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Various Artists

Reimagining The Court Of The Crimson King

Review by Gary Hill

It's hard, in retrospect, to understand the importance of King Crimson's debut album. It really did set a new standard for what would be known as progressive rock. Some say it was the first prog rock album. The thing is, it was very influential, and it still holds up well to this day. This new tribute album features a lot of prog royalty (including a couple posthumous appearances by Nik Turner) tackling the album from start to finish. It's successful from start to finish, with some songs working better than others. There are actually two different versions of "21st Century Schizoid Man" here along with an instrumental take on the first of those. This might not be as important as the original album was, but it's definitely strong.

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Track by Track Review
21st Century Schizoid Man
The lineup on this is Todd Rundgren (vocals), Arthur Brown (vocals), Mel Collins (sax), Chris Poland (lead guitar), Ian Paice (drums) and Jürgen Engler (guitars, bass and keyboards). While Arthur Brown's vocals are a big departure, because they are trademark Arthur Brown, I really like them. Rundgren's vocals are more in keeping with what you expect on the song. Overall, this plays it fairly faithfully. The instrumental section is on fire. 
I Talk To The Wind
I like this version quite a bit. It's very faithful, but also a little "freshened up." Not surprisingly, it feels a lot like the version that King Crimson was doing in recently years. I say not surprisingly because several of the musicians here were part of that lineup. The musicians on this track are Mel Collins (sax), Django Jakszyk (bass) and Jakko M Jakszyk (vocals, guitar and keyboards).
Epitaph - Pink Fairies - Hawkestrel
Built with a couple Hawkwind alums involved, this version feels somewhat faithful to the original, but also differs. It's a cool version, really. The lineup is Alan Davey (bass guitar, mellotron and organ), Paul Rudolph (electric and acoustic guitars), Nik Turner (flute), Adam Hamilton (drums) and Danny Faulkner (vocals).
The musicians on this track are Joe Lynn Turner (vocals), Marty Friedman (guitar), Jah Wobble (bass), Chester Thompson (drums) and Jürgen Engler (guitars, bass and keyboards. This does a great job of preserving much of the magic of the song while also updating it. I have to admit that while I've always love the "song" parts of this track, the noodly parts have never done much for me. It seems to work a little better here, but only marginally.
The Court Of The Crimson King
The lineup here is James LaBrie (vocals), Carmine Appice (drums), Steve Hillage (guitar) and Jürgen Engler (guitars, bass and keyboards. Parts of this are little edgier than the original version. Some of the instrumental parts get into some spacey territory. Otherwise, it's somewhat faithful. LaBrie's vocals are a departure, but they work really well. The rocking guitar soloing on the jam later is both classy and a freshening of the concepts of the song.
21st Century Schizoid Man (Alternate Version)
At times this isn't a big change from the earlier version. They take it out into a smoking hot jazzy jam later, though. It almost feels ELP-like. The  musicians on this version are Arthur Brown (vocals), Brian Auger (keys), Chris Poland (lead guitar), Ian Paice (drums) and Jürgen Engler (guitars, bass and keyboards.
21st Century Schizoid Man (Instrumental)

Here we get an instrumental version of the opening track of the disc. It works well, but is more of an variant, bonus than a real song. The lineup here is (obviously) than same as that on the first version, but without the vocals.

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