ARTIST: King Crimson
YEAR RELEASED: 1970
CHART ACTION: #113 US, #29 UK
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Only if you’re a King Crimson uber-fan.
LINEUP: Robert Fripp, Pete Sinfield, Mel Collins, Gordon Haskell, Andy McCulloch. Keith Tippett, Robin Miller, Mark Charig and Nick Evans did session piano and horn work. Jon Anderson sings on one part of the ending suite.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Progressive rock band has its third lineup in two years (and they weren’t done yet…) and records an album full of long suites and more jazzy / classical infusions than in previous. Some impresses. Some does not.
SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Fripp scrambled again to save the band, and cobbled together a lineup of past studio musicians to flesh out the band. He then gave them a load of material that could be described as ‘not at all like their most popular stuff’. There’s no grandiose, booming guitar work. It’s all subtle and jazzy with some classical elements in there as well.
The result is an album that’s kind of all over the place. It plainly works with “Cirkus” the opener, and parts of the ending suite. The music to “Happy Family” is intriguing in its stop-go and effects and the lyrics, about the Beatles, are kind of humorous in retrospect. But even with Jon Anderson helping, the final suite (the title track) is 23 minutes of stuff and things thrown together that all together has the effect of ennui.
But overall, this album stalled King Crimson’s momentum. Fans were confused, and Fripp rather much disowns it now. But there are some redeemable points so it’s worth a hearing.
NOTES & MINUTIAE: This version of the band didn’t even last for a tour. During rehearsals Haskell and McCulloch quit.
IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a couple of guide tracks and a re-mix of one.
GRADE: C+: “Cirkus” is worth it, and if you’re more of a free jazz than progressive rock fan this may be decent for you. But it’s just tooooo long at times.