on 7 October 2009
My favourite King Crimson album. It has everything that was ever great about early Crimson (and it seemed, both at the time and now) to perfectly sum up the band's first phase. Tuneful songs, dramatic music, jazz improvisations ... Red is a powerful, emotional, crash-bang-wallop of an album which has never been far from my turntable/cd player since it was first released in 1974. I know it inside out - every word, every crash on the cymbals, every power chord, every note of Sir Robert's guitar.
So I reckon this is my fourth copy of 'Red' - the previous being the 30th anniversary edition on CD. So why buy another? The extra tracks are interesting and the video content surprisingly good (both sound and picture). But it was the anticipation of playing the re-mastered DVD version I was really looking forward to and - WOW - I was not disappointed.
The sound is warm - it reminds me of the original vinyl rather than the two previous CD versions. Playing it LOUD produces no distortion and the instruments and John Wetton's vocals are all clear and balanced. But the surprise is the mix - I hear the vocals up front; I am much more aware of the saxes, oboes, violins, even (uncredited) cellos. Wetton's tuneful bass and young Mr Bruford crashing away in the foreground have never sounded so good.
In the end, I do not really have the words to describe just how good Red is - I laughed out loud the first time I listened to this new version and it has brought a tear to the eye of this 56 year old several times in the last couple of days. Warmly - no, crashingly - recommended
What have we got?
CD with the original album stereo mix plus 3 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) Stereo version in MLP (DVDA) and PCM (for all DVD players)
3) A French TV program ½ hour of Live King Crimson from 1974 with an excellent Video and sound transfer.
4) Bonus tracks in 5.1 and stereo.
5) A booklet with sleeve notes from the enigma that is Robert Fripp
The sound quality is excellent not suffering from the curse of modern production this is pretty dynamic. The music is both well played and is heavy-progressive-jazz (That is really not a bad thing) there is also a lightness of touch especially the standout track for me `Providence' (two versions on this disc original album and full length an extra two minutes) and the surround mix discrete dynamic and opens up the sound field using the rears in a sympathetic way, this really is demonstration stuff.
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.
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?
on 28 August 2013
I thought this re-release would be a great opportunity to own one of my favourite Crimson albums on vinyl, but I have been very disappointed. This is the third copy I have received from Amazon due to the first two having a serious pressing fault which is a localised warp which renders the first track on side one ("Red") unplayable as the needle lifts off the vinyl. I thought the first copy must have been damaged but the second copy was identical. Now I have received my third copy and that too has the identical fault. I have over 2,000 LPs and I play them on high end audiophile equipment so I know there is nothing wrong with my turntable. In the end I have resorted to heating the vinyl with a hair dryer and pressing the vinyl flat with heavy books. This has rendered the album playable although there is still a noise as the needle passes over that part of the vinyl but for £13 it is acceptable. Anyway, no need to review the content here as that is a given and there are many many reviews to which another from me would add little. Potential buyers beware and look out for this fault which has clearly not been resolved by the manufacturer.
For me, "Red" is the definitive King Crimson album, and one of the best rock albums of this or any other era.
The title - and the back-cover picture of a dial with the needle well into the red - denote danger, and the album is characterised by a dark, edgy feel.
By this time, KC had been slimmed-down to guitarist Robert Fripp who also played mellotron, John Wetton (later of Asia, and a superb solo artist) on bass and vocals, and Bill Bruford on percussion. All three individual performances are superlative throughout. Fripp's guitar and mellotron work is excellent, Wetton's vocals perfectly complement the instrumentals, and Bruford's performance thoroughout the album verges on the miraculous.
Also making significant contributions were David Cross (violin), Mell Collins (soprano sax), Ian MacDonald (alto sax), Robin Miller (oboe) and Marc Charig (cornet).
The album kicks off with the title track (6.16), a superb instrumental which sets the dark, edgy and classy tone of the album as a whole. "Fallen Angel" (5.58) finds vocalist Wetton in fine form, accompanied by some superb drumming from Bruford.
"One More Red Nightmare" (7.07) again sees the band in fine form. It starts off with a percussion-driven session which segues into an edgy vocal from Wetton. KC then move into an excellently performed instrumental section (listen out for the sax solos here).
"Providence" (8.06) is a remarkably original track, and it can take several listens to appreciate fully the artistry and complexity that the band weave into this performance.
And then comes King Crimson's tour-de-force - "Starless" (12.18), an epic which, for me, is the finest track that the band ever produced.
The track begins in lyrical mood, in which Wetton's excellent vocals are wonderfully complemented by a sax solo of marvellous tone and feel. After about four minutes, the track shifts into a second movement, an ascending, edgy instrumental section in which all of the instrumentals are on the top line (listen out for Bruford here). About nine minutes into the track, we get an explosive section in which amazing sax playing takes the lead. Finally, we're back into the lyrical theme, leading to the kind of crescendo of which King Crimson were the masters.
So there you have it - a wonderful, dark, magisterial rock album. Forty minutes tend to pass very quickly with this album.....
on 15 April 2002
This is not a pleasent listen at first if you are not used to KC, and this is where I first started. It took a quite a few listens for me to get on with it, but it was worth it as further listens confirmed that it is an immaculate LP, and I don't think I'm anywhere near fully appreciating it yet. The first three are intense almost overbearing pieces which really demonstrate the tensiuon between the players, who were hardly talking. The title track is a Fripp composition, and that is quite evident when you hear it, and it is a very good reason to buy it. 'Fallen Angel' and '1 more Red Nightmare' are just as good. Its actually quite intimidating listening to such angry sounds coming out of players who know EXACTLY what they are doing; much moreso than on prevous KC LPs. 'Providence' is an improv from the Starless & Bible Black' days with David Cross. Contrary to another review this is not 'unneccessary' and given patience it erupts spectacularly. 'Starless' is a reworking of the title track from the previous LP, which was an improv. The transformation is such that it is only recognisable after careful and repeated listenings. Insufficient space to give it the write up it deserves, but suffice to say it is a fitting finale to KC, who died with a roar not a whimper, and when eventually ressurected the direction was radically different. The end of an era.
on 27 September 2006
This album, released in late 1974, was to be the last of the Fripp/Bruford/Wetton albums. It continues along the same lines as its predecessor Starless and Bible Black, but in a more concise manner. Bill Bruford is the star of the show here. His percussion is agressive and inventive, whilst retaining its trademark neatness and penchant for precision. Overall, it works well with Wetton's thunderously powerful bass work. At this point, KC must've had one of the most muscular, hard hitting rhythm sections in popular music. Fripp is known for his cerebral, fluid and detailed approach to guitar playing, so it's interesting to find his work here much less dominating and less complicated than usual. This isn't to say that it's uninteresting! He plays exactly the right parts for the songs and his tone is heavy without being fuzzy and too bassy. The weakest track on the album is Providence, a track recorded live during their Italian tour of that era. It takes repeated listenings to fully appreciate its value, yet it is somewhat overshadowed by the other tracks. The last track, Starless, is a fantastic song which builds up after the vocals stop into a tense, hectic instrumental in an odd time signature. Bruford is magnificent here and the woodwind and brass work very well. Fripp plays some quite emotional mellotron lines during the intro and outro. This album offered and aggrression and power quite unlike the other rock musicians of the day: It wasn't bluesy, it didn't have lots of guitar solos, it didn't feature a star frontman vocalist. It represents an intelligent, English approach to rock music. Kurt Cobain stated that Red was his favourite album. it's easy to see why.
on 11 October 2009
This is my first review on Amazon, and although I hate to be a "spoil sport," I feel compelled to give an opinion. The 40th anniversary version of Red, by King Crimson, has left me a bit flat. I am not some audiophile, but the album section sounded very odd indeed. To begin with, Bill's snare lacked the old "rim shot" ring (although it was blaringly lovely in the trio version of "Fallen Angels"). As the CD opens (Red) Bruford's drums sound like cardboard boxes. They get better after the middle section, but from there on, the entire thing becomes strange. There is no question that the session players benefit from the new mix, but Bill suffers in many ways (good kick, but the snare is compromised throughout). The trio material suffers less, but...
On the other hand, the extras are a treat. I finally got a chance to introduce the mighty "Metal Crimson" to my wife and daughter. I caught KC at the Felt Forum, New York, in 1974, and my descriptions had been seen as fiction by my family, but the videos have demonstrated that words could not describe the wonders of an early King Crimson show. Too bad "Night Watch" was presented in silhouette, we were all let down on that one (good performance, nevertheless).
I cannot give it the five stars rating, as a remix, but as a package, given the video extras (short as they were) it merits a good four stars. I ordered The Beatles remastered albums, and I loved them (no messing with the mixes there). So, my suggestion for Mr. Fripp (whom I had the pleasure of meeting back in 1980) is package all the videos of early Crimson you can find and let us feast. There is a huge market for that, but the albums...Let us enjoy them as close to the originals as possible (full bass and crisp high-end yes, but don't mess with Bill's ringing snare!).
`Red' is the final recorded work of the 1972-74 Bruford-Wetton-Cross era King Crimson, released in 1974 following the demise of this high-achieving line-up.
Though he had already quit the band, violinist David Cross plays on the jazz-style `Providence'; former band members Mel Collins and Ian McDonald (both sax players) and oboist Robin Miller also contributed to the sessions, their presence felt most strongly on the long closing track `Starless.'
The essential meat of the album is the power-trio Fripp, Wetton and Bruford with added garnish from the other contributors - those named above plus others un-credited, to add flavour and variety. The album contains only five numbers, the middle three bookended by the raunchy, full-on title-track opener and the phenomenal closer `Starless', usually regarded as the signature tracks of the collection. This is powerful music and if some of this band's previous creations seemed to occasionally stray into rebellious and nihilistic territory, then here they lose all inhibitions and let go with confidence and gusto to release all the pent-up energy.
On the 2009 `40th Anniversary' re-issue (to commemorate the foundation of the original band, not the 40th anniversary of `Red') sound wizard Steven Wilson again vindicates his deserved reputation for coaxing the best from these old analogue-tape recordings. The DVD features a 5.1 DTS mix of the entire contents of the CD (best appreciated by those with real-deal surround-sound systems) plus high-res stereo mixes, and some rarely-seen performances of the band from French TV in 1974.
The booklet offers period photos of the band from the 1970s, mostly in monochrome, and up-to-date sleeve notes from Bob Fripp and Sid Smith; fans however are unlikely to find much new or revealing content in the text. The striking deep-shadow original monochrome cover photo features just the Fripp-Bruford-Wetton trio in a picture the band reportedly referred to as `The good, the bad and the ugly' - though they never let on which was which.
If you want this classic piece of musical history in your collection, this is the one to go for and even if you have previous versions, it's still worth buying. Now it sounds even better than ever, and the package on offer is a great deal.
on 18 March 2016
I've always been meaning to get a King Crimson album, but, for some reason, have never gotten round to it. When my guitar teacher told me at the end of one of my lessons 'We'll do King Crimson : Red,' next week, I was surprised and finally relieved to have no excuse NOT to buy their albums! I checked out the title track online, loved it, and ordered this album straight away, and here it is!
This is very much a guitar driven album, but a very unusual one at that. Robert Fripp is undeniably a true master of the guitar - as is showcased in the excellent instrumental title track that gets this album going. Very proggy : unusual time signatures, Diminished Scales and weird chords provide for a very unusual, different and refreshing listen - but for the guitarists out there - it's actually surprisingly easy to play!
The overall sound is very much 70's prog rock, but also with a few elements of would then be labelled 'Metal' - the harsh, buzz-saw main riff of the title track for example, but pigeon-holes, genres and comparisons are ultimately useless here, and there is a lot of different styles of music covered here.
Whilst fleeting and seemingly second to the instruments there ARE vocals here, which, if you haven't heard them before, sound a little like post-Syd Barrett Pink Floyd e.g. 'Fallen Angel.'
This album is not for dumbed down pop fans, King Crimson are way too intelligent musically for anyone thinking Lil Wayne or Taylor Swift is a musical genius! But if you love music, especially of the guitar-driven variety, this is an essential purchase. Don't expect to 'get it' straight away - it may take a few listens. Personally, I found it to be a much needed breath of fresh air and has reinvigorated my love for the guitar.