Review Summary: And reels of dreams unrolled...
Often regarded as the weakest era in King Crimson lore, the three year period following the band’s 1969 triumph In The Court of the Crimson King
was, for the longest time, a highly misunderstood and unfairly dismissed time in the band’s history. The span from 1970 to 1972 produced three albums all incredibly different from another, not only in its greatly restricted lineups, but down to its very core with an extreme contrast in style from album to album. 1970’s In The Wake of Poseidon
featured four of the five original members, but already pictured a band fractured and more than ready to head their own separate ways – Greg Lake had been recruited to join Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer in a new band, while Ian MacDonald and Michael Giles were recording their own album featuring material that had been rejected for inclusion on Poseidon
, including the very underrated “Birdman” suite. On top of this, the album, while considered an improved version of Court
, would later be deemed as nothing more than a mere copy of its predecessor despite it containing several classic Crimson cuts such as “Pictures of a City”, “In The Wake of Poseidon”, and “Cadence and Cascade”. It would be followed by the avant-jazz masterwork Lizard
, which welcomed Gordon Haskell, Andy McCulloch and Mel Collins into the band; Haskell and Collins both guested on Poseidon
, although in Haskell’s case, his decision to officially join the band as the successor to Lake would be a regret as he would recall the recording of Lizard
as a rather bad experience.
bucked the trend of following the symphonic blueprint of the first two records, instead delving into manic free jazz vocabulary, thanks to the heavy participation of the best jazz musicians in Britain, such as returning Poseidon
pianist Keith Tippett (who was offered a spot in Crimson around this time), and brass/woodwind players Robin Miller, Mark Charig, and Nick Evans; Yes vocalist Jon Anderson would guest on the first section of the titular epic, entitled “Prince Rupert Awakes”. Increasing usage in new technology such as the VCS3 modulators added a new layer of depth to Crimson’s new sound, which associated with lyricist Peter Sinfield’s fantasy-based writing, created a highly surreal work of art. Following an internal dispute concerning Haskell’s vocal abilities and an increasingly strained working relationship between the Motown devotee and Robert Fripp’s domineering personality, Haskell left the band; McCulloch followed soon after. Now over a year without a proper touring band, Crimson recruited bassist Rick Kemp to join, who after two weeks would depart, leaving Fripp with no other choice but to teach new singer Boz Burrell to play the bass adequately enough for live performance. This new lineup would last for over a year into Spring 1972, and would record the pastoral Islands
and the lo-fi jazz jam freak out that is Earthbound
. This band would shatter not once, but twice. Creative differences would lead to Sinfield’s exit from Crimson on New Year’s Day 1972, and the band all but broke up following the tour for Islands
. Cajoled into fulfilling contractual obligations, the band took to the road once more and conquered America, and renewed the band’s enthusiasm in the process – except for Fripp, that is. In keeping with his highly dictatorial role in Crimson, he would reject most of the other member’s contributions to the band, and insisted they continue practicing a piece known as “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic”, which did not exactly go over well with the band. And so another King Crimson formation was broken up. For years, Fripp all but disowned this three year stretch of uncertainty, bitterness permeating the recording sessions of jazzier exploits of Lizard
and the duress undertaken with the Islands
That’s where Sailors’ Tales
comes into the picture. A massive 21 CD, 4 Blu-Ray, and 2 DVD box set and rife with never before seen memorabilia from the forgotten period in Crimson history, Sailors’ Tales
packs almost everything
from the recording sessions of the three aforementioned albums; also included are soundboard quality recordings of the Islands
band, many of which have never
been available on a physical format, and some of which, have never seen a release of any kind, including the rambunctious “Unidentified 1972 Shows No. 1 and 2”, which captures the band at their grooviest and wealthy with over-the-top jazz excess, which now defines the American 1972 touring unit of this iteration; also present is an extended version of the divisive Earthbound
for those who may or may not be masochistic, and enjoy a more dangerous side to King Crimson and their highly improvisational tendencies. New to the set as well is new takes of popular Crimson cuts like “Islands” (with a new vocal by current vocalist Jakko Jaksyzk), “Prince Rupert’s Lament” and “Happy Family”. Insight into the compositional side of Crimson is present here as well, with new guitar takes of the fiery “Sailor’s Tale”, Keith Tippett’s piano on “Prince Rupert Awakes”, and an alternate version of “In The Wake of Poseidon” giving listeners an instruction on how these dense and complicated songs were pieced together in the studio. Hours upon hours of material is present for listeners, the hardcore and the uninitiated alike, to indulge in; the five-pound box provides listeners with a potentially new outlook on this underappreciated era of King Crimson, and is guaranteed to be worth the price of entry just for the fleeting mellotron strains of “Lizard” alone.