Newest Review: ... with the punks. 'Red' is the culmination of 5 years of differing line-ups and changes in musical direction. Over its 5 tracks and 40 minu... more
Music to scare yourself with!
Red - King Crimson
Member Name: tomflint
Red - King Crimson
Advantages: Innovative and interesting music.
Disadvantages: John Wetton's voice, some of the lyrics.
King Crimson is one of several bands which are put under the banner of progressive rock, but that isn't necessarily the way to look at them. When I think of 'prog rock' I think of the ridiculous excesses of Emerson, Lake and Palmer or the hugely self indulgent 'Tales Of Topographic Oceans' by Yes.
Robert Fripp, leader of King Crimson, does appear to have a good deal of integrity and ended King Crimson in 1974 stating that it was 'over for dinosaur bands', a pretty enlightened view. Many of the contributors to 'Prog Rock Britannia' still haven't got over the way that they were cast aside when Punk hit Britain's shores in 1976. The smart ones chose to either lay low for a bit [prog had a resurgence in the 80s], or throw themselves into higher levels of experimentation, which is what Fripp did post Crimson, thereby actually gaining some kudos with the punks.
'Red' is the culmination of 5 years of differing line-ups and changes in musical direction. Over its 5 tracks and 40 minutes, the album dishes up a cacophony of noise with seemingly the kitchen sink thrown in.
Fripp furiously cross picks his guitar, creating a series of swirling arpeggios whilst Bill Bruford thrashes around the drum kit in 12/8 or some other bizarre timing. This leaves John Wetton, who in some ways is the weak link in the band, to play bass and sing. His voice is annoying, a weird sort of deep tenor. It should be good, its perfectly tuneful........ but its just annoying. Wetton's bass playing is mostly superb and in many ways King Crimson would have been so much better as a purely instrumental band.
The opening title track seems to take that on board, with its scary loud and quiet moments, but gratifyingly no vocals!. Supposedly Kurt Cobain was a big fan of this track, which is understandable as it is a landmark in art-rock.
Track 2 'Fallen Angel' is a kind of soft ballad, it reminded me of Roger Waters lighter Pink Floyd songs, a fairly standard piece of songwriting with some experimenting in the middle.
Next is my favourite track on the album 'One More Red Nightmare', a great combination of accessible rock mixed with the avant garde. The singing on it is actually not too irritating!.
Track 4, 'Providence' is very experimental and could try the patience of the listener, but to be honest at 8 minutes in length this is very short for a prog rock instrumental. A lesser band might have stretched this out to 25 minutes and filled a side of vinyl with it, which was rarely a worthwhile idea. 'Providence' is not too bad and might appeal to fans of jazz fusion with some very fine saxophone work from former band members Mel Collins and Ian McDonald.
Mention should also be made of David Cross who delivers some great violin parts which sort of bubble under the surface on most of the tracks.
The final piece 'Starless' slightly confusingly references the previous King Crimson album 'Starless And Bible Black' giving the listener an insight into the fact that these two albums were recorded pretty much together and are of a piece, though 'Red' is by far the superior of the 2 albums in my view. 'Starless' is a suitably grandiose way to finish the album and again fuses elements of rock, jazz and classical music into something quite interesting.
Where many Prog Rock bands used baroque and classical influences in their music, you get the sense with King Crimson that they were listening to more 20th century stuff, perhaps Benjamin Britten or Stravinsky. There's lots of space between notes and its not quite as furious as some progressive rock.
If you listen to predominantly blues or rock music, then King Crimson is a bit of a departure, but some of their stuff is worth delving into. I would say this one and 'In The Court Of The Crimson King', 'Lark's Tongues In Aspic' and 'Discipline' show the band at their most focused and influential. Most of the stuff on those albums holds up today a lot better than most other prog rock as there is no attempt to do a Bach cover on a synthesizer!.
If you want to get into King Crimson then get a copy of this album or their debut 'In The Court Of The Crimson King' first and then proceed with some caution. You can't really get a 'best of' that will do the job adequately. A great remastering job was done in 2000 and it sounds great through a decent stereo.
Summary: A prog rock album that I can listen to.