The last hurrah of a group in its death throes, King Crimson's Red
is perhaps the ill-fated 1972-74 lineup's masterpiece: a document of the band as they really were. Pressed for time and at the climax of growing tension amongst the members, Red
is the flare of brilliance before collapsing into the void, a group that would not play together again for seven years and were forever changed.
The five-man arsenal that comprised the group heard on Larks' Tongues In Aspic
had dwindled down to the core of vocalist/bassist John Wetton, drummer Bill Bruford, and lead guitarist/ringleader Robert Fripp - mad percussionist Jamie Muir had left after that album to join a Buddhist monastery, and strings virtuoso David Cross officially departed before the recording of the album but agreed to contribute what he could to the sessions. Stricken with five tunes to commit to tape and an entire LP to fill, the members of KC besieged alumni, old friends, and session musicians with requests of aid. Several excellent musicians make guest appearances on Red
, although the lineup is not consistent: consequentially, the album has an unfinished, thrown-together feel. Still, this is the culmination of the first era of Crimson: well-written song structures, free jams, and instrumental virtuosity all play a role here.
Briefly, the five pieces are summarized:
While the popular perception of Red
as a proto-metal experiment is perhaps premature and rash, this hard-rocking instrumental still had quite an impact on the fledgling heavy-rock scene. A catchy, aggro guitar riff alternates with bridge sections, and features a pianissimo interlude with a cello solo.
"Fallen Angel" (6:04)
Somewhat atypical as far as Crimson ballads go, the disturbing lyrics are well set over a quiet but driving rhythm section. Oboe and alto saxophone can be heard as well (uncommon in this particular incarnation of Crim).
"One More Red Nightmare" (7:07)
The ultimate teeth-grinding riff is set again Bill Bruford's clamourous and innovative percussion in the uptempo, psychedelic rocker. Wetton's vocals can be very irritating due to his strong accent, but his contribution is still effective. The band also cools things down for a 12/8 jam near the end.
Featuring a "studio jam" that wouldn't be out of place on Starless and Bible Black
, this instrumental showcases Cross' violin to great effect.
A ballad in the vein of Epitaph
, this epic track is a fitting conclusion to the band's last work. Beginning with a simple vocal-based tune, it contains one of Crimson's best Mellotron melodies and Fripp's hypnotically beautiful guitar lead. What began as calm, though, soon breaks down into a disturbingly dissonant noise-jam which leads into an explosive bebop-flavoured improv. Ian McDonald's alto chops are given an airing out, and Fripp's atonal solo is unique if not technical. The climax of the song, though - and the entire album - is when the band crashes into a powerful re-introduction of the original theme. The last notes seems to fade out on a note of regret, but don't despair - Crimson would someday return to life.
Bill Bruford: Percussives
Robert Fripp: Guitar, Mellotron
John Wetton: Vocals, Bass Guitar
and very special thanks to:
Marc Charig: Cornet, Bass Cello
Mel Collins: Soprano Saxophone
David Cross: Violin, Viola, Mellotro
Ian McDonald: Alto Saxophone
Robin Miller: Oboe, Wind
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars