King Crimson - In The Court Of The Crimson King - Classic Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

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?

 

Comments (10)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Prog is a funny genre. I'm the same with this album, there are parts of it that really haven't aged well. I tried listening to early Genesis recently and it's awful. I confess I have got into Camel though.

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Dunno Camel but clearly Prog frightens me and I have an acute phobia. So, I admit I'm not the most rational of critics.

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Yes, you are correct that you are the last guy that should be reviewing this album. The titles were an artifact of the way royalty payments were done at the time. They would have been paid for an EP if they hadn't done that. King Crimson were...

Yes, you are correct that you are the last guy that should be reviewing this album. The titles were an artifact of the way royalty payments were done at the time. They would have been paid for an EP if they hadn't done that. King Crimson were not a band of stoners. Alluded! Bartok, not jazz.

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Ha! Agreed! Yeah, "Bartok". No, Prog isn't pretentious and self-important! But I can't take any of this seriously, nor should you. I'm just a willful Philistine taking the piss Does it matter if the titles were an "artifact"? They're still very...

Ha! Agreed! Yeah, "Bartok". No, Prog isn't pretentious and self-important! But I can't take any of this seriously, nor should you. I'm just a willful Philistine taking the piss Does it matter if the titles were an "artifact"? They're still very silly.

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Comment was last edited about 8 months ago by Kevin Orton Kevin Orton
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Supertramp are great, but they got their pop crossover exactly right, just like Queen with Bohemian Rhapsody. 'Pure' prog rock is difficult for most like jazz fusion at its extremes. No doubt this is a classic though - even punk band Bad Religion...

Supertramp are great, but they got their pop crossover exactly right, just like Queen with Bohemian Rhapsody. 'Pure' prog rock is difficult for most like jazz fusion at its extremes. No doubt this is a classic though - even punk band Bad Religion make nods to it.

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Freaking gloriously hilarious review, Kevin! I'm all in with you on prog rock. College introduced me to a bunch of Rush stoners with predictable results. The same ppl exposed me to lethal doses of the Grateful Dead. Oh, the humanity. Side note:...

Freaking gloriously hilarious review, Kevin! I'm all in with you on prog rock. College introduced me to a bunch of Rush stoners with predictable results. The same ppl exposed me to lethal doses of the Grateful Dead. Oh, the humanity. Side note: I've always been more of a Doritos man, myself. Crunch.

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Thanks Steve! Exactly my experience! Crunch, hehehe...

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Early Genesis...awful? We are talking about "Supper's Ready," "Get'em Out by Friday," "Visions of Angels," and "The Musical Box." I weep for humanity! All prog nay -sayers, take heed: you will be the first devoured when that Giant Hogweed returns!

Comment was last edited about 8 months ago by Bill Golembeski Bill Golembeski
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Sorry Bill, I know you love your Prog. I'll try again with Genesis, maybe I'm missing something. I do like Prog but with some, I feel the need to turn the volume up, like there's something there I'm missing. Like it needs a bit of oomph.

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I listened to Nursery Cryme and The Musical Box is really good but I still can't quite get into a whole album. I can't put my finger on it.

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