Category: King Crimson

King Crimson – Earthbound

ARTIST: King Crimson                                  220px-King_Crimson_-_Earthbound

TITLE: Earthbound

YEAR RELEASED: 1972

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: 21st Century Schizoid Man (live)

LINEUP: Robert Fripp, Boz Burrell, Mel Collins, Ian Wallace

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A crappily recorded live record by a band on the verge of breaking up (well, at least, leaving Fripp behind). You can imagine…

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: I’m sure that the shows presented here, if you attended them, were pretty good. King Crimson live has always been built on improvisation with unexpected twists and turns and interesting angles on their extant songs.

This record, from their 1972 US tour, was the sound of a band breaking away from its leader. Robert Fripp had once again alienated a band, and by the end of the tour his three bandmates were off doing their own thing. The band was deep into improve, with two of the tracks truly off-the-cuff, and two others variations on already recorded instrumentals. Only “21st Centry Schizoid Man” is somewhat recognizable from the record and it’s powerful and scary.

That would be great, and many fantastic live Crimson gigs are out there that contain a lot of improv. What makes this record egregious is the recording medium – a low quality cassette tape recorded on a two-track plugged into the mixer which totally distorts the sound, makes it muddy, and nearly impossible to improve even with the best technologies available today.

The sad thing is that this would be decent, if not for the sound. But it was foisted on the public because by all accounts King Crimson was dead and Island wanted some final cash from them, and Fripp agreed to it (if he had a choice, even).

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Wallace, Burrell, and Collins joined Alexis Korner for a while after splitting with Fripp.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, but there will be a new box set from this era which may have better sounding live dates

GRADE: D: This should never have been released. Many bootlegs sound better than this. It doesn’t get an “F” because the version of “Schizoid Man” is terrifying (in a good way, as it should be).

 

King Crimson – Islands

ARTIST: King Crimson               Islands_-_Original_Cropped_Cover.jpeg

TITLE:  Islands

YEAR RELEASED: 1971

CHART ACTION: #76 US, #30 UK

SINGLES:  None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: This didn’t hit the radio.

LINEUP: Robert Fripp, Mel Collins, Ian Wallace, Boz Burrell

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The last release of the first phase of King Crimson finds Fripp and his current band mates recycling some old pieces, and lulling everyone to sleep for the most part.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It took about 2 ½ tracks for me to really wake up when hearing this album. Of course, that’s almost 25 minutes into it. It wasn’t until “The Letters” when Boz Burrell sings “Impaled on nails of ice” that things got above a pleasant lull, and “Ladies of the Road” is about the only one that really cranks it up a little.

Fripp took some older pieces from his previous band and reworked them here. The music is pleasant, really, but it’s more jazz / classical than anything. It’s complicated, and musically impressive. But I want more guitar fireworks, not long bedtime stories.

Maybe I’m spoiled by their first two albums, but this is probably the least played Crimson album for me.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Fripp reworked themes from his Giles, Giles and Fripp band into a couple of songs. Boz Burrell later joined Bad Company, which is about as far away as you can get from King Crimson.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, outtakes, etc.

GRADE: C: The music is well played and arranged. It’s just so…boring.

 

 

 

 

 

King Crimson – Lizard

ARTIST: King Crimson     Lizard_-_Original_Vinyl_Cover

TITLE:  Lizard.

YEAR RELEASED: 1970

CHART ACTION: #113 US, #29 UK

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Only if you’re a King Crimson uber-fan.

LINEUP: Robert Fripp, Pete Sinfield, Mel Collins, Gordon Haskell, Andy McCulloch. Keith Tippett, Robin Miller, Mark Charig and Nick Evans did session piano and horn work. Jon Anderson sings on one part of the ending suite.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Progressive rock band has its third lineup in two years (and they weren’t done yet…) and records an album full of long suites and more jazzy / classical infusions than in previous. Some impresses. Some does not.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Fripp scrambled again to save the band, and cobbled together a lineup of past studio musicians to flesh out the band. He then gave them a load of material that could be described as ‘not at all like their most popular stuff’. There’s no grandiose, booming guitar work. It’s all subtle and jazzy with some classical elements in there as well.

The result is an album that’s kind of all over the place. It plainly works with “Cirkus” the opener, and parts of the ending suite. The music to “Happy Family” is intriguing in its stop-go and effects and the lyrics, about the Beatles, are kind of humorous in retrospect. But even with Jon Anderson helping, the final suite (the title track) is 23 minutes of stuff and things thrown together that all together has the effect of ennui.

But overall, this album stalled King Crimson’s momentum. Fans were confused, and Fripp rather much disowns it now. But there are some redeemable points so it’s worth a hearing.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This version of the band didn’t even last for a tour. During rehearsals Haskell and McCulloch quit.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a couple of guide tracks and a re-mix of one.

GRADE: C+: “Cirkus” is worth it, and if you’re more of a free jazz than progressive rock fan this may be decent for you. But it’s just tooooo long at times.

King Crimson – In the Wake of Poseidon

ARTIST: King Crimson In_the_Wake_of_Poseidon_-_Original_Album_Cover.jpeg
TITLE: In the Wake of Poseidon
YEAR RELEASED: 1970
CHART ACTION: #31 US, #4 UK
SINGLES: Cat Food
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Doubt it – radio doesn’t play Crimson.
LINEUP: Robert Fripp, Greg Lake, Mel Collins, Michael Giles, Peter Giles. Keith Tippett. Gordon Haskell sings one track.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Amidst the chaos of the crumbling of the first incarnation, Fripp pulls together a good to great second album that expands on his musical vision.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Somehow, Fripp did it. After the ENTIRE band quit on him, he picked up the pieces, asked a few friends and ex-bandmates kindly to play on the next album, and well, here you go.

Bookended by “Peace” (with a beginning, theme and an end), the album goes through heavy rock, a gentle and placid ballad, and a couple of extended workouts, including one that rivals the Mothers of Invention for planned instrumental chaos.

Oh, and there’s “Cat Food”, a legitimate single and fun song that you’d never expect from a band seemingly as serious as King Crimson. It’s a hoot, and they actually went on Top of the Pops to mime to it.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Lake sang on this album in exchange for King Crimson’s PA. The Giles brothers were also just helping out. Collins and Haskell would join the band proper soon, and Tippett played on many of their early albums.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A couple of anniversary editions (30th and 40th) have the great “Cat Food” B-side Groon, among a couple of other re-mixes and demos.

GRADE: B+: I love “Cat Food” and “Pictures of a City” (and “Groon”). The rest is decent, and the chaotic instrumental goes on a bit too long.

King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King

ARTIST: King Crimson       In_the_Court_of_the_Crimson_King_-_40th_Anniversary_Box_Set_-_Front_cover

TITLE: In the Court of the Crimson King

YEAR RELEASED: 1969

CHART ACTION: #28 US, #5 UK

SINGLES: In the Court of the Crimson King (#80 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: 21st Century Schizoid Man.

LINEUP: Robert Fripp, Greg Lake, Michael Giles, Ian McDonald

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Is this the birth of Prog? I think it’s the birth of Prog as a market force, for sure. Genesis, ELP, Rush, etc. all benefited from the success and vision of this album.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Starting off with a major blast from Fripp and McDonald, “21st Century Schizoid Man” announces King Crimson’s presence with authority. To this day, that’s their signature tune no matter who is in the band or what kind of lineup they have. The title track also packs some wallop and Epitaph has some great moments for sure. Anyone should have this in their collection just to see where prog rock came from.

The slower songs kind of put me to sleep – Fripp’s pastoral reflections didn’t excite me. They’re well crafted and all but I want some oomph in my prog.

What was also interesting about this album is that they used the mellotron not as a replacement for an orchestra, but in its own right as a unique voice to the production.

 NOTES & MINUTAE: Starting a trend, this band fell apart on its US Tour, with Lake soon forming ELP, McDonald wandering around until he joined Foreigner in the mid-70’s, and Giles sticking as a drummer as a favor.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION:  Yes. They did anniversary editions, but I don’t have one. That’s fine.

GRADE: A- : I can’t give it an A because of the two slower tracks, but I really love the other three.