Friday, April 6, 2007

King Crimson

@ Wiki
King Crimson are an influential English musical group founded by guitarist Robert Fripp (@amazon) and drummer Michael Giles in 1969. Their dense musical style has typically been categorised as progressive rock, although it also has influences from jazz, classical, new wave, heavy metal and folk. Although King Crimson has garnered little radio or music video airplay, they have a devoted following.

Though its membership has fluctuated considerably during its lifetime, the band continues to perform and record music. Guitarist Robert Fripp (@amazon) is said to have once noted that "King Crimson exists when King Crimson needs to exist". Fripp has been the only consistent member, although he has stated that he does not necessarily consider himself the band's leader. To him King Crimson "is a way of doing things", and the musical consistency that has persisted throughout the band's history, despite frequent rotation of its members, reflects this point of view.

The name King Crimson was coined by lyricist Peter Sinfield as a synonym for Beelzebub, prince of demons. According to Fripp, Beelzebub would be an anglicised form of the Arabic phrase "B'il Sabab", meaning "the man with an aim". However, the original name is understood to be from ba'al zebul, "Lord of the Seat". (The name was later popularly corrupted to ba'al zevel, "Lord of the Dungheap", and ba'al zevuv, "Lord of the Flies", because the god's statue was constantly covered in blood.)

Drummer Michael Giles and his bassist brother Peter, put out an advertisement for a singing organist. Robert Fripp (@amazon), a guitarist who didn't sing, responded to the ad. The improbable trio of Giles, Giles and Fripp was formed. They recorded one album together, the idiosyncratic "The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles and Fripp."

============ blogprock ============

J.D. Considine @ Rolling Stone
Despite counting among its alumni members of Bad Company; Emerson, Lake & Palmer; Foreigner; and Asia; King Crimson has never had much truck with the pop end of progressive rock. Instead, the ever-changing ensemble has preferred to haunt the artiest extremes of the prog-rock movement, producing music that can be abstruse, arcane, abrasive, and abstract -- but very rarely boring. As such, it casts a long shadow, not just over prog rock but also new wave, alt rock, and metal, echoing audibly in such acts as Gentle Giant, Talking Heads, Dream Theater, Tool, and Opeth.

King Crimson is, by and large, a creature of guitarist Robert Fripp (@amazon), but that's not quite the same thing as its being Fripp's band. Despite his reputa-tion as a less-than-democratic bandleader, Fripp has long recognized that Crimson's musical identity is more the product of collaboration than direction. The group started out as a collective operation, which should be evident from the chamber-music dynamics found in most of the playing on In the Court of the Crimson King (@allmusic). Although best remembered for the sci-fi fury of "21st Century Schizoid Man," the other songs find the band operating in the semiclassical mode favored by early art rockers; apart from occasional mellotron overkill and singer Greg Lake's pompons tendencies, the album remains quite listenable. That's not quite the case with In the Wake of Poseidon, on which the band's sound grows more complicated, with jazzy rhythms and knotty, dissonant instrumental lines flavoring "Pictures of a City" and "Cat Food," while lengthy, obtuse improvisa-tion dominates "The Devil's Triangle." Lizard pushes those elements even harder but with less success; apart from the "Bolero" segment of the 24-minute "Lizard," the improvisational sections inevitably degenerate into showy self-indulgence. Live, however, a lot of that fat was burned off in the heat of performance, and the Epitaph sets do an admirable job of documenting that intensity. Vol. 1, which captures the last performance before this lineup disbanded, is by far the strongest.

Fripp reformed Crimson a year later with a new rhythm section and singer Boz Burrell. This lineup debuts on Islands, but apart from "Ladies of the Road," which sets its groupie-adoration lyric to a lean, edgy blues, the songs rank among the group's most pretentious. Nor was this version of Crimson particularly long-lasting, as the other members abandoned ship a year later. (Earthbound, a mediocre live album featuring this lineup, was for years the only other document of this version of Crimson; it has since been augmented with the much-superior Ladies of the Road, which includes a whole disc of excerpted guitar and sax solos from various versions of "21st Century Schizoid Man").

The next incarnation of King Crimson was on many counts its best. In addition to boasting enormously capable players, this band -- violinist David Cross, bassist/vocalist John Wetton, drummer Bill Bruford, and percussionist Jamie Muir -- was disciplined enough to keep the improvisational passages sharp and lean and to make the actual songs seem tuneful and direct. As such, the incandescent Larks' Tongues in Aspic alternates between crisply played, dramatically paced instrumentals, like the two-part title tune, and quirky vocal numbers, such as "Book of Saturday" and the clankingly catchy "Easy Money." Never before had Crimson's music been so daring and focused. After such heights, Starless and Bible Black is a bit of a let down; while "The Great Deceiver" and "Starless and Bible Black" have their moments, the material is generally too fragmented to cohere. Red, however, quickly returns to form. With Cross and Muir gone, the chemistry between Fripp, Wetton, and Bruford is intensely dynamic, adding bite to works like "Fallen Angel" and the electrifying "Red." USA, a live album recorded with the Cross-Fripp-Wetton-Bruford lineup, was the first of many "official bootleg" recordings by this period Crimson. The Night Watch is the best of the lot, though there's also a lot of good stuff squirreled away on the four-CD set The Great Deceiver.

King Crimson called it quits again in 1975, but Fripp, never one to say never, brought the band back in 1981 with Discipline. Bruford and Fripp were the only carryovers from the previous incarnation; joining them were Peter Gabriel bassist Tony Levin and guitarist Adrian Belew. Even given Crimson's history of never downplaying its chops, this was a player's band in the truest sense of the term, and the quartet's jaw-dropping technique is more than obvious on such knottily rhythmic, harmonically demanding workouts as "Thela Hun Ginjeet," "Elephant Talk," and "Discipline." Beat, this crew's sophomore effort, is a little less rigorous, with Belew's melodic instincts adding a pop sheen to the snakily complex instrumental lines beneath "Neal and Jack and Me" and "Waiting Man." Three of a Perfect Pair introduces funk elements to the band's rhythmic repertoire and gives a nod to the band's past in "Larks' Tongues in Aspic Part III." Then after a 1984 tour, vividly documented on Absent Lovers, King Crimson abdicated yet again.

Not that Fripp would ever fully retire the crown, of course. The next King Crimson emerged in 1994, in what Fripp had dubbed the "double trio" format with two guitarists, two bassists, and two drummers -- basically, the entire previous lineup plus bassist Trey Gunn and drummer Pat Mastelotto. VROOOM is simply an opening salvo, offering an early take on ideas that would be fleshed out more fully on THRAK; the former's principal charm is the fluidity of the intertwining group improvisations. THRAK, by contrast, is a more typical Crimson album, offering a couple of solid songs ("Dinosaur," "Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream") and lots of edgily aggressive playing. Quirky uppercasing aside, THRaKaTTaK isn't especially interesting, as its in-depth exploration of synth technology turns the music into something resembling a high-concept sound-effects record. This isn't the most consistent Crimson, but it is extraordinarily well documented, thanks to such goofily titled live albums as B'Boom (spotty) and VROOOM VROOOM (which is long but boasts a few brilliant bits).

Surprisingly, King Crimson didn't disband after this run; instead, it split into various fractals -- or, as Fripp spelled it, "fraKctals." These were four "projeKct" groups featuring various mutations on the last King Crimson, minus Bruford, who presumably got annoyed by the insertion of that stupid capital K. The ProjeKcts is a four-CD box documenting these outings, and while the playing is frequently astonishing, the general lack of a melodic anchor more often than not leaves the music adrift. (The Deception of the Thrush handily excerpts from the box for those merely interested in a taste.)

ConstruKction of Light marks the post-ProjeKct return of Crimson, now down to a quartet, due to Levin's departure. Again the playing is vigorous, but the writing is too stiff and self-conscious to be completely convincing; there are better versions of "Into the Frying Pan" and "ProzaKc Blues" on the live Heavy ConstruKction. The four returned to the studio for Happy With What You Have to Be Happy With, a VROOOM-style prequel to The Power to Believe. Each has its charms, with Happy showing more grit and raw aggression, while Believe showcases the band's subtlety and polish; but the writing is the band's best in years, particularly "Eyes Wide Open" and "Happy With What You Have to Be Happy With," which appear in different versions on both.

There are two King Crimson anthologies out, neither of which captures the entire span of the band's existence. The Compact King Crimson is perhaps too compact, as it draws only from In the Court of the Crimson King, Discipline, Beat, and Three of a Perfect Pair. The boxed anthology Frame by Frame is considerably more inclusive, offering one disc's worth of music for each of the band's three periods of development, plus a fourth, live disc; The Abbreviated King Crimson reduces its bulk to a single, judiciously edited CD. Since forming his own Discipline label in the mid-'90s, Fripp has also launched a "collector's club" series, which has at this point released more than 20 albums of live recordings and esoterica (available online through

From 2004's The New Rolling Stone Album Guide

============ blogprock ============

@ George Starostin
If prog rock ever lied at least a pair of miles away from your interests, you're simply bound to get at least a couple of King Crimson albums (and one of them certainly got to be In the Court of the Crimson King (@allmusic)), just because listening to a King Crimson album is like listening to the very soul of progressive rock. Here was a group that managed to get away with writing totally de-personalized music - music that didn't seem to come from anybody in particular and didn't belong to anyone in particular. If we're speaking of de-personalized music, Pink Floyd is usually the most obvious candidate that comes to mind. But Pink's lack of human identity was totally artificial, caused by Roger Waters' dislike of the musical press more than of anything else. The actual music was always highly personal, especially the later albums. Same goes for most of the Reverends of art and prog rock - Jon and Ian Anderson, Peter Gabriel, Greg Lake, all of these guys were great but, dang it, they were guys, with their own worlds and psychologies.
King Crimson, on the other hand, was a band in the pure sense of the word - despite its 'revolving door' structure. Come to think of it, definitely because of the revolvin' door structure! Robert Fripp was their musical 'director', but he wasn't much of a composer - his only principle seems to have always been that of putting the music before the composer. And this is the only moment that unites all of King Crimson - from the silly, lightweight pre-Crimson Giles, Giles & Fripp and right to their last crazy sonic experimentations of the Nineties. You might accuse King Crimson of pretentiousness, pomposity, complexity for the sake of complexity and everything, but 'self-indulgence' is the only of the standard epithets that sounds somewhat lame when applied to King Crimson music - because it has no 'self'. It's totally abstract, personality-free, soulless, if I might say so. Even Yes didn't go that far. Maybe it has something to do with jazz music as one of the band's strongest influences: I've always thought of middle and late period jazz as highly esoteric, 'restricted' music with little spiritual filler but a lot of undeserved gall, and the same can be really said of King Crimson. However, they're actually better - sometimes, because the band never felt itself as restricted as even the most professional and talented jazz players; King Crimson have changed quite a lot of images throughout their career.

Of course, there's also a bad side to this lack of face: much too often, the band engages in boring 'art for art' sequences, resulting in the fact that, along with some of the greatest rock moments, they are also responsible for some of its most unbearable ones: whereas Fripp always thrived to be at the front line and would soak in any new influences, he was, and still is, always famous for also disregarding the conventional rules of melody to such an extent that quite a solid batch of the band's catalog can only be accessible to real diehards. But at least their tenure is totally unique among prog rockers, and if you can't help hating art rock but would like to be able to cure yourself of your attitude, King Crimson is the best candidate for you. It's unfortunate that the band never really had any big financial success (as far as I know, their debut album is their only serious sell-out); on the other hand, it saved their music from being overplayed and you can't diss them like you diss your Dark Side Of The Moon - that is, the only reason being 'I'm sick to death of it'...

============ blogprock ============

============ blogprock ============

Bruce Eder @ Allmusic
If there is one group that embodies both the best and the worst aspects of progressive rock (from the standpoints of both its supporters and its detractors), it is King Crimson. During its first five years of existence, from 1969 through 1974, in a variety of different lineups, this band led by guitar/Mellotron virtuoso Robert Fripp broke lots of new ground in progressive rock, stretching both the language and structure of the music into realms of jazz and classical, all the while avoiding any of the pop or psychedelic sensibilities of the Moody Blues. The absence of those pop compromises, and the lack of an overt sense of humor, ultimately doomed King Crimson to nothing more than a large cult following, but made their albums among the most enduring and respectable of progressive rock relics.

King Crimson originally grew out of the remnants of an unsuccessful trio called Giles, Giles & Fripp. Michael Giles (drums, vocals), Peter Giles (bass, vocals), and Robert Fripp (guitar) had begun working together in late 1967, after playing in a variety of bands. Robert Fripp (born May 16, 1946, Dorset, England) had studied guitar in Bournemouth with a teacher named Don Strike, whose other students included a slightly younger Greg Lake. As a teenager, he'd played in a local band called the Ravens, whose lineup included vocalist Gordon Haskell, also a boyhood friend of Fripp's. From the spring of 1965 until the following spring, he and Haskell had been members of a group called the League of Gentlemen (the name taken from a very famous British crime-caper movie), and Fripp had also played guitar in the Majestic Dance Orchestra.

Michael Giles (born 1942, Bournemouth, Dorset, England) and Peter Giles had played with bandleader/brothers Dave and Gordon Dowland in a group called the Dowland Brothers from 1962 until 1964. More recently, they'd been part of a Bournemouth group called Trendsetters, Ltd., but had left that group in the summer of 1967 and were looking to put together a band of their own. They hooked up with Fripp in August of 1967, and by September the trio had journeyed to London in search of fame and fortune. Instead, they found an Italian singer for whom they played backup for a week before parting company.

At the time, British rock, and especially the London music scene, was in the process of evolving by leaps and bounds. The release of the Sgt. Pepper album in the summer of 1967, coupled with the ever druggier ambience both in everybody's songwriting and at the city's clubs, was causing a revolution in the sound of rock music. The totally unexpected success of what had been intended as a "stereo demonstration" record by the Moody Blues and the London Festival Orchestra, released by Decca Records' Deram imprint later that year, seemed to confirm that bands other than the Beatles could sell records of that type.

============ blogprock ============

@ Gibraltar Encyclopedia
King Crimson are one of the most influential and highly regarded of the long-lived prog bands. Through numerous line-up changes, their founder and guitarist, the ubiquitous and brilliant Robert Fripp, has crafted King Crimson's sound through quite distinct musical phases. Although the official classification for real KC-heads notes around seven identifiably different KC phases, the new listener can be given a good picture by pointing out three main phases in their musical output. Phase one consists of recordings up to and including Islands. Most of this period was characteristically defined by the lyrics and "spiritual guidance" of Peter Sinfield...a fair degree of high-brow social comment and mysticism. The music shows folk elements and ranges from chaotic improvisations with a seemingly huge amount of instruments (most of them Fripp on Mellotron) to beautiful acoustic songs with floating melodies. Fripp's later incredible and highly original guitar work is not too obvious in this phase but complements the music greatly when it appears. Many long, classicaly inspired pieces involving much Mellotron and occasionaly full orchestras make this phase sound more dated than later material but it all has a really timeless quality too (is that a contradiction?). Lizard is my favourite from this period and is probably the most ageless album I have. This period involved a lot of prog illumini on various albums ... Jon Anderson sings on Lizard, Greg Lake sings and plays on In the Wake ... etc. Phase Two involved Lark's Tongues up to and including Red. Much more modern sounding, many consider this Crimson's high point. Bill Bruford on percussion, John Wetton on vocals and David Cross on strings. Fripp's guitar rears its head properly on these recordings and you are treat to some of the most inspired and brilliantly original guitar work ever produced. There are a lot of long instrumental tracks that sound improvised but have a really tight structure...very loud distortion and strange modalities combine to provide a real challenge to the prog listener. Touching jazz ideas in places, folk in others and raw Fripp in most, Lark's Tongues is quite superb. Features percussion legend Jamie Muir, too. Most of Starless and Bible Black is live improvisation around Fripp themes with the audience dubbed out and this fact should be remembered when listening to the two amazing extended instrumentals on side two! Often descending into what sounds like "horror music" in these instrumentals, they come soaring up from the quiet passages with Wetton's bass and Fripp's screaming guitar together. Great stuff. Red shows a new development as the sound is tightened (Cross has left by now) and the characteristic Fripp guitar figures begin to emerge. Great percussion and a fantastic vocal track "Starless" on side two that incorporates Fripp's "one-note" solo section! This is often said to Crimson's most "metal" album but this is really misleading. It has absolutely nothing to do with "metal" as commonly perceived, it just has more guitar. A brilliant album. Phase three envelops Discipline, Beat and Three of a Perfect Pair. Very different to the other material, this was the result of a regrouping that Fripp undertook many years after he had broken Crimson up after Red. He originally re-formed the group under the name "Discipline," then changed the name to King Crimson and made an album called Discipline. Confusing, eh? Anyway, this lineup had Bruford on percussion, Adrian Belew on vocals/guitar and the stick-master Tony Levin on stick-bass. Belew's influence made this phase a lot more "pop" oriented than had previously been the case and these three albums are probably the most acessible of the KC recordings. Fripp's guitar-work had fully matured and his obscure time signatures and Belew's sense of humour (and amazing guitar talent) made for a really heady mixture. Characterised by overlapping guitar lines played in different times so as to sound like weird delay effects and Levin's perfectly executed and mid-range stick lines, this phase is a real delight. Belew's voice was made for this type of material and it fits well. As usual, brillant (but more subdued) percussion from Bruford. Get some of this phase or miss out on Crimson at a creative height. In short, a legendary band in all their incarnations. Rarely has such diversity been containable under one name. Totally recommended. All of their back studio catalogue was re-mixed for CD by Fripp and Tony Arnold in 1989 and is now available; look for the "definitve edition" blurb on the case. Latest lineup is Fripp, Belew, Levin, Trey Gunn, Pat Mastalotto and Bruford.

============ blogprock ============

@ Rare Vinyl
Founded by guitarist Robert Fripp, during its first five years of existence King Crimson stretched both the language and structure of rock into realms of jazz and classical music, all the while avoiding pop and psychedelic sensibilities; the absence of mainstream compromises ultimately doomed the group to nothing more than a large cult following, but made their albums among the most enduring and respectable of the progressive rock era. King Crimson originally grew out of the remnants of an unsuccessful trio called GILES, GILES & FRIPP. The trio recorded their album,
The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles and Fripp, during the summer of 1968. Even as the album was in the works, however, the group's line-up was changing: Ian McDonald and Peter Sinfield joined late in 1968. This line-up recorded demos of "I Talk to the Wind" and "Under the Sky": Peter Giles exited the scene in November of 1968, and Fripp's childhood friend, vocalist/bassist Greg Lake, joined two days later.

The new roster of Fripp, Lake, McDonald, and Michael Giles - with Sinfield writing their lyrics - officially became King Crimson on January 13, 1969, deriving the name from Sinfield's lyrics for the song "Court of the Crimson King". In July of 1969, the group debuted in front of 650,000 people at a free concert in London's Hyde Park on a bill with the Rolling Stones; later that month King Crimson Released their first album
In The Court Of The Crimson King was one of the most challenging albums of the entire fledgling progressive rock movement, but somehow it caught the public's collective ear at the right moment and hit n° 5 in England. At the peak of the LP's success the band broke up: McDonald and Giles decided to leave. Greg Lake soon decided to leave Crimson as well, but agreed to stay long enough to record vocals for the next album. Finally, a new album (In the Wake of Poseidon) were recorded early in 1970: essentially a Fripp-dominated retake of In the Court of the Crimson King, Lake sang on all but one of the songs, Fripp played mellotron and guitars, and a new singer, Gordon Haskell, debuted on "Cadence and Cascade". Fripp spent the month of August rehearsing a new King Crimson line-up, consisting of himself, Haskell (bass, vocals), saxman/flautist Mel Collins, and Andy McCullough (drums). This group, augmented by pianist Keith Tippett, guest vocalist Jon Anderson of Yes, and oboist/English horn virtuoso Marc Charig, recorded the next Crimson album, Lizard, in the fall of 1970, but Haskell and McCullough both walked out soon after it was finished.

In December of 1970, Ian Wallace joined on drums, and after auditioning several aspiring singers Fripp chose Boz Burrell as the group's new vocalist. The latest Crimson line-up emerged on stage in April of 1971. Sinfield split in December. Their new album is
Islands. The band broke up in April of 1972. But in July of 1972 Fripp put together a new band consisting of drummer Bill Bruford, John Wetton on bass and vocals, David Cross on violin and mellotron, and Jamie Muir on percussion. This group recorded their debut album, Larks' Tongues in Aspic. Muir was out of the line-up in 1973. In January of 1974, King Crimson cut a new album, Starless and Bible Black. In July of 1974 exited. With King Crimson reduced to a trio, one more album, Red, was completed that summer with help from Cross, Mel Collins and Ian McDonald. Fripp disbanded the group on September 25, 1974. In June of 1975 a live album called USA was issued, followed four years later by Fripp's first solo album, Exposure. Finally, in April of 1981, Fripp formed a new group with Bruford, bassist Tony Levin, and guitarist/singer Adrian Belew. By the time their album was released in October of that year: the album was titled Discipline. This band toured and recorded regularly over the years. They splintered after two more albums, 1982's Beat and 1984's Three of a Perfect Pair. King Crimson remained silent for about a decade. Finally, in 1994, Fripp reunited with the Discipline-era lineup, augmenting the group with drummer/percussionist Pat Mastelotto and bassist/guitarist/Chapman Stick player Trey Gunn.

The EP VROOOM appeared late that year, setting the stage for a full-fledged comeback with 1995's Thrak. The album earned generally good reviews and re-established Crimson as a viable touring concern, although it took until 2000 for the band to come up with a new studio album (ConstruKction of Light) amidst a continuing stream of archive-clearing collections. In the five years between Thrak and ConstruKction of Light, the members of Crimson often fragmented the band into experimental subgroups dubbed ProjeKcts. The idea was to mix things up a bit and generate fresh musical ideas prior to the forthcoming album; in the meantime, drummer Bill Bruford and bassist Tony Levin left the band. Culled from the supporting European tour, the live box Heavy ConstruKction was released later in 2000.


============ blogprock ============

A British Rock Invasion Is Led By King Crimson; Midnight Opera Group Experiments With Jazz Cleo Laine's Songs Get Big Reception Urbie Green's Quintet Plays Danceable Jazz John S. Wilson

April 30, 1973, Monday
John Rockwellian Dovejohn Rockwell
Page 24, 1039 words

Displaying First Paragraph - The Union Jack was fluttering over the Academy of Music on 14th Street on Friday and Saturday, underlining the continued affluence of the British rock'n'roll scene. On the two evenings four British rock groups appeared. The headliner of Saturday's show was the latest version of King Crimson, which previously has had much trouble in court due to shifting personnel. =>>>>>>>>>>>

============ blogprock ============


The notes from A Young Person's Guide to King Crimson
King Crimson surfaces again, an article from The Daily Beacon.
The Two Sides of Adrian Belew.

No comments: