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KING CRIMSON - Lizard cover
4.11 | 30 ratings | 7 reviews
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Album · 1970


A1 Cirkus (Including: Entry Of The Chameleons) 6:28
A2 Indoor Games 5:38
A3 Happy Family 4:15
A4 Lady Of The Dancing Water 2:43
Lizard (22:24)
Ba Prince Rupert Awakes 4:34
Bb Bolero - The Peacock's Tale 6:30
Bc The Battle Of Glass Tears (Including: Dawn Song / Last Skirmish / Prince Rupert's Lament) 10:55
Bd Big Top 1:05


Bass Guitar, Vocals – Gordon Haskell
Cornet – Marc Charig
Drums – Andy McCulloch
Flute, Saxophone – Mel Collins
Guitar, Mellotron, Keyboards [Electric], Electronics [Devices] – Robert Fripp
Oboe, Cor Anglais – Robin Miller
Piano, Electric Piano – Keith Tippet
Producer – Peter Sinfield, Robert Fripp
Trombone – Nick Evans
Vocals – Jon Anderson (tracks: Ba)
Words By – Peter Sinfield

About this release

Island Records – ILPS 9141 (UK)

Thanks to snobb for the addition


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- Sang Froid Reptile With Overlapping Scales -

After the very lackluster 'In the Wake of Poseidon', this offering from the Crims was something of a return to form.

Given Fripp's penchant for a revolving door recruitment policy at this time, it is remarkable that any of these early recordings possess as much coherence as they do. Lake's absence is not particularly glaring, as Haskell serves up some very inventive and perhaps 'earthier' grooves on the bass and his singing is a real highlight of the album. A childhood buddy of Fripp, we have anecdotal evidence that he found the material here daunting and did not relish the whole undertaking one bit. Regardless of Gordon's misgivings, his vocals lend an interesting texture and counter balance to some of Fripp's epic designs.

I fear the sedentary axe hero overreached himself here with an unwieldy idea for a very ornate but ultimately unsuccessful concept album i.e the side-long 'Lizard' totally outstays its welcome and seems to take an inordinate length of time to explore then squeeze the life out of the musical materials presented.

The playing throughout is quite brilliant and the attention to detail is exemplary, but Fripp has never been shy of squarebashing his very illustrious troops into line, so why does he let Collins, Miller, Charig, Evans and Tippett noodle away just filling up space?

This is a great pity as the lyrical opening section with Jon Anderson's vocal is quite brilliant, managing to encompass groundbreaking structural and key change elements topped off by an exquisite and unforgettable chorus. Thereafter things degenerate into a lengthy and painstaking transition from straight to swung time with the music becoming progressively jazzier but increasingly ragged.

Fripp seems hell-bent on showing off this house to would be investors, but I for one, would keep my money in my pocket if all I am shown is the basement and a meticulous plan of the foundations.

Towards the end we do get some respite courtesy of a gorgeous bagpipe drone sound from Fripp's elegiac and wailing solitary guitar before..... Whoops...they've done it again. We end on a rather predictable note with some speeded up fairground music, a device they should have got out of their systems long after its deployment on previous releases.

Side one of 'Lizard' is much, much better as the shorter song based formats force Fripp and Co into an economy of style woefully absent on most of side two.

'Cirkus' - Haskell's voice lends this a spooky air and the dynamic development is beautifully executed with a sublime police siren riff at the climactic moments. Listen to Fripp's bizarre broken arpeggios on acoustic guitar during the verses and just marvel at how he makes such angular accompaniment work so well. One of Crimson's most underrated songs.

'Indoor Games' - A tune that extra terrestrial female infants practice skipping to in the playgrounds of Pluto? The quiet section in the middle is sublime but what sort of lollies were these guys sucking on?:

'Each afternoon you train baboons to sing on perspex coloured waterwings'

Wonderful acoustic guitar strumming from Fripp on the chorus and fantastic horn arrangement lending the piece a jazzy improvised feel (although its composed down to the very last detail - that's the trick)

'Happy Family' - almost like a nursery rhyme sung by Darth Vader with Haskell's voice twisted beyond all human recognition into a gleeful robotic snarl. Very beguiling little melody that is at once innocent and sinister, framed in a very inventive arrangement with suitably languid flourishes from Robert.

Someone told me once that this song might be about the Beatles but I can't discern any obvious reference to the fab four ?.

'Lady of the Dancing Water' - pretty, as in 'I Talk to the Wind' (slight return), but saved by some beautiful flute and that caramel texture that Haskell's voice lends to proceedings. In contrast with what comes before and after, this song seems like an afterthought. Not strictly filler, but out of context with the thematic feel of the album.

This record does have significant depth and detail so it rewards repeated listens but I fear that the following analogy may help summarize its flaws:

'They were arguing over which brand of camera to use to take pictures of the crash site, all the while oblivious to what caused the accident in the first place'
After the amazing debut and the not-quite-as-amazing follow up, my friends and I wondered as 1970 was drawing to a close just what the revamped lineup of King Crimson would produce with LP #3. If we harbored any ideas that they would continue making exactly the same kind of music as before those thoughts vanished within the first few minutes of listening to this. Of all things considered we never anticipated so much brass and woodwinds and what we quickly realized was that going forward we should only expect the unexpected from this group. For, while most bands were desperately trying to find and establish a bankable identity, Fripp and his cohorts were doing everything they could to force us to abandon our preconceived notions of what we thought they were or should be.

As the album begins a cheerful, tinkling piano fools you into thinking pleasant thoughts as bassist Gordon Haskell's cold voice slowly rises from what sounds like a darkened cell. Soon Andy McCulloch's drums introduce the ominous Mellotron melody that will accompany you throughout your tour of the "Cirkus." Peter Sinfield's confounding, macabre lyrics and Mel Collins' demonic saxophone fills join to create a menacing atmosphere that's surprisingly intimate and not as cavernous as previous albums were. Robert Fripp's distorted electric guitar has been replaced by an acoustic but it still has very sharp teeth. There's a palpable experimental jazz flavor here that was only hinted at before and it mesmerizes as the song's insane carnival aura builds to a dissonant ending. Sly, funky horns lead us to "Indoor Games" and more familiar territory. It is reminiscent of "Cat Food" from "In the Wake of Poseidon" but not as captivating. By now it becomes obvious that a little of Haskell's singing goes a long way and that he's not close to being in the same league as his predecessor, Greg Lake. He holds this tune back. The satiric message gets through but the music drifts a bit before Collins' twisted sax finally adds some spice.

"Happy Family" is next and it is sarcastically aimed right at the Fab Four who had broken up about a year earlier. I detect a clever innuendo of "For the Benefit of Mr. Kite" and "She's So Heavy" in the recurring theme of the song but the jazzy ambience stops it from turning into an unfair lampoon of The Beatles. The flute and electric piano blend is very creative and the fact that they electronically manipulate the vocal keeps Gordon from becoming an albatross around the neck of the proceedings. "Lady of the Dancing Water" is a short, serene song that fascinates by uniting acoustic guitar, flute and Nick Evans' uncharacteristically delicate trombone to slow the pace. Now that you've sampled the appetizers it's time for the main course, the impressive "Lizard." It was a stroke of genius in recruiting Yes' Jon Anderson to lend his angelic vocals to "Prince Rupert Awakes" but at the same time it shines a glaring light on the shortcomings of Haskell as a singer. It's a welcome change to say the least. Keith Tippet's subdued but intricate piano swims just under the surface as the song's minor key verses give way to the major on the engaging chorus. Fripp's reversed guitar lines and gushing Mellotron create a magical feel that permeates the tune. At one point the drums begin to tap out a soft marching beat. The group rides it to segue seamlessly into "Bolero-The Peacock's Tale." This is the album's acme. Mark Charig's cornet, Robin Miller's oboe and cor anglais along with the trombone construct a jazz/rock fusion classic that's part big band, part Dixieland yet arranged in an unorthodox manner that only King Crimson can deliver. Their timing is immaculate, evolving through different phases even though the drums never stray from the underlying bolero rhythm. This is great stuff.

"The Battle of Glass Tears" ensues with "Dawn Song" rerouting things down a more sinister road. Haskell is back with his shaky intonation but his return is blissfully brief as they transition into the fierce conflict that is "Last Skirmish." Here McCulloch does his best imitation of previous drummer Michael Giles and mimics his play-all-around-the-downbeat style admirably. The heavy Mellotron is a throwback to earlier works but the wild flute and trombone spasms keep the tune from becoming a retread. As songs depicting war go, this one is suitably noisy and unnerving. Fripp finally trots out his electric guitar for the somber "Prince Rupert's Lament" and it's well worth your wait. As if the prince is mournfully walking among the bodies of his slain soldiers, the throbbing bass emphasizes Robert's wailing cries that he squeezes out of his strings. It is stark and stunning. Then, almost as an afterthought, you are reminded that life can be a bizarre midway filled with warped mirrors and gruesome clowns as the surreal strains of "Big Top" float about, then fade away into the distance.

You could search for a very long time and never find another album that is as individually unique as this one is. Mastermind Fripp wasn't in the music trade to win popularity contests, he was earnestly trying to express what he heard in his head. This is his abstract art. And love them or not, that's what made King Crimson the most eccentric group of the modern rock era. "Lizard" may not be a masterpiece but there are masterpieces to be found within.

Members reviews

Some probably felt King Crimson hit a brick wall with In the Wake of Poseidon, considering it nothing more than a clone of its debut. That's a bit unfair, because you really can't imagine "Cat Food" and "The Devil's Triangle" having been already explored on its predecessor. True "Pictures of a City" has a "21st Century Schizoid Man" approach, "Cadence and Cascade" resembles "I Talk to the Wind", and the title track is similar to "Epitaph", but that's just side one. On Lizard, Greg Lake and Michael Giles were gong, in comes Andy McCulloch (who later played in Fields and Greenslade)and Gordon Haskell (who already provided vocals on "Cadence and Cascade"), plus a horn section, many members coming from Soft Machine. This is without a doubt the jazziest of the King Crimson albums. "Cirkus" shows that Gordon Haskell has his own voice distinct from Greg Lake. "Indoor Games" shows a less serious side, while "Happy Family" appears to address the breakup of the Beatles (you can even see the Beatles on the cover of the album). "Lady of the Dancing Water" is probably the weakest thing on the album, a pleasant ballad, but nothing much more. The title track is the only side-length piece Crimson ever done. Jon Anderson made a guest appearance (Yes apparently wanted Robert Fripp to replace Peter Banks in Yes, but Fripp declined because he probably knew where Yes was heading, and wouldn't be compatible with the band, and Yes was more democratic than Crimson). There are some bolero/big band jazz passages, and some really strange typical Crimson type parts with Mellotron and even Fripp's trademark sustained lead guitar at the end. It wasn't an easy listen. The rock critics were never kind to this album, even some fans thought they went off the tracks here. But I gave it a few listens, and the payoff was great. It's another great album worth having.
siLLy puPPy


While KING CRIMSON took the world by storm only a year previous in 1969 with their game changing debut, their follow up “In The Wake Of Poseidon” has always felt to me like a collection of B-sides from the leftover bin of tracks from the initial sessions that created them. With LIZARD, the second album of 1970 and third album overall, it feels like Robert Fripp and company took the whole project to a new level of complexity by not only keeping the previous elements that came before but also by upping the ante in pretty much every way. While not the only top class album to take complexity to new levels in the year 1970 (to my knowledge only Marsupalami, Soft Machine and Magma were contenders at this level), Robert Fripp steered his KING CRIMSON project into new grounds a mere fourteen months after the extraordinary “In The Court Of The Crimson King” was unleashed on an unsuspecting public and proved that he was a serious force to be reckoned with. LIZARD is a testament to a focused individual driven to evolve light years above the newly aroused competition nipping at his heals. LIZARD hasn’t always been a bonafide masterpiece in my world but i can happily say that i’ve reached a point of understanding where it all makes perfect sense.


Only two years into the band’s formation, Fripp was already seeing a rotating door policy of musicians who just couldn’t jive with his ambitious visions. In only a year since the debut that ignited the progressive rock powder keg, vocalist and bassist Greg Lake jumped ship to join Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Drummer Michael Giles and wind instrumentalist Ian McDonald would jump ship together to create a lighter version of KC called McDonald And Giles (but McDonald would reunite on “Red”) leaving Fripp as the only original member on LIZARD. The new KING CRIMSON circa last half of 1970 featured Fripp on guitar, Mellotron, synth, organs and other sundries, Mel Collins (Circus) on sax and flute, Andy McCulloch (Manfred Mann, Fields, Greenslade, Crazy World Of Arthur Brown) on drums and Gordon Haskell (Les Fleur de Lys), a long time school friend of Fripp who had contributed one vocal track previously on “Poseidon” and now took the role as lead vocalist on side one. Jon Anderson of Yes would join in for the long behemoth title track that encompassed the entire second half of the original LP release. Also on board were the phenomenal Keith Tippett who also played as a session keyboardists on “Poseidon” as well as other session musicians who added oboe, cornet, trombone and extra vocals.


Everything about LIZARD is more ornate than anything before starting with the album art cover itself. The original LP release was graced by two sides of medieval art with one side spelling KING and the other CRIMSON. While the music doesn’t exactly lead to anything medieval per se save a few classical guitar workouts by Fripp, the album does display a sense of Renaissance in the music scene with its relentless fusion of classical, rock and jazz with the greatest emphasis on the latter. The jazz elements on here are off the hook with saxophone solos, jazzified song structures within the tracks and even segments of progressive big band interaction in full swing. Therefore if you don’t haven’t gotten an A in your jazz appreciation course you probably won’t enjoy this as much as the full-blown jazz fusionist lovers. Miles Davis appears to have been a major influence on this one since the very same year as the KC debut, Davis himself was adopting rock into the jazz world. A year later and following in the footsteps of other rock to jazz fusionists like Frank Zappa and The Mothers Of Prevention, KING CRIMSON was gracefully taking it on to create equally complex and sophisticated music.


Just to give you a sense of how complex this album is, most of the lyrics are actually represented in the art work itself. For example, the “I” in CRIMSON is a caricature of The Beatles and is a direct reference to the track “Happy Family” which referred to the breakup of the band. The lyrics get even more detailed about certain aspects of the band. The artwork and lyrics go hand in hand to create a much larger story as does the music thus creating a never ending level of complexity that the listener can delve into as deeply as the listener wants. The downside to all this complexity including the hardcore jazz aspects is that it is a bit alienating for the uninitiated and non-adventurous listeners especially following much more digestible tracks like “20th Century Schizoid Man” that had put KING CRIMSON in the eyes and ears of a totally new generation of music lovers only a year prior. LIZARD perhaps had gone too far too fast for many fans, however this album is not without its instant gratification. There are melodies aplenty to be savored albeit with allusions to all kinds of obscurities in the mix, both lyrically and musically. The music literally has taken decades for fans to catch up with.


The album seems to be as divided musically as it is divided from the front and back side of the album cover. Side one sporting Haskill’s vocals is the jazzier of the two sides which focuses more on the jazz meets rock aspects fueled with dissonant yet melodic hooks and horn heavy segments with occasional avant meanderings, whilst side two is much more in the symphonic prog world with Jon Anderson displaying sublime vocals and a glimpse into his future solo career projects. It also has a propensity to delve into the world of free jazz and the avant-garde including warped time perception and utter detachment from the musical world altogether. While the two album sides are clearly delineated by style, they somehow form a cohesive mood and feel after many listens. The prog behemoth that constitutes the title track includes four segments with the third being subdivided into three subparts and successfully manages to create a frenzied prog workout that takes the listener on a true musical journey very much in accord with classical music symphonies, operas, concertos and sonatas. The transitions from one style to another are somewhat subtle as they never just jump into each other’s turf. The transitions are gradual like gentle sand dunes slowly changing the topography of a vast desert where mirages from a camel ride slowly merge into each other. It’s really hard to grasp upon just a listen or two how much was put into this one.


The simple truth is that LIZARD is one of the very first progressive rock albums that is like climbing Mt Everest. You need to acclimate yourself to comprehend its sheer intensity. For the uninitiated this is the equivalent of a sea level dweller accustomed to an ample air supply gasping for air in an oxygen depleted environment and thus will come across like an atmospheric hypoxia induced sleepless night at the base camp where only groggy faded memories of what occurred will semi-percolate into the consciousness. This is an album that is a true 10 on the progometer scale. A code red, 3rd degree progressive jazz/classical/rock behemoth of the ages. That means that it requires several stages of musical development to truly “get it.” You must not only have your rock and classical musical sensibilities in top shape but you will go nowhere until your jazz appreciation skills have been fine tuned and honed to the point that mutli-genre fusion is like second nature. A true work of art that was perhaps overly ambitious for its era but sophisticated enough to evoke a sheer sense of timelessness.
What a marvel this album is! Not only it has a huge value for progressive rock, whose timbre and rhythms it enriched with jazz aesthetics, it even has a lot to say about jazz itself. There are not many records this influential.

Two flagships of the album - "Cirkus" and "Lizard" - both introduce very innovative approach to rock compostion, with the latter being the most ambitious of the album. We are presented a great merging of classical music (everybody thinks of Ravel when listening to this), rock and (free)jazz.

You may not like progressive rock, you may not like classical music, you don't even have to like jazz, but I can guarantee that after finishing this one, you will sit with your mouth open, thinking: "This Fripp guy, he is awesome."
Sporting a medievally-flavoured cover that might fool the unwary listener into thinking this is King Crimson's answer to Genesis's Trespass, Lizard is instead a jazzy development of the sound that coalesced on In the Wake of Poseidon. The contributions of Graham Haskell are much-lauded, though I think Boz Boorer did a better job of singing in a broadly comparable style on Islands. Indeed, the friction between Haskell, Fripp, and the other musicians involved in the album are the stuff of legend, and this was yet one more Crimson album born out of confusion and conflict within the lineup.

The album's crown jewel is the sidelong epic Lizard, which features a wide range of instrumental flavours, superior musicianship and compositional chops when compared with the side one material, and a marvellous guest appearance from Jon Anderson, capturing Anderson's vocal talents just as he hit on his classic style (this album being recorded between Yes recording Time and a Word and The Yes Album). The material on the first side of the album, meanwhile, is somewhat less interesting; Lady of the Dancing Waters is yet another quiet tune in a similar vein to Cadence and Cascade or I Talk to the Wind, and the diminishing returns are really beginning to show at this point, whilst the other three don't quite succeed in integrating the jazzy playing into the Crimson sound. (It doesn't help that Happy Family is a whimsical novelty song about the breakup of the Beatles, and if there's one area Fripp and Sinfield aren't so strong in it's whimsical novelty.) Two stars for the first side, four for the second.
Sean Trane
Fripp is the King Lizard This is probably the toughest Crimson album to get into (but what a superb artwork), but it is well worth the effort. As with Poseidon, Keith Tippet makes another appearance but this time he brings along the reed players from his own group - Charig, Miller, Evans etc... so the jazz-tinged prog developed in the present album is of course not easily that accessible. Very few of these tracks were played live and this line-up never toured. Circus is a fine opener but the Indoor Games is along with Happy Family some of the stranger tunes ever from Crimson. Lady is another tune in the mould of Cadence or Talk to the Wind. Of course everyone waits for LIZARD and its 23+ min. The first part most everybody knows because of the Yes-man on vocals and is quite fine. Comes a very delicate Bolero (a better version on the 4 cd box-set) that is the only one that does honour to Ravel and then comes the heart of the album - the Battle - savage war-like drumming flying reeds and mellotron layers making it my fave number from Crimson.

Lizard is definitely not easy album to master, but once you will, there is absolutely no doubt you'll find it one of Crimson's best album. By the time the album had been released, singer Gordon Haskell, pretending to hate this album, left the band and had returned to his solo career, prompting drummer Andy McCullough to follow suit. So for the second straight album Crimson was unable to tour to promote their album.

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