Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#681 in the Series) is King Crimson, In The Court of the Crimson King
My father used to be a member of this old time Italian club when I was a child. I always thought it was pretty cool. The club was called The Roseland Operetta Club. No, they didn’t sing, or promote Operas by this time but that was indeed how it was formed. The club had some nice grounds that included picnic areas and some killer bocce courts. The front door was always locked, but all members had the key. I really thought it was neat how you had to unlock it to get in. Heck, I was just a kid. I can still remember the cigar smell like it was yesterday.
I mention this because I’ve often looked at King Crimson as almost more of a club than a band. Once you were a member you had the key to get back in. Sometimes maybe you wouldn’t show up for years, but every so often, you’d make a return visit to see how everyone was doing. You especially wanted to check on how leader/founder/club president Robert Fripp was doing. You just had to make sure all was good with Robert.
In The Court of The Crimson King was the band’s debut. They had only even been a band for about nine months when this was released. It was recorded in just 10 days and would be their best seller in the States. It reached Platinum level sales and peaked at #28 on the Billboard Top 200 Album chart. It would peak at #5 in the UK. The follow up, In the Wake of Poseidon would eventually reach #4 there. That was the best the band would achieve.
I actually went backwards in knowing about King Crimson. I was a huge Emerson, Lake and Palmer fan in the early to mid-seventies. I knew Greg Lake was once in this band but that was about all I knew about them. How little you ask? Quick story… Remember when Greg Lake tossed in a few lines of King Crimson’s “Epitaph” during the live version of “Tarkus” on the triple live album? Well, I didn’t know that was a King Crimson reference. When I first heard this album I jumped up “Hey, I know that line, that’s from Tarkus.” Little did I know…
Besides great tracks like “21st Century Schizoid Man” and the semi-title track, “The Court of the Crimson King” the album is known for something else. That would be the magnificent album cover. When you see a listing of the greatest album covers of all time, this one is nearly always mentioned.
The cover was a painted by an artist named Barry Godber. It would be the only painting that he would ever do. He died of a heart attack shortly after the album was released. Band lyricist Peter Sinfield first showed the work to Robert Fripp, who now owns the original. He would say about the painting in an interview…
“Peter brought this painting in and the band loved it. I recently recovered the original from EG’s offices because they kept it exposed to bright light, at the risk of ruining it, so 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.”
There has been a rebirth of this album in recent years mainly due to the attention that it’s been given by Steve Wilson, he of the band Porcupine Tree. He oversaw much of the remastering that the album has gone through in recent years. Robert Fripp has approved all remasterd releases. Here’s a statement he has made about them:
“This, the Wilson-Fripp 2009 Definitive Edition Remix, was an unexpected yet inevitable outcome of Steven’s interest & initiative in moving the Crimson catalogue into 5.1.
The original Wessex recording was on 8-track. This necessitated several sub-mixes; such as drums, bass guitar, piano & acoustic guitar on one stereo pair and all the mellotrons on another. These stereo sub-mixes were then mixed down to the original stereo master; the final master took another generation, to allow for cross-fades; and production masters went another generation. The original stereo master was lost for decades, found by Simon Heyworth in a pile of KC tapes from the Virgin tape store, and until recently was the best master available.
On this release, Steven was able to transfer all the original analogue multi-tracks to digital, enabling us to work from the first generation tracks prior to sub-mixing.
We have taken the original mix as our template. The only significant change to the original release is our edit of the improv following Moonchild. This was discussed at the time, has been discussed since, and is now done.
Robert Fripp / June 27th 2009 / Worcestershire, England.
- “21st Century Schizoid Man” (Fripp, McDonald, Lake, Giles, Sinfield) – 7:21
- “I Talk to the Wind” (McDonald, Sinfield) – 6:05
- “Epitaph” (Fripp, McDonald, Lake, Giles, Sinfield) – 8:47
- “Moonchild” (Fripp, McDonald, Lake, Giles, Sinfield) – 12:13
- “The Court of the Crimson King” (McDonald, Sinfield) – 9:25
- Robert Fripp – guitar
- Ian McDonald – flute, clarinet, saxophone, vibes, keyboards, mellotron
- Greg Lake – bass, vocals
- Michael Giles – drums, percussion
- Peter Sinfield – lyrics, illumination
- Barry Godber – cover illustrations
Listen to the entire album below
Live Schizoid Man from 1969
Greg Lake doing a medley from the album