(All Album Reviews by Hal...)
In July of 1972, Fripp announced that he was forming a new King Crimson with John Wetton, Bill Bruford, David Cross, and Jamie Muir. It was the addition of Wetton, bassist extraordinare from the respected Family & Bruford, the “jazz” drummer from the then becoming popular Yes, that made everyone take notice.
Naturally, expectations were high, and King Crimson did not disappoint. From the opening, with Jamie Muir on kalimba (or thumb piano), to the closing thrashing of Bruford & Muir, Larks’ Tongues In Aspic represents extremes. The cover, however, does not indicate the aural psychosis the listener will experience, unless he or she knows that it is a tantric symbol that represents both the masculine and the feminine; the yin and yang.
The opening title track (part 1), in and of itself, represents these extremes. From Muir’s sweet, child-like kalimba playing, to the intellectual heavy metal riff of Fripp’s & Wetton’s that leads to the jamming of Fripp & Wetton, to the delicacy of Cross’s violin playing, "LtiA Pt 1" is all over the place, thematically and dynamically. The drama can be overwhelming.
The next track, "Book of Saturday", gives the listener a break. A short and quiet tune featuring Wetton on vocals, it begins with Fripp’s subtle and nimble playing. The song gradually adds each of the musicians at the appropriate time and even includes some back-masked playing from Fripp. Probably, the most complex “ditty” ever recorded.
"Exiles" closes the A side. A gentle and poignant song, it features some of Wetton’s best singing, a haunting accompaniment from Cross, a very tasteful minimalistic Bruford & Fripp on the rare acoustic. This is quite possibly the most beautiful song King Crimson has recorded.
"Easy Money" opens the B side. Though not fully realized, this song hints at what KC3 is like live, with a middle section that shows how the band could improvise as a unit and change the entire structure of the song.
Via a segue, we get "Talking Drum." Beginning with Jamie Muir on a talking drum, the song is very quiet, that slowly crescendos as Cross & Fripp take turns improvising over the rhythm section. By song’s end, the band is at full volume and in full force ready to blast out the heaviness of the closing track.
"Larks’ Tongues in Aspic 2" closes the album with more intellectual power chords from Fripp, Wetton’s powerful yet nimble bass playing, an unnerving solo from Cross, and syncopation galore from Bruford. The song and album closes with Bruford & Muir thrashing about on percussives that leads to the final chord that hangs in the air for what seems like a short eternity (a la the Beatles’ "A Day in the Life") and punctuates the first true masterpiece of KC’s discography.