Review Summary: A last hurrah of the King Crimson 2nd generation and the prog rock age at its best.
It seemed as if all was over when David Cross left King Crimson. But, the band still had it in them to release one more album before the 2nd generation was finished. Red, is the result, which still resonates to this day and influenced the well-known frontman of Nirvana, Kurt Cobain.
The lineup was:
Robert Fripp: Guitar and Mellotron
John Wetton: Vocals and Bass
Bill Bruford: Percussion
The first song, Red, is highly impulsive in guitar, but not overdone in a pretentious manner, thus setting a great start to the album. The mood is also set as well, giving a hint to the listener that the album is more metal based feel and less use of improvisation throughout the album. Often times, the signs that Robert Fripp developed a musical principle are now more obvious, and that it’s the fact he doesn't overdose the guitar OR the mellotron, giving a good sense of balance to both the album and the other band members. It also still shows his superior level of talent with several instruments.
The next song, Fallen Angel, is the first dark tale involving New York City and "Hell's Angels." It is also the first use of special guest musicians, such as Robin Miller on the oboe and Marc Charig on the Cornet/Trumpet. What starts with a shaky beginning (the good kind) moves into a more mellow feel, revealing the softer side of King Crimson. But what is mellow must get louder (another Robert Fripp principle), which is what exactly happens. After going through a few of Wetton's dark lyrics, the song breaks down into a metal ballad, featuring Marc's talents on the Cornet. The piece, once again, calms down for a while and the process repeats itself again. What is also great about the song is the lyricism done by John Wetton, which is also more present in this album than it was in Starless and Bible Black.
One More Red Nightmare, is the fastest paced song on the album (not including the final 3 minutes of Starless), and another dark tale about a man with the fear and phobia of...planes. Once again, Wetton does a great job executing the lyrics in an appropriate manner, giving the song more feeling. The concept of pulsing claps and guitar riffs gives the song an intense flavor of boldness also felt in the previous two albums, and in Starless. Once again, the former KC saxaphonist Ian McDonald is a refreshing concept to the album, bringing back nostalgic melodies not felt since In The Court of the Crimson King. Though, it’s not nearly as comparable as 21st Century Schizoid Man, it's another great song to the album.
Providence, taken from a live performance, is another returning concept from past King Crimson albums: improvisation. The only song to have the involvement of David Cross, this song has no noticeable pulse, offsetting the common, patterned use from the past two to three songs. Once again, it very adequately displays the talents of Robert Fripp on the guitar, Bill Bruford on percussion, and of course, Cross with the electric violin. The complexity of this song, unlike The Mincer, is far more exiting, and in return, keeps the listener thinking, a longtime specialty. This is what they nearly mastered from the experience of past albums. While it sort of offsets the album a bit, it's still another good song.
Starless, the final song on Red, opens with Robert Fripp on the mellotron, and carries through rather slowly. Wetton's voice is memorable in this piece, with perhaps some of the darkest lyrics since their debut album. Once again, Ian McDonald does a stupendous job giving a jazzy feel and a spicy attitude to the song. Bill Bruford seems to have structured his drumming so efficiently, allowing Fripp and McDonald to still be heard. It's also the variety of cymbals and instruments that helps the song flow more intensive, as it reaches the sudden tempo change point. And the tempo change leaves the listener surprised, making the song even more exciting than it already was. It also paves way for an unforgettable finale, most likely leaving the listener satisfied. In good short, this piece frames the album perfectly, despite being a related song to Starless and Bible Black.
Red, is a fitting finale all the hard work done throughout the six year span of King Crimson, bringing most of their accomplishments together. Comparable to the final call of the classic progressive rock age, this album still stands the test of time itself. This is a piece of the puzzle for King Crimson fans, and a suggestion for those who still dig progressive rock to this day.