King Crimson - In The Court Of The Crimson King

by Kevin Orton Rating:10 Release Date:1969-10-10
King Crimson - In The Court Of The Crimson King
King Crimson - In The Court Of The Crimson King

I confess, I can’t stand Prog Rock. It conjures up images of my older sister and her dope smoking moron friends goofing over a fresh bowl of Cheetos. If pretentiousness and self-indulgence were in competition, it might sound a bit like Gentle Giant’s Octopus or Rush’s 2012.  Of course, excess is part of Prog’s appeal, isn’t it? Outside of being a spliff’s best friend? But ask me to try Yes, and I’ll just say, “No.” We all know that shit's a gateway drug and before you know it, you’re strung out on Styx and Journey.

Of course, all this can be blamed on King Crimson’s 1969 opus, Court Of The Crimson King. Arguably the album that spawned the sprawling behemoth known as Progressive Rock. It possesses all the cardinal sins and wears them proudly. While, the lyrics read like something out of a bad Michael Moorcock Fantasy novel, cut through the fat and treacle, and there’s a reason why this album is so lauded.  

The classic, ‘21st Century Schizoid Man (With Mirrors)’ mines the same territory as Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. Robert Fripp’s searing guitar dueling with Greg Lake’s sinister, treated vocals.  It would have made a great single if it didn’t devolve into an extravagant free Jazz jam.  If you think the rest of the album is going to rock as hard, think again. ‘I Talk To the Wind’ gets its flute on in a bad Jethro Tull way. It’s about the wind, so you got to have woodwinds, right? Let’s face it, ‘Wind’ is the musical equivalent of a Doug Henning “magic” routine. Factor in Peter Sinfield’s goofy lyrics and this is music for bong hobbits.

Don’t get me started on the parenthetical abuse going on with the song titles here. Speaking of which, there’s the portentous, ‘Epitaph’ (Including March For No Reason And Tomorrow And Tomorrow Eluding to A Shakespeare Play We Were Too Stoned To Read In School But Man Don’t We Sound Deep So Okay Giles Give Us A 1-2-3 And Here We Go Cos’ We’re All On Acid And Wow Look Greg’s Turned Into A Pink Winged Rhinoceros). ‘Epitaph’, if it only ended there. But hey, it’s their ‘Knights In White Satin’. This is what your Uncle Graham put on back in the day when he finally got that bird from the office up to his flat. Light a few candles, spark up a spliff and let this baby work its magic. And if you’re curious about the inspiration for Kansas’ ‘Dust In The Wind’, look no further.

If 'Epitaph' didn’t go on long enough for you, there’s ‘Moonchild Including (The Dream And The Illusion Blah Blah Blah)’ which goes on for over twelve minutes. It’s the kind of song you want to punch and then run off and start a Punk band. Seriously folks, this is the shit that inspired Punk. Look no further. If you wanted to get Mark E Smith or John Lydon out of your room, this is what you blasted.

Finally, we get to ‘The Court Of The Crimson King (Including The Return Of The Fire With The Dance of The Puppets Oh My God We’re So Stoned We Can't Come Up With A Simple Title Oh Look A Fresh Bowl Of Cheetos’). Compared to the Elf Wizard tone poem that preceded it, ‘Crimson King’ is the big climatic number complete with beards, bell bottoms, whistles and the kitchen sink. Meant to send you off into the stratosphere. Or back downstairs to the local bodega for another bag of Cheetos before sparking up the bong again.

There’s no denying this album’s influence. It’s the album that made Peter Gabriel want to dress up and play art clown. It was the cutting edge in 1969 where the Brit Invasion ditched the Blues for Hippie “Jazz”.  But if you’re left with the nagging suspicion this is all just Dungeons & Dragons---The Musical, you’re not alone. Granted, they don’t tip their Renaissance Fair hat as far some other albums I could mention. If one is being honest, this album hasn’t aged well. Like the lark’s tongue, its encased in some rather musty aspic. But it is a classic. And while its not my subjective taste, how can I not give it a top rating?

Bet you can tell, I’m the last guy who should be reviewing this album. Prog bores the crap out of me. It’s not the twee, Sci Fi Fantasy pretensions. Syd Barrett, Donovan and T Rex all mined similar territory but they had a sense of humor and their songs didn’t run on for half a fucking hour. That said, I have a ton of admiration for Robert Fripp. Where would Heroes and Scary Monsters (two of my favorite Bowie albums) be without him? But there’s no denying, this is the album responsible for bands like Yes, Genesis, Emerson Lake & Palmer and of course everyone’s favorite - Styx. That said, I do have a soft spot for Supertramp. And maybe even a little Pink Floyd. So, what do I know?


Overall Rating (1)

5 out of 5 stars

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