Tuesday, May 8, 2012

King Crimson - In the Court of the Crimson King (1969)

This is the album that really turned me on to progressive rock. I'm definitely more at home discussing jazz, but progressive rock interests me on the basic tenets of its philosophy. Essentially, it is progressive because it is trying to create rock music that is as artistically significant as classical or jazz music. Why else would progressive rock artists such as ELP or Renaissance either play reworked classical pieces or utilize whole symphony orchestras? What's great about this album in particular is its experimentations with time especially "21st Century Schizoid Man" which jumps through various duple meters and ends in free time. Another important aspect of this album is that musicians take up a variety of musical duties and do them all well. Often in some progressive rock bands one musicians sticks to one instrument. On this album we have Ian McDonald play some intense lines on "21st Century Schizoid Man," and contrast that perfectly with his flute playing on "I Talk to the Wind." Similarly Robert Fripp is just as home on Mellotron as he is on his guitar. It is also important to note the importance of vocals and lyrics on this album. Greg Lake sings well on a great deal of tunes here and with ELP in his expansive career. Lyricist Peter Sinfield is practically like a French Symbolist poet with some of his lines. You may be able to understand a line here or there, but to grasp the whole concept of the song as a poem takes quite a bit of introspection into the words. Many people may not view progressive rock lyrics as poetry, but in the philosophy of raising rock to a higher art form lyrics are just as important. Decades in the future we may look back to music like this as consider it the art music of its time.


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