Review Summary: While ITWOP is not as original or groundbreaking as their debut, it is still a very good album. Please note that this is about as much a commentary as a review, hence the length. If you're after a brief album review, well there are hundreds of those.
Now, where could King Crimson go after releasing their stellar debut? By this point, Ian McDonald had departed, to be replaced by Mel Collins of Camel fame (amongst many other bands). Greg Lake stayed on for this album, but he would leave in order to form Emerson, Lake & Palmer in the same year. Peter Giles was introduced as a bassist, which would leave Lake to take care of the vocals. And indeed, he was the vocalist for every track apart from Cadence and Cascade, where Haskell took over, foreshadowing Lizard for which Haskell would both sing and play bass. The jazz pianist, Keith Tippett came aboard too. In the Wake of Poseidon is often criticised for following the same basic blueprint of their debut, which it does in some ways. But I prefer to think of it as a fine companion album to In the Court of the Crimson King, which it is. It is quite a strong album.
01 - Peace - A Beginning:
This is a nice little 50 second acapella introduction to the album. The theme of peace is conveyed through Greg Lake's ethereal echoing vocals.
02 - Pictures Of A City:
This song is opened by a brass buildup and funky saxophone riff which wouldn't be out of place in a marching band. This is the ITWOP version of 21st Century Schizoid Man, as it even has the same structure. We have two verses featuring Lake's 'not as caustic as last time' vocals backed by fuzzy and bombastic distorted instrumentation and Giles' bass is quite high in the mix. And like its predecessor, the vocal part ends, there is a build up and the song is thrown into a jam section where Fripp plays some frenetic and edgy guitar riffs which start to become more genial until a galloping part overlayed by what sounds like some dissonant saxophone. Then there's a bit of a spacey 'breakdown' with a simple yet haunting bassline. Gradually it builds up with Giles' precise drumming and Fripp's anti-solo, and the jam is concluded as Lake finishes with the third verse and we have that familiar cacophony of instruments.
03 - Cadence and Cascade:
This song serves the purpose of being the calm after the storm, much like I Talk to the Wind from their debut. Worth noting is that this is the only track featuring Gordon Haskell on vocals. Cadence and Cascade presents us with delicate acoustic work from Fripp, two beautiful flute sections from Mel Collins (again like I Talk to the Wind) and equally harmonious piano work from Tippett.
04 - In the Wake of Poseidon:
This track opens with an unsettled and almost distressed mellotron melody embellished by percussive acoustic strumming which calls to mind Epitaph. From the point that Lake breaks into his deeply introspective sounding verses, Fripp's acoustic backing becomes much more interesting and he has some fascinating fills going on there. Each verse becomes more dramatic towards the end and after the third verse, the song moves further into mellotron territory. In fact the mellotron buildup from about 3:55 to 4:50 is my favourite part of the song - it gives the song an anguished, yet strangely triumphant feel. After the final verse, we have a strong outro mostly based around one chord progression. Giles' drumming throughout the song is quite dynamic - it holds interest without stealing the show.
05 - Peace - A Theme:
The first half of this short interlude played by Fripp on acoustic guitar is mostly an instrumental version of Peace - A Beginning but it spreads its wings out and flourishes with grace.
06 - Cat Food:
This is the song which truly defies any comparison of ITWOP to ITCOTCK. And I cannot for the life of me understand why it receives negative criticism from some reviewers. Frankly, it's a cool and fun song. Cat Food opens with a driving bassline - I suppose it is comparatively regular sounding in order to preserve some kind of sanity in the song as it progresses. And what follows is a mad flurry of piano notes all over the place from Tippett - almost as if someone were beating up a piano. It sounds random, yet at the same time sounds musical - it's a testament to what jazz musicians are capable of. Lake delivers some pretty catchy verses, and with lines like "Never need to worry with a tin of Hurri Curri. Poisoned especially for you!", the song has quite a dark and satirical vibe to it. I believe that the lyrics are protesting about processed foods, and likening them to cat food. The rest of the song consists of Tippett's maniacal bursts of piano playing, Fripp's 'solos' and a larger input from the Giles brothers - it has a bit of a start-stop feel to it.
07 - The Devil's Triangle:
The Devil's Triangle is an interpretation of Gustav Holst's Mars: The Bringer Of War, which is a masterpiece, although it may prove itself to be a more challenging listen than the rest of ITWOP. The Devil's Triangle starts with a bass/drum rhythm overlayed by mellotron, which invokes images of armies marching to battle. It builds up in tension until the song suddenly stops with the sounding of a battle horn. After this, the song resumes its marching rhythm and adds layers upon layers ensuing in utter chaos and pandemonium. The sounds of winds blowing breaks it all up, but again the song resumes its rhythm at an even more frantic intensity. Synths enter and Giles' bassplaying deviates from the marching rhythm as they both intertwine to form some kind of manic circus music (Arcturus anyone?). And the song concludes with a wall of sound. A fine interpretation.
08 - Peace - An End:
This album outro features Fripp on acoustic guitar and Greg Lake describing peace in even greater detail. A pleasant way to finish the album.
I believe that there was much tension with lineup issues around the ITWOP period and this led to the band playing it safe by releasing an album which echoed their successful debut. It could possibly have been intended as a companion album given their names (In the Court of the Crimson King and In the Wake of Poseidon) - regardless, I consider it one. I do however feel that the criticism surrounding this album for having a few similarities to their debut is rather undeserved.
Pictures of a City is a good effort to recreate the magic of 21st Century Schizoid Man, and Cadence and Cascade resembles I Talk to the Wind. While the self-titled track starts out in a similar vein to Epitaph, I feel that it finds its own way after the introduction. And ITCOTCK certainly contained no songs like Cat Food or the Devil's Triangle.
While I don't consider ITWOP as good or as influential as ITCOTCK, I believe that it is a more consistent album as King Crimson's particularly experimental songs worked better the second time around. Sinfield again proves his lyrical brilliance as he paints poetry - perhaps more cryptically and less poignantly than he did for their debut, but nonetheless quite eloquently. Mel Collins filled the void of Ian McDonald rather well and Keith Tippett's piano contributions to the album are pivotal. Despite the criticism, there is easily enough originality and songwriting skill in this album to warrant it a listen.