Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

King Crimson In The Wake Of Poseidon (1970)


One of the most confused albums in the whole history of King Crimson, this was recorded not exactly in the wake of Poseidon, rather in the wake of McDonald’s and Giles’ departure from the band. The latter might not have been exactly tragic since Giles was never an extremely prolific drummer, but the loss of McDonald was truly a terrible blow for the band that lost its Mellotron soul and main songwriting talent.

Okay, so the Mellotron wasn’t exactly lost: Fripp took over the instrument and in the process created the image of a whacked multi-instrumentalist picking the guitar with one hand and tapping the keyboards with the other. However, McDonald’s songwriting was a somewhat harder task to replace, and this is where Fripp lost the battle.

Another blow was Greg Lake’s sudden decision to quit the band and join ELP in the middle of the recording sessions. Thankfully, he decided to fulfil his obligations by faithfully helping old friend Bob with both the bass parts and, more importantly, the singing: all of the tracks but one feature Greg’s beautiful voice, and only ‘Cadence And Cascade’ showcases his replacement, Gordon Haskell. Other replacements include Mel Collins on sax and flute and Keith Tippet on piano; old friend Peter Giles helped on base, and Michael Giles still filled in on drums, although this would be his last appearance with the band. Not that it matters – the sooner you bring in Bill Bruford, the better.

Okay, the songs. If you heard Epitaph before this one (which, strange enough, happens to be my case), you’ll be glad to discover some old numbers. ‘Pictures Of A City’ is the same as ‘A Man, A City’, for one, and it sounds infinitely better in the studio than it did live: the band is well-oiled, the booming verses rock almost as hard as ’21st Century Schizoid Man’, and the crazy middle part is overwhelming, although the best part about the song is still the famous jazz riff that introduces the song.

I still regard it as one of King Crimson’s finest creations. ‘The Devil’s Triangle’ is a re-write of ‘Mars’ with a little more complicated arrangement. It is said to feature three different parts, but they’re not that different really, except for an unexpected change of time signature in the second half of the composition. As you might expect, it also superates the live version, and the level of consternation it produces is immeasurable, with all these creepy synth noises imitating… imitating what? An attack by aliens, I guess? Whatever, it’s just a great song, tons better than anything Yes could ever hope to produce.

The other compositions are new, but they’re okay. There’s a ‘I Talk To The Wind’-style ballad – ‘Cadence And Cascade’, with horrendously stupid lyrics set to a nice, luxuriant, piano-laden melody. It might be deemed a little too pop sounding for King Crimson, but hey, let us not forget that ‘prog rock’ rarely sounds like ‘rock’, all of these Yes and Genesis and even Pink Floyd tunes are more ‘pop’ than ‘rock’, partly due to the domination of keyboards.

In fact, this King Crimson stuff generally rocks much harder than the other prog rock bands, just because Fripp rarely let the guitar be overshadowed by other instruments. So why shouldn’t ‘Cadence And Cascade’ sound poppy? It’s a good song. The single ‘Cat Food’, on the other hand, is a rock song, dominated by weird avantgarde dissonant piano bursts and Lake’s eerie shouting that is strangely similar to his style on early ELP records. Well, why strangely? Early ELP records belong to the same time period. The lyrics are dumb just as well, but who cares? They have been written by Pete Sinfield.

That said, I’d like to prattle a little about the title track. Essentially it’s just an inferior rewrite of ‘Epitaph’ because the melody’s just the same; the main difference is that it’s a bit louder, with synths and Mellotrons complementing Lake’s lilting vocals where they were mostly silent on ‘Epitaph’. The lyrics are also inferior; ‘Epitaph’ at least boasted great lines like ‘the wall on which the prophets wrote is cracking at the seams’, this one mostly has lines like ‘Plato’s spawn cold ivyed eyes snare truth in bone and globe’ (Jon Anderson, let’s shake hands).

So you could just consider it a ripped-off step down the stairs. And yet, it has a charm of its own that’s lacking on ‘Epitaph’. The synths give it a more classical feel, and there’s a certain grandeur, once again, which Yes could never attain, maybe because this one is more structured, well-cared-for and just more listener-friendly. I enjoy it as hell, and so should you. Fripp might not be a great songwriter, but he certainly can monkey other people’s ideas with a lot of verve, and God bless him for that.

The only slight letdown on the album, in fact (if you forget about the fact that at times the whole record seems like a pale shadow of In The Court), are the three reprises of ‘Peace’, the really pretentious one. ‘I am the ocean lit by the flame, I am the mountain, peace is my name’. It mostly features Lake singing accapella, and this only makes the song more nauseating.

Still, these reprises are short, and they rarely spoil the overall experience. A great, great album – yes, a big rewrite of the band’s debut in general, but at least the melodies are different and at least they don’t play in the AC/DC style. Get it!

May 4, 2013 - Posted by | King Crimson In The Wake Of Poseidon |

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