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Customer Review

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Greatest Crimson Album, 19 Jan. 2009
This review is from: Lizard (30th Anniversary Edition) (Audio CD)
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.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 8 Jan 2014 14:32:02 GMT
Savita says:
I'm not sure if there could be a greatest King Crimson album as that suggests that they can actually be compared when many of them are far too different to be properly compared. But nice to read your positive review after seeing the "Utter Crap" 1 star review.

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Mar 2014 00:48:43 GMT
I wholly agree. This is by far my favourite album. During my awkward teenage phase trying to get into King Crimson (back in 2008 or so) I skipped this one, as I heard they were "boring". But now? I absolutely adore it. Really, this will run and run. Thank you for such a concise and positive view, you've said everything far better than I could have!

Posted on 26 Jul 2014 10:09:23 BDT
J. Humar says:
I'm delighted to read such an enthusiastic review of Lizard, which is, in my opinion also, a masterpiece. Bravo sir.

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Aug 2014 09:38:24 BDT
mrqwerty says:
Indeed, the best album KC produced...

Posted on 7 Jun 2015 01:29:38 BDT
czgibson says:
It really does take a few listens to get into 'Lizard'. I agree with all the enthusiasm of that excellently written review, it's a special, strange record. The way it just divides opinion so sharply is an indication of this. It's not unusual to hear Crimson fans say it's their very favourite, or their least favourite of the group's records.

It's also a reminder of a time when bands had record company backing to explore deeply imaginative and unusual musical terrain. The average band nowadays will never experience this kind of freedom.
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