Album Remarks & Appraisals:
2009 CD/DVD set, the second release in the 40th Anniversary series. This version of the 1969 album, one of the most revered rock albums of all time, contains a compact disc with 5.1 surround sound mix by Steven Wilson (with Robert Fripp as executive producer) from the original studio masters, as well as a new stereo mix from the original multitrack tapes plus five previously unreleased tracks. Disc two is a DVD-A which features both the original album mix and the new album mix in high res stereo, as well as three bonus tracks in high res stereo.
"In the liner notes to Against the Clock: The Best of Allan Holdsworth, drummer Bill Bruford said of his mid-'70s work with Holdsworth: "Even from here in the UK, the sound of US guitar players across the pond sitting up and taking notice was deafening." The same could be said about King Crimson's debut album, In the Court of the Crimson King, except it wasn't just guitar players who sat up and took notice. The arrival of King Crimson in '69 was one of those watershed moments in music, where a name for what they were doing simply did not exist.
36 years later, the album is still regarded as one of the most significant albums of any time. The terms "art rock" and "progressive rock" were almost instantaneously born the day it was released, although guitarist Robert Fripp, the only constant in a group that continues to record and tour this day - and, unlike most groups that have lasted this long, is not content to rest on its laurels, instead constantly evolving and never looking back - has been quite clear that neither label is appropriately descriptive.
And so, given that Fripp released a series of 24-bit 30th anniversary remasters of the entire Crimson catalogue beginning in '99, the question is: why yet another remaster, and should we care? While constant sonic reassessment of older recordings often seems to be nothing more than a money-grab, here, like the '97 remaster of Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, there is good reason. In late '03, the original master tapes of In the Court of the Crimson King were discovered in a tape archive. Using these, as opposed to the previously used second-generation masters, along with recent developments in analogue transfer and digital encoding, make this the definitive version.
Fans got a taste of this on last year's box set, The 21st Century Guide to King Crimson, Volume One. Now they can hear Crimson's debut with all nuances restored, and with a cleanliness of sound that is clearly noticeable. Michael Giles' cymbals are crisper and, at times, more delicate; Greg Lake's bass has more oomph; Ian McDonald's mellotron is more robust, his flute richer and his vibes more fragile; and Fripp's various guitars are more present.
As for the music, it continues to defy simple categorization. From the power and chaos of "21st Century Schizoid Man" to the pastoral elegance of "I Talk to the Wind," the album quite simply had no precedence, unless you happened to be one of the few people who actually bought The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles and Fripp when it was first released. And the extended, freely improvised, solo section of "Moonchild" demonstrates the jazzier leanings of Fripp, McDonald, and Giles that contributed to the group's unique complexion.
So, is it worth checking out? Even if you've heard the 30th Anniversary Edition, unequivocally yes. And if you haven't ever heard In the Court of the Crimson King you are, quite simply, missing out on a defining moment in modern music." -AllAboutJazz
Q (12/99, p.162) - 4 stars out of 5 - "...this 1969 album's manic energy and compressed imagery captures the violent downside of the hippy years...better than almost any other recording from the time..."
Q (Magazine) (p.121) - "From baroque ballads to avant-garde heavy metal, Crimson's debut sounded unlike anything else before or since."
Initial pressings featured a limited edition, cardboard-stock gatefold sleeve and unpublished archive photos.
King Crimson: Greg Lake (vocals, bass); Robert Fripp (guitar); Ian McDonald (flute, clarinet, saxophones, keyboards, background vocals); Michael Giles (drums); Peter Sinfield.
Personnel: Ian McDonald (vocals, reeds, woodwinds, Mellotron, keyboards, vibraphone); Greg Lake (vocals, bass guitar); Michael Giles (vocals, drums, percussion); Robert Fripp (guitar).
Liner Note Authors: Sid Smith ; Robert Fripp.
Recording information: Wessex Sound Studios, London; Wessex Sound Studios, London, England.
Photographer: Kenne "Cannonball" Cramer.
The group's definitive album, and one of the most daring debut albums ever recorded by anybody. At the time, it blew all of the progressive/psychedelic competition (the Moody Blues, the Nice, etc.) out of the running, although it was almost too good for the band's own good -- it took King Crimson nearly four years to come up with a record as strong or concise. Ian McDonald's Mellotron is the dominant instrument, along with his saxes and Fripp's guitar, making this a somewhat different-sounding record from everything else they ever did. And even though that Mellotron sound is muted and toned down compared to their concert work of the era (e.g., Epitaph), it is still fierce and overpowering, on an album highlighted by strong songwriting (most of it filled with dark and doom-laden visions), the strongest singing of Greg Lake's entire career, and Fripp's guitar playing that strangely mixed elegant classical, Hendrix-like rock explosions, and jazz noodling. Lineup changes commenced immediately upon the album's release, and Fripp would ultimately be the only survivor on later King Crimson records. ~ Bruce Eder