Saturday, August 25, 2012

King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King

   King Crimson is the group occupying very special place in the history of 20th century music. Just like Frank Zappa in US, who transformed rhythm and blues elements not only in rock, but into highly independent artistic creation, King Crimson created music out of elements some critics were able to reference only as the rock genre. This was a consequence and some kind of schematic thinking. Trying to advocate for such position, many used term “progressive rock” as the term defining every kind of creative music crossing the boundaries of rock style and its social function. The term “progressive” has also a deeper meaning. Rock music has always been medium for rebellion, first moral, than social and political. In late sixties rock music became a revolt against current ideology and esthetics. The whole wave of experimenting rock brought dozens of groups and the one of the best was King Crimson.
   Debut of King Crimson became groundbreaking event and almost instant success. This was the fruit of the year of 1969. Formed in the end of 1968, group started rehearsals in January and gave first public concert April 9th, 1969. The great entrance turns out to be the memorable concert July 5th in Hyde Park. This was festival where King Crimson had the chance to play for 500 thousands listeners as second band in the gig after Screw but before Alexis Korner, Roy Harper, Battered Ornaments, Family, The Ear Band and biggest stars of the evening Rolling Stones. King Crimson played seven songs in its first lineup – Robert Fripp, Greg Lake, Ian McDonald and Michael Giles. These musicians recorded also the first album of the band. Recorded in span of one month, July 21st to August 21st, and released October 10th this debut recording of King Crimson became instant success and probably most influential progressive rock  album.

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

   It is always worth asking, what gave the record such powerful position, especially when it is widely recognized as a milestone. In the Court of the Crimson King was concept album integrating music, poetry and cover design. Poetic layer of King Crimson compositions was integrated with the music so in the credits author of the lyrics was mentioned along with musicians. According first edition cover’s information the band's musicians were: Robert Fripp (guitar), Ian McDonald (reeds, woodwind, vibes, keyboards, mellotron, vocals), Greg Lake (bass guitar, lead vocals), Michael Giles (drums, percussion, vocal) and Peter Sinfield (words and illumination). It is reasonable to take into account one more person and expand this line-up by Barry Godber, the author of cover paintings, what has been done in later re-editions and publications. The paintings were the only known works of Barry Godber who died three months after album has been released. This cover gave the record strong outfit and became clear signal to buyers that this is not yet another set of hit songs.
   The force of expression and contrasts between extremely different fragments may be the most characteristic feature that distinct music of King Crimson and other progressive bands of the era. Most of material was composed as collective band’s creation. Only two of five compositions are composed in traditional rock song form. But even these two sound like breaking a taboo. Distorted voice in 21st Century Schizoid Man and symphonic pathos of Epitaph are clear indications of what the artists’ ambitions want to aim. Ballad I Talk to the Wind was extended by flute solo. Arrangements of wind instruments were more jazz than rock type. More comprehensive from formal point of view were multipart compositions on B-Side, Moonchild and The Court of the Crimson King. Partly improvised and thus connected to some jazz concepts, experimenting with space and time, opening for many directions, compositions from first album show many possible directions confusing some reviewers. Comparing to compositions played this time by the group it is clear this was the mild selection. But still the music of King Crimson was hard to define with any conceptual apparatus rock critics were able to use. Fortunately listeners have enough intuition to avoid misunderstandings.

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