King Crimson – ‘In The Court of The Crimson King’ (1969) | Classic Record Review

Taking a look back at the fantastic debut album from King Crimson

King Crimson’s debut album, In The Court of The Crimson King, was released in 1969 and it’s said to be one of the most influential albums of all time, not only for its own genre – progressive rock -, but for rock in general. It’s interesting to know that, before recording, the band had 9 days of gigs, where they got to know each other’s style, improvised and experienced new musical ideas. The result of these sessions can be clearly seen in the album, as you will see.

A great word for describing this record is “revolutionary”, as it didn’t sticked up to anything close to the popular music of its time, helping to open the gates for more diverse and unusual types of music. “In The Court of The Crimson King” mixes up elements of classical and experimental music, rock n roll and jazz, making this mess of genres turn into an unique and great musical identity. All those characteristics made the album be considered one of the beginning points of progressive rock.

’21st Century Schizoid Man’ serves perfectly as the entry point for the album, being an energetic and strongly experimental mix of most of the exotic resources used on the others tracks, such as unusual rhythms, brass instruments and percussion. It also has rock and roll vocals and guitar tones. Its lyrics are dark, they speak about war and post-apocalyptic scenarios, as evidenced in lines such as “blood rack, barbed wire

Politicians’ funeral pyre, Innocents raped with napalm fire”. Those themes  are shared with other tracks such as ‘Epitaph’ and ‘In The Court Of The Crimson King’.

‘I Talk To The Wind’ comes to contrapoint the energy and craziness of the last track, as it’s slow, smooth and calm. Its most strong trait is the presence of woodwind instruments. Those elements of the song, alongside with the lyrics, make the listener feel like he’s in a garden, contemplating nature and its mysteries. 

Being one of the most progressive songs in the album, ‘Epitaph’ is drastically emotional. It begins with only bass, drums and vocals, the 3 main elements of the track, but it scales and turns into a mix of acoustic and electric guitars, woodwind instruments and keyboards . All instruments blend in well as great support for the melodical and emotionally carried vocals. 

In its start, ‘Moonchild’ looks very similar to ‘Epitaph’, because of the simple beginning and its vocals. Although, instead of the previous track, it doesn’t keep going more complex and louder, but turns into an almost 10 minute long introspective and discrete improvisation, featuring all types of instruments already used before, but marked by metallophone, drums, brass and guitars.

The album begins with a great track for introducing it, and the same thing can be said about the ending. ‘The Court Of The Crimson King’ closes the album with majesty, being more energetic than the other ones – besides ’21st century schizoid man’, that is – but also having peaceful moments. It’s progression is amazing and the chorus sounds great and powerful, perfect for the track’s theme.

To sum up,  ‘In The Court of The Crimson King’ makes up to its reputation. The strongly different elements, music genres and instruments feel like they were always made to be with each other in this record, and gives it a unique and characteristic sound. The album is a complete and great experience that every music enthusiast must have, a true masterpiece that marked music and will not be forgotten in the next eras. 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Words by Theo Aguiar Jesuino

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