Petrology 101: King Crimson

This may be the most difficult yet rewarding lesson of the 101 course level. No matter how familiar we are with a subject, we must always be ready for surprises – the mind, like a door, must be kept slightly ajar. Oh to be young and idealistic! Your intrepid professor does not believe in surprises.

Therefore, raise your hand if I’m not making myself perfectly sparklingly clear – this will be on the final exam. It goes without saying, you must be able to identify album covers; videos are mandatory and must be watched in their entirety; if you get sleepy, put your head down on the desk; no snoring; release dates are obligatory; pay attention to notable personnel; and don’t skimp on pertinent production details.

In the Court of the Crimson King is King Crimson’s debut studio album (1969). The album reached number five on the British charts, and went gold in the United States. The album is generally regarded to be a defining and seminal moment in the progressive rock genre; avoiding blues-based cliches while embracing jazz and classical symphonic influences, In the Court… is universally considered a “classic” and must-have record of any collection. The album is also the only studio recording which features the original King Crimson line-up of Robert Fripp (guitar); Ian McDonald (flute, clarinet, saxophone, vibes, keyboards, mellotron); Greg Lake (bass, vocals); Michael Giles (drums, percussion); Peter Sinfield (lyrics, illumination).

Soon after the recording sessions were completed, it was discovered that a stereo tape recorder used to mix the album had recording heads that were misaligned. A loss of high-frequencies and undesired distortion affected some parts of the album. Kanye West sampled “21st Century Schizoid Man” in 2010 for his song, “Power.” In Lexington, Kentucky there is a street called Crimson King Court.

Initial reception of In the Court of the Crimson Kingran the gauntlet. Noted critic and curmudgeon Robert Christgau called it “ersatz shit.” Allmusic called it “a darker and edgier brand of post-psychedelic rock” as well as “definitive” and “daring” in its current review.

Track listing

Side one

  1. 21st Century Schizoid Man” (including “Mirrors”) – 7:21
  2. “I Talk to the Wind” – 6:05
  3. Epitaph” (including “March for No Reason” and “Tomorrow and Tomorrow”) – 8:47

Side two

  1. “Moonchild” (including “The Dream” and “The Illusion”) – 12:13
  2. The Court of the Crimson King” (including “The Return of the Fire Witch” and “The Dance of the Puppets”) – 9:25

NBC’s Tonight Show bandleader Doc Severinsen covered “In the Court of the Crimson King” on his 1970 album, Doc Severinsen’s Closet. It’s fucking awesome!!!!!!


In the Wake of Poseidon is the second studio album (1970). By the time this album was released, the band had already undergone their first line-up change, however they still maintained much of the style of their first album. In other words, it’s pretty much In the Court of the Crimson King II.

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