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In the Court of the Crimson King
King Crimson

Atlantic 8245
Released: November 1969
Chart Peak: #28
Weeks Charted: 25
Certified Gold: 3/29/77

Ian McDonaldGreg LakeRobert FrippDefinitive debut album, which was almost too good (it took years for them to come up with a record as concise and distinctive), an orchestrated vision of apocalyptic doom dominated by Ian McDonald's Mellotron, Greg Lake's dignified voice, and the ferocious guitar playing of Robert Fripp. The latter would be the only survivor onto subsequent albums. * * * * *

- Bruce Eder, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

Bonus Reviews!

In the Court of the Crimson King showed that progressive rock could be as heavy as Led Zeppelin yet as intricate and full of dynamic contrasts as classical music (the howling, bludgeoning "21st Century Schizoid Man" was the first of many Crimson classics in unusual time signatures), and sometimes as tuneful as the Beatles. An influentual album that stands up well, it is the definitive statement by the most powerful Crimson lineup (Fripp, Wetton and Bruford). * * * *

- Steve Holtje, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

This psychedelic window into the '60s simultaneously defined and mastered progressive rock, with songs ranging from the controlled cacophony of apocalyptic heavy metal epics to windblown English flute ballads, both poetic and moving. Crimson courtiers crown this debut as a groundbreaking, seminal work far ahead of its time, rife with popm, circumstance and bombast -- back when those things were cool. * * * *

- Zagat Survey Music Guide - 1,000 Top Albums of All Time, 2003.

A vehicle for left-field guitar hero Robert Fripp, King Crimson are one of the major progressive rock acts, surviving countless personnel changes since their formation nearly four decades ago. The other original members were singer/bassist Greg Lake, drummer Michael Giles, lyricist Peter Sinfield, and keyboard/vibes/woodwind player Ian McDonald. This lineup only recorded one LP, but it remains their best-known work.

From the scary cover painting -- best appreciated on gatefold vinyl -- to the portentious lyrics, In The Court Of The Crimson King is a heavy-duty album. "21st Century Schizoid Man" sets the tone. It's perhaps the first alternative anthem, featuring a gargantuan main riff, squalling sax, and apocalpytic visions.

Further reading on
Super Seventies RockSite!:

Album Review: Lizard

Album Review:
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King Crimson Lyrics

King Crimson Videos

There's yet more doom in "Epitaph," a beautifully resigned ballad that finds Lake's plaintive voice supported by a rich array of textures. "Moonchild" is a spooky pastoral love song stretched out to epic length by an improvised ambient jazz interlude, while the title track melds folky arabesques, bombastic drum rolls, and baroque flute to conjure its medieval scenario.

In The Court Of The Crimson King peaked at UK No. 5 and U.S. No. 28. Other landmarks include the colorful follow-up In The Wake of Poseidon, 1973's electrifying freakout Larks' Tongues In Aspic and 1981's funky, Talking Heads-infuenced Discipline. The band are revered by contemporary neo-progs stars Tool and The Mars Volta, while the ever-versatile Fripp has played on several iconic records by David Bowie and Brian Eno.

- Manish Agarwal, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005.

This record effectively decimates the argument that progressive rock of the late '60s and early '70s was little more than the babbling technical feats of overamped nerds. Guitarist Robert Fripp and his band certainly had chops to burn when they recorded this -- the opening track, "Twenty-first-Century Schizoid Man," contains a long-distance lunge of an improvisation that makes most rock guitar solos sound like nursery rhymes. But from there, Fripp and his crew, which includes future Emerson, Lake and Palmer bassist/vocalist Greg Lake, seek meaningful music in more placid atmospheres. Their conversations wander far from any expected "rock" context, into extended suites. "Moonchild" opens as a tender love song, with Fripp's long-tones hovering in the background. That evolves into an ambient rubato ("The Dream" segment), which is eventually eclipsed by a guitar-and-percussion exchange ("The Illusion") that uses the spirit of free jazz to explore spacy open vistas.

This album resonated with those predisposed to progressive rock of the Pink Floyd variety. But King Crimson never developed a fan base commensurate with its talent. Personnel changed regularly around Fripp over the years, and though these subsequent ensembles made great records -- check out the dense thrill ride called Lark's Tongues in Aspic from 1973, or the decidedly funkier Discipline from 1981 -- there remains something special about this first crusading journey, an example of greatly nuanced music in a genre where nuance is often in short supply.

- Tom Moon, 1,000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die, 2008.

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