Now this is more like it. After a few years of experimental wibble and poor quality control, King Crimson finally hit on the right line-up here. These are a bunch of musicians at the top of their creativity. With the start of the first track, we're plunged into an exotic new sound world we had never heard before from a 70's prog band. A curtain of glittering Oriental-sounding percussion gradually gives way to a powerful grinding rock riff from Robert Fripp. It's a credit to the name "progressive", inventive and forward-looking. On their previous albums long instrumentals tended to descend into stoned noodling, but David Cross's violin solo here is far from that. Instead he simply plays a beautiful reflective melody.
The cerebral avant-garde opening is offset nicely by "Book of Saturday", a mellow but interesting ballad. John Wetton has a strong and wide-ranging bluesy voice. The sweepingly romantic song "Exiles" doesn't quite suit him, but the classical-sounding violin here is the main attraction. Wetton is back on home ground again with "Easy Money", a good raunchy blues-rock number. This has a few witty "boing" sound-effects - but it's time to cringe here when they try to do "sexy" again. No lessons were learnt from "Ladies of the Road", and we have to endure them singing about "crimson suspenders" followed by a sleazy Velcro-unsticking noise!
The final two tracks are wholly instrumental. "Talking Drum" is a relatively restrained percussion-based jam. But fortunately they refrain from rambling on too long, and with perfect timing launch straight into the riff of "Larks' Tongues" part 2. It's a rocking tune and a fine way to finish a largely impressive album. A band simply gelling perfectly together - a good antidote to the ego-based flights of fancy of Yes or ELP.
March 5, 2004