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In The Wake Of Poseidon (King Crimson, 1970) 31 May 2007

Posted by Basilios in King Crimson.
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King Crimson‘s second album was released in 1970 and, as I mentioned in my review of In The Court Of The Crimson King, at that time the group was a shambles. Because of heavy touring and personal contrasts, the lineup that created the first album collapsed; McDonald and Giles had wandered off to create their uncelebrated minor masterpiece, and Greg Lake was busy starting his new group, Emerson Lake and Palmer.

Guitarist Robert Fripp and lyricist Peter Sinfield had to put together an album to satisy the group’s contractual obligations, and had to do it quickly. Luckily, many of the departing members (well, everyone apart from Ian McDonald – maybe the quarrel was between him and Fripp?) stayed to help with the recording. Robert Fripp also hired some new members in the group (whose presence remained pretty minor), and recorded material that had been present in their live set for quite some time, with the musical equivalent of a good polish and a hand of lacquer.

Because of this, this album sounds a lot like it should be called In The Court Of The Crimson King Vol 2. That is good, as I liked Crimson King very much, but I’m afraid that they weren’t quite as successful here as they were in their first album. Quite often the songs here sound like rethreads of the songs in the older album. Manna from heaven from those that want more of the same, but not for me.

The album opens with an acoustic little song, Peace, that will be reprised twice more further on. And allow me to say that this song and its variations are useless wastes of CD space, and I’m absolutely indifferent to them. Lyrics are vague and boring, singing is flat and uninspiring, melody is uninteresting. Bleah! It really feels like padding to me, and as far as I could ascertain this stuff was not in their old live set, but recorded for this album. This makes me think it was a throwaway piece. But let’s move on, shall we?

Then more interesting music begins, and we have Pictures Of A City. I found out this song was originally called A Man, A City and was one of their live set; it contains a lot of saxes and therefore I think Ian McDonald was involved with it, even if he’s not credited. The song itself sounds like a rewriting of 21str Century Schizoid Man, and not a superior one. For the life of me I can’t make out what they’re singing about. I usually ignore the lyrics and enjoy the fat saxes. It is quite nice, and actually one of the best pieces here, but it’s not a masterpiece.

Then we have Cadence and Cascade, which is a nice, gentle ballad about, well, two groupies for an unnamed musician. The lyrics are not as gentle as the music and are actually sleazy if you read between the lines. They also sound quite daft to me; read this:

Cadence oiled in love
Licked his velvet gloved hand
Cascade kissed his name.

Licked his gloved hand? Kissed his name? Come on! Songs that talk about sex are fine for me, but this is dumb. A pity, because the music is really nice, and there’s a nice bit of flute here, contributed by a Mel Collins, who played saxes and flute on this album.

Following we have In The Wake Of Poseidon, which sounds just like a rethread of In The Court Of The Crimson King (the song, not the album), down to the Mellotron and the little acoustic guitar snippets, but, like in the previous songs, the lyrics are daft. There is a vague marine imagery, but once again I can’t make head or tail of what Greg Lake is talking about and can’t be bothered to look for lyrics. This song is arguably the best on this record (I quite like the Mellotron playing here) but once again it’s not a masterpiece.

The we have the first reprise of Peace, and I usually just skip it. After that we have the surprisingly interesting Cat Food, with its interesting jazzy playing. Lyrics are once again daft, but understandable: someone invited Greg Lake to some party but the food is crap, well, it’s cat food – again, he says, so why did he go? Ignore the lyrics, just like the previous songs, and you have a fine song.

The last extended piece of this album is The Devil’s Triangle. This actually started its life as a rearrangement of Gustav Holst‘s Mars, from his orchestral suite The Planets. And how does it sound? Well, like shit. Mostly. The piece starts fine, with an involving crescendo thick with dread and Mellotron, but then it becomes an awful mess – like they were farting in their synths, for me. For some mysterious reason someone threw in a sample of In The Court Of The Crimson King (once again, the song, not the album), and the comparison does not do any favour to The Devil’s Triangle. That little snippet sounds like an island of clarity in a noisy mess.

And that’s it for me, because when the farting starts I usually stop the CD player and avoid the bad bits of this and the last reprise of Peace, where they didn’t even bother to play anything and it’s only Greg Lake singing falsetto. Flatly.

Well, what can I say now? Musically there is plenty to like here, but not a lot, and not the whole of the album. The lyrics are more or less daft throughout, and I’d have put more extracts in but didn’t want to make this too long. Some things just don’t work for me, like the second part of The Devil’s Triangle. I can’t give a high rating to this album, because it doesn’t deserve it, but I won’t give it too low a rating, because it doesn’t deserve it either.

Final Grade: 24/30

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