In The Court Of The Crimson King

King Crimson

Atlantic Records, 1969

REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


Originally, I was to have no part in the King Crimson retrospective this month because, frankly, I didn’t have any of their albums. However, while making the rounds a few days ago, I came across a used copy of In The Court Of The Crimson King on vinyl. Eager to please, I devoured the album in an attempt to contribute to the retrospective -- and am I ever glad I did.

Progressive rock does not please everyone; that’s a given. It can be incredibly difficult to listen to, and can challenge the listener in ways they couldn’t have predicted. Now, I have listened to plenty of albums in the genre, from Yes, Pink Floyd, Genesis, etc. But my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 In The Court Of… was the first that really knocked my socks off.

The fact that Crimson on this record sounds like a mix of the aforementioned three bands is damned impressive because they maintain a unique sound. In fact, none of three bands have albums that employ the use of jazz as much as this one does. This was a beautiful segue coming from my recent review of Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew.

The first two tracks, “21st Century Schizoid Man (Including Mirrors)” and “I Talk To The Wind,” essentially capture the most “jazzy” vibe; for me it was the horn section in the former and the flute in the latter. However, hearing how tightly this group plays and how well they maintain their momentum is the true highlight of the early portions of the album. I’m a fan of jazz/rock, but even the novice should still be entranced.

I will admit, the group loses me a bit on “Moonchild (Including The Dream & The Illusion).” No prog-rock album would be without some self-indulgent noodling on instruments, and In The Court Of… is no different. In this case, a 12-minute song easily stretches on for much longer than it should. Of course, one usually expects this with this kind of work.

Any lack of momentum is obliterated with the brilliant closing number, shortened here to “The Court Of The Crimson King.” Easily the best track on the album, and a song that I have not been able to stop listening to, this track simply exudes vigor and energy, with lyrics that are incredibly evocative and match the sounds completely. The haunting refrain is up there with the vocals on great prog-rock songs like “Us & Them,” from Dark Side Of The Moon.

For the experienced Crimson fan, I can offer no criticism of this album with regard to the ones that followed, for reasons given above. However, if their follow-up albums are cut from the same cloth as In The Court Of The Crimson King, then I definitely need to give them more listens. While it is much too early to place this among my favorite prog-rock efforts, it could very well be by month’s end.

Rating: A-

User Rating: A-



© 2007 Jeff Clutterbuck and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Atlantic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.