King Crimson ‎– In The Court Of The Crimson King (An Observation By King Crimson)

Atlantic ‎– SD 8245
Vinyl, LP, Album

Tracklist Hide Credits

A1 21st Century Schizoid Man Including Mirrors
Written-By – Greg Lake, Michael Giles, Robert Fripp
A2 I Talk To The Wind 6:08
A3 Epitaph Including March For No Reason And Tomorrow And Tomorrow
Written-By – Greg Lake, Michael Giles, Robert Fripp
B1 Moonchild Including The Dream And The Illusion
Written-By – Greg Lake, Michael Giles, Robert Fripp
B2 The Court Of The Crimson King Including The Return Of The Fire Witch And The Dance Of The Puppets
Written-By – Ian McDonald

Companies, etc.



Produced for E.G. Productions, 'David & John'.

Another US pressing but with a different runout matrix.

Barcode and Other Identifiers

  • Matrix / Runout (Side One): ST-A-691699 20
  • Matrix / Runout (Side Two): ST-A-691700 20

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May 13, 2017

Sherman has just set the controls of the WayBack Machine for the year 1969, though before I step in to review this monumental record, yes record, because vinyl is the only way to hear this release, let me first say that there are inherent issues with any band riding the avant-garde wave. The main issue being that the songs are rather long, and obstacles along this linear movement can be stumbling blocks if they are not handled correctly ... but now we’ll set the controls for the heart of the sun, and venture into the world of King Crimson, a band who owes more than a little to Pink Floyd, yet manages to remain outside of the loop, never becoming Pink Floyd-ish.

I realize that I’m going to take some hits here, but for the most part this is a young person’s record. By that I mean that In The Court Of The Crimson King is a touchstone, a path, a weigh-station, a place passed through, enjoyed ... and once left, usually the listener never returns. There are many reasons for not returning, though the main one is that once understood, the album just requires too much effort, and often feels silly ... like clothing that’s been locked into a short era, and looked at as, “How could I have ever?” Sliding in at the end of the decade, a decade that would mark the end of the Hippy movement, the darkest days of the war in Vietnam, and the rise in the use of narrow visioned amphetamine fueled paranoia, in place of the the once wondrous mind expanding LSD ... King Crimson take us on a rather dark journey into the recesses of our subconscious, delivering a more fearful, and inescapable version of Dylan’s “Desolation Row.”

King Crimson sets the stage with the chaotic, grinding, “21st Century Schizoid Man,” and then manage to juxtapose this with an unexpected and beautiful transition into “I Talk To The Wind.” Each song on the album is a movement unto itself, but it’s these transitions that are breathtaking, and possibly the most memorable. And therein lies King Crimson’s most enduring trick ... to move with certainty, suddenly, and with force, breaking through to the next effort. There are parts of the album that drag, and I remember thinking that the band was using weirdness for the the sake of weirdness, leaving me to wonder what would show up on their following releases; only to discover that they had managed to walk a line somewhere between Psychedelic / Avant-Garde / and Heavy Metal.

Several reviewers have sighted “Moonchild,” which opens the second side, as being the weakest song on the album [probably my favorite], with most of it’s twelve minutes consisting of statements by one or several instruments, and that a more concerted editing would have made for a stronger impact. I think that this weakness is inherit of the vinyl release only [with the distraction of physically flipping the album over], and that listing to this release on CD, or tape for that matter, would lead the listener through a journey of spacious introspection before being swept away by the majestic, symphonic climaxing track “The Court Of The Crimson King.” There’s not doubt that this was an ambitious undertaking ... but honestly, the album is full of lyrical pompousness, lyrics that don’t roll off the tongue, and sound as if they’re being read from some mysterious, half forgotten, leather bound, Edible text from the 14th century. "The yellow jester does not play / But gently pulls the strings / And smiles as the puppets dance / In the court of the Crimson King." I mean seriously, what does that all mean? It’s all drama, it doesn’t relate to current events or social situations, it’s just a sophomoric expression of newly realized conceptions, and a convoluted way of expressing them ... but on the level that it exists, it works.

I must give this album high marks for what it was, the ground that it broke, and the places it led me. But I’ll never play this one again ... it exists on my shelf, a reminder of many things, but not one thing that’s comfortable.

*** The Fun Facts: Barry Godber (1946–1970) a computer programmer painted the album cover. Godber died in February 1970 from a heart attack, shortly after the album's release. It was his only album cover and the original painting is now owned by Robert Fripp. According to Fripp who said about Godber: "Peter brought this painting in and the band loved it. I recently recovered the original from [managing label E.G. Records's] offices because they kept it exposed to bright light and at the risk of ruining it, I ended up removing it. The face on the outside is the Schizoid Man, and on the inside it's the Crimson King. If you cover the smiling face, the eyes reveal an incredible sadness. What can one add? It reflects the music.

Some time after the album had been put to bed it was discovered that the stereo master recorder used during the mixdown stage had incorrectly aligned recording heads. This misalignment resulted in a loss of high frequencies and introduced some unwanted distortion. This is evident in certain parts of the album, particularly on the song "21st Century Schizoid Man." Consequently, while preparing the first American release for Atlantic Records, a special copy was made from the original two track stereo master in an attempt to correct some of these anomalies. (The analog tape copying process usually results in generation loss.) From 1969 to 2003, this second generation "corrected" copy was the source used in the dubbing of the various sub-masters used for vinyl, cassette and CD releases over the years. The original, "first-generation" stereo masters had been filed away soon after the original 1969 mixdown sessions, these tapes were considered lost until 2003.

Review by Jenell Kesler