(All Album Reviews by Burgess Penguin)
The 2nd album in the KC canon, In The Wake of Poseideon causes no small amount of debate among King Crimson fans, the contention being, was this an insecure duplication of their debut, In The Court of The Crimson King?
This writer puts forth that no, it wasn't. Rather, it was a largely successful attempt to bravely move forward in spite of great odds. Of course, those great odds were a steadily disintegrating band lineup. At this point in time (1970), Ian MacDonald and Michael Giles officially bowed out of Crimson, (though oddly, he did consent to record this album until a new drummer was found) and Greg Lake was on his way out to form ELP. Fripp, even though hurt and dismayed by the original lineup's dissolution, decided to carry on, and recruited Mel Collins to handle woodwinds, Peter Giles to do bass and this allowed the departing Greg Lake to concentrate just on singing. Jazz pianist Keith Tippett was also pulled in to great effect as well.
From the opening distant vocals on “Peace/A Beginning” you know you're in for a wild ride through many emotional states, from the optimistic and hopeful strains of the 3 "Peace" songs, to the emotional extremis of “Pictures of a City”. On "Pictures", Fripp leads the charge with his angry distorted Les Paul and fiendishly tight ensemble playing that was to be KC's trademark. Some might say that this song was a remake of "21st Century Schizoid Man". I strongly disagree, as it has plenty to differentiate it. “Cadence and Cascade” is a folky little ditty about two groupies, with a merely serviceable vocal from Gordon Haskell. Not one of the standouts in the KC repertoire for certain, but at least it wasn't obnoxiously sexist and lowbrow as "Ladies of the Road" was on Islands with the same subject matter. The album's epic title cut “In The Wake of Poseideon” by stark contrast offers up one of Greg Lake's best ever vocal performances (before he slid into mere barking with ELP). Here, Fripp puts the mellotron through its paces, while opting to provide tasteful, understated acoustic guitar ornamentation. For anyone who loves the haunting sound of this tape-driven beast, this is your song!! I especially love those rousing brass choruses towards the end as the two Giles brothers just tear it up! “Cat Food” is a wonderful little slice of black comedy, sort of "The Beatles meets Cecil Taylor", featuring demented laughing piano figures from Keith Tippett, starkly contrasted by Fripp's cerebral jazz chording, and Greg Lake's machine gun delivery of some of Pete Sinfield's most twisted and humorous lyrics. “The Devil's Triangle” began life as a stage improv based on the Mars segment of Gustav Holst's "The Planets" orchestral suite. Here, it comes to full menacing life with massed mellotrons and other unexpected sonic assaults, including a bizarre clip of the chorus from "In The Court of The Crimson King" towards the end, easily the most scary thing that KC has ever committed to tape. Without words, it takes the listener on a terrifying journey to a watery unknown, and abruptly ends with an echoing cascade of flutes. “Peace/An End” closes it all out on a hopeful note with uncharacteristically restrained vocals from Greg Lake and Fripp's crisp acoustic guitar colorings.
No doubt, this effort shows that KC was far more than the sum of its individual parts, and that external circumstances largely had no bearing on the brilliance of its output (save for Islands, but that's another review).
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