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King Crimson

In the Court of the Crimson King (50th Anniversary Edition)

Review by Gary Hill

This new four-disc (three CDs and one Blu-Ray) edition of King Crimson's debut disc is great. It has several variants of the music presented here. The Blu-Ray includes all the mixes from the CDs along with a short video of the band performing "21st Century Schizoid Man" at Hyde Park in 1969. Mind you, it's in black and white and not the full song, but it's so cool both as a slice of the 1960s music scene, but also as a video of King Crimson. All in all, this thing is well-worth having.  

I previously reviewed the main album that's presented on CD one here when it came out as the 40th Anniversary Edition. Here's part of what I said about the album overall in that review, "Porcupine Tree’s Steve Wilson was tasked with the job of remixing this classic progressive rock album. As good as the disc sounds you can tell that it was a labor of love. Just looking at the original disc this thing is well worth having because the sound is great and (with the possible exception of “Moonchild” there’s not a weak cut in the bunch)." Please note that the track reviews of those songs are taken from that review for the sake of consistency. I've also reused the same track reviews for songs that are identical to the other rendition, but just in a different mix. I should mention that this is actually a new 2019 mix, again done by Wilson, but I don't hear a lot of difference. There is a great open and clear sound to the whole thing.

Bonus video footage of this release is available at the Music Street Journal Youtube channel here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eODgibWR_6s

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2020  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
CD1
                
2019 Stereo Mixes & Instrumental Mixes
               
21st Century Schizoid Man

It's kind of crazy that one of the first progressive rock albums, and the world's first introduction to King Crimson begins with something that's almost heavy metal, but so be it. The distorted vocals on this add something raw and yet technical to the thing. This thing screams like crazy. Yet there is some awesome fast paced jamming that's full on progressive rock. It gets pretty crazed at times.

I Talk to the Wind
This is a mellow and quite beautiful progressive rock ballad. It’s got some cool harmonics and lots of woodwind (and some reeds) instruments – and that’s appropriate considering the title.
Epitaph
I’ve always loved this piece. The elegance and power that opens this is subtle in that the track is a mellow ballad at its core. The synthesizer brings so much to the table, but the vocal performance is also especially evocative. Mind you, while the overall construction is a ballad, they take it through some interesting movements and this is made into something far beyond that. It might be my favorite track here – but it’s tough to pick favorites when it’s all this good.
Moonchild
Another that’s basically a ballad, this gets a little stranger in terms of its arrangement. It works out into a long sedate instrumental section that tends to wander a bit.
The Court of the Crimson King
Another classic cut, this is one of my favorites, too. The synthesizer adds a lot to this. It’s another track that shows how much you can really do to fill out a ballad and turn it into something quite special. I love the evocative vocal delivery and the powerful chorus. The instrumental segment, while a bit seemingly random at times, works a lot better than the one in “Moonchild."
Instrumental Mixes

         

21st Century Schizoid Man

Here you get what is advertised, an instrumental version of the song. I like it as a bonus, and it's interesting how well this (and everything else here) works without the vocals.

I Talk to the Wind
You understand what you are getting here.
Epitaph
And, once again, truth in advertising is in play here.
Moonchild (edit)
This instrumental take cuts that track to just the actual "song" part. I think the number works much better in that format.
The Court of the Crimson King
Once again, you know what you are getting here.
CD2
 
Alternate Album, Expanded Edition
           
Wind Session (2019 Stereo Mix)

I previously reviewed this cut (on that same 40th anniversary set), and while this is a new mix, it is essentially the same piece. So, here is that track review, "This shows just how much went into getting the 'incidental' bit at the start of '…Schizoid Man' the way they wanted it."

21st Century Schizoid Man (Morgan studios June 1969 take with Greg Lake vox overdubs from Wessex August 1969 & Mel Collins/Jakko Jakszyk August 2019 overdubs)
Here we  get something pretty interesting. It's an original studio take with some new overdubs laid over the top.
I Talk to the Wind (Alternate 2019 mix)
While this is a 2019 mix, I think that it's very much the same as the version on the 40th anniversary set as alternate version there. I said this about that one, " I don’t really hear a lot of difference on this song except for the outro, but it is about half a minute longer than the original album version. That closing segment includes a tasty guitar solo." This holds pretty well true here, too.
I Talk to the Wind (Duo version, full length master, 2019 mix)
Again, this is a new mix, but sounds pretty similar to me. There was a version titled, "I Talk to the Wind (Alternate take - Duo version)" on that 40th anniversary set that is really this same piece. Here's what I said about that one, "The 'duo' mentioned in the parenthetical part of the title refers to guitar duo – not vocal. In fact, there are no vocals on this version. Somehow the music becomes more delicate like this. It lends a whole new flavor. I’d say I prefer the original’s drama and power, but this telling reminds me of early Genesis somehow."
Epitaph (Isolated vocal 2019 mix)
This is exactly what's advertised. There is a little bit of instrumentation that shows up here, but in general, it's a fully acapella mix. That said, it does work to a full instrumental treatment right at the end.
Epitaph (Alternate take - 2019 mix)
This instrumental version of the song feels pretty similar to the original version. There is some weird jamming bits at the end, though.
Moonchild (Take 1, 2019 mix)

Here is what seems like the shortened version we got at the end of the first disc, but with the vocal added to the mix. It might be a completely different take, but it sure feels like the final version, but cut down to just the essentials.

The Court of the Crimson King (June 1969 take, 2019 mix)
This take has some parts that feel a bit different to me. It's also an instrumental version. It's quite strong, though. That said some of the transitions don't feel as polished as they do on the final version. I like how the bass seems to stand out a bit more here, though.
21st Century Schizoid Man (Trio version, 2019 mix)
Here we get an instrumental take that seems to be just guitar, drums and bass (hence, the "trio" designation). It's pretty fiery like this, but then again the song is a powerhouse in pretty much every configuration.  You can really hear the bass going nuts on this. The guitar shines more on this rendition, too, because on the final take the saxophone mirrors it a lot of the time, sort of obscuring the lines between the two. The rhythm section break, without other instruments in the mix, really is a cool change, as well.
CD3
                
Original Master Edition, Expanded
                    
21st Century Schizoid Man

It's kind of crazy that one of the first progressive rock albums, and the world's first introduction to King Crimson begins with something that's almost heavy metal, but so be it. The distorted vocals on this add something raw and yet technical to the thing. This thing screams like crazy. Yet there is some awesome fast paced jamming that's full on progressive rock. It gets pretty crazed at times.

I Talk to the Wind
This is a mellow and quite beautiful progressive rock ballad. It’s got some cool harmonics and lots of woodwind (and some reeds) instruments – and that’s appropriate considering the title.
Epitaph

I’ve always loved this piece. The elegance and power that opens this is subtle in that the track is a mellow ballad at its core. The synthesizer brings so much to the table, but the vocal performance is also especially evocative. Mind you, while the overall construction is a ballad, they take it through some interesting movements and this is made into something far beyond that. It might be my favorite track here – but it’s tough to pick favorites when it’s all this good.

Moonchild
Another that’s basically a ballad, this gets a little stranger in terms of its arrangement. It works out into a long sedate instrumental section that tends to wander a bit.
The Court of the Crimson King
Another classic cut, this is one of my favorites, too. The synthesizer adds a lot to this. It’s another track that shows how much you can really do to fill out a ballad and turn it into something quite special. I love the evocative vocal delivery and the powerful chorus. The instrumental segment, while a bit seemingly random at times, works a lot better than the one in “Moonchild."
21st Century Schizoid Man (Morgan Studios Instrumental Take, 1969)
Here we get a recording of the instrumental mix of the song. I bet you got that from the title and parenthetical, right? In any event, there is a bit of an immediacy to this mix. It's feels a bit more "rock band" like and not "prog god" based. It works quite well in this form. Some of the jamming on this feels more like a jam band turned fusion. There is a bit of tape weirdness at the end.
I Talk to the Wind (studio run through, 2019 mix)
The vibe and feel of this is quite different from the final version of the song. This is an instrumental version, and there is a lot of folk music built into it here. It's perhaps less lush in this rendition, but that lends more of an intimate vibe to it somehow.
Epitaph (backing track, 2019 mix)
This is a newer mix of one of the bonus tracks from the 40th Anniversary Edition. Here's what I said about it there, "This instrumental take on the track is a beautiful one. Again, I prefer the original, but this is cool. There are some odd tape effects at the end." It applies here, too.
The Court of the Crimson King (single a side)
Truth in advertising, this is the first half of the song, the edit made to fit it onto a single. This is a mono mix, too.
The Court of the Crimson King (single b side)
You know what you are getting here, the continuation of the previous piece.
 
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