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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

King Crimson

In the Court of the Crimson King – 40th Anniversary Edition

Review by Gary Hill

Porcupine Tree’s Steve Wilson was tasked with the job of remixing this classic progressive rock album. As good as the disc sounds you can tell that it was a labor of love. Just looking at the original disc this thing is well worth having because the sound is great and (with the possible exception of “Moonchild” there’s not a weak cut in the bunch). They added a number of alternate takes at the end of the CD – all interesting in their own way. The DVD that’s included in the set also includes alternate takes – and, in fact, a full alternate of the album. It also has a short black and white video of the band playing “21st Century Schizoid Man” to a crowd of hippies back in the day. Buy it for the album itself, but do buy it. Just consider the bonus material as just that, bonus, and you’ll be pleased.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2010  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
21st Century Schizoid Man

It's kind of crazy that one of the first progressive rock albums, and the world's first introduction to King Crimson begins with something that's almost heavy metal, but so be it. The distorted vocals on this add something raw and yet technical to the thing. This thing screams like crazy. Yet there is some awesome fast paced jamming that's full on progressive rock. It gets pretty crazed at times.

I Talk to the Wind
This is a mellow and quite beautiful progressive rock ballad. It’s got some cool harmonics and lots of woodwind (and some reeds) instruments – and that’s appropriate considering the title.
Epitaph
I’ve always loved this piece. The elegance and power that opens this is subtle in that the track is a mellow ballad at its core. The synthesizer brings so much to the table, but the vocal performance is also especially evocative. Mind you, while the overall construction is a ballad, they take it through some interesting movements and this is made into something far beyond that. It might be my favorite track here – but it’s tough to pick favorites when it’s all this good.
Moonchild
Another that’s basically a ballad, this gets a little stranger in terms of its arrangement. It works out into a long sedate instrumental section that tends to wander a bit.
The Court of the Crimson King

Another classic cut, this is one of my favorites, too. The synthesizer adds a lot to this. It’s another track that shows how much you can really do to fill out a ballad and turn it into something quite special. I love the evocative vocal delivery and the powerful chorus. The instrumental segment, while a bit seemingly random at times, works a lot better than the one in “Moonchild”.

Moonchild 2009 mix (full version)
This alternate take on “Moonchild” is even longer than the original one.
I Talk to the Wind (Alternate take - Duo version)
The “duo” mentioned in the parenthetical part of the title refers to guitar duo – not vocal. In fact, there are no vocals on this version. Somehow the music becomes more delicate like this. It lends a whole new flavor. I’d say I prefer the original’s drama and power, but this telling reminds me of early Genesis somehow.
I Talk to the Wind (Alternate Mix)
I don’t really hear a lot of difference on this song except for the outro, but it is about half a minute longer than the original album version. That closing segment includes a tasty guitar solo.
Epitaph (Backing track)
This instrumental take on the track is a beautiful one. Again, I prefer the original, but this is cool. There are some odd tape effects at the end.
Wind Session (from album session recordings)
This shows just how much went into getting the “incidental” bit at the start of “…Schizoid Man” the way they wanted it.
 
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