King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King

January 01, 1970

(Discipline Global Mobile)

 

www.dgmlive.com

 

Whether you choose to blame King Crimson for creating
progressive rock, or rejoice in the genre’s pervasive instrumental virtuosity,
there can be no argument that the band’s landmark 1969 album In The Court Of The Crimson King was the
shot across the bow that began this whole “prog-rock” thing.
Bandleader and guitarist Robert Fripp, aided and abetted by skilled musicians
like bassist Greg
Lake,
multi-instrumentalist Ian McDonald, and drummer/percussionist Michael Giles – with
lyrical assist from wordsmith Peter Sinfield – together took post-psychedelic
rock to the brink of madness and back again with a trailblazing mix of
avant-garde rock, free-form jazz, and heavy Baroque classicism.

 

As one of the cornerstones of ’70s rock, and a major
influence on everybody from lesser-known bands like Camel and Gentle Giant to
world-beaters like Yes and Pink Floyd, In
The Court Of The Crimson King
has been reissued ad nauseum, in various
guises and quality, in the years since its fortunate inception. Since Crimson headmaster
Fripp oversaw the 30th anniversary re-release of the album ten years ago, why
should you pony up a double-sawbuck for this shiny, brand new 40th anniversary re-re-release? Good question,
grasshopper…cough up the cash ’cause the Reverend sez so!

 

First of all, for the first time in four decades, this is
truly Fripp’s baby to do with as he wishes, released through the artist’s own
Disciple Global Mobile
(DGM) label. The mercurial guitarist could have chosen anybody to assist him in
the remastering process, and he hand-picked Porcupine Tree/Blackfield
mastermind Steven Wilson to work his own unique brand of magic on these songs.
Thus you have an ambitious two-disc set, one CD and one DVD, the first disc
featuring a brand-spankin’-new 2009 stereo mix of the album’s five songs, taken
from the original multi-track master tapes. Throw in a couple of alternate
tracks, and the full version of “Moonchild” (the original album
featured an edited version), and Bob’s yer uncle!

 

At the risk of sounding like a late-night commercial for
slap-chop or some other such gadgetry, that’s not all you get! Disc two, the
DVD, is where Fripp and Wilson get their geek freak on, packing the disc with
various audiophile versions of the album, from a larger-than-life-sounding MLP
Lossless 5.1 Surround version for those of you who really want to prog out on
your home theatre sound-system to a pristine-sounding lossless PCM stereo
version of the 2009 mix from the first disc, as well as an entirely alternate
take of the album from the original masters. If that wasn’t enough, they slip
in a video clip of the band performing “21st Century Schizoid Man”
from their legendary July 5, 1969 debut concert in London’s
Hyde Park. The accompanying booklet includes a
lot of photos, new liner notes from Fripp and writer Sid Smith, song lyrics,
and enough info on the remastering process to engage even the most serious
audiohound.

 

“Yeah, old timer, but what does the music sound
like?” Like nothing you’ve ever heard before, kiddies! Benefitting from
Fripp and Wilson’s OCD-like attention to detail, the previously
only-mildly-scary “21st Century Schizoid Man” leaps out of your
speakers like a saber-yielding golem, going for your ears with a truly
oppressive menace. The instruments sizzle and spark like a downed electric
line, at times rattling around your skullplace like a nasty bit of shock
therapy. The ethereal “Moonchild” features some of the most gorgeous
and inventive instrumentation that you’ll ever experience, with Lake’s wan vocals matched by the song’s pastoral
ambiance.

 

The Rev’s personal fave, the title track, takes on a
heretofore unknown majesty and grace, with the instrumental swells and exotic
lyricism riding on a lush magic carpet of imagination. The bonus tracks are
equally impressive, with the extended version of “Moonchild” taking a
great song and stretching out the best parts of it while the “duo
version” of “I Talk To The Wind” takes the song even deeper into
the sort of folk-rock fairytale land that would be plumbed so successfully by
Fairport Convention. “Wind Session,” extracted from the session that
created the fantastic intro for “21st Century Schizoid Man,” is a
cut-and-paste exercise mostly interesting to the hardcore faithful.

 

Overall, this 40th anniversary edition of In The Court Of The Crimson King trumps
all other versions in the history of mankind, save for the original 1969
gatefold vinyl release that kick-started the entire prog-rock mess to begin
with. Forty years later, the album stands alone in the rarified stratosphere
reserved for true classics of rock music, and it still sounds as unique,
daring, and challenging today as it did in 1969.

 

Standout Tracks: “In The Court Of The Crimson King,” “21st Century Schizoid
Man,” “Moonchild” REV. KEITH A. GORDON

 

 

 

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