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Thread: King Crimson - "In The Court Of The Crimson King" turns 47 Today

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    King Crimson - "In The Court Of The Crimson King" turns 47 Today

    King Crimson's "In The Court Of The Crimson King" was released on this date (10/10/1969).

    From DGM.com
    "Wessex Studios mid-August 1969. The apocalyptic blast of 21st Century Schizoid Man is abruptly cut off in mid-flow as recording engineer, Robin Thompson, mutes the speakers. Gathered in the cavernous performance area of Wessex Studios below, Robert Fripp, Michael Giles, Ian McDonald, Peter Sinfield and Greg Lake stopped work to welcome the arrival of artist Barry Godber, carrying a large rectangular package wrapped in brown paper.
    *
    A few weeks previously Sinfield had commissioned his friend to come up with something for the cover for what would be King Crimson’s debut album. “I used to hang around with all these painters and artists from Chelsea Art School” says Sinfield. “I’d known Barry for a couple of years...he’d been to a few rehearsals, and spent a bit of time with us. I told him to see what he could come up with. I think I probably said to him that the one thing the cover had to do was stand out in record shops.”

    Godber tore off the brown paper and laid the painting on the floor as the band gathered around to see his handiwork.

    Greg Lake recalls “We all stood around it and it was like something out of Treasure Island where you’re all standing around a box of jewels and treasure...this fucking face screamed up from the floor and what it said to us was Schizoid Man - the very track we’d been working on.* It was as if there was something magic going on.”

    In 1995 Fripp commented, "The face on the outside is the Schizoid Man, and on the inside it’s the Crimson King. If you cover the smiling face, the eyes reveal an incredible sadness. What can one add? It reflects the music.

    Entering the Top Ten on both sides of the Atlantic upon its release the album catapulted King Crimson from their cultish underground origins to something approaching mainstream success.*

    The album cover was so striking that a number of record shops filled their window displays with the album. In 1969, Rhett Davies, who would later work with King Crimson on Discipline, was then employed in the Liverpool Street branch of Harlequin Records in London. He ensured that Crimson’s debut album occupied a whole window of the store. “I phoned up the label and asked them to send me over twenty album sleeves and I stuck a joint in one of the mouths!”

    Here’s how some of the music papers of the day reacted to the album.

    Melody Maker:
    This eagerly-awaited first album is no disappointment, and confirms their reputation as one of the most important new groups for some time. It gives little idea of their true power on stage, but still packs tremendous impact especially the brutally exciting “21st Century Schizoid Man” and the eerie title track, with its frightening mellotron sounds. It’s not all high power stuff though - there’s some nice flute from Ian McDonald on the beautiful “I Talk To The Wind” and “Moonchild” is pretty, though too long. The vocals are clear and controlled and the instrumental work can hardly be faulted. This is one you should try and hear.

    Disc:
    The first LP from the group heralded by those who know to be the most exciting discovery of the year. Get over the most horrific cover of the year and you’ll find the pundits are not wrong. A brilliant mixture of melody and freakout, fast and slow, atmospheric and electric, all heightened by the words of Peter Sinfield.


    International Times:
    The Ultimate Album. There is little one can fault with it: the arrangements make masterful use of multi-tracking, compressing and reducing, the standard of playing almost defies belief at time, the vocals are merely excellent and the numbers are brilliantly and excitedly written.

    I don’t like one of the numbers, despite my total commitment as a Crimson-Bopper, which is ‘Moonchild’ and is too long. Otherwise a gassy, jazzy, heavy, complex, smooth and totally magnificent album: written, arranged, played and produced by the most original group since ........ (fill in your answers to Apple Ltd., Saville Row, London., for instance.

    Finally, the American edition of Rolling Stone had this to say:

    There are certain problems to be encountered by any band that is consciously avant-garde. In attempting to sound "farout" the musicians inevitably impose on themselves restrictions as real as if they were trying to stay in a Top-40 groove. There’s usually a tendency to regard weirdness as an end in itself, and excesses often ruin good ideas.

    Happily, King Crimson avoids these obstacles most of the time. Their debut album drags in places, but for the most part they have managed to effectively convey their own vision of Desolation Row. And the more I listen, the more things fall into place and the better it gets.

    The album begins by setting the scene with ‘21st Century Schizoid Man’. The song is grinding and chaotic, and the transition into the melodic flute which opens ‘I Talk to the Wind’ is abrupt and breathtaking. Each song on this album is a new movement of the same work, and King Crimson’s favorite trick is to move suddenly and forcefully from thought to thought. ‘Epitaph’ speaks for itself: "The wall on which the prophets wrote/Is cracking at the seams...Confusion will be my epitaph."

    ‘Moonchild’ opens the second side, and this is the only weak song on the album. Most of its twelve minutes is taken up with short statements by one or several instruments. More judicious editing would have heightened their impact; as it is, you’re likely to lose interest. But the band grabs you right back when it booms into the majestic, symphonic theme of ‘The Court of the Crimson King’. This song is the album’s grand climax; it summarizes everything that has gone before it: "The yellow jester does not play/But gently pulls the strings/ And smiles as the puppets dance / In the court of the Crimson King."

    This set was an ambitious project, to say the least. King Crimson will probably be condemned by some for pompousness, but that criticism isn’t really valid. They have combined aspects of many musical forms to create a surreal work of force and originality.

    Besides which they’re good musicians. Guitarist Robert Fripp and Ian McDonald (reeds, woodwinds, vibes, keyboards, mellotron) both handle rock, jazz, or classical with equal ease. Bassist Greg Lake and drummer Michael Giles can provide the beat, fill in the holes, or play free-form. While Dylan and Lennon are still safe, lyricist Peter Sinfield does show a gift (macabre as it may be) for free association imagery.

    How effectively this music can be on stage is, admittedly, a big question. The answer is probably not too well. Still, King Crimson’s first album is successful; hopefully, there is more to come.

    *

  2. #2
    Member zravkapt's Avatar
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    Wasn't Hot Rats also released on the same day?
    The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by zravkapt View Post
    Wasn't Hot Rats also released on the same day?
    Yep, it was.

    Hard to believe they're both 47 years old now...

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    Member Lopez's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by aith01 View Post
    Yep, it was.

    Hard to believe they're both 47 years old now...
    And that I'm 47 years older, too. I heard both back then, and both were unlike anything I'd ever heard up until then.
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  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Lopez View Post
    And that I'm 47 years older, too. I heard both back then, and both were unlike anything I'd ever heard up until then.
    Definitely. One of the strangest things to me is that when listening to In The Court of the Crimson King (the song) and Peaches en Regalia -- just for example -- they don't sound like the other music coming out around that time. And they don't really sound "dated" either.

    Both records are classics, IMHO.

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    Member AncientChord's Avatar
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    As vital and timeless now as it was on my first hearing in October 1969. As I've tried to describe many times, their sound to me was so different than anything heard before it, that to me it seemed otherworldly. Soon after I obtained a cassette tape of the first BBC broadcasts, and before starting Schizoid, the radio host said something like "Sit down and listen to this. You've never heard anything like it!" No kidding! At that moment in 1969, I became a prog fan and have never looked back. And I am so happy to see Robert Fripp finally breathing new life into these classic songs. I hope they play I Talk to The Wind, and a shorter version of Moonchild too. I couldn't be more happier. Hope this new KC thrives.
    Day dawns dark...it now numbers infinity.

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    Progga mogrooves's Avatar
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    Epochal in conception, execution, and vibe. An unprecedented musical declaration by an innovative group consisting of individual innovators. The new music had arrived.

    I picked it up on the strength of the cover the week it was released.
    Hell, they ain't even old-timey ! - Homer Stokes

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    Member AncientChord's Avatar
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    One thing I forgot to mention was that six months prior to the release of ITCOTCK, I attended the last show in Los Angeles of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, when I was 14, and very much still into psychedelia. The KC release came after my 15th birthday, and in retrospect IMO, the date 10/10/69 is when the morphing of psychedelic turned into progressive rock. Others got close prior to that date, but most agree that KC's first album was the first full fledged progressive rock album. So to me I say "Happy 47th Birthday, Prog! Long live your virtues."
    Day dawns dark...it now numbers infinity.

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    Progga mogrooves's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AncientChord View Post
    ... six months prior to the release of ITCOTCK, I attended the last show in Los Angeles of The Jimi Hendrix Experience
    I caught the Experience in May.
    Hell, they ain't even old-timey ! - Homer Stokes

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    The title-track is the best song by King Crimson, imo.
    With Greg Lake on it, of course.

  11. #11
    I like Moonchild, the long version even. It's so peaceful, relaxing, evocative, beautiful. And then out of the blue when you're lost in reverie, The Court of the Crimson King smacks you in the head.

    It's hard to argue against ItCotCK being the best and most important rock album ever made. It never gets old, always there warning us.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by aith01 View Post
    Definitely. One of the strangest things to me is that when listening to In The Court of the Crimson King (the song) and Peaches en Regalia -- just for example -- they don't sound like the other music coming out around that time. And they don't really sound "dated" either.

    Both records are classics, IMHO.

    Perfectly stated........love both of these albums to this very day.

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    While not the first Prog album (quite a few others can lay claim to that distinction) it was the first fully-realized Prog album.

    Long live the Crimson King!!!
    Prog's Not Dead

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    Member Big Ears's Avatar
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    One of my all-time favourite albums. The fact that it has stood the test of time shows the significance of Ian McDonald's role in King Crimson. Greg Lake and Pete Sinfield went on to prove their consistency with ELP, albeit too briefly.
    Member since Wednesday 09.09.09

  15. #15
    I had a brief chat with a guy who spotted me wearing my 2015 Tour T-shirt; he was enthusing over what a great album ITCOTCK was, he owned it when it was first released. Oddly enough, I got the impression from our chat that he was completely unaware of any other of their recordings.

  16. #16
    Progga mogrooves's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Halmyre View Post
    I got the impression from our chat that he was completely unaware of any other of their recordings.
    Was his name Ian McDonald?
    Hell, they ain't even old-timey ! - Homer Stokes

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by mogrooves View Post
    Was his name Ian McDonald?
    No. It was Greg Lake.

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    I was 13 years of age when this came out. The trendy young art teacher brought it into school and used the cover as the basis for one of our art lessons; sadly, my effort was definitely sub-Godber. My mate played the LP to me but I wasn't ready for it. Three years and a bit later I was blown away by LTiA and then I was ready for it. Funnily enough, I bought Hot Rats at about the same time. I believe that in some academic circles this is called the delayed drop phenomenon.

    The first incarnation of 21st Century Schizoid Band played much of itCotCK live. Seeing and hearing the Giles brothers and Ian McDonald playing these much-loved songs on stage in 2002 was for me the next-best thing to seeing and hearing the original Crimso. And it's so cool that the current version of the band is still playing this stuff.

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    Banned Dave (in MA)'s Avatar
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    I wonder if this is in lieu of another big-ass box?

    https://shop.schizoidshop.com/king-c...eid=1df5f20e41

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Dave (in MA) View Post
    50

    I wonder if this is in lieu of another big-ass box?

    https://shop.schizoidshop.com/king-c...eid=1df5f20e41
    According to the details on the Blu-Ray/CD 50th Anniversary Edition of ITCOTCK, the "big-ass" box is being saved for the Complete 1969 Recordings set (which will include everything from the Blu-Ray set along with live recordings from the era).

  21. #21
    Banned Dave (in MA)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by starless and bible black View Post
    According to the details on the Blu-Ray/CD 50th Anniversary Edition of ITCOTCK, the "big-ass" box is being saved for the Complete 1969 Recordings (which will include everything from the Blu-Ray set along with live recordings from the era).
    Thanks
    In common with all other King Crimson studio albums in the format, the 5.1 mixes are being made available in this affordable set rather than being held over exclusively for larger expensive boxed sets, a practice that limits the availability of the music in multichannel audio to the detriment of artists and fans alike.

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by Dave (in MA) View Post
    50

    I wonder if this is in lieu of another big-ass box?

    https://shop.schizoidshop.com/king-c...eid=1df5f20e41
    Any idea if the 5.1 mix on this one will have the complete moonchild?
    For some reason SW cut it short on the DVD release...

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by flytomars View Post
    Any idea if the 5.1 mix on this one will have the complete moonchild?
    For some reason SW cut it short on the DVD release...
    Good question. It was RF's idea to edit "Moonchild" for the 40th Anniversary release of ITCOTKC. However, there's no mention of an edited version of this song on any of the upcoming 50th Anniversary Editions of the album.

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by starless and bible black View Post
    Good question. It was RF's idea to edit "Moonchild" for the 40th Anniversary release of ITCOTKC. However, there's no mention of an edited version of this song on any of the upcoming 50th Anniversary Editions of the album.
    Its a very poor decision, IMHO.
    I used to skip this track myself, until I heard a fake surround version (which was falsely published as a "leaked" surround version prior to the actual release).
    The way the instruments and the music travelled around me was quite a revelation, in fact I was especially eager to hear what can be done with the actual multitracks...

  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by flytomars View Post
    Its a very poor decision, IMHO.
    I used to skip this track myself, until I heard a fake surround version (which was falsely published as a "leaked" surround version prior to the actual release).
    The way the instruments and the music travelled around me was quite a revelation, in fact I was especially eager to hear what can be done with the actual multitracks...
    I agree with you on that. Not only does the edit of the 'improv section' of "Moonchild" spoil the mood of the song [IMHO], they had to make space to include the full version as an extra on the CD & DVD.

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