|Thrak On A Plate
|:: Posted by Sid Smith on Sat., Feb 18, 2012
My thanks to Adam Aronson for sending me this picture of his recently acquired personalised number plate.
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On This Date 46 Years Ago
:: Posted by Sid Smith on Sat., Oct 10, 2015
Today marks the 46th anniversary of the release of King Crimson's debut album, In The Court Of The Crimson King.
"Wessex Studios mid-August 1969. The apocalyptic blast of 21st
Century Schizoid Man is abruptly cut off in mid-flow as recording
engineer, Robin Thompson, mutes the speakers. Gathered in the
cavernous performance area of Wessex Studios below, Robert Fripp,
Michael Giles, Ian McDonald, Peter Sinfield and Greg Lake stopped work
to welcome the arrival of artist Barry Godber, carrying a large
rectangular package wrapped in brown paper.
A few weeks
previously Sinfield had commissioned his friend to come up with
something for the cover for what would be King Crimson’s debut album.
“I used to hang around with all these painters and artists from
Chelsea Art School” says Sinfield.
“I’d known Barry for a couple of years...he’d been to a few rehearsals,
and spent a bit of time with us. I told him to see what he could come
up with. I think I probably said to him that the one thing the cover
had to do was stand out in record shops.”
Godber tore off the brown paper and laid the painting on the floor as the band gathered around to see his handiwork.
Lake recalls “We all stood around it and it was like something out of
Treasure Island where you’re all standing around a box of jewels and
treasure...this fucking face screamed up from the floor and what it
said to us was Schizoid Man - the very track we’d been working on. It
was as if there was something magic going on.”
Here's how some of the music papers of the day reacted to the album.
This eagerly-awaited first album is no disappointment, and confirms their reputation as one of the most important new groups for some time. It gives little idea of their true power on stage, but still packs tremendous impact especially the brutally exciting “21st Century Schizoid Man” and the eerie title track, with its frightening mellotron sounds. It’s not all high power stuff though - there’s some nice flute from Ian McDonald on the beautiful “I Talk To The Wind” and “Moonchild” is pretty, though too long. The vocals are clear and controlled and the instrumental work can hardly be faulted. This is one you should try and hear.
The first LP from the group heralded by those who know to be the most exciting discovery of the year. Get over the most horrific cover of the year and you’ll find the pundits are not wrong. A brilliant mixture of melody and freakout, fast and slow, atmospheric and electric, all heightened by the words of Peter Sinfield.
The Ultimate Album. There is little one can fault with it: the arrangements make masterful use of multi-tracking, compressing and reducing, the standard of playing almost defies belief at time, the vocals are merely excellent and the numbers are brilliantly and excitedly written.
I don’t like one of the numbers, despite my total commitment as a Crimson-Bopper, which is ‘Moonchild’ and is too long. Otherwise a gassy, jazzy, heavy, complex, smooth and totally magnificent album: written, arranged, played and produced by the most original group since ........ (fill in your answers to Apple Ltd., Saville Row, London., for instance.
Finally, the American edition of Rolling Stone had this to say:
There are certain problems to be encountered by any band that is consciously avant-garde. In attempting to sound "farout" the musicians inevitably impose on themselves restrictions as real as if they were trying to stay in a Top-40 groove. There's usually a tendency to regard weirdness as an end in itself, and excesses often ruin good ideas.
Happily, King Crimson avoids these obstacles most of the time. Their debut album drags in places, but for the most part they have managed to effectively convey their own vision of Desolation Row. And the more I listen, the more things fall into place and the better it gets.
The album begins by setting the scene with ‘21st Century Schizoid Man’. The song is grinding and chaotic, and the transition into the melodic flute which opens ‘I Talk to the Wind’ is abrupt and breathtaking. Each song on this album is a new movement of the same work, and King Crimson's favorite trick is to move suddenly and forcefully from thought to thought. ‘Epitaph’ speaks for itself: "The wall on which the prophets wrote/Is cracking at the seams...Confusion will be my epitaph."
‘Moonchild’ opens the second side, and this is the only weak song on the album. Most of its twelve minutes is taken up with short statements by one or several instruments. More judicious editing would have heightened their impact; as it is, you're likely to lose interest. But the band grabs you right back when it booms into the majestic, symphonic theme of ‘The Court of the Crimson King’. This song is the album's grand climax; it summarizes everything that has gone before it: "The yellow jester does not play/But gently pulls the strings/ And smiles as the puppets dance / In the court of the Crimson King."
This set was an ambitious project, to say the least. King Crimson will probably be condemned by some for pompousness, but that criticism isn't really valid. They have combined aspects of many musical forms to create a surreal work of force and originality.
Besides which they're good musicians. Guitarist Robert Fripp and Ian McDonald (reeds, woodwinds, vibes, keyboards, mellotron) both handle rock, jazz, or classical with equal ease. Bassist Greg Lake and drummer Michael Giles can provide the beat, fill in the holes, or play free-form. While Dylan and Lennon are still safe, lyricist Peter Sinfield does show a gift (macabre as it may be) for free association imagery.
How effectively this music can be on stage is, admittedly, a big question. The answer is probably not too well. Still, King Crimson's first album is successful; hopefully, there is more to come.
On This Date 41 Years Ago...
:: Posted by Sid Smith on Tue., Oct 6, 2015
King Crimson released Red, their final studio album of the 1970s on October 6th, 1974.
Now regarded as one the most important albums of that decade, Red
frequently turns up in numerous best of lists by artists and magazines.
Here's what the New Musical Express had to say about the album upon its release that week 41 years ago today.
THE PREVIOUS two albums by this final King Crimson lineup
have never been as hysterically self-conscious in their obvious
adventurousness as the first four studio records that came out under the
In fact, listening to certain parts of each of those
early albums can frequently provoke nothing as crassly simple as severe
brain damage but a rather more civilised basic aural pain.
In general, it's a pretty tidy set of neuroses, instability and
insecurity — both musical and personal — that cuts a jagged edged swathe
across the eight sides. The psychic melodramas do, though, have the
saving grace of being carried out with an appropriate sense of artistic
Indeed when juxtaposed against the histrionics of those records Larks Tongues In Aspic, Starless And Bible Black and, now, Red
would seem to have been recorded in a state of almost Calvinistic
general togetherness — or, if you prefer, what used to be known at
school as "maturity" — and even if Larks Tongues does marginally fail to cut it due to a rather too noticeable excess of zeal then Starless,
which is minus both Jamie Muir and His Percussive Pistacchio Nuts and
the perfectionist production of the former — though not credited on the
sleeve as such the whole of side two was cut live — comes up with a more
consistent and relaxed amount of highs than any of its predecessors.
There's one other little plus that Starless has going for it...uh...it...well, it nearly swings.
And so to Red. No two ways about it, and putting aside for
the moment any little thoughts we may have about its being The Final
Work this outfit — now reduced to the basic three-piece of Robert Fripp,
John Wetton on bass and vocals, and Bill Bruford on drums (sorry,
percussives) — were really starting to whizz those thought patterns
around amongst themselves.
Side One is actually rather a funky, even heavy, piece with 'Fallen
Angel' and 'One More Red Nightmare' restating the weighty note
progression emphasised almost to the point of a calculated ennui on 'Red', the first track.
'Fallen Angel' moves things on with some of your old mellifluous
free-flowing melody ending up as a variant on a basic pop track with a
surreal middle eight that has some most impressive reed honking from Mel
Collins. Robert Palmer-James' lyrics are virtually indistinguishable,
which on past evidence is most certainly in the record's favour, whilst
Wetton's voice, doable or triple tracked on the chorus fines has the
chore of both sounding like Greg Lake and being able to highlight the
inadequacies of any similar ELP technological ballad.
'One More Red Nightmare' puts the rather curious counterbalancing of
the first two tracks into a comprehensible perspective as it grips
together the main themes of each title with some hot ice howling lead
percussion from Bruford that does just now and then veer dangerously
towards intellectual doodling.
'Providence', which opens the second side, features "guest" violinist
David Cross on a schizoid quasi Prokofiev piece of impressionism which,
when joined by the bass and Bruford, displays at first the sense of
spacing and notation which was particularly evident on Larks Tongues but which ultimately dissolves as it's hurled into a rather early model King Crimson piece of mellotron madness.
The truly enigmatic side of Crimson gets really well held up to the light on the twelve-minute final track, Starless,
with the baroque intensity — and extremity — of Fripp's Mancini-like
mellotron strings that carry a hint of the mood of side two of Lizard
until the scorching guitar, bass and jangling percussion work up and
along several note and chord structures with each instrument underlining
the other until a pattern is shaped like a continuous loop of sound
restating the album's themes.
It's really quite curious and should, I suppose, be put down to some psychic state evolving from the demise of the band but Red is truly the first Crimson album that I can find myself listening to over and over again.
Would it be that same psychic state that makes me believe it's the best album ever made under the name of King Crimson?
Vote For King Crimson
:: Posted by Sid Smith on Mon., Oct 5, 2015
King Crimson have been nominated in the Band of the Year category in the forthcoming Classic Rock magazine awards. Click here to cast your vote.
KC's Mojo Working In Aylesbury
:: Posted by Sid Smith on Thu., Oct 1, 2015
The latest edition of Mojo contains a generous review of King Crimson playing Aylesbury.
Mister Stormy's Monday Selection
:: Posted by Sid Smith on Mon., Sep 28, 2015
Mister Stormy has uploaded three tracks from the Live At The Warfield video that is part of the forthcoming THRAK BOX. Check it out here.
Meanwhile, you can order the 16-disc THRAK BOX from Inner Knot (USA) and Burning Shed (UK & Europe)
Stick Men On The Road
:: Posted by Sid Smith on Sun., Sep 27, 2015
With the King Crimson tour just finished, Tony Levin and Pat Mastelotto team up with Markus Reuter and take to the road in Europe as Stick Men.
Sept. 29 - Verona (IT) - Il Giardino
Sept. 30 - Verona (IT) - Il Giardino
Oct. 1 - Sofia (BG) - HDK Hall 11 (Lumiere Cinema)
Oct. 3 - Sala (SE) - Rockland
Oct. 5 - Oslo (NO) - Buckley's
Oct. 6 - Malmo (SE) - Moriska Pavijongen
Oct. 7 - Göteborg (SE) - Nefertiti
Oct. 9 - Bergen (NO) - Sardinen USF
Oct. 10 - Opole (PL) - Dom Expo
Oct. 11 - Wroclaw (PL) - Zaklete Rewiry
Oct. 12 - Prague (CZ) - Lucerna Bar
Oct. 13 - Reichenbach (DE) - Bergkeller
Oct. 15 - Bonn (DE) - Harmonie
Oct. 16 - Zoetermeer (NL) - Boerderij
Oct. 17 - Münster (DE) - Hot Jazz Club
Oct. 18 - Hertogenbosh (NL) - W2
Oct. 20 - Verviers (BE) - Spirit of 66
Oct. 21 - Karlsruhe (DE) - Substage
Oct. 22 - Reutlingen (DE) - FranzK
Don't forget, the Stick Men most recent release features their collaboration with ex-Crimson violinist, David Cross, Live In Tokyo is available: First show can be found here and the second show is right here.
:: Posted by Sid Smith on Sun., Sep 27, 2015
My thanks to Dwayne for this link to this performance of Discipline by the Cal Poly Percussion Ensemble.
The Making Of ATTAKcATHRAK
:: Posted by Sid Smith on Fri., Sep 25, 2015
Fresh from his recent bout of talks on the King Crimson UK tour, David Singleton takes us through the process of putting together the successor to THRAKATTAK for the forthcoming THRAK BOX set. Check it out here or over at the DGMLive YouTube channel.
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