King Crimson – Red
1974 – Island Records
This album is heavy. King Crimson has gone through many lineups and directions for their sound through the years since their inception in 1968 (they are still on tour right now)! This album came right before a temporary hiatus and featured the trio of Robert Fripp, John Wetton, and Bill Bruford. There are guest musicians throughout the tunes as well, but the core trio really hammers it home. John Wetton’s bass playing holds together the arrangements and gives it the dark, sinister sound that I love. As usual with King Crimson, time signatures change pretty regularly, but never in a way that is jarring. They all flow together nicely. Tunes like “One More Red Nightmare” feature super heavy riffs that transform, at least in this tune, into a demented dance track under the vocals. There is a live improvisation called “Providence” that was recorded at PPAC before it was called that. The real highlight of this album, to me at least, is “Starless”. This tune encapsulates all that is right with this LP. It starts as a nice standard tune with a cool guitar/alto sax counterpoint then devolves into one of the heaviest points on the album. Fripp repeats a single note in a cool pattern while Wetton sneaks in with a slow, but propulsive bass part. The way that the bassline interacts with the guitar is awesome and totally sets the mood. Scraped, bowed, and rolled cymbals mix with various percussion to signify the change in atmosphere. As the drums build in intensity, everything starts to open up a bit more. I could be wrong, but I think it’s in 13 (which makes it even cooler). It jumps to a doubletime for the sax solo, then recycles the vocal line from the top of the tune with the guitar over different chords. It all builds in the end, mixing everything together. This is such a well written song, as is the entire album. I’m sure I’ll review another King Crimson from another era another time, so stay tuned for that!