When bringing up King Crimson, how do you even begin to describe the sounds and styles of their music? In terms of late ’60s early ’70s progressive rock, these guys were easily the most far out and unusual band in their genre. With that said, you can not deny the genius that is their début album, In The Court of the Crimson King.
There is something in this album that just speaks greatness. A lot of bands at the time were flirting with blues or coming off of the psychedelic thing. By comparison Robert Fripp and friends’ more jazz influenced King Crimson stands out like a sore thumb and this is before that influence became more overbearing than the rock music. Talking of influences, Greg Lake of Emerson Lake & Palmer is all over this album. Not only did he have a hand in producing the record but he also sings and plays bass guitar.
In The Court of the Crimson King features a selection of five extended heavy rock songs, the shortest being six minutes long. The album kicks off with the unforgettable 21st Century Schizoid Man, a song (one of many) that features a particularly strange concept. This song really sets the tone with the haunting vocals, heavy guitars and a monstrous rhythm section. It flows into I Talk To The Wind which is a much less eccentric number that features a bit of flute and a couple of nice solos.
Greg Lake’s influence is very noticeable on the classic, Epitaph. It is perhaps the most mesmerising tracks on the album. The slow psychedelic groove is very reminiscent of the early work of Emerson Lake & Palmer, a portion of the song even made its way onto the bands double live album. At a staggering nine minutes long, Epitaph is a song that just sounds wonderful when it is blared from its speakers. It has a charming dystopian feel, one that gets revisited time and again by King Crimson.
The twelve minute Moonchild is somewhat of an acquired taste. The song starts off as a charming ballad, one that gets driven along by a mellotron. This portion of the song is without a doubt one of the bands best in terms of song writing. There is something charming about the whole thing, that is until it crashes head first into a free form instrumental section. This part of the song (at least in my opinion) should of been left out completely. It doesn’t ruin it but it does kind of crush an otherwise lovely track. It sounds especially odd considering it immediately jumps into the album title track, In The Court of the Crimson King. This track is a progressive rock classic. It has an awkward groove, some nice use of acoustic guitar, mellotron, harpsichord and flute. The lead vocals sound especially nice and is easily a career highlight of Greg Lake. The song kicks off with a sudden impact and despite the laid back groove, it continues the intensity until the last second. This song is perhaps one of the finest album finishers of its time and one that is very hard to forget.
So where does this album stand for rock fans new and old? Well I would assume this record would be quite popular with an older crowd and would absolutely alienate a younger audience. With that said, In The Court of the Crimson King is an album that is well worth checking out. It has one classic track after another and has aged surprisingly well. My only gripe about the album is the rather feeble snare drum sound but when the playing is as good as this is, who cares.
Note: If you think this album is weird, you ain’t heard nothing yet.
Note Note: Heavy metal legends Saxon covered In The Court Of The Crimson King… seriously. It is rather good.
Where to buy :
Track Listing :
- 21st Century Schizoid Man
- I Talk to the Wind
- The Court of the Crimson King