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King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King (1969)

January 17, 2014

[Album 277/1001]220px-In_the_Court_of_the_Crimson_King

This album simply doesn’t work as an interrupted listen.

I found having this on in the car while running errands was a frustrating experience.

And that’s about the best I can do for criticism!

My fellow bloggers suggested this was a debut for the ages and they were spot on.  The challenge this week has been finding uninterrupted blocks of 44 minutes to immerse in the record.

Beginning at the beginning, the 21st Century Schizoid Man’s riff: the journalist from the 1001 book described it as ‘gargantuan’ and I couldn’t agree more.  Speaking of 5 dollar words, the true meaning of the word cacophony?  Check out the last 30 seconds of the song.

I Talk to the Wind changes gears completely but this flute-driven number is just as excellent.

Epitaph reminds me of music Bowie would eventually write, which is rarely a bad association.  Nor is the Damon Albarn vibe I get from Moonchild & its gorgeous guitar outro.

The Court of the Crimson King wraps up the 5-song set in fine fashion.  All musicians perform admirably throughout but a tip of the hat is required for Ian McDonald & his impressive job description on this record: woodwinds (saxophone, flute, clarinet, bass clarinet), keyboards (mellotron, harpsichord, piano, organ), vibraphone, backing vocals.

I had originally thought about analyzing each track in depth until I was reminded of Depeche Mode’s (out-of-context) advice: words are very unnecessary, they can only do harm.

Therefore, I will end the review by insisting you go listen to this in its entirety.  Post haste.  On vinyl for maximum cover art appreciation if possible.

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From → 1960s

21 Comments
  1. This is a very intimidating album and band for the uninitiated. I like your Depeche Mode advice at the end, too. I’ve put off and put off reviewing Captain Beefheart for that very reason. How do I talk about those “songs”? What could I possibly add to the cacophony of reviews out there anyway?

    See what I did there? 🙂

    • I was going to say, I’ve heard that term somewhere recently! I’m now curious about the many Crimson records that followed, I gather the lineup changed a fair bit over the years.

      Beefheart makes a couple appearances on the 1001 list – Safe as Milk & Trout Mask Replica. If you find a way to discuss those ones, I’d certainly be keen to hear/read!

      • I did a review of Trout Mask ages ago, but it’s not appropriate for my site. It’s more a rebuttal against the negative reviews on Amazon and defending the album from listeners who dismissed it as “not music”. Here, people are a little more open minded than that, I’m sure 98% of us would agree that it is indeed music! Rendering my old review redundant. It is a really intimidating album and I have a hard time listening to it in one sitting (it was a double). But it’s very rewarding.

        And Crimson is too, it’s a rewarding experience but you have to be willing to really pay attention.

      • That seems to be a defining characteristic of a lot of the great albums – for example, I understand Pet Sounds got its name from a crude analogy made by Mike Love.

        He just didn’t get it but after a few listens, I found it addictive & I’d now easily put it in my top 10.

      • What is a defining characteristic? The comment seems to be missing some context.

      • That happens – often a comment makes perfect sense in my head but doesn’t translate properly to my written text!

        What I meant to say was that many great albums aren’t instantly enjoyable – some are, but some require repeated listens. And it is on those repeated listens that I really start to appreciate the songwriting, the arrangements.

        Such as with the Beatles, any of the early records are instantly accessible. An album like The White Album may not be as appealing on listen #1 but the more I heard it, the more I adore songs like Happiness is a Warm Gun, Martha My Dear, etc.

  2. Glad you liked it. It’s a brilliant album! More late night listen for me. Definitely not one for the car!

  3. Such a great album. The jam in Moonchild is a bit hard to take if you’re not in the right mood, but each track here is just magic.

    • I had a feeling based on your user name that you’d approve of this album!
      I quite like how the 5 songs are all so different but all are essential.

  4. I was in junior high school when this record came out, and I remember listening to this record and Led Zeppelin’s first album on the same night. I have never been the same. Nice post

  5. Great posting. One of my favourite albums after a lot of effort getting into it. My uncle tells the a story of seeing them at the Stones gig in hyde park in 1968. After their slot he left because he didnt think the stones could top them

    • I can appreciate that – The Stones headlined a show in 2003 in Toronto but they had the misfortune of playing after ACDC. I think we stayed for the whole Stones set, but ACDC was un-toppable that night!

  6. Y’know, I am sure I know a KC song…I am certainly familiar with that album cover…it…disturbs, but think it’s artistically fantastic!

    • The title track was the most familiar one for me on the first listen – and it’s nice to see a group make album art a priority, I can’t think of a cover quite like this one!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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