Record #434: King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King (1969)


The sixties were a weird time. And it had the music to match.

Every band, from the Beatles to the Byrds to the Beach Boys, dabbled in making some of the weirdest music of their career. Every band had at least one psychedelic album—even perennial rock and roll heroes the Rolling Stones. But by 1969, most of them had moved on from the weirdness of psychedelia.

But nobody told King Crimson that.

Their debut, In the Court of the Crimson King, isn’t just a coattail-riding, trend-following copycat that happens to be late to the game. It is a magnum opus of psychedelia that is still rightly celebrated today. The opening track, “21st Century Schizoid Man” is a balls-to-the-wall freight train of horns and guitar noodling (that Kanye West sampled, strangely enough). It’s seven and a half minutes of frenzy.

But as it fades, the record never revisits that bombast again. Which it doesn’t need to. Most of the record is driven by subdued, exploring guitar lines and Mellotron. At times, it flirts pretty heavily with jazz fusion (high praise). “Epitaph” and “The Court of the Crimson King” are epic ballads that manage to capture a dramatic scope that most psychedelic acts were devoid of. And it does that through extended arrangements and experimental composition.

While many psychedelic bands would eventually evolve into progressive rock, In the Court of the Crimson King manages to ride the line between them. As a result, this record is an absolute gem.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s