A classic of early prog rock. The grinding guitars, angular rhythms and unrelenting energy of "21st Century Schizoid Man" still sound fresh today. Indeed they continued to play this live for decades afterwards. "Epitaph" and "The Court of the Crimson King" are also iconic pieces of symphonic rock. The notorious Mellotron synth-orchestra sound takes centre stage here, as it would on countless future prog anthems. Although the underlying music is simple enough, it was their control of dynamics and sound that prevented these pieces from being pure stodge. The drum-rolls and Mellotron swells of "Epitaph" are perfectly-timed. But symphonic rock isn't just about Mellotrons - this track also has a fantastic sinister funeral march section on low woodwinds, courtesy of Ian McDonald.
It's only marred by the rambling of "Moonchild". After starting with a little pastoral acoustic song, this descends into several minutes of aimless stoned-sounding guitar and tuned-percussion twiddles. Peter Sinfield's spaced-out hippy lyrics are also at their most twee and dated here. "I Talk To the Wind" is much more tasteful - a pretty ballad whose flute solo and pastoral colour foreshadowed a lot of early Genesis.
December 16, 2003