In The Wake Of Poseidon

King Crimson

Editions EG Records, 1970

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


For a long time, the Vault’s review of this album has listed it as a forgotten classic. I’m here to say that’s not exactly true.

Following In The Court Of The Crimson King would have been a tough task for anybody; it sounded like the work of a mature band making a grand statement, not a debut. It proved to be too much for three band members, who left before recording started on this disc; one of them, Greg Lake, went on to help form Emerson, Lake & Palmer the same year (who also released a stellar debut album. Must be something in the water in Bournemouth) halfway through recording the vocals for this album. Undaunted, Robert Fripp recruited some more members and pressed on with recording the sophomore disc.

Unfortunately, that involved pretty much copying the first side of Crimson King for this album’s first side, and then filling the second side with a bonkers sorta-pop song and a long, meandering instrumental. It’s no doubt the same band, unafraid to use cacophony for tension and release, full of doom-laden musical statements with fantasy lyrics, simultaneously tasteful and pretentious. But my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Poseidon is mostly a case of diminishing musical returns, an album that the faithful no doubt enjoy but those new to Crimson will likely not be terribly interested in (Fripp also feels this way, I suppose, which is why he rarely includes any of its songs on Crimson compilations.

Crimson is at its best when it has something to say, which is why the first album of every iteration is always the best (Court, Discipline, Larks’ Tongues In Aspic, THRAK) and the ones that follow tend to be a little imitative (with Red a lone exception). So where Court had a screeching, abrasive mechanical rocker in “21st Century Schizoid Man,” here we have the similar but less necessary “Pictures Of A City.” And where Court then had a gentle ballad in “I Talk To The Wind,” here we have “Cadence And Cascade,” which is equally full of those Tolkien-like lyrics that British bands so favored in the late ‘60s that sound so twee now.

And where Court had the truly epic and superb “Epitaph,” this one has “In The Wake Of Poseidon,” yet another gloomy Mellotron-heavy eight-minute epic with similar environmental/anti-war themes; the moment where Lake holds the final note is chilling, as are the wordless backup vocals that fade out the piece. It’s the best moment here.

The second side starts with “Cat Food,” which was released in a single version as well, and which is one of the more bizarre pieces in what I’m guessing was Fripp’s Captain Beefheart phase or something. I think Peter Sinfield’s lyrics basically center around an observation of people shopping at a grocery store and one woman in particular whose food is so bad it tastes like cat food. It’s about the only time Crimson had a sense of humor in these early days and it’s very out of place among the rest of the disc. The final 12 minutes are taken with up with a repetitive instrumental, “The Devil’s Triangle,” which introduces an occasional Crimson conceit of starting softly with a song and slowly turning up the volume to a noisy, abrupt climax (witness also “The Talking Drum” and “Dangerous Curves”). Yet this one has no real hook, just a lot of Mellotron noodling and repetitive passages, while the first two minutes are so quiet and pointless they may as well have been cut from the album.

There will be some areas here for the Crimson faithful and anybody interested in digging into the albums may find something here, but this is probably one of the last ones that needs to be discovered. Not a bad album at all, but not quite a forgotten gem (sorry, Chris).

Rating: B-

User Rating: C+



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