King Crimson - Lizard

LIZARD is perhaps the most "difficult" of the early King Crimson albums, yet, for that very reason, it is also ultimately one of the most rewarding. The third release from Robert Fripp and company sees the band moving in a new and radical direction. The classically-inspired sweeping grandeur and "controlled cacophony" that typified the first two Crimson discs has been here largely (but not entirely) replaced by a sound that has its roots much more deeply embedded in jazz.

LIZARD was highly avant-garde and demanding of its audience when it was released in 1970, and it remains a powerfully unique, almost disquieting listening experience to this day. While IN THE WAKE OF POSEIDON's sardonic "Cat Food" may have hinted at the path about to be explored, nothing could have fully prepared fans for the truly bizarre, almost eerie "colours" of abstract "sound paintings" like LIZARD's first three songs, "Cirkus," "Indoor Games," and "Happy Family." Much of the credit for the feel of these tracks must be accorded to new vocalist Gordon Haskell, who had supplied the almost ethereal vocals for Poseidon's lovely "Cadence and Cascade." With Greg Lake departed for ELP, Haskell gets the space to reveal a voice of power and depth, that is by turns intimate, theatrical, scornful, fey and raving. The end of "Indoor Games" finds him cackling like a madman, but the delicately pretty "Lady of the Dancing Water" (the disc's most immediately accessible song) sees him don the guise of a sensitive poet-troubadour, paying court to his lady-love on the bank of a laughing stream. The second "half" of the disc (the old LP's "side two") is given to the title suite. The first section of this MASTERFUL three-part song-cycle features Jon Anderson of Yes on vocals, providing yet another savory flavour for LIZARD's exotic musical mélange. There is less of the jazzy experimentation heard on previous tracks; the direction here is more conventionally "progressive rock," with grandiose mellotrons, "courtly" subject-matter, and "classically"-oriented arrangements -- at this point almost a welcome respite from (or counter-balance for) the overt strangeness of the first half. The final installment, "Big Top," fades up to repeat the "Cirkus" theme, before diminishing hauntingly away, thus neatly "framing" this unique work of art. (Indeed, as art, this album is the total package -- the cover artwork is breathtaking, and the Pete Sinfield lyrics, with lines such as "Night, her sable dome scattered with diamonds," are some of the best poetry he has ever written.)

LIZARD may be an acquired taste, but it has stood the test of time as a lustrous example of early progressive rock at its most inventive. It is not for the faint-of-heart, certainly, but in the end, well worth experiencing!
Review by Peter

Track Listings

1. Cirkus(including Entry of the chameleons) (6:28)
2. Indoor games (5:41)
3. Happy family (4:16)
4. Lady of the dancing water (2:44)
5. Lizard:
a) Prince Rupert awakes (4:36)
b) Bolero - The peacock's tale (6:39)
c) The battle of the glass tears (10:58)
i) dawn song
ii) last skirmish
iii) Prince Rupert's lament
d) Big top (1:13)

Total Time: 42:35


- Robert Fripp / guitar, mellotron, electric keyboards & devices
- Mel Collins / flute & saxes
- Gordon Haskell / bass guitar & vocals
- Andy McCulloch / drums
- Peter Sinfield / words & pictures

- Robin Miller / oboe & cor anglais
- Mark Charig / cornet
- Nick Evans / trombone
- Keith Tippet / piano & electric piano
- Jon Anderson of YES / vocals on "Prince Rupert Awakes"

Releases information

LP Island ILPS9141 (1970)
CD Virgin CDVKCX3 (2000)
CD Discipline Global Mobile (DGM) 0503 (2005)


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