King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King (1969) [CLASSIC REVIEWS]

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God listened to “In the Court of the Crimson King” and saw that it was good. God divided Progressive Rock from the rest of the music.

I can’t find other words to describe the first hundred percent Progressive Rock album. There are times in life where certain events change one forever, be it a great love, the birth of a child, etc. While my turning point was not as epic as the birth of one’s child, I hold it just as important in this moment in time. That turning point, that great event was listening to “In the Court of the Crimson King” for the first time. Sadly King Crimson (in my humble opinion of course) never released any album that could even be near in quality or imagination to “In The Court of the Crimson King”, but in their defense it was not an easy task.

“21st Century Schizoid Man (Including Mirrors)” is an absolutely frantic song, seems chaotic but it’s perfect, the band expresses a sensation of frustration and anger that is transmitted to the listener, has abrupt changes, complex instrumentation and innovative sound, just what Progressive Rock means, brilliant.

“Talk to the Wind” is precisely the other side of the coin, starts with a soft flute by Ian McDonald and soon melts with Greg Lake’s beautiful voice, seems simple, only a soft ballad, but it’s more than that, mostly because of the way they combine the instruments, in a way that only some jazz virtuoso musicians did before.

“Epitaph” is a darker song with very obscure pessimistic lyrics, Lake’s voice adapts perfectly to Fripp’s guitar and the melancholic mellotron, a very atmospheric style that would be developed later by Gabriel’s Genesis. Some people believe it’s a sad ballad, but really is a very complex track that combines different rhythms and timing, also take note of the percussions which is brilliant.

“Moonchild” is the more jazz oriented track despite it keeps the Symphonic structure, starts calm and mellow with a very defined rhythm and an a unique guitar work, in the first listen you can get the impression that we are before another tune in the vein of “I Talk to the Wind”, but around the 3 minutes the fusion begins, nothing so complex and lack of logical structure had been done before, almost as if the band was in a jam session McDonald and Fripp are outstanding in this song.

“In the Court of the Crimson King, including The Return of the Fire Witch and the Dance of the Puppets” is an absolute masterpiece, lyrics are incredibly descriptive and combine perfectly with the music creating the medieval atmosphere, this song has everything, beauty, rhythm, complexity and lots of imagination, words are not capable of describing it, the perfect closer for a perfect album.

The great achievement of King Crimson is that in their debut release they managed to create an album that has 5 absolutely different songs that show 5 different aspects of prog rock: aggression, calm, darkness, fusion and the “closer” that blends all this aspects and more in a 9:22 minutes track.

Many bands released progressive or semi-progressive albums before, some of them are outstanding, but no other work can define the genre and set the status so high as” In the Court of the Crimson King”, the path is ready for other bands to follow, but what a job to reach the level of this masterpiece.

Whenever there is a discussion about Progressive Rock, people start mentioning bands like Pink Floyd, or even The Doors sometimes. I’ve seldom heard people talking about the great Crimson. A shame really.This whole album is an emotional roller coaster. It goes from frustrated, crazy, and angry to content and happy, from happy, to tormented and sad, and from that, to dreams and awe. This album has everything you need to make this a good album. You have all of the base human emotions, good music composition, talented musicians, and creative lyrics and structure. Forget Progressive Rock, if you like music in general… just, just listen to this.

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Camel – Mirage (1972) [CLASSIC REVIEWS]

Shams, who wrote a great review of Joy Division’s debut album, returns once again with a classic review of Camel’s groundbreaking progressive rock album – Mirage.

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People my age in my country are usually broke. And I am no exception. So what do I do when I like music? As much as I hate it, I download it. So one day I’m watching this DVD which I too downloaded by not so obscure band which might be called Opeth. And before performing, he calls one of my favorite tracks by them a Camel rip-off. So now obviously I NEED to listen to this band. Mirage was luckily the first Camel album that I heard.

This is the CAMELshair smoking jacket I slip into most often, well worn over the ages and sculpted to my musical temperament like a certain pair of jeans in need of a patch. The band had obviously settled on what sort of music they wanted to make with “Mirage“, and it’s palpably progressive at every turn, shrouded in a magical mist that falls and rises with the needle. The sleepy vocals, carried on the winds of a magnificent mellotron and buttressed by the bass and drums, conjure a waking dream-state that few albums can match. This (Mirage) first takes the form of “Freefall,” whose seductive sirens call simply smokes, followed by the instrumental “Supertwister”, featuring Andy Latimer’s heretofore unheard (and otherworldly) flute playing. It’s all leading up to the two-part “Nimrodel”, a transcendent retelling of GANDALF’s reappearance as the white wizard that remains my favorite journey in all of CAMELogue.

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For this heroic feat alone, CAMEL could count itself minstrel-kissed through the ages. “Earthrise” shakes off some of that sleepy, far-off land with a sweaty workout that finds Pete Bardens’ brilliant organ working overtime while Andy Ward attacks his kit with unrelenting energy. The three-part “Lady Fantasy” would seem to continue in this vein, but soon slides effortlessly into a mesmerizing melody spiced with keyboard commentary from Bardens that beats down The Doors hallowed path. If I were assembling the Gods in order, a task best left to presumptive chess players, “Mirage” would appear near the head of the receiving line for progressive initiates.

The entire album bespeaks what’s best about the genre: a self-sustaining musical world where fantasy is the reality and the strings of man remain unseen. CAMEL provides a different ride than the great carriages of the immortals (Yes, Genesis), using softer strokes in lieu of striking genius, but “Mirage” is no mere illusion of prog heaven, it’s the genuine article. So climb aboard and strap yourself in for a ride you won’t soon forget.

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– Shams us Zuha