Monday, June 8, 2009

June 8: King Crimson, "In The Court Of King Crimson"

Artist: King Crimson
Album: In The Court Of King Crimson
Year: 1969
Label: EG

Sometimes, it is true that there can be too much talent for a single band. In many cases, the band implodes and one or two of the members have small careers after. However, there are a few occasions where the band remained somewhat intact, and various members found great success elsewhere. In the case of progressive rock icons, King Crimson, aside from the bands' own work, members have gone on to found some of the most significant bands of the 1970's. Easily one of the most revered bands in the history of music, King Crimson created some of the most haunting, yet stunning music that the world has ever seen. Though the lineup of the band has fluctuated, and they have attempted incorporation of various styles, the spirit behind the music has never altered. Easily their finest work, and widely reguarded as one of the most phenomenal and important records in history, their 1969 release, In The Court Of King Crimson, is a truly breathtaking musical experience.

The music found 0n In The Court of King Crimson truly represents a major turning point in the history of music. The group perfectly display how one can fuse together the basics of jazz with the early electronic and symphonic sounds of Europe, along with blues elements from the United States. There is an uncanny similarity in sound and style to Pink Floyd, yet King Crimson's progression predates that of Floyds', and the overall sound of King Crimson is more based on instrumentation as opposed to the more "soundscape" approach of Floyd. The impact and influence of the bands' work has been heard throughout the decades in artists like Peter Gabriel, Yes, and Alan Parsons. One very interesting aspect on In The Court Of King Crimson is the fact that the song only lists five tracks, yet it is clear that there are sections within each song, and it is commonly seen that there are actually a full twelve songs on the record. It is commonly believed that this was done simply as a tactic by the group to ensure that they received the full royalties for their work. Since the release of the album, the "rules" of royalty payment have been altered to reflect the length of songs as well as the total tracks on an album.

When one thinks of King Crimson, the first name that comes to mind is that of the bands' founder, guitar legend, Robert Fripp. There are many things that make Fripp a true legend, from being left handed and playing a right handed guitar, to his style coming not from blues, but from avant jazz and classical music. Also, since the early 1980's, Fripp has been credited with founding, and teaching a new style of guitar, called "Guitar Craft." Perhaps the greatest contributions come from multi-instrumentalist, Ian McDonald. Playing everything from flute to mellotron to keyboards, in many ways, it is McDonald who sets the mood for each song. After parting ways with King Crimson, McDonald founded the band Foreigner. Drummer Michael Giles is nothing short of stunning throughout In The Court Of King Crimson. Bringing a heavy influence from avant-jazz, he is spectacular, with his talents being showcased most prominently on In The Court Of King Crimson's final, title track. You would truly having to look quite hard to find a band that, at any point in their career, had as much pure talent as the original lineup of King Crimson.

Another major force in King Crimson is bassist and lead vocalist, Greg Lake. Lake, who is also the "Lake" in Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, is credited as being the actually uncredited producer on In The Court Of King Crimson. His voice, both in tone and delivery adds a perfect mood of spacey bliss to each song on the album. Even on the albums' most famous section, "21st Century Schizoid Man," Lake is absolutely stunning has he sings through a voice box, giving the song a sense of both anger and horror. Lyrically, the songs are quite varied, from the blissful beauty of "I Talk To The Wind" to the rather dystopian mood that occurs over a handful of the other songs. The opening track seems to make direct references to the Vietnam War, standing against the evils of both the soldiers, as well as the politicians who command them. The song, "Epitaph," is also rather dark and somber, and it would later be the inspiration and namesake for one of the most respected punk/hardcore record labels. The meandering, lavish soundscape of "I Talk To The Wind" plays a stark juxtaposition, especially because it is sandwiched between the two previously mentioned songs.

Taking elements from jazz, classical, and blues, there really has never been another band that has created the stunning musical soundscapes that are found on King Crimson's debut record. Whether it is stunning guitar work, some of the best drumming ever recorded, or the varied vocals, King Crimson is truly one of the most talented groups to ever exist. From Adrian Belew to Robert Fripp to Greg Lake, few bands have seen the amazing caliber of musicians as part of the group. Moving from heavily constructed musical landscapes to free-jazz inspired improvisations, In The Court Of King Crimson was an uncanny example of the progressive rock movement, and has inspired countless artists since. Often referred to as the "intellectual's Pink Floyd," the musicianship and crafting of songs found on the album is second to none. Making a debut record that may truly be impossible to top, King Crimson carved their names into the history of music with their phenomenal first album, their 1969 masterpiece, In The Court Of King Crimson.

Standout tracks: "21st Century Schitzoid Man," "Moonchild," and "In The Court Of King Crimson."

No comments: