King Crimson
In the Court of the Crimson King

4 out of 5 stars
Reviewed for Coffeerooms by Mike Jefferson

If you want to know where progressive rock started, enter the realm of the Court of the Crimson King. Originally released in 1969, The five song L.P. combined elements of classical, folk, jazz and rock and helped focus attention on a genre further popularized by groups such as Yes, the Moody Blues, Genesis, Pink Floyd and Emerson, Lake and Palmer. In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the album's release, "In the Court of" has been remastered in several tantalizing formats: a double disc edition with bonus tracks, alternate mixes, and live recordings, and a boxed set with six discs that also adds restored bootlegs, single edits and rare promos. For Crimson completists, the six CD version is prog's version of the Holy Grail.

King Crimson sprang from the partnership of drummer Mike Giles, his bass-playing brother Peter and guitarist Robert Fripp, who recorded the 1968 album "The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles and Fripp," a collection of quirky pop excursions. Seeking to expand their sound, the trio recruited multi-instrumentalist Ian Macdonald, who began experimenting with a Mellotron, the eerie keyboard that had given the Moody Blues music a wide-ranging orchestral sound. Macdonald then brought in poet Peter Sinfield, whose dramatic, descriptive lyrics elevated the band's songs to mythic proportions. Macdonald also drafted his girlfriend, former Fairport Convention singer Judy Dyble to handle the vocals but she left after the collapse of their relationship, having recorded a few demos with the group (which you can hear on the expanded edition of the album). The last member to join was bassist/vocalist Greg Lake, who was recommended by Pete Giles, the man he replaced. The final touch was provided by artist Barry Gober. Gober's only painting, a gripping, frightening portrait depicting a screaming crimson-colored man, became the cover for the group's debut.