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KING CRIMSON - Red cover
4.54 | 36 ratings | 4 reviews
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Album · 1974


A1 Red 6:20
A2 Fallen Angel 6:00
A3 One More Red Nightmare 7:07
B1 Providence 8:08
B2 Starless 12:18


Alto Saxophone – Ian McDonald
Bass, Vocals – John Wetton
Cornet – Marc Charig
Guitar, Mellotron – Robert Fripp
Oboe – Robin Miller
Percussion [Percussives] – William Bruford
Soprano Saxophone – Mel Collins
Violin – David Cross

About this release

Island Records – ILPS 9308 (UK)

Recorded at Olympic Sound Studios, London, England, July and August 1974

Reissued on CD in 2005 (Discipline Global Mobile – DGM0507)

Thanks to snobb for the addition


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

The Sinking of the Tritonic - Captain Scuttles the Ship

As far as I can tell, this was the last 70's King Crimson album released before Fripp disbanded the entity to allow him more time for 'head shopping' at Mystical Apocalyptic Visions R'Us (G. I. Gurdjieff - prop).

'Red' - The tritone (augmented 4th) interval has been exploited by many rock musicians over the years and is particularly beloved of the cartoon subversives who currently inhabit the metal domain. However, when used with originality, there are great examples of it's disorienting frisson on 'Symptom of the Universe' by Black Sabbath, 'YYZ' by Rush, 'Purple Haze' by Hendrix & 'Black Sabbath' by erm...Black Sabbath.

Unlike Tony Iommi however, Fripp & Co are not remotely stirred by the boyish blasphemies of those utilizing the 'diabolus in musica' as outlawed by the church music authorities in medieval times. There is a leanness and acuity in 'Red' that seems to be borne of a new found economy in much of Fripp's writing. Everything is very concisely structured and the innate extemporizing instincts are tightly reined in, which gives this track a brooding malevolent power that you feel if completely unleashed, would probably vaporise pets anywhere within the vicinity of a home entertainment system. The first hint of the metallic slant that would be further explored on their later output eg 'Thrak' - 'Power to Believe' etc

'Fallen Angel' - Not more references to the horny goateed one lads ? (tsk...) Another moving vocal performance from the infallible Wetton in a song that exploits more traditional harmonic structures to marvelous effect. It's amazing how Crimson can inhabit territory that is not a million miles away from say, Rush, and make the latter sound like field mice still stinging from their first shave. The middle section where Fripp and Wetton duet on a tightly woven instrumental passage is unnervingly beautiful with exemplary balance between the electric band and the various horns that weave their way throughout the song. In many ways perhaps this is what 'Lizard' side two was SUPPOSED to sound like ?

- Switchblade stings in one tenth of a moment, Better get back to the car -

PS Note to Peter Gabriel - When writing from the perspective of a Puerto Rican street punk from New York, it is not mandatory to affect a laughable American accent to approach authenticity. (see The Lamb Gives Up the Ghost on Broadway)

'One More Red Nightmare' - I am always struck by Bruford's percussion arsenal on this track as it seems he has taken a leaf (or in this case, a very heavy piece of sheet metal) out of Jamie Muir's book and employed same to mesmerizing effect. The drumming on this record is incredible and if any proof were needed as to how innovative and 'musical' a player Bill is, just point the doubters towards any track on this album. Like many Crim numbers from around this period, it veers off after the song section into what on first listen, appears a completely unrelated area, but somehow they conspire to make these devious tangents all reach a satisfying destination in the end. Uncanny. Trivia Fans - the only brilliant song I can think of that features handclaps.

'Providence' - Oh lordy...having recently lauded the lads to the heavens for their inspired improvs on 'Starless & Bible Black' it is with a heavy heart that I have to say this is the one wet eggy fart in the lovely shiny red space suit. There MUST have been scores of alternative improvisations they could have used surely ? As ever the playing and dynamics are faultless but it's an unstructured mess. The furious filling of air pockets by oxygen thieves. Like 'Moonchild' I am sure if you had been there, you would have exhaled softly and muttered 'incredible' with a far away look in your eye, (before promptly exiting the studio via an upstairs window on hearing the playback).

'Starless' - Given that it's a mighty crowded area, this is shoving its way to the front of the queue as best Crimson track EVER. Fripp's fondant guitar lead on the opening is so beautiful it audibly aches. The 'song' section is the finest melodic construction in the Crim catalogue and manifests a finely honed refinement of what 'Epitaph' and 'In the Wake of Poseidon' etc only hinted at.

- Sundown dazzling day, Gold through my eyes, But my eyes turned within, Only see, Starless and bible black -

The slow building crescendo section that follows features our old buddy the tritone in Wetton's pensive bassline over which Fripp contents himself with a skeletal 'one note ostinato' that is transposed accordingly to suit the harmonic progression in an edgy an increasingly spooky transition. As far as controlled dynamics, pace, texture and suspense are concerned, this should be compulsory listening to the prog/math metal wannabes who fashion light and shade out of 'fast very loud' and 'faster louder still.' What follows is a passage in what sounds like double time using the same (or very similar) musical material with the addition of jazzy flourishes from sax, trumpet and flute. This culminates in the denouement of the piece where the whole band embark on a majestic reprise of the main theme to a very satisfying conclusion. The band delay slightly their rejoinder to telling effect here, and the resultant weight and 'oomph' of the result is a climax of indefatigable beauty. (oooh you naughty man)

Were it not for the freeform widdley chops wank lapse represented by 'Providence' this would have been a 5 star effort. Notwithstanding the foregoing, a very fine album by a band at one of their many creative peaks during a 40 year roller coaster career.

Members reviews

King Crimson: a pool of ever-changing talent rarely ceases to amaze. Most of the time I disagree with Mr. Fripp's ideas of the structure of his band, however I like to forget background information of something and just listen to the music sometimes. Red was one of these instances, and without thoughts of the details the music simply sounded better.

1974 was the year where metal was starting to spring up all over the place. Much credit was due to King Crimson for their early work to the creation of the genre, however by this time they seemed to be more of another hard prog band.While other bands like Scorpions, Sabbath, and Judas Priest all started experimenting with this newly founded genre, King Crimson continued to write elaborate compositions with much flare and musical brilliance. I will admit that I disliked much of their pre-Red content, but when this album came around everything changed. It was less about being art for arts sake and more about playing what they willed. Mind you, changes were still made and lineups were constantly fixed and re- ordered, so much chaos still happened there. The beauty about Red however is none of that translates to the music. In the recording studio, all was forgotten.

The title track is a wonderful opening, probably one of the more themed tracks as opposed to jamming, but it's utilization of ambiance and heavy guitar with no vocals bogging it down (one of the few songs where I feel like it would). 'Fallen Angel' translates to me more of a ballad, and marks one of the weaker points of the album. Fripp intended it to be more "emotional", but I found it to be rather weak in comparison to the rest of the album. One thing that never really changes is Wetton's amazing vocalizations which seem to fit into every musical circumstance. He is definitely a singer that brightened up any weak part the album has. 'One More Red Nightmare' is one of the aforementioned jams. Although the term 'jam' may not be exactly fitting, the song's length does lead to many tangents that the band members expound on briefly. Much like 'Red', this song has some fantastic riffing and great clear drumming from Bruford. Wetton's vocal skills are probably on peak at this point, along with his bass-work. Violins bring in the next track, 'Providence', most of which is much adventurous work of different instrumentations that come in at different parts. Slightly uncomfortable due to it's erratic nature; very reminiscent to Ummagumma-esque Floyd if you enjoy that sort of music. 'Starless' is a fantastic mix of everything you've heard prior in an orchestral style all in a clean twelve minutes. Shifting constantly, it never ceases to lose your attention and also does a great job closing shop.

As a final verdict, Red is undeniably wonderful. Wouldn't exactly call it a masterpiece due to some of the weaker aspects but it still shines wonderfully with what it does well and I applaud Crimson for being able to accomplish it. I think a healthy 4-4.5 stars is fitting.
Robert Fripp's decision to bring King Crimson to a close following this album (at least until it regenerated Doctor Who style into the avant-New Wave beast of the 1980s) was baffling at the time to those around him - not least remaining band members John Wetton and Bill Bruford. But I think with the more time passes, the more the decision looks like a stroke of genius. Fripp's predictions about the "dinosaurs" of rock music coming to a bad end turned out to be all too true when the punk revolution happened.

Sure, we might bemoan the lack of respect given to musicianship and technical accomplishment during the white heat of punk, but both of those important things crept back into rock afterwards, and the DIY ethos of the punks - which held that anyone could and should be able to put together a band - recalls Fripp's own belief that it would be "small, mobile, intelligent units" that survived after the fall of the dinosaurs. And it has to be said that Fripp chose precisely the moment to cash his chips, selling up just as the peak of prog's mainstream success was passing by. This decision saved King Crimson from the humiliating fate of many of their contemporaries in the late 1970s or early 1980s - not for them the commercial pandering of 90125-era Yes, or Invisible Touch-era Genesis, or Gentle Giant's last three albums. Fripp's decision saved the band from a situation in which they would have to choose between their musical integrity and commercial success; his subsequent revivals of King Crimson have come about because he had a sound that needed to come out under the KC name, not in response to crass commercial considerations.

Robert's predictions about the music industry as a whole took longer to come true, but the dawning of the Internet age and their shambolic response to it also appears to have proved Fripp right. The fact is that if you want to make experimental, cutting-edge, avant-garde progressive music, you're much better off following the mobile unit approach, and whilst Fripp might have arrived at these realisations through a somewhat cranky route, it's hard to deny that his predictions were right - and came years before anyone else saw it, with the possible exception of Peter Hammill (as seen on Nadir's Big Chance).

It was against this background that Red was produced - with Fripp undergoing this enormous personal change, having the unintended and beneficial side effect of Fripp exerting less control over the recording process which he had previously been inclined to. Not that he needed to; it's clear on here that his collaborators are as much in tune with what needs to be accomplished on the record as he is. A classic from beginning to end, from the furious instrumental Red to the hauntingly beautiful Starless (which others have pointed out is rather like a potted history of the band from 1969 to 1974 in its musical structure), Red more than any other album from the 1973-1974 lineup of King Crimson showcases a powerful vision of the future of music, one which in some respects we still haven't caught up to. In the Court of the Crimson King set the blueprint for most of the progressive rock scene, particularly the more symphonic end of it. Red, quite simply, is the peak of the form. There have been new albums since then that have added their own spin to the genre, but I can think of precious few that reach this level of accomplishment.
Sean Trane
Seeing Red, Robert?? This album is a posthumous album, since the group had disbanded on "god-knows-what" whim from the omnipotent master and guardian of the faith Fripp. An unusual album cover for a group that had placed a strong emphasis on album illustration (if you'll forget the Live albums and the previous SABB), maybe indicating that the album was dumped on the market as an afterthought. But if every afterthought was so thoughtful as Red, we'd never end a debate.

Red (the title track) is probably the most over-rated number from Crimson and the fact that the title track is the most often covered Crimson tunes only confirms this to me - it is one of the simplest one also. As the previous album line-up had been reduced from a quintet to a quartet, David Cross also had left reducing Crimson down to a trio, by this album, pushing Fripp to think about his "small mobile units" concept ramblings about his group.

As stated before Red is a very popular track both among fans and other groups, and although I loved it back then, I now have grown a bit tired of it since I heard it too many times. Providence is unfortunately similar to Moonchild in its free jazz noodlings but Moonchild at least had some evident structure in its start. Fallen Angel is excellent and one of my favourite of Crimson all tracks but the real treat here is the Crimson Finale that even Fripp thought it would be the appropriate swansong for KC, Starless. This number brings you back to ITCOTCK with McDonald, to Lizard and Island with Collins and to Aspic with Cross. A fitting adieu and a masterful closing of the loop! Too bad the guys playing on it did not know (except for Fripp that is) that this would be the final track of KC for a while!!

That track closed every night at the only bar I ever really hung around as it was the only prog cafe to my knowledge and a fitting goodbye to every one of the buddies and the excellent night spend there. Patrick Joly, this review and Lark's Tongue review are dedicated to you!!!

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