When this album was released in 1969, it was to change the
whole face of rock music as it was then known. In ‘The Court Of The Crimson
King’ by King Crimson almost single handedly invented what was to become known
as progressive rock, and with first track ’21st Century Schizoid Man’ had a
fair hand at putting heavy metal music on the map.
The strange thing is that ‘In The Court Of The Crimson
King’ started life as a bit of a curiosity. I bet that half of the first lot
of people to buy this album did so due to its cover alone, relying upon the
intuition that anybody who would put such a face to their music, inevitably had
to have quite some spirit of adventure. They were - of course - correct.
King Crimson had a very auspicious debut year. Their first
few rehearsals were held in January; their debut live performance was at the
Speakeasy in London, April 9th, followed by a support slot at the Rolling Stones
free concert in Hyde Park in July. Their debut album was released to great
critical acclaim in October and reached #5 in the British Charts and #28 in the
Today, after over 33 years, King Crimson is still very active
and highly regarded, producing some of the most creative music in existence,
just as they always have, under the collective banner of King Crimson and always
led by main man Robert Fripp, who is now in his seventieth decade. The man in
black still commands the stage from his seat at the back of the stage. Grim
faced he plays his guitar one minute with the violence of an axe, the next with
the gentleness of a feather, but always with determined concentration.
There have been sixteen studio albums, every one reaching the
upper regions of the charts all over the world, countless live albums, and
compilations. Twenty-one people have been in the recordings and live works ranks
(not counting guest musicians). They even had a hit single with ‘Catfood’
back in 1970.
As the lineup has changed many have gone on to more fame and
fortune. From the first lineup vocalist Greg Lake went on to form super group
‘Emerson, Lake and Palmer’. Ian McDonald was an original member of
‘Foreigner’, whilst Mike Giles went on to be one of the most respected
drummers in the session world. Other groups came and went, but Robert Fripp just
carried on in his own sweet way, oblivious to anything that does not concern
him, demanding only perfection from his fellow musicians. During its lifespan
King Crimson has gone from this lineup, which had vocals with the basic trio of
drums, bass, and guitar, with additional saxophone, flute, keyboards,
mellotrone, synthesizer, and harmonium, to today’s more basic lineup of vocals
with two guitars, bass, and drums. That’s quite unusual in itself, as bands
usually add instruments rather than strip them away.
The album opens up with the brutal ’21st Century Schizoid
Man’, which was actually this dog’s first introduction to King Crimson, as
this track was released on a compilation album by Island Records to showcase all
the artists on their roster. This was an album set called ‘Nice Enough To
Eat’, containing twelve tracks from various bands on the label, all for the
price of fourteen shillings and sixpence (about forty five baht), just within
range of this at the time 13-year old dog’s pocket money.
After the loud entrance of the ‘Schizoid Man’ (although
it became a bit of an albatross round the old King Crimson neck, it was only
dusted down and rehashed as an encore number by Robert Fripp last year), you are
swept away by four more rock epics. The shortest called ‘I Talk To The Wind’
clocks in at just over six minutes, while ‘Moonchild’ - with all its beeps,
boops, and whistles still intact - comes in at a massive 12 minutes. Hardly
surprising then that Crimson was never really considered a singles band.
Musical standouts, if you had to pick some from this
faultless album, would have to be (apart from all of Schizoid) Ian McDonald’s
flute playing in ‘I Talk To The Wind’, Greg Lake’s singing in
‘Epitaph’, Ian McDonald’s groundbreaking keyboard work in ‘Moonchild’,
and Robert Fripp’s simply staggering guitar work in final song ‘The Court Of
The Crimson King’. If you think that it is only studio trickery that lets them
play this immaculate music, think again. The proof is the live album
‘Epitaph’ recorded on this lineup’s tour of America at the Filmore East.
The encore recording of the band rollicking through ‘Mars’ from Holzst’s
‘Planet Suite’ has to be heard to be believed.
After thirty odd years this album is still King Crimson’s
biggest selling album, a true all time classic. But do not worry, my friends,
old Robert Fripp is still trying to top it. He nearly succeeded in his efforts
in 2003 with ‘The Power To Believe’. If you have never heard this album, go
out and buy it; if you have fond memories of it from before, I hope this little
epistle will remind you to push ‘Purchase’ when surfing through www.amazon.com