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This review is from: Red, 40th Anniversary Series (Audio CD)
Q Magazine placed this album in the top-twenty of the fifty heaviest albums of all time, famously a huge inspiration on the likes of Kurt Cobain and apparently Bill Bruford's favourite Crimson album (certainly with the ones he was involved with) it was also seen as the final King Crimson album. Obviously history has shown this was not the case but in 1974 Robert Fripp disbanding King Crimson certainly saddened many as the announcement had a feeling of permanency about it. However, if this had been the final Crimson release they would have gone out on a high.
The five piece line-up that started with "Larks' Tongues in Aspic" had dwindled down to the one remaining constant, lead guitarist/ringleader Robert Fripp alongside drummer Bill Bruford and vocalist/bassist John Wetton. Percussionist Jamie Muir left after "Larks' Tongues" in order to join a Buddhist monastery. David Cross had officially departed before the recording of "Red" but agreed to contribute to the sessions. With five tunes to commit to tape and an entire album to fill, the members of King Crimson inundated alumni, old friends, and session musicians with requirements of help. Several excellent musicians make guest appearances on Red, including Mel Collins and Ian McDonald (last seen in King Crimson's court on "Earthbound" and "In the Court of the Crimson King" respectively). Although the line-up is not consistent the surprising thing is the consistency of the album's feel and tone.
"Red" continues from whence "Starless and Bible Black" left off--with less is more, stripped back and lucid arrangements but this time packed with a great deal more punch. The album opens with the eponymous title-track which is a hard-hitting catchy rock instrumental with an aggressive guitar riff and features an interlude with a cello solo. A very impressive album opener that grabs you by the balls and forces you to listen: an aggressive, exciting and exhilarating listening experience.
Things calm down with the second track, musically. "Fallen Angel" juxtaposes quiet but driving rhythm with disturbing lyrics. The song is about a boy who gets his younger brother to join the gang he is in, and eventually watches him die in a fight. The verse is in 4/4 and the chorus in 6/8. Uncommonly for this period of Crimson, oboe and Alto saxophone can be heard. Interestingly "Fallen Angel" is the last King Crimson recording to date to feature Robert Fripp playing acoustic guitar.
"One More Red Nightmare" is a bloody great track. Not only the best on the album but one of my overall favourite Crimson tracks. The song is about a nightmare inspired by the fear of flying and tells the story of a man who falls asleep on a Greyhound bus. The character in the story dreams that he's riding in an airplane and awakens just before the plane hits the ground.
The songs overall riff is brilliant and has a good groove to it but as you can imagine from the title and the fact it is by King Crimson, the nightmare element (i.e. bloody scary) is in great musically talented abundance. The vocal sections are in 4/4 time, with instrumental sections in 15/8, 7/4, and 12/8. Furthermore, it is this track Ian McDonald makes his first appearance on the album.
"Providence" is experimental art jazz and highly listenable but is the albums only weak moment. For the albums tight punchy delivery the track does meander somewhat. Yet, it still retains the dark mood and tone as heard elsewhere and for that reason, it still coheres with the rest of "Red".
The final track, "Starless" returns to the albums glory and is a great way to close the album. The track is epic and in some-way harks back to "Epitaph" from "In the Court of King Crimson", mainly for its use of mellotron. It begins as a simple vocal-laden tune with the mellotron creeping in and Fripp's guitar leading the proceedings beatifically. So far, so calm--however, the track descends into a discordant jam of noise (of course, still listenable) and fades out on a despondent melancholy note.
"Red" is an absolutely brilliant album and it feels as though the moment the fantastic "In the Court of the Crimson King" was released , that absolutely brilliantly formed album, the band were reaching for this as their ultimate goal. Goal reached and all tasks carried out with great aplomb. Thankfully, we would not see the end of King Crimson but how would they be able to better this?
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Initial post: 16 Mar 2015 10:03:30 GMT
Last edited by the author on 16 Mar 2015 10:03:51 GMT
Prog Rob says:
Interesting and well-conceived review. I agree that 'Providence' is the only weak spot - perhaps I'm missing something here but it meanders along for far too long at the start.
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