King Crimson – Larks’ Tongues In Aspic – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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Larks’ Tongues In Aspic

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

For King Crimson, it doesn’t get much better than this original Island SUNRAY Label British Import LP. It sounds great in all aspects — quiet, TRANSPARENT, DYNAMIC and full of energy. The sound JUMPS right out of the speakers practically the instant the needle hits the groove. (You better watch your volume knob if you value your equipment!) 

Like any KC record, this album alternates its soft parts and its heavy parts. The soft parts sound oh so sweet and delicate, each intricacy revealed to perfection by the out-of-this-world recording quality, while the heavy parts sound big and bold, augmented by Fripp’s meaty, fuzzed-out guitar and Bill Bruford’s savage percussion.

What’s uncanny about this pressing is how the softness and heaviness play off each other, transitioning into one another, without losing a thing. With most prog rock records, once the bombast starts kicking in, all the intricacies of the midrange and top end get washed out. But when this pressing’s rockin’, the subtle contribution of the mellotron in the background can still clearly be recognized, floating above the clouds, tying everything together, with all of Bill Bruford’s intricate percussion effects along for the ride.

While this was easily King Crimson’s most experimental music up to this time, it didn’t fall into the trap that many prog bands — such as ELP — did. Listen to an ELP album like Tarkus; it’s nothing but a long collection of solos. What makes Crimson THE prog rock band is their ability to bring to bear all their jazz influences, all the craziest time signatures, all the most unusual instrumentation, all the bombast, all the insanity, while NOT LOSING THE SONG.

I mentioned the mellotron before, and for good reason: Robert Fripp uses that lovely instrument as a device to tie all the music together. And you need a good pressing like this one to appreciate that. Just follow that mellotron the whole way through the song. Let all the crazy guitars and percussion, all the heaviness and softness, flow in and out and around it. Fripp used the mellotron as a great unifier, bringing a cohesiveness to the music while still allowing the band to be as experimental as all hell.

This is WHAT PROG ROCK SHOULD BE. It’s like an ocean — one huge entity, all its parts connected, unpredictable, with ebbs and flows, waves crashing, constantly churning and flowing back into itself.

Larks’ Tongues in Aspic was really a transition record, bridging the band’s early sound (In the Court of the Crimson King / In the Wake of Poseidon) with its ultra heavy middle period (Starless & Bible Black / Red). After two subpar records in Islands and Lizard, which came out before this one and after Poseidon, KC showed with Aspic that they were back in a BIG WAY.

The introduction of John Wetton on bass and vocals and David Cross on violin are significant highlights of this record. A big reason Aspic KILLS is that it brings a great singer/bassist back into the mix, which the band sorely lacked after Greg Lake had left two albums earlier. Cross’ violin, an instrument the band hadn’t utilized before, is haunting and dark, adding a dimension to the music that continues to blow our minds to this day.

This is EASILY among the best Crimson efforts. Listen for yourself. You won’t be disappointed. And the sound will knock you out every bit as much as the music.

I can’t imagine a more powerful, dynamic recording than this. Yet the Island Tubey Magic is always there to keep the aggression from getting out of hand. Like the best Yes recordings, the sound is big and bold but never obnoxious. You can be sure that domestic pressings of this album won’t hold a candle to this Hot import. It really sets a standard. This is Prog done right. If you’ve got the system for it, this recording has the power to knock you for a loop.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Pt. I
Book of Saturday
Exiles

Side Two

Easy Money
The Talking Drum
Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Pt. II

AMG 4 1/2 Star Rave Review

… this lineup quickly established itself as a powerful performing unit working in a more purely experimental, less jazz-oriented vein than its immediate predecessor. “Outer Limits music” was how one reviewer referred to it, mixing Cross’ demonic fiddling with shrieking electronics, Bill Bruford’s astounding dexterity at the drum kit, Jamie Muir’s melodic and usually understated percussion, Wetton’s thundering (yet melodic) bass, and Fripp’s guitar, which generated sounds ranging from traditional classical and soft pop-jazz licks to hair-curling electric flourishes.

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