Thursday, 15 February 2018

"In The Court Of The Crimson King: 40th Anniversary Series" by KING CRIMSON (October 2009 Panegyric CD and DVD-A Reissue - Robert Fripp and Steve Wilson Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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There can't be too many album covers as iconic as this - Barry Godber's startling painting still having the capability of shock and awe - even now. But then everything about King Crimson's debut album was more than a little different and ready to shake up the old and herald in the new. The birth of Progressive Rock some say. Well here we go at a rebirth on CD - because this 2009 Steve Wilson/Robert Fripp overseen Remix and Remaster is the nut's butts in every way. Here are the cat's foot and the iron claw (and that's just the CD)...

Released October 2009 - "In The Court Of The Crimson King" by KING CRIMSON is a 40th Anniversary Series CD and DVD reissue on Panegyric KCSP1 (Barcode 633367400123) and breaks down as follows:

Disc 1 - 2009 STEREO MIX remixed from original multitrack master tapes - (78:15 minutes):
1. 21st Century Schizoid Man (including "Mirrors") (7:24 minutes)
2. I Talk To The Wind (6:00 minutes)
3. Epitaph (including "March For No Reason" and "Tomorrow And Tomorrow") (8:53 minutes)
4. Moonchild (including "The Dream" and "The Illusion") (9:02 minutes) - [Side 2]
5. The Court Of The Crimson King (9:31 minutes)
Tracks 1 to 5 are the original Stereo album "In The Court Of The Crimson King" - released October 1969 in the UK on Island ILPS 9111 and December 1969 in the USA on Atlantic SD 8245

6. Moonchild (Full Version - 12:16 minutes)
7. I Talk To The Wind (Duo Version - 4:56 minutes)
8. I Talk To The Wind (Alternate Mix - 6:37 minutes)
9. Epitaph (Backing Track - 9:06 minutes)
10. Wind Session [21st Century Schizoid Man Intro - 4:31 minutes]

Tracks 1 to 5 - Original Album Remixed In MLP Lossless 5.1 Surround and DTS 5.1 Digital Surround (track names as per Disc 1)

Tracks 6 to 10 - 2009 Stereo Mix (track names as per Disc 1)

Tracks 11 to 15 - Original 2004 Master Edition - Simon Heyworth Remaster (track names as per Disc 1)

Tracks 16 to 20 are Additional Audio Content is in MLP Lossless Stereo 2.0 and  PCM Stereo 2.0 (track names as per 6 to 10 on Disc 1)

Tracks 21 to 25 are The Alternate Album
21. 21st Century Schizoid Man (Instrumental)
22. I Talk To The Wind (Studio Run Through)
23. Epitaph (Alternate Version)
24. Moonchild (Take 1)
25. The Court Of The Crimson King (Take 3)
[Note: 21 to 25 are alternate takes mixed for the first time from the original studio recordings]

1. 21st Century Schizoid Man (Edit). Film from Hyde Park concert 5 July 1969 available for the first time with original audio from the actual performance

The matt outer slipcase houses a gatefold card digipak within - the CD having the cover artwork while the DVD has the inner smiling face (with fangs!). The oversized 16-page colour booklet is a surprisingly short affair - reissue credits, some liner notes from guitarist ROBERT FRIPP, a repro on the centre pages of the album's inner gatefold, some live photos (a fun shot of Barry Godber in a record shop holding the album looking at his handywork on the front cover) and an appreciation of the album and its historical placing by SID SMITH. But the real deal is in the indepth Steve Wilson/Robert Fripp Remix and Remaster - and wow is a word that jumps to mind. Every track of this overly familiar album is improved and I'm amazed also at the quality of the bonus material - especially on Disc 1.

Designed to scare the knackers of your aging Uncle Bob - "21st Century Schizoid Man" kicks off proceedings with a fuzzed-up vocal wallop. It's never been a favourite of mine but I know others worship at its anarchic feet. What is not dismissible however is the power of the sound. It comes at you head-on and feels like you're hearing the record anew - what an unbelievably powerful racket they made. After the madness of "Schizoid Man" -the flute-laden softness of "I Talk To The Wind" and Greg Lake's hippy lyrics now feature stunning delicacy that was hard to get on original vinyl LP. Its six-minutes are suddenly warm and cackle-free in those quiet parts - frankly frank it sounds beautiful. We're into Moody Blues Mellotron territory for the very Crimson "Epitaph" - with those acoustic guitar strums plinging in your speakers with fabulous clarity. At about 6:20 when the song goes into a soft break - the drums and bass are 'so' good and that Mellotron is just `there' in the mix rather than swamping the whole thing. "Mankind is in the hands of fools..." Greg Lake sang on "Epitaph" and it's a bit worrying just how relevant those lyrics still are.

If any one track showed improvement most it would be the trippy Side 2 opener "Moonchild". Its soft guitar and vibes part at about 2:24 now sound gorgeous- and while tape hiss is still in evidence - it's not been crushed out by Wilson or Fripp - but controlled. They've allowed the centre section to breath and the delicacy of Robert Fripp's playing allied with Ian McDonald's vibes and the percussion of Michael Giles is now what you hear. And it stays that way until the Jazz flip-out towards the end. In fact its nine-minutes now feel so AMBIENT and ENO - but years before these phrases become common terminology. It ends on the epic title track with that huge Mellotron/Vocal refrain sounding clearer than ever. The drums, booming bass and acoustic guitar have lovely separation too when they kick in while the madrigal reprise ending is properly full on. A genius beginning of an album that still sounds so far ahead of its time it's embarrassing.

The extras are shockingly good - I love the 'Duo Version' of "I Talk To The Wind" with Robert Fripp on acoustic guitar with Ian McDonald giving it some reeds - it just so pretty - Fripp's playing amazingly fluid and musical. The 'Alternate Version' is over a half-minute longer than the album cut and features different solos (with the same gorgeous sound quality as the album cut). There's a "one, two, three, four..." count-in before we get the epic Mellotron beginning of "Epitaph" and then - no lyrics! It sounds great but strange! What it does do is to allow you to concentrate on the playing - which is incredible - and you can almost 'feel' EMERSON, LAKE and PALMER being formed as Lake plays...

The DVD is jam-packed if not a tad repetitive with the endless mixes - but for most - the important set of tracks here is the `Alternate Album' with a great `Take 3' of "The Court Of The Crimson King". And it doesn't have the nonsense that is "Wind Session" which is faffing about in the studio with well `wind' and sounds ("it's meant to be frightening...but it's not..."). The Surround Mix (which I heard on a mate's system) is mindblowingly good - and makes me realise why so many audio fans go nuts for 5.1 - especially when it’s done properly.

Subtitled "An Observation by KING CRIMSON" - this album has arrived at legendary status - especially in the last few decades. And on the strength of this quality reissue - that's hardly surprising. Well done again to Steven Wilson and the good people involved...
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