Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time
For many years after its 1970’s heyday progressive rock, or “prog,” was considered a four-letter word among music critics and snobs. Fortunately for us prog-heads we survived the “lean years” in the 80s & ’90s (which actually featured dozens of great bands that flew under the radar) and smiled as prog became acceptable and (almost) mainstream during the new millennium. While many ’60s artists and albums have been cited as the birth of progressive rock, they merely laid the foundation for King Crimson, whose 1969 debut masterpiece In The Court Of The Crimson King is essentially prog ground zero.
For more information on this series, please read the opening paragraph of the first post, which featured the debut album from Led Zeppelin.
From GREAT OUT OF THE GATE Part 2:
By now it’s not a revelation to report that I’m a huge fan of progressive rock, and no discussion of that subgenre can start without mentioning King Crimson and their massively influential debut album. Guitarist Robert Fripp, the only constant in the ever-changing KC lineups over nearly half a century, was joined by future ELP vocalist/bassist Greg Lake, future Foreigner keyboard/woodwind player Ian McDonald, drummer Michael Giles and lyricist Pete Sinfield for a collection of five mind-blowing tracks that range from 6 to 12 minutes long. McDonald’s organ and Mellotron give these songs an orchestral grandeur, while Fripp’s groundbreaking guitar playing is still mind-blowing. I can only imagine how out-of-this world it all sounded in 1969. The album is bookended by the aggressive “21st Century Schizoid Man” and the quiet-loud dynamics of “The Court Of The Crimson King.” The jazzier “I Talk To The Wind” and “Moonchild” allow the album to breathe while taking listeners on a journey, while the gorgeous “Epitaph” has long been my favorite song here. Lake would later incorporate a portion of it during ELP’s live performances of “Tarkus.” Sporting one of the ugliest or most iconic album covers of all time (depending on your taste), In The Court Of The Crimson King is a record that grows in stature as it ages.
Official versions of King Crimson songs are hard to find online, as Mr. Fripp is rightfully protective of his recordings, so for now I can share these YouTube clips which feature edited “single” versions of three favorites from this album. Eventually they will likely be removed and I’ll replace them with the best options available at that time.
There have been many lineups of King Crimson over the last five decades, each with its own unique sound, and every era has its proponents. For all of you Crimson fans out there, do you have a favorite album? Lineup? Era? On any given day I could cite their debut or any album from the early-’70s Wetton/Bruford years, the early-’80s Belew/Levin/Bruford years or the mid-’90s double-trio lineup as my favorite, but In The Court Of The Crimson King is probably the one I return to most often. It still sounds vital & powerful 50 years after it was created, and that will likely be the case in another 50 years.