Robert Fripp provides some skeptical and cynical notes about this album. In 2009, he wrote of "Lizard": "Labour and laboring, mostly joyous, strive effortfully to present appearance of cohesion". He also reminds us that "Lizard" was both not as commercially successful as other King Crimson albums and that he doesn't feel it is the most critically accomplished of his albums. That's a lot to say about your work. All the more amazing that Steven Wilson was able to convince Fripp to release this 5.1 surround sound version. This is even more surprising when you realize that "In The Wake Of Poseidon" was skipped temporarily.
Always an amazing mix of progressive rock and jazz, "Lizard" arguably stands out among the best King Crimson accomplishments. Noted for a variety of distortions/effects of different vocals, Wilson manages to extract them and balance them so they stand out clearly and crisply. In fact, all the instrumentals on every track are separated or enhanced to truly bring attention to every detail. These are things that are often missed on the stereo mixes.
"Cirkus" flat out rattles your senses with its mix of rock and freeform blasts. Fripp's mellotron is so powerful, it's stunning. Andy McCulloch on drums is dizzying and emphatic. These tracks (along with others here) take Pete Sinfield's lyrics and elevate the entire song to a nearly psychedelic level. "Happy Family", allegedly a comment on the Beatles break-up is one of the few songs that get muddied in the new mix, but not for great effort from Wilson. The original tracks and "scraps and fragments of stuff" were meticulously remixed. As Sid Smith notes: "For me `Lizard' has always been an album that was too big for stereo to contain." In terms of fusing free-jazz with progressive rock for me, there's almost no parallel." "Lady of the Dancing Water" contains some of the prettiest flute work available anywhere, in fact, all the horns and woodwinds are clearly pronounced. The immense song, "Lizard" with its bridges, alterations and variations is one of the most interesting and strongest songs on the album. With virtually eight songs connected with a barrage of ingenious methods, it becomes an easy favorite. Jon Anderson's vocals on the section, `Prince Rupert Awakes' is alive with strength and beauty complimented by Fripp's stinging mellotron. The album closes with `Big Top', an amusing and somewhat demented climax.
This package conatins the CD with a new 2009 stereo mix and three bonus tracks, (an alternate take of "Lady of the Dancing Water", another remix of "Bolero" and a `studio run through with guide vocal from original session' of "Cirkus". These tracks are great to have, but only "Bolero" stands out as something truly worthy, although this version of "Cirkus" is interesting to hear if only for the improvisation of the vocals.
The DVD contains the album in 5.1 surround sound, the new 2009 stereo mix, the original album (1999 remastered version) and the three bonus tracks. Robert Fripp and Sid Smith's notes make for a very interesting contrast in perspective of "Lizard". If not for the persuasion of Steven Wilson, we might not have ever heard this album in its purest form, that is, every instrument clearly marked out and placed and a sensory experience that you could only hope from any band. "Lizard" ranks up there with "In The Court of the Crimson King".
on 14 March 2004
Not everyone seems to get Lizard, but for musicians in particular, it is safe to recommend it strongly and unreservedly. Some masterpieces reveal themselves on first listening. Others may need numerous hearings before revealing their true glory. Lizard needs several listens. Thereafter it just keeps steadilyimproving (thirty years and counting so far).
The second half of the twentieth century included many pockets of intense innovation in music. Glenn Gould, John Coltrane and the Beatles, amongst many others, come to mind. One Holy Grail for musically ambitious musicians was (and remains) to find ways to create new kinds of music combining the strengths of the long tonal music tradition, mainstream popular music, and jazz. This proved hard to do well. It led to highpoints by, amongst others, Miles Davis, Soft Machine, Steely Dan, Stevie Wonder and Radiohead (though the results were never to everyone’s taste). Lizard represents a magnificent and triumphantly successful original solution to this deep musical challenge, never achieved in anything like this form elsewhere. Despite many well-documented problems in making the album, the key elements are balanced in a way not achieved in any other Crimson album or indeed any other album. Harmonically, the songs are based around spines of carefully structured, mostly modal, harmonic sequences. The harmony is stated in textures which are often highly contrapuntal, with artfully inverted bass lines from famously disenchanted vocalist Gordon Haskell. As well as intricate and precise electric guitar from Fripp and emotionally compelling mellotron washes, it’s wonderful to hear Fripp playing a lot of deft acoustic guitar, and placing sparingly precise synth bleeps to great effect. Key contributions include the outstanding written and improvised saxophone and flute parts from Mel Collins. Keith Tippet’s improvised piano is compelling throughout. Tippet brings his long time top drawer collaborators on oboe, cor anglais, cornet and trombone. Despite any initial impression of chaos, and the startling and effective use of hocketing and freewheeling improvisation, it soon becomes clear that everything in this magnificently contrapuntal vision is always precisely in its right place,
The feeling of balance between precisely composed and improvised materials is exquisite. The modal harmonies and textures are deployed in ways I haven’t heard used elsewhere to phrase the entire album and build towering climaxes. Not everyone likes Gordon Haskell’s singing and Andy McCulloch’s drumming. Others, including me, think,they fit perfectly. Everyone agrees that Pete Sinfield’s artwork, lyrics and overall conception are extraordinary and highly memorable. How come so many Crimson heads, and indeed Fripp himself, don’t rate Lizard as their top Crimson album? I don’t know. But notice how highly a vocal, articulate and substantial minority of the sixty or so reviews on amazon.com do rate it. Lizard is too important just for Crimson heads – it’s an album that easily earns its place at the top table of popular music in the Twentieth Century. Musicians in particular stand to benefit from studying this original masterpiece in detail. Lizard should repay careful listening for every patient music lover too.
on 19 January 2009
Lizard is without doubt the most fully realised, perfectly executed and mysterious of all Crimson albums from their many pre-1974 line-ups. It takes many dozens of repeated listenings to reveal its manifest treasures and I'm still staggered at the sheer musicality and unflinching experimentation on this masterpiece. There's an all-pervading atmosphere of strangeness that colours this album and every track is genuinely a true work of art, as was the original gatefold sleeve of the vinyl LP, that I bought 2nd hand in the late 70s in my early teens and is something that I still treasure today (having bought the CD version as soon as it came out).
Having first been captivated by 'In the Court of the Crimson King', 'Islands' and 'In the Wake of Poseidon', I must confess being utterly lost the first half a dozen times I played it! There are almost TOO many musical ideas jostling for position in most of the songs and this can be disorientating at first. Apart from 'Lady of the Dancing Water' which is a beautiful, tender, almost madrigal-like ballad, every other track contains odd time signatures, impenetrable lyrics and astonishing non-linear structures where much of the instrumental passages are more reminiscent of free-form jazz than rock music. However, with some patience and an open mind, the beauty of this album and its long term rewards will surely be revealed to any true music lover.
There is little point on trying to describe the individual songs or comparing this to any other album created in the 1970s by ANY band, let alone Crimson themselves who were always trying to set the bar ridiculously high because of their leader Robert Fripp. Of course there are elements of the earlier Crimson here: gorgeous waves of Mellotron, Fripp's subtle guitar playing, Sinfield's mystical, almost overblown poetry fueling the lyrics and the sheer grandeur and eccentricity of the themes explored (from the acrimonious breakup of The Beatles to a manic David Lynch-esque vision of a neo-Victorian circus to the sex games of the upper classes to a gigantic battle between good and evil in a faraway Tolkien inspired universe). However, the whole album when taken as a self-contained piece of work is an astonishingly original and never-bettered example of progressive rock at its most daring and uncompromising. It's also hugely enjoyable and that is what makes it such a special album. All the songs are extraordinary mood pieces that go off at odd tangents yet remain totally and logically part of the whole. Once you've invested time to really listen to music and see the wood for the trees that is! The songs are so choc full of ideas I'm still blown away 30 years after first hearing this record and always discovering something new.
Highlights for me are Gordon Haskell's detached, plaintive, sometimes almost hysterical vocals, Mel Collins' magnificent improvisations on sax and cor anglais, stunningly melodic swathes of mellotron, choir and crystalline piano playing on parts of 'Lizard' (the gigantic title track), the brilliance of the darkly caustic lyrics of 'Happy Family' and the masterstroke to use Jon Anderson's haunting falsetto on the opening verses of 'Lizard' with shimmering, echoey mellotron augmenting his singing.
This is a rare Crimson album where everything came together despite the upheavals in the personnel and the virtually impossible heights that the obsessive perfectionist Robert Fripp was always striving for. A beautiful, gigantic, unique work of art that gets better with age and is King Crimson's finest moment.
on 9 November 2009
For those wondering whether there are any sonic differences between this release - the CD stereo remaster - and the 30th Anniversary edition, let me make it very clear that there is a marked improvement on this release over the one from 10 years ago; amongst other things you can hear Keith Tippett's brilliant piano more clearly as well as ALL other instruments. As another reviewer mentioned, the improvements are more noticeable on 'Lizard' than those on 'Red' or 'In the Court of the Crimson King'.
Unlike other remastered albums by other artists, here the quiet bits remain quiet, and the loud ones remain loud, ie this is not only aimed at the mp3 generation, though this new 'Lizard' converted to mp3 files sounds superb.
The extra tracks are also much appreciated, particularly, in my view, Lady of the Dancing Water.
Haven't had a chance to listen to the DVD-A yet, but if the stereo CD version is this good, then the DVD-A will possibly be even 'better'.
on 30 June 2012
When I first heard King Crimson's Lizard, I was dazzled. I was a Lance-Corporal in the South African Defence Force at the time, early 1975, and was introduced to the record by a buddy who was a "freak", i.e. a Hippie. We would jam together, he on his Fender,I on my B-flat clarinet, later tenor sax. At the time I encountered Lizard, I was a tight-tailed little classical musician.
I must have lain in my bungalow in the dark and listened to that vinyl copy of Lizard every night for a month. In contrast to so many rock groups I had heard in the background, these fellows could play and compose. Lizard's first melody, "Farewell the temple master's veil", is a beautifully composed, minor key melody. Lizard follows a well-constructed sequence of almost symphonic logic, as I thought then. Its fine lead guitar solo is like a funeral dirge. I still find it a striking work; there is certainly nothing like it in all the oeuvre of rock music, almost classical in its conception.
Similar things can be said of the songs on the first side of the old vinyl disc. "Circus" again shows masterly construction, from its soft beginning to its strong conclusion and expressive harmonies. The melody is motivically built up in a way that a Brahms might have contrived. "Indoor games" is a parody of "games people play" with similarly parodic constructions of old-fashioned jazz, with a saxophone choir.
The other cut which I loved particularly is "Lady of the dancing waters", with its gentle melody and flute solo. What a variety of contrasting styles and ideas! King Crimson never achieved the superstar status they deserved, largely, I think, because their music is too sophisticated and, yes, intellectual for the average rock-music lover. But to those who have "dicovered" them, they remain a great rock group. And of all their music, it is Lizard to which one constantly returns, even at over 40 years' remove. It is, it the purest sense of the word, a classic.
on 25 August 2007
When this came out i remember being really dissappointed. After all, there was no Greg Lake vocal, no Ian McDonald flute/keyboards and most importantly songwriting skills and also none of the brilliant drumming of Michael Giles which so characterised In The Court of The Crimson King.
So revisiting the re-mastered 30th Anniversary cd today , i am pleasantly surprised to note that the third album is actually quite good and certainly has some good moments. Cirkus and Lady of the Dancing Water stand out as being the most accessible tracks. Mel Collins flute playing is sublime throughtout - as is Fripp's guitar work.
This is still predominantly a songs album - the free-form jazz was to come later. Whilst not as strong as In The court of the Crimson King - its not a bad album and I am glad i bought it (at last)
Having said that - if anyone has'nt heard it, the brilliant McDonald and Giles album tantalisingly points to the direction Crimson might have gone in, if Ian McDonald and Michael Giles remained in the band
Review of `Lizard' 40th Anniversary CD plus MLP Lossless 5.1 & DTS digital surround DVD package.
`Lizard' was released in December 1970, King Crimson's 3rd album & a radical departure in style from their previous recordings. It has a very jazz feel and makes liberal use of classical orchestral instrumentation & musical structures. It sold less well than almost all KC's other albums up to 1980, and is often seen as an oddity. However `Lizard' contains some stand-out pieces, and still sounds fresh after 40 years.
Gordon Haskell (who made a brief appearance on `Poseidon' singing `Cadence & Cascade') joined the band as full-time bass player/vocalist. Haskell's voice is neither strong nor distinctive, but does a workmanlike job. Andy McCulloch plays drums with a precise & understated soft-jazz style, one of the defining characteristics of the album. Mel Collins again plays woodwind & sax, with Bob Fripp on guitars & Peter Sinfield on VCS synthesizer. Jazz pianist Keith Tippett (who started playing on the band's studio sessions at the beginning of 1970 & contributed to `Cat Food' on `Poseidon') again makes an outstanding contribution; Fripp unfortunately failed to persuade him to join the band full-time. Brass/woodwind players Nick Evans, Robin Miller & Mark Charig act as session musicians to help create the album's unique sound. The outstanding cameo is from Jon Anderson, vocalist & founder-ember of `Yes', who Fripp persuaded to sing `Prince Rupert Awakes' which opens the long `Lizard' suite.
The original album:
`Cirkus' opens the album, a classic mellotron-dominated Crimson track a la ItCotCK with Sinfield on top lyrical form describing a circus in full swing - with sinister undertones. A pair of light-hearted jazzy tracks `Indoor Games' & `Happy Family' (describing the then-contemporary break-up of the Beatles with the fab four given pseudonyms) follow, then the short `Lady of the Dancing water' with some fine flute work.
The stand-out track of the album is the `Lizard' suite which took up the whole second side of the original vinyl release. Jon Anderson sings the opening piece `Prince Rupert Awakes' over a simple piano accompaniment, the song then opening out into one of KC's `big sound' numbers with choral backing. The theme continues in the same key with `Bolero' where the brass players & Tippett take over and stretch-out the piece into a long, fine jazz improvisation, to return finally to the main theme. The suite continues with a battle scene orchestrated in a classical-style (i.e. like Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture) & its aftermath `Prince Rupert's Lament' with Fripp producing some long, sustained wailing guitar over a slow bass line, and a closer `Big Top' which returns to the `Cirkus' theme.
The 40th Anniversary offering:
Like other KC releases in this series you get a CD plus audio-only DVD presented in a gatefold sleeve decorated with the distinctive original album cover artwork, images of the album's content presented in the visual style of the Lindisfarne Gospels. A 16-page colour booklet with the song lyrics and story behind the music, written by Bob Fripp and Crimson biographer Sid Smith, completes the package. Fripp mentions that Steven Wilson has `redeemed' the music of `Lizard' and restored it to its original glory.
The DVD is once again the star, with the music offered in MLP Lossless 5.1 surround, DTS 5.1 digital surround, MLP Lossless stereo, PCM stereo 2.0, plus the 30th anniversary remaster of the original 1970 stereo mix. The DVD graphics are easy-on-the-eye, the menu simple to navigate, the sound fabulous. The bonus material includes an alternate version of `Lady of the Dancing Water', an excellent `Bolero' & studio run-thru of `Cirkus'.
Fripp and Wilson have again done an excellent job in resurrecting this fine and unusual music. `Lizard' is a true oddity and proof that KC were never afraid to experiment, combine different styles & produce something unique & special. This is easily the best version we're likely to see, so buying it should be a no-brainer.
on 30 August 2001
The bolero in Pince Rupert is the one piece of music that I would take to my desert Island despite having listened to more times than I care to think of for the last twenty nine years. This is an excellent album, with a highly rewarding combination of some of the best rock and jazz musicians of it's day. Sadly overlooked and sadly ignored as it's lack of reviews demonstrates. Give it a chance. It might be the best CD you never bought.
on 17 November 2006
A band to admire in all their incarnations, although not always easy to like, this album - or rather Side 2 - is my favourite Crimson piece (beating off stiff competition from the 1st 2 albums, Larks Tongues I and II, Sleepless, Starless, Fracture and many more).
The title cut, taking up the whole of "side two", is very unlike anything they did before or since, but superbly written and played. Jon Anderson's vocal paints a Lord of the Rings-y picture, before a jazz bolero takes us into a series of moods. The guitar and fuzztoned wibbling take a back seat to a modern jazz lineup until near the end when a fantastic weaving solo, pre-echoing No Pussyfooting (and Blondie's Fade Away and Radiate), builds over an irregular bass thump. The Man.
Not sure where this sits in Fripp's view of things - for the Great Deceiver box set he replaced Gordon Haskell's vocal and bass on Cadence and Cascade with Belew and Levin, so I wondered if he might have some revisionist approach to the whole Haskell era. But a desirable replacement for worn-out vinyl for me.
What have we got?
CD with the original album with a new stereo mix plus bonus tracks.
DVD with a multitude of extras:
1) 5.1 remix in MLP (DVDA) and DTS (for all DVD players including Blu Ray)
2) New Stereo version in MLP (DVDA) and PCM (for all DVD players)
3) Hi Rez. Stereo original mix of the album MLP (DVDA) and PCM (for all DVD players)
4) Bonus tracks in stereo.
5) A booklet with sleeve notes from the enigma that is Robert Fripp
The sound quality is excellent pretty dynamic and not suffering from the curse of modern production that is compression and loudness. The music is both well played and is progressive-jazz (That is really not a bad thing).
Genesis fans maybe jealous that this has both the new and old stereo mixes in hi resolution for the fans to choose what they want. And for those that like surround the surround mix discrete dynamic and opens up the sound field using the rears in a sympathetic way, this really is demonstration stuff and lizard positively zips along with the new mix.
If only all reissues were competed with this much care and attention to detail. Music fans buy and you won't be disappointed, this really is good.