A site where I get to complain about music I don't like.
Prog Rock has two main influences in albums; Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Quarrymen, and Days of Futures Past by the Moody Blues. Both brought very important qualities of prog into rock music, with Sgt. Pepper bringing the concept album and the concept album, and Futures Past with a symphony. But Prog truly started in 1969 with King Crimson’s first album, In the Court of the Crimson King. Featuring now staples of Prog, such as expert musicianship, songs regularly over 7 minutes, unusual time signatures, use of musical standards outside of Rock, especially Jazz, and the later constant exchanging of band members with other prog bands, usually Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. So today, we look at In the Court of the Crimson King, song-by-song.
1. 21st Century Schizoid Man (7:24)
21st Century Schizoid Man is the King Crimson song you’ve mostly likely inadvertently heard in your life, due to being sampled by Kanye West on Power. But while I’m a big fan of Power, I don’t believe it used the song to its full potential. 21st Century Schizoid Man is one of the few songs where the lyrics are meant to be apocalyptic, and it doesn’t come off as trite. The lyrics show a level of fear unmatched in most modern “scary” music. But the real best part of the song is the instrumental that takes up most of the song, showing unmatched skill. The song is loud, powerful, menacing, and an indisputable prog classic.
2. I Talk to the Wind (6:05)
Here, we have the shortest song on the album, and also the quietest. Unlike the rest of the album, considered some of the scariest music ever recorded, here, we have a light folk song. Unlike the mellotron and saxaphone from the other songs, we have the main rock instruments, plus a flute. Luckily, there is nothing too close to Jethro Tull, but the song is overly soft, and never moves past the opener, remaining the same throughout. A good song, but not up to standard.
3. Epitaph (8:48)
Out of all the songs on the album, Epitaph is the one I have the hardest to explain. Continuing with the apocalyptic theme of Schizoid Man, the lyrics and delivery are very ominous. Starting with acousitc guitar and rumbling drums, the song the settles down to a slow beat, with drums being more prominent, with string coming in for a setting of ominous beauty. The song is too slow to be a rock song, yet too ominous to be a ballad, making the the only dirge you’re likely to hear on a rock album besides I Want You (She’s So Heavy). I can’t explain the song, but I can definitely recommend it.
4. Moonchild (12:13)
Moonchild is essentially everything that I Talk to the Wind. Starting as a quiet ballad, the instruments here are more grandiose, and uncharacteristically haunting for a typical love song. The first two and a half minutes of the song are absolutely perfect. But look at the length of the song. What happens with the last ten minutes. Pure jam filler. Nothing happens in these minutes, except for a band member playing a note once in a while, and going back to the sleep. The actual song is excellent, but be prepared to skip the last ten minutes.
5. In the Court of the Crimson King (9:23)
And finally, we have the title track, one of the mainstays of prog music. Starting off bombastic, it quickly settles to a haunting acoustic guitar, while Robert Fripp gives a legendary performance, about the eponymous Crimson King, with other vague lyrics. And unlike Moonchild, the song stays to the same level of excellence throughout, as it goes from quiet to loud, slow and fast, and basically whatever Robert Fripp was thinking about that day. With fantastic performances all around, this is the highlight with the album, along with 21st Century Schizoid Man.
Overall, this is still a must hear album. Nearly every song is fantastic, and even I Talk to the Wind is better than most songs in its style. One problem, however, is how hard it is to find a copy of the album. Typically at stores, the CD by itself costs at least $20, and I have yet to see an actual vinyl copy. But no matter how you get it, this is an album to have in any collection.