You Picked It! – King Crimson – ‘In The Court of the Crimson King’ (1969) – Album Review

Alright…You Picked It! And this one was probably the closest one yet. Last week was a nail biter of a finish on which album one, this time around, it wasn’t even close. The winner was King Crimson’s ‘In the Court of the Crimson King’ which I had never heard before. The votes were as follows:

  1. King Crimson – ‘In the Court of the Crimson King’ – 13 votes
  2. AC/DC – ‘For Those About to Rock’ – 4 votes
  3. The Cult – ‘Electric’ – 2 votes
  4. Rob Zombie – ‘The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy’ – 1 vote
  5. David Lanz – ‘Cristofori’s Dream – 1 Vote

Thanks to all for participating. The April choices will be up on Saturday!

King Crimson – ‘In The Court of the Crimson King’ (1969):

King Crimson’s debut album, ‘In The Court of the Crimson King’, is said to be a very influential album and the first ever Prog Rock album, so that made it a little intimidating for me to review like all the classic albums I have reviewed. It is a little scary to tackle as you hope you hear what everyone else hears, but sometimes you don’t. Now, I will be honest and let you now I am not a huge Prog Rock fan. Most albums I have, a 6 minute song is probably the longest song on the album. Here it is the shortest song on the album. Also, the same is said that most of my albums have 10 or more songs, this one only has 5. Yes, welcome to the world of Prog Rock!!

King Crimson consisted of some amazing musicians, I will give them that. Take a look for yourself…

  • Greg Lake – Bass, Lead vocals (also in Emerson, Lake & Palmer)
  • Ian McDonald – Alto Saxophone and flute (also Foreigner)
  • Robert Fripp – Guitar (Brian Eno and David Bowie)
  • Michael Giles – Drums (Leo Sayer and many, many more)
  • Peter Sinfield – Lyrics (didn’t know that would make you a band member, but cool)

And I believe Robert Fripp along with Toyah Wilcox are making a name for themselves with their viral videos during the pandemic. You should check them out on the Tube of You.

The album is also known for the album cover of the up close and personal view of a man’s face with full shot of looking up his nostrils and the back of his throat. To me, it is an iconic cover and I’ve wanted it in my collection for years for that very fact. It was beautifully drawn by Barry Godber who sadly passed away only a few months after the albums release. This was the only album artwork he had ever done. What is cool is that Robert Fripp owns the original piece so it is in good hands.

Well, we might as well dive right in to this with the opening track, the stellar, “21st Century Schizoid Man”. The label also says including “Mirrors” which turns out is the name of the instrumental piece in the middle. For me, it is all just “21st Century Schizoid Man”. I was actually a little familiar with this song due to various covers by other bands. The song is made of up of some disjointed phrases that are each supposed to compel an image, but that is way beyond me. The song was actually dedicated to Spiro Agnew and has references to the Vietnam War which makes sense for the time this was released. I hear a fascinating piece of musicianship full of horns, a killer riff, a rhythm section of Lake and Giles that chugs along and all around amazing playing. I am not sure how to describe what is going on, but it is a savory smorgasbord of sounds that makes you drool with excitement ready to devour it over and over again until your stomach explodes. Lake on vocals is great, but lets be honest, the instrumental pieces on this are the tasty treat.

The next track is the short 6 minute song I mentioned earlier. It is “I Talk to the Wind”. Where the prior song was an explosion of flavor, this one is a little more serene and has a flute, played by Ian McDonald, as the main instrument. It is a complete left turn and feels a little psychedelic and a little jazzy vibe as well. It is sad and feels so isolated and lonely. Can a song feel that way. It is not my favorite, but there is a coolness to it.

Next up is “Epitath” comes in with a wave of drum rolls. It is a darker tone and meanders for a little at the opening before it bursts wide open several minutes in and I believe has two instrumental pieces called “March for No Reason” and “Tomorrow and Tomorrow”. There is a haunting beauty to the song as it seems to be describing a dark world and not one I want to be a part of in any way. The instrumental pieces are again where the band shines whether the drums in the March or the eerie flute solo, both are hypnotic and fascinating. But Greg Lake shines here with what might be his best vocal performance on the album.

“Moonchild” is the longest song on the album at over 12 minutes and has a couple instrumental pieces as well called “The Dream” and “The Illusion”. I’ve seen where critics rave about this song, but the song is lost on me. It feels like a giant jazz improvisational piece. The song is a little boring for me. It seems to want to go somewhere, but can’t find its way. The instrumental pieces seems disjointed and a mess. I was easily bored and despite the musicianship, I was unable to connect with this one in any way. I am too engrained with the thought a song needs structure which “The Illusion” piece definitely doesn’t since it is the improvisational part of the song.

The final track is the killer “The Court of the Crimson King”. It feels so grandiose and epic. It has a mellotron as the highlighted instrument which gives it a 60’s vibe. It has sweeping choruses of “aaahs” in the background. Some great bass fills, guitar fills all dancing around the flute in one of the two instrumental pieces called “The Return of the Fire Witch” and “The Dance of the Puppets” which is another flute instrumental that plays when the song seems to come to an end but takes us along for another few minutes putting the song at over 10 minutes in length that flies by like a majestic bird in flight. Full of beauty and grace. Then the song returns to form to take finish this journey of musical discovery as I realize with songs like this, I could get in to Prog.

Track Listing:

  1. 21st Century Schizoid Man – Keeper
  2. I Talk To The Wind – Keeper (1/2 Point)
  3. Epitaph – Keeper
  4. Moonchild – Delete
  5. The Court of the Crimson King – Keeper

The Track Score is 3.5 out of 5.0 or 70%.  I have to say, I did end up enjoying this more than I thought I would.  Maybe I can get in to some prog rock…I mean I already like early Rush so that is a start right. Anyway, I found the musicianship to be unparalleled compared to a lot of bands.  I do dig the instrumental pieces except when they were more improvisational and I didn’t feel lent anything to the song.  With songs like “21st Century”, “Epitaph” and “Court”, I think the albums is beyond belief, but when mixed with the other two, I felt lost its way a little.  However, the strength of those three songs puts the score at 4.0 out of 5.0 Stars as those songs are too good to be true.  I felt like I had been on a journey, discovering new musical worlds, ready to plant the band’s flag in to the rich soil declaring this musical landscape belonged to King Crimson.  Thanks for coming along on this ride and I hope you enjoyed it.

On Saturday, the next batch of choices for May will be along for the next trip down the You Pick It lane!

31 thoughts on “You Picked It! – King Crimson – ‘In The Court of the Crimson King’ (1969) – Album Review

    1. Thanks. I like it. When the vote has gone to the classic never heard before album, it has pushed me outside my comfort zone and I think it has all been for the better. I’ve tried some classical albums I don’t if I would’ve gotten around to before now.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. You’re a brave man. Not ready for this journey at this time so I’ll pass. Cool review though. Thanks. Looking forward to discovering the next patch.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve head to be brave a lot on this series as the community has voted for some classic albums that I’d never heard before so I felt a lot of pressure to give it a fair shake and push my self even more. I’ve enjoyed it.

      Like

    1. I think this is like the 4th or 4th classic I’ve had to dive in to that I felt a lot of pressure to do it justice. I haven’t liked them all, but this one gets a passing grade. And i am sure a lot of people like Moonchild, I need structure to my song.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Enjoyed your take. Cool to hear the honest opinion. This album is one of many solid efforts by KC. It gets the most ink. You did a bang up job. I have been a life long fan of the band and just found out recently that McDonald was in Foreigner. When I put the record on 2loud Im in for the duration. I was already an album guy when i got this one but it has always been a full listen. It’s intense (other albums even more so). Even though Fripp is the driving force he certainly doesnt steal the spotlight.
    Again, hats off to you and your take. Great job and like someone else said, I also like this idea of yours. (CB has a KC take in the bag. Not my first or my last)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. It was one I was nervous about doing because it is such a classic and inspirational album for many. Glad you liked it. I can definitely see why it was influential as there wasn’t much out there like this prior to it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Loved your thoughts and where you were coming from. KC has always been different ride. I have so much music that is related to the people who have been through that band. The take I have coming up is probably my favorite version of the band (until I listen to another version). Good stuff Loud. look forward to more of your choices.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. A valiant review of a difficult, complex and groundbreaking work John. Like you, I’ve never before heard this album, nor any music by King Crimson that I can recall. That said, I’m somewhat of a progressive rock fan, and finally gave the entire album a listen. I especially like “Epitaph” and “The Court of the Crimson King”, with its sweeping and grandiose elements reminiscent of early Moody Blues and Pink Floyd. Re” “Moonchild”, I actually like the first six minutes of it, but as you stated, the second half sounds like a long and disjointed jazz improvisational piece, without any form or direction.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I musically respect prog bands…now some I think play to hear themselves play but some…make some great melodies and really do a great job.

    Excellent review John. I know some of this album but just some. Now I’m going to listen to more of it.

    Liked by 1 person

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