Full disclosure: King crimsion is one of the bands that “changed my life” on a musical level and they remain among my favourites. I have trouble being objective about them. I’m trying, but it’s probably not possible.
We should remember that this album was made by a band that wasn’t really a band at all: Michael Giles and Lake were essentially getting pay checks, as was Peter Giles, Collins and Tippett were only seemingly involved; almost all of this is Fripp (and Sinfield), and Fripp before he abandoned his tendency for shitty ballads.
The decision to split up the ballads from the more chaotic music here may have made sense at the time, but it sort of hurts how the album aged, I think. “Peace” doesn’t so much unify the album as remind us that we’re not listening to the angrier, more violent side of the band. Those pieces are still a lot easier to take than “Cadence and Cascade” and don’t really weaken the album I’d just prefer more “rock”, if you know what I mean.
I understand the criticism that this is kind of repeating the debut, but I’d argue that the best tracks here are superior to the best tracks on the debut, even if they are retreading the same space. “Pictures of the City” is my candidate for the best thing this version of the band ever did – if you can even say this is the same lineup as the debut – and “The Devil’s Triangle” remains one of the most daring rock adaptations of Romantic music that I’ve ever heard. Also, they never recorded anything like “Cat Food” ever again. It’s for those three things – and the title track, I guess, even though I like it less – that I would recommend this and say it’s still pretty essential prog.
I mean look at the year this came out. Prog was still barely a thing. ELP was an idea, Genesis didn’t know what they wanted to do, Tull were still essentially making hard rock, the Floyd were still including psychedelia and folk on their records and Yes was just getting started. I mean, aside from Crimson, I can think of maybe two or three other bands releasing music in 1970 that could be truly considered to be this “progressive.”
9/10 (somewhat begrudgingly)