvisitions, sometimes with an almost metal like agressiveness, but that is only present on the first track of this album, however the band would develop a more hard rock sound in the future... And of course, the musical virtuososity is more than just a bonus.

1. 21st Century Schizoid Man: If you haven't heard this song before, download it now... One of the best album openers ever... The track starts off with strange car sounds before progressing into a bone crunching riff with strong brass... Every instrument and sound distorted like crazy, with Lake singing like a paranoid android (no pun intended) reciting lyrics that draw the parallel between humanity and materialism (a theme KC would explore throughout their entire career)... The song breaks into a long, frenzied jam (complete with Fripps infamous anti-guitar solo, Lakes frantic/precise bass fills and McDonald beating the holy hell out of his sax) before building up to the climax when all the instruments clash together and roar at another like animals...I can garrantee you that Black Sabbath were writing sh*t down when they heard this.

The big surprise is that as it turns out, this is the only "rocking" song on the album, everything that follows is quite soft and mellow in contrast, however, this song introduces the loud-madman noise rock dynamics that King Crimson would experiement with even further on their later albums.

2. I Talk To The Wind: After the 7 minute chaos of Schizoid Man, KC make a drastic change of sound with this one... Beginning with a gorgeous harmony of woodwinds... The song drifts into a smooth soundscape of breathy vocals and somber, muted guitar... The gloomy lyrics complement the lush compositions perfectly, a beautiful piece.... Some wonderful flute work from McDonald too.

3. Epitaph: The first song on the album to feature the bands trademark mellotron... One of the bands more emotional songs, a somber anti war ballad with lyrics that sound like a cry for help... The mellotron owns the show here, providing a larger life than life sound (i call it the wall's of sound) thats just perfect for this piece... Great use of accoustics too.

4. Moonchild: A very soft, ambient piece, while the weakest track on the LP (many are quick to call this a bad song, but i digress) it's a nice companion piece nonetheless... The song begins perfectly, one of the earliest examples of Crimsons medieval music influence... A love song so to speak, but its all in the ambient mood and tone that makes it worthwhile, theres weird (but pretty) noises coming from every direction... A very spacey and dissonant song... The vocal passages are short and the song transforms into a odd 10 minute quiet jam, a bit too long... But nothing unsettling, the instruments provide a windchime like harmony of notes... May be boring to most, but a great song to listen to when you're just kicking back and want to take a nap.... A very soothing piece.

5. In The Court Of The Crimson King: Another mellotron driven piece... With a medieval like quality to it, in both the sound and lyrics that provide the setting of this epic style piece... A wordless chorus of gregorian like chants, and a lot of accoustic guitar and woodwinds... A brillant and climatic closer... Songs like this helped define the style of progressive rock known as symphonic prog.

Over all, every song gives the album a very cinematic quality, like you're watching movie.... Something many prog bands would attempt to emulate for years on end... Aside from this albums historical importance, none of that should matter, it's just a fantastic album and one of the most impressive debuts this side of Led Zeppelin I, symphonic rock at its best... More importantly this a look into the bands earliest form, which makes it even more mind blowing to think how much this band has changed over the past 30 years, though of course, a billion or so lineup changes played a part in the bands continuous evolution in sound, from symphonic rock band to free form jazz band to avant garde proto metal band to new wave band to funk metal band to industrial metal band (or whatever the hell you wanna call them), while many bands try to experiement with many genres, only a few have the talent to pull it off, KC is certainly one of those bands... The most important thing about Crimson is that unlike some of their peers and way too many of their so called successors (Cough*Dream Theater*Cough) King Crimson have never forgotten the most important fundamental of being progressive rock, which is being progressive, duh.

I'll continue with the next review tommorow, i'm dog tired. :(

sleepy jack 05-26-2006 04:25 PM

Nicellly written, I may even check it out.


nah ;)

boo boo 05-26-2006 09:31 PM

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In The Wake Of Poseidon - 1970

Personnel:
Robert Fripp - Guitar, Mellotron.
Greg Lake - Lead Vocals.
Michael Giles - Drums.
Peter Giles - Bass.
Keith Tippett - Piano.
Mel Collins - Saxophones, Flute.
Peter Sinfield - Lyrics.
Gordon Haskell - Additional Vocals On Track #3.

After the surprising success of their first single (Schizoid Man) KC were quick to work on a follow up, however, McDonald quickly left the group, he was replaced by Mel Collins and to furthur expand the bands evolving sound jazz pianist/composer Keith Tippet joined as well, Lakes involvement with the band was miminalized when Peter Giles of Giles, Giles & Fripp decided to join up with his former bandmates to play bass on the 2nd Crimson album, Lake however still provides the vocals... ITWOP isn't exactly a real change of direction from Crimsons first album, in many ways, its more of the same... But the quality of the record is strong, it holds out well on its own but it makes a great companion piece with ITCOTCK... And like the colorful album cover suggests, it offers some very drastic changes in tone and mood... An album of epic proportions.

1. Peace - A Beginning: Weird way to open the album, a brief vocal passage with Lakes breathy vocals distorted through reverb.. A simple theme about peace (duh) thats revisited several times on this album.

2. Pictures Of A City: A return to 21st Century Schizoid Man territory... Jazzy song with a lot of distorted guitar... Very similar in formula to Schizoid man, a great brass-dominated riff, passive-agressive lyrics and explosive instrumentals... One could call it 21st Century Schizoid Man Part 2, but a great song in it's own right... Earlier versions of this song have been performed on Crimsons first big tour following the release of ITCOTCK.

3. Cadence And Cascade: In tradition with the first album, another folk ballad with a very medieval feel, though compared to Moonchild the outcome here is much more successful, no 10 minute long quiet jams here... Fripp provides some tasteful accoustic work, with some nice piano work from Tippet and some great flute soloing from Collins, some of Lakes best vocal work too.

4. In The Wake Of Poseidon: Fripp whips out the ol' mellotron for this one, offering another bittersweet symphony of strings and horns to complement the anguished keen of Lakes vocals... Sinfields lyrics provide this song with a lot of imagry remiscent of ITCOTCK (the song), taking you back to a certain place and time... Fripps multi-instrumental talents shine here, with some great neo-classical style accoustic guitar backed by harmonies of strings and horns, all done on that little box called mellotron... One of the albums most defining moments.

5. Peace - A Theme: Wonderful little accoustic guitar solo from Fripp.

6. Cat Food: One of the weirdest songs on this album... Tippet puts his excellent jazz to work here with great, mostly improvised piano work, with Giles providing a great-hi hat drum beat and Fripp churning out strange guitar effects all over.... Though the most defining thing about this song are Sinfields ridiuclously silly, satrical lyrics about consumerism and commercialism with a lot of absurdist humor thrown in, evidenced in lyrics like "Never need to worry with a tin of hurri curri, Poisoned especially for you!" and "Goodies for the table with a fable on the label Drowning in miracle sauce, Dont think I am that rude if I tell you that its cat food, Not even fit for a horse!"... A goofy but likable song.

7. The Devils Triangle: The most inaccessible piece on the album, it is an adapation of Gustav Holst's Mars: The Bringer Of War from his suite The Planets... Its a very faithful rendition of Holsts original composition (which i have, for anyone who wants it) only the strings and horns are all done on mellotron... The mood is dark, purely choatic.... It depicts a war in progress, starting slowly before building up into a total nightmare... Great stuff, though it may be a uncormfortable listen for some... Keep your ears open for the short sample of In The Court Of The Crimson King... It has been a Crimson stage staple before finding its way on this album, it was originally called Mars.

8. Peace - An End: The conclusion to it all, stripped down to just Lake and Fripps guitar... A nice little hymm.

Some versions feature a bonus track, a single instrumental edit of Cat Food, a weird Captain Beefheart-ish jam.

Again, nothing radically different from ITCOTCK, as Lakes vocals and Sinfields lyrics (which can range from serene to satrical) revisit familiar territory... But the music is just as beautiful and haunting as it ever was... However, this is the last album to feature Lake, as time progressed, so did King Crimson, their music would become increasingly original and avant-garde... This album draws the last breath of Crimsons original carnation... After it was released, Lake left to form his own band with Emerson, Lake And Palmer and yet again Peter Giles went his seperate ways with Fripp and co.... Nonetheless, King Crimson moved on... It certainly wouldn't be the last time.

Laces Out Dan! 05-26-2006 09:33 PM

Nice review BooBoo..i was listening to that album last night :)

boo boo 05-27-2006 03:48 AM

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Lizard - 1970

Personnel:
Robert Fripp - Guitar, Mellotron, Keyboards.
Gordon Haskell - Bass, Lead Vocals.
Andy McCulloch - Drums.
Mel Collins - Saxophone, Flute.
Keith Tippet - Piano, Electric Piano.
Robin Miller - Oboe, Cor Anglais.
Mark Charig - Cornet.
Nick Evans - Trombone.
Peter Sinfield - Lyrics, VCS3 Synthesizer.
Jon Anderson - Guest Vocals On Track #5.

After 2 great albums... The band was already on the verge of coming to an end... Lake had bailed for ELP (Sinfield would eventually join them) and Michael Giles left along with his brother Peter... Leaving Fripp and Sinfield as the only original band members remaining.... Bringing in vocalist/bassist Gordon Haskell (an old classmate of Fripp who also guested on Cadence & Cascade), drummer Andy McCulloch and session musicians Robin Miller, Mark Charig and Nick Evans as the new blood... Fripp, Sinfield and co. set out to make a bold new record... Lizard is a drastic change in sound from ITCOTCK and ITWOP. While the classical and medieval influences are still present, here Crimson take in heavier influences from free form jazz and avant-garde music, resulting in a much more complex, aggressive and radical sound that KC would push even further with their following albums.... As Lakes official replacement, Haskell provided a very different feel to the music, a deep tenor, Haskell sang with conviction and a cynical, evil snarl... Impressive for a guy who openly disliked Sinfields lyrics, and wasn't exactly satisfied with the new direction the band decided to take on this album, hence why he left the band shortly after the albums completion, his contribution however is still a important factor here... Obviously by adding instruments like trombone, cornet, oboe and cor anglais (basically an oboe pitched in F) Crimson were going for an even thicker, lusher sound... This is also one of the first albums to incorporate the VCS3 Synthesizer, which bands like Pink Floyd, The Who, Hawkwind and Roxy Music would popularize in the future... While it's critical reception was mixed at the time and fans today are still devided when concerning the quality of this album... I personally consider it their strongest work after ITCOTCK and Red, they take the everything including the kitchen sink method here, and it works.

1. Cirkus: An opener that rivals Schizoid Man, this is my personal favorite song on the album... Sinfields cirkus themed lyrics along with Haskells hushed verses and Fripps menacing mellotron theme that follows provide the surreal mood to this piece, with rich imagry... The accoustic guitar, saxophone and cornet solos add even more weight to this already overwhelming track, a very complex piece, and its only the first song... A difinete must hear.

2. Indoor Games: A odd, offbeat song with some of the most oblique, deliciously absurd lyrics Sinfield has ever written... Dominated by a thick, groovy riff of brass and a jazzy beat... Haskell (whose voice is distorted into oblivion) snarls like a drunken jester... A truly surreal song, with Fripps fusion style guitar and lots and lots of synth, brass and woodwind... Evans, Charig and Miller really shine here.

The songs most memorable moment is at the end, when Haskell breaks down into a demonic laugh drenched in reverb... This was not intentional, the song was suposed to end with just Haskell reciting the final lyric "Hey Ho"... Stupified, he began having a laughing fit, fine example of his distaste for Sinfields lyrics... Oddly enough, this version made the final cut.

3. Happy Family: Kicked off by bizarre synth noises, Haskells voice is even more distorted, like Indoor Games the song is goofy and playfull, but it ventures into more avant-garde territory, with a lot of underwater type effects... A very unusual song in structure, and i use the term structure very loosely here... The instruments practically have a life of their own, clashing at one another at akward moments, creating a kind of off ballance effect, this is somewhat of a look foward to albums likes Larks Tongue In Aspic which would use this method and to great effect... The lyrics tell the tale of a band torn apart by conflicting egos, ironic considering Crimsons state by the time Lizard was finished, the characters Judas, Rufus, Silas and Jonah are obviously based on Paul, Ringo, George and John, their images are even seen surrounding the "I" on the album cover, which consists of the bands name (Crimson on the front, King on the back) written in large letters in medieval style font bearing images that represent certain songs on the album... Anyway, a great track.

4. Lady Of The Dancing Water: Being King Crimson, they gotta have the token medieval love song, no matter what... Lady Of The Dancing Water features some beautiful flute work from Collins... Here, Haskells vocals finally take a rest, singing in a soft breathy tone similar to that of Lake... The lyrics are as sweet as ever (if corny)... The mellowness of this song provides some much needed relief from the 16 minutes of pure mayhem that proceeded it.

5. Lizard: The magnum opus, this is the longest song King Crimson has ever done (over 23 minutes) and its their first truly epic piece of sorts, a prog suite broken down into 4 sections, with the third part being broke down into 3 sub-sections, pretentious?... Sure, why not??... If the vocals sound familar, its no coincidence, Yes man Jon Anderson lended his vocals for this track, though the song has very few spoken lyrics... The song has a very strong concept concerning a young prince who takes part in an epic battle, Yes themselves would explore a similar theme with The Gates Of Delirium, which displayed some noticable Crimson influence... This is a beautifully composed piece, with very little improv.

(A)- Prince Rupert Awakes: The story begins here, as the main character prepares for war... This section features the calm vocals of Anderson (his trademark Yes falseto is not to be heard here) and the music alternates between quite, ethereal verses and a upbeat, folksy chorus complete with handclaps... We finally come to the wordless chorale (which could represent the beggining of the battle, maybe?) which leads into the second section of the piece.

(B)- Bolero: As Andersons vocals slowly fade out, we're led to an instrumental section with bolero style drum snare lines and a rich harmony of brass and woodwinds, some great passages for cornet, oboe, trombone and piano... A great display of jazz style soloing, its easy to get lost in it... The oboe theme that opens and closes the piece is very powerful.

(C)- The Battle Of Glass Tears: The longest and most effective part of the suite, with 3 parts.

I - Dawn Song: As Bolero comes to a halt... We are led into a hypnotic theme on cor anglais quickly joined by Haskell's hushed vocals... The opening theme slowly fades back into the picture, now on mellotron, to haunting effect.

II - Last Skirmish: After the mellotron and drums kick in, Crimson go into overdrive with a brass leaden instrumental, with multiple solo passages for practically every instrument, flutes flying from one direction, saxes squeeling from another, guitars and basses roaring all over, mellotrons drifting in and out... Pure mayhem. This section represents the bloody battle at hand.

III - Prince Rupert's Lament: This section represents the aftermath... The music slows down, with drums and bass giving you the feeling like you're at a funeral, and Fripp churning out a bone chilling solo, which sounds like it was recorded from a freaking mountain top... This section represents death.

(D)- Big Top: As Prince Rupert's Lament fades out... We come to the final piece, which consists of a sped up sample of Cirkus, with strange effects added in... Providing a very creepy tone... Gives me goose bumps every time.... Could represent the afterlife maybe?... Dunno.

Aside from being a completely brillant piece of work, Lizard started the trend of very long prog epics (you could either love it or hate it for that), paving the way for pieces like Close To The Edge, Suppers Ready, Tarkus, Thick As A Brick, Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers and Shine On You Crazy Diamond.

Again, Lizard is a different change of pace for Crimson, those who loved ITCOTCK and ITWOP will have to take their time with this one, but it's well worth it.

swim 05-27-2006 04:41 AM

They're all real good reviews. You know what you're talking about and it doesnt hurt that they're good albums.

boo boo 05-27-2006 08:34 PM

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Islands - 1971

Personnel:
Robert Fripp - Guitar, Mellotron, Harmonium.
Boz Burrell - Bass, Lead Vocals.
Mel Collins - Flute, Saxophone, Backing Vocals.
Ian Wallace - Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals.
Keith Tippet - Piano.
Robin Miller - Oboe.
Mark Charig - Cornet.
Harry Miller - Double Bass.
Paulina Lucas - Additional Vocals.
Peter Sinfield - Lyrics.

This is a good album, and it often gets way too much undeserved criticism... Nonetheless, for Crimson it is a step down... Haskell and McColloch were disatisfied with the overall result of Lizard, and they quickly bailed... Boz Burrell and Ian Wallace were quickly recruited, as well as double bass player Harry Miller and Paulina Lucas contributing her vocals on some tracks... This is notable for being the LAST Crimson album to feature the lyrics of Peter Sinfield, he would eventually team up with Emerson, Lake and Palmer as well as Italian prog band Premiata Forneria Marconi... Here the band experiement with even stronger elements of classical and chamber music, theres also a noticable amount of Bealtes and Moody Blues influence here, and a lot less guitar, with the drums and bass very low in the mix, a very unique Crimson album... Unfortunately, the production here is quite poor compared to the first 3 Crimson albums... Everything is at a much quieter volume... The bass is barely audible, this is primarly because Boz Burrell was not actually a bass player when production first began, instead, Fripp simply taught him how to play the instrument... Because of his obvious lack of skill, Islands lacks the complex rhythms and fills of Crimsons first 3 studio works, Burrell certainly was no Lake, Giles or Haskell on bass... Nonetheless his vocals (which are a bit similar to Lakes) hold out pretty well... Though they are very low in the mix here, due to the lo-fi production and heavy instrumentation... This is the worst Crimson album from the 70s era, but it still has some very strong pieces of work.

1. Formentera Lady: Opens with some lovely double bass, flute and piano work... Burrells gives his best Greg Lake impersonation here... A strange quiet piece, with Ian Anderson-esque flute and jazzy piano... And Lakes i mean erm Burrells soft spoken vocals contribute to the Moody Blues-like atmosphere... Nice instrumental at the end, with some tasteful sax work and opera singer Luca's eerie theramin-like soprano.

2. Sailor's Tale: A jazzy instrumental piece, with a lot of horns, distorted, arpeggio driven guitar and mellotron.. Some great fusion style improv here.

3. The Letters: A very complex piece that starts out extremely quietly with just Burrells vocals before building up into a brass and guitar driven metal workout, then it gets quiet again, with a Sax solo from Collins, then it gets all heavy again... Eventually leading to Burrells cries of love gone sour... A heavly improvised piece with rapidly changing dymanics and no consistant structure to speak of... A glimpse into Crimsons next album... Larks Tongue's In Aspic.

4. Ladies Of The Road: My favorite song on the album, a funky song that sounds like it could have very well been an outtake from The White Album... Great blues howling vocals from Burrell... A parody of standard blues rock, which tells of the relationship between a band and their groupies... Some really dirty saxophone playing here.

5. Prelude: Song Of The Gulls: A harmony of strings and flutes, this sounds like a geniune piece of Bach.... Wonderful track... Instead of a mellotron/sampler, a real symphony orchestra was brought in to record this one.

6. Islands: One of the albums strongest tracks, it's beautifully done... Some of Burrells best vocal work is here, his vocals here are a bit more distinct from his Lake-risms earlier on the album... Great calm piece with piano, flute and cornet among other things... A very medieval like piece, like Cadence & Cascade and Lady Of The Dancing Water.

The album ends with a minute of silence and two minutes of band members screwing around in the studio while the recorder was still on.

Again, a good album, not a great one... But it's worth checking out if you have already heard the rest of Crimsons 60s/70s output.

Laces Out Dan! 05-27-2006 08:39 PM

One question...is this all from your head?

hiu 05-27-2006 08:40 PM

Hurry up so I can read your review of Red.

boo boo 05-27-2006 08:42 PM

Well i do make sure i have my history right, release years, session musicians, etc...

But yes, i just sit staring at the userbox until i start coming up with a good way to discribe the music.


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