Review Summary: 'Oh wait, this bloke actually had a solo career?'
Most proggies have heard of Peter Sinfield. He’s the bloke who wrote the lyrics for King Crimson
’s first four albums – including their classic debut In The Court of the Crimson King
. What most of them DON’T know, however, is that the good man once released a solo outing called Still
in 1973, two years after he quite Crimson. Above that, the record also features many were-, have been- or future members of that band: Greg Lake, Mel Collins, Ian Wallace and John Wetton, just to name a few, are part of the rather large crew that worked on Still
(27 people, to be exact).
This humongous line-up makes it look like Still
will be full of virtuosic bombast in advance to the listen. However, it sounds quite the opposite for most the time. Opener The Song of the Sea Goat
introduces us to a very calm, tranquil sound, with Sinfield’s vocals being predominantly accompanied by a flute. It therefore reminds immediately of Crimson’s own I Talk to the Wind
, but is nowhere as stunning. Though the calm sound is welcoming, the vocals are something of an acquired taste. Sinfield has listened to those who he previously wrote lines for, but his high, thin voice isn’t always the easiest to be drawn into the music by, and his intonation can be overly theatrical at times, making the album less believable.
Nevertheless, there are some enduring moments on the record, be they never as good as anything the better-known 70’s progressive artists have put out at their heights. The title track, despite having some of the album’s weakest vocal moments in the beginning, builds very well, and has a very good trump card: Greg Lake, who sings a few lines with that excellent voice of his. His contribution really helps the song get to a much higher level, but also shows how inferior Sinfield is as a singer at the same time. Nevertheless, Pete also definitely delivers in a few spots, such as the other highlight Envelopes of Yesterday
, which is one of the longest compositions on the album and also lets the instrumental crew come forward some more. In fact, it is the lengthier tracks that turn out best: the shorter ones rely too much on vocals and too little on the talented and large backing crew, which is unfortunately underused on the album.
The majority of Still
ponders in that calm sound introduced since the beginning, and provides other decent enough tracks such as Under the Sky
and The Piper
, but Sinfield moves into more daring areas at a few points. Sometimes, this turns out for the good, such as on the eclectic closer The Night People
, with its overwhelming saxophones and equally overwhelming vocals. Predictably, it also turns out for the bad. Will It Be You
and Wholefood Boogie
are the album’s two lowest points. The former comes dashing in with an sudden country sound, which sounds incredibly silly and doesn’t fit at all with the remainder of the tracks, and the latter has Sinfield going all funkeh. He even does some semi-rapping, and I’m afraid it sounds rather hilarious (obviously not in a good way).
Songs such as these do not really help, as Still
is already not carrying some than can be considered even close to superb. The moments that are actually rewarding are too thin-spread, and not good enough to make up for other mistakes. Add up to that that many of the calmer tracks sound a bit samey, and you must conclude this album just isn’t convincing enough to work. Sinfield realized this himself, and made this an one-off occasion. Despite all that, more-than-casual fans of King Crimson will want to give this a listen sometime, as it may not be damn great, but definitely interesting.
Nag’s Choice Cuts:
The Song of the Sea Goat
Envelopes of Yesterday
The Night People