A Romatic's Guide To King Crimson

The Mastelottos

7D Media, 2021


REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Now here’s an unusual idea and one that only borders on gimmick.

See, the passing take on King Crimson is that their progressive rock tends to be either very loud, very meandering during the improvisations, very technically proficient but cold, or any combination of the above. Devotees of the band know there is more to it than that, not just in the Wetton-led lineup but the Belew-led lineups, and an oft-overlooked side by casual fans is the band’s softer, more melodic side.

Drummer Pat Mastelotto, who joined during the THRAK lineup of the ‘90s and is still around, and his wife Deborah has taken this idea and twisted it a bit, reinventing a dozen Crimson songs from their entire history that have even a hint of romance or love in the lyrics. Some of these are radical reinventions, and a couple are far-fetched twists on the concept, and the end result is a Crimson tribute album that nobody would ever think to make but that actually sort of works.

Now, some of these Belew-written songs were intended as love songs already, so rather than simply copy “Heartbeat” or “Matte Kudasai” or “One Time,” the Mastelottos and their cast of support players slow down the tracks, make the vocals a little breathier, and give them a more modern twist that wouldn’t be out of place in a sensual jazz club (in the case of “Heartbeat,” specifically). Those are the more obvious tracks for this concept.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

However, the Mastelottos interpret “romantic” as more of a mood and style than just “love song,” and so Crimson songs that one wouldn’t think of as romantic are twisted to fit this style. To wit, “Elephant Talk,” “Moonchild,” “Sleepless,” and “People” are given these new arrangements, with lush arrangements and Deborah’s vocals lilting or purring or crooning over the top (Pat drums and produces). The entire experience is designed to set a mood, and it does, giving ambience and elegance and new life into these songs.

The only real misstep is the dreadful and bizarre takes on “Elephant Talk” and “Sleepless,” where the former tries too hard to be weird and the latter tries for a Madonna Erotica vibe and fails terribly. “Peace” also isn’t very interesting, though by that point in the runtime, you may be too otherwise occupied to care (this was released on Valentine’s Day 2021, after all).

“One Time” was already perfect as was, and because these players couldn’t change anything to reinterpret it, they simply slow it to a crawl. “People,” while still a fine song, is more of a guitar-heavy slow cover than anything fitting the theme or style of the other songs, almost as if Pat wanted to include a personal favorite for no other reason than he could. The best track of the album is “Exiles,” a true marriage of theme and approach, and a lovely take on the Larks’ Tongues In Aspic track.

For casual or non-fans of the group, these songs may come as sort of a low-key revelation, if you didn’t know that King Crimson had another side. Fans may find it a bit strange to adapt to the novelty and will likely not revisit this very often, and so the album ends up falling in a sort of odd middle ground that’s specific to only certain listening situations. It’s a reminder that Crimson’s music is both strong and eternal no matter how you approach it, but on its own merits, Too Much Happiness is only moderately successful.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 2021 Benjamin Ray 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 7D Media, and is used for informational purposes only.