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King Crimson

Lizard – 40th Anniversary Series

Review by Gary Hill

The third King Crimson album, this version is part of the 40th Anniversary series of reissues. It is presented here in a few ways. First, we get the re-mastered version of the original disc, with three bonus tracks (alternate versions) added. That is the CD half of this release. There is also a DVD that includes three different sound choices for the same material. The music on this album is more experimental than some of the earlier King Crimson music. For my money, though, no matter what you think of the other songs, the title track (an epic that stretches over twenty minutes and features Yes vocalist Jon Anderson in a guest appearance) is worth the price of admission all by itself. This version of the disc is well worth having because of the remastered sound and the various audio options presented.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2010  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Cirkus

This starts with a gentle section that’s a bit like classical music meets early Genesis and jazz. It rises gradually for a time, but then shifts to a hard edged old school King Crimson jam. This holds it for a short while, but it moves out to the balladic side of early Crimson from there. It moves through a number of changes and gets rather noisy at times. This is a dense piece of music that’s quite dynamic. It’s quite similar to some of the music from the first album, but turns into more experimental territory. It seems to have more layers of sound and many times they aren’t as organically connected as the layers that were used on the first disc. There are some intriguing instrumental movements as this continues, though, including a tasty jazz oriented jam. There’s another extended jazz jam later in the piece, too.

Indoor Games
This one starts with a killer jazz riff motif. It works to more of a rocking psychedelic King Crimson jam. This alternates between varying motifs and feels quite 1960’s oriented. It is a stronger tune than the opener, though. At least it’s more accessible. We are taken through several changes and variants as they continue. It definitely gets quite experimental in the middle section, but still seems to remain compelling and cohesive.
Happy Family
A noisy jam, this feels similar to the last piece, but a lot more crazed in its arrangement. Angles seem to jut out here and there and this is quite close to RIO music. It’s far more experimental than either of the pieces that preceded it. There are a lot of distorted vocals. It’s intriguing because as odd as this is, they seem to try to incorporate a hook to make it like some demented form of pop music. This is dissonant in a seemingly random and crazy way.
Lady of the Dancing Water
This gentle ballad is a nice respite from the craziness that preceded it. It seems to combine some of the elements shown on the band’s first album with sounds that would feel at home on a Genesis album for the first period of that group.
Lizard
This track is a twenty-three-plus minute epic. It opens with gentle music and guest vocalist Jon Anderson sings over the top. They shift it out to a more rocking mode for the chorus. It drops back down for the next verse. The cut moves through organically, gradually getting more powerful. It bursts out around the three minute mark into a soaring mode. After that section it works out into an instrumental movement that’s playful and gentle. It is based on “Bolero.” I can make out hints of some of the music from the first King Crimson album, too. This is one of the prettiest segments on the CD. They turn it out from there into a smoking freeform jazz jam. This works to a killer resolution that is both symphonic and satisfying. They take us to sedate territory, growing up gradually from there. We get a new vocal section (not Jon Anderson this time) over some rather classical music. Eventually, though, this is replaced by the more soaring, harder rocking version of the King Crimson sound from the period. This eventually turns more jazz-like. Then there’s a short return to mellow sounds before they power out into a noisy jazz jam. They work through several changes and variations as they continue, then drop it way down again. Then it powers back out before giving way to a Fripp guitar solo dominated section. After that goes away, we’re taken to some Circus styled music that serves to bookend the original album.
Lady of the Dancing Water (alternate mix)
As the title suggests, this is a variant on the earlier track. 
Bolero (Frame by Frame remix)
Another variant, this is just the “Bolero” section of “Lizard.” It’s definitely very jazzy. It’s also very cool.
Cirkus (studio run through)
I guess you have a good idea of what this is from the title, right? I have to say, as a “run through,” this is impressive.
 
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