King Crimson - Red
ON October 6, 1974 "King Crimson" released its seventh studio album "Red".
This is a dark and gloomy album, and at the same time strong and powerful, which is undoubtedly ahead of its time. One of the two peaks of the band's work, whose first incarnation can be described as two formidable mountains located at the beginning and end of the route, with a huge string bridge in the form of Robert Fripp's guitar strings connecting them.
The first mountain is the band's Everest, a timeless masterpiece in the fullest sense of the word, in the form of the band's debut album, and one of the greatest albums in music in general - "In The Court Of The Crimson King" from 1969.
The other is the band's "Annapurna", the second peak in height, a little lower than the "Everest", but still, mighty, sharp, jagged, rough, and cruel. One you would not want to fall from.
How rough and cruel? As jagged as rock blades, in the form of the "Fuzz effect" of John Wetton's bass guitar, as cruel as the distortions of Robert Fripp's electric guitar that blows on you as hard as a 120 mph wind and polish your skin, such as Bill Bruford's rolling drum avalanche, sliding towards you with tremendous speed. So powerful that Kurt Cobain has described this album as one of his most influential. So mighty that "Tool" members have openly stated it made a huge impact on their work.
The power of this album is well reflected even in its title. The band members often crossed the allowable volume limit beyond the "red" line, during the album recordings. They realized that during this long stay in the red area of the scale there is something deeper than the volume button of "Spinal Tap" that reaches up to number 11. They realized that this album was going to be more powerful than any other album they had made up to that point, so they named it "Red".
In analogy to the "String Bridge" that connects the two peaks of the band's career, this album, too, relies on two formidable works, located at the beginning and end of the record. Works of which the string bridge that holds the entire album is anchored with "metal" pegs.
The first is "Red", the pinnacle of "Annapurna" which opens up the album. A crazy and revolutionary instrumental track that was the first to be recorded for the album. Robert Fripp the genius wrote the piece based on the heavy guitar riff recorded in overdubbing with three layers of guitar, to create the metallic sound. The piece was very difficult to record and at one point almost even shelved. Bill Bruford did not understand at first what Fripp wanted from him and what the hell he was supposed to play. He did not find a role for the drums and was very frustrated. Robert Fripp was already thinking of giving up, but John Wetton who really liked the piece insisted, and Bruford asked to be given another chance. Finally, Bruford perfectly grasped the piece and he just plays here ingeniously on drums and percussion. The bridge part is played by a cello that is transmitted through an effect that gives it a rough sound. Even though during the recording "King Crimson" has already become a power trio, as the album cover reveals, the band used Guest musicians, including violinist David Cross who was fired from the band shortly before, and former band members Ian McDonald and Mel Collins, and other hired musicians.
The second piece is the "Everest" - the other peak of the album - "Starless". An ingenious work that does not have even one unnecessary moment and in which all the instruments fit together just perfectly. The mellotron played by Robert Fripp wraps all this piece in soft cotton wool, the amazing combination of McDonald's alto saxophone and Collins' soprano saxophone, Broford's percussions that suddenly surprise you out of nowhere, Fripp's erupting guitar creaks and the mighty dissonance between the psychotic bass playing of Wetton to his soft, caressing singing. The piece was originally supposed to be called "Starless and Bible Black", as the lyrics reveal, but to avoid confusion with the band's previous album which was released earlier that year and answers to the same name, its name was shortened to "Starless".
Between these two mighty peaks are two excellent tracks per-se and one good song, whose whole "sin" was that they stood too close to the two mighty peaks we mentioned above.
The first, "Fallen Angel", is a kind of ballad that tells the story of a boy who is dragged by his older brother into a gang and eventually finds his death in an unnecessary gang war. A dynamic song that after the cello intro begins soft and quiet, but gradually develops as the plot of the story progresses. Robert Fripp also plays acoustic guitar here, this is one of the few times he has done so and to the best of our memory even to this day. One should also mention Robin Miller's oboe playing and Mike Charing's cornet playing that add pure magic to the song.
The second is the song that seals the first side of the vinyl - "One More Red Nightmare" led by Fripp's all-too-typical riff. Bruford's drumming is simply a school for drummers. What dribbles, what crazy transitions between rhythms, just crazy drumming, and without a doubt one of his great moments. And what a sound have the cymbals here, you will surely recognize what we are talking about, a sound that cannot be reproduced at all. And why? Bruford found these cymbals in the studio's trash can, battered and beaten. He fixed them a bit and used them during the recording of this song. Also playing in this song is Ian McDonald who was in the initial lineup of the band and was among its founders playing the saxophone. The song was influenced by the band's difficulty on tours which Wetton described as "another red nightmare." It is not clear if John Wetton wrote the words about a real case, but the character in the story falls asleep during the flight and wakes up during the dive toward the ground ...
The third is the track that opens the other side of the album and is possibly the weak song on it. "Providence" is a kind of improvisational segment, recorded at the band's performance that year. It was brought to the album after the editing out the crowd's channel. A piece that might prove the genius and virtuosity of the band during gigs, but it sounds detached from this perfect album.
The album was not so successful in real-time, but won much praise from critics over the years. It is ranked in "Rolling Stone" Magazine's 100 Best Albums List of the '70s, with the theme song ranked in that magazine's 100 Best Guitar Songs of All Time. Unfortunately, even before the release of the album, Robert Fripp simply disbanded "King Crimson" to the great astonishment of Bruford and Wetton, who rightly believed that it was the band's best album.
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