King Crimson - In the Court of the Crimson King 1969
This reissue of King Crimson's debut, In the Court of the Crimson King (1969), renders all previous pressings obsolete. In the late '90s, Robert Fripp remastered the entire Crimson catalog for inclusion in a 30th anniversary edition. Nowhere was the upgrade more deserved (or necessary) than on this rock & roll cornerstone. Initially, King Crimson consisted of Robert Fripp (guitar), Ian McDonald (reeds/woodwind/vibes/keyboards/Mellotron/vocals), Greg Lake (bass/vocals), Michael Giles (drums/percussion/vocals), and Peter Sinfield (words/illuminations). As if somehow prophetic, King Crimson projected a darker and edgier brand of post-psychedelic rock. Likewise, they were inherently intelligent -- a sort of thinking man's Pink Floyd. Fripp demonstrates his innate aptitude for contrasts and the value of silence within a performance, even as far back as "21st Century Schizoid Man." The song is nothing short of the aural antecedent to what would become the entire heavy alternative/grunge sound. Juxtaposed with that electric intensity is the ethereal noir ballad "I Talk to the Wind." The delicate vocal harmonies and McDonald's achingly poignant flute solo and melodic counterpoint remain unmatched on an emotive level. The surreal and opaque lyrics are likewise an insight to Peter Sinfield's masterful wordplay, which graced their next three releases. The original A-side concludes with the powerful sonic imagery of "Epitaph." The haunting Mellotron wails, and Fripp's acoustic -- as well as electric -- guitar counterpoints give the introduction an almost sacred feel, adding measurably to the overall sinister mood. Giles' percussion work provides a pungent kick during the kettle drum intro and to the aggressive palpitation-inducing rhythm in the chorus. "Moonchild" is an eerie love song that is creepy, bordering on uncomfortable. The melody is agile and ageless, while the instrumentation wafts like the wind through bare trees. Developing out of the song is an extended improvisation that dissolves into a non-structured section of free jazz, with brief guitar lines running parallel throughout. The title track, "In the Court of the Crimson King," completes the disc with another beautifully bombastic song. Here again, the foreboding featured in Sinfield's lyrics is instrumentally matched by the contrasting verbosity in the chorus and the delicate nature of the verses and concluding solos. Of course, this thumbnail appraisal pales in comparison to experiencing the actual recording. Thanks to Fripp and company's laborious efforts, this 30th anniversary edition sports sound as majestic as it has ever been within the digital domain. Frankly, the HDCD playback compatibility even bests the warmth and timbre of an original 1-A vinyl pressing. This is especially critical during the quieter passages throughout "Moonchild" and "I Talk to the Wind." Initial releases were housed in a limited-edition gatefold replica of the original LP packaging and were accompanied by an oversized 12-page memorabilia booklet with photos and press clippings from the era. AMG.
FR / USA / UK