[Review] King Crimson: Lizard (1970)

Ornate, ornery and orfully good, Crimson’s third is a diabolical cirkus of the senses.

Kronomyth 3.0: Night of chameleon stars.

I had something here before about dark towers and deep libraries, which sounds about right, since that’s where Lizard takes me. What I failed to mention is how brilliant this is. Standoffish, yes, noisier and more complicated than it needs to be, which I find by turns fascinating and forbidding. Today it’s the former, and even the little black imp is dancing on the bookcase, limbs akimbo.

So much music gets swirled into the mix—horns and piano and mellotron and tripping snare rolls—that musical indigestion is a distinct possibility. The devastating force of earlier albums remains, but it competes with dissonant jazzy nonsense some of the time. (At the moment, I’m lost in the mid-song maze of Happy Family and there doesn’t seem to be any way out of it.) If you seek the respite of “Cadence and Cascade,” there is Lady of the Dancing Water, featuring the lovely flute work of Mel Collins. It’s not quite the sublime creature of Cadence; oddly, it’s another guest (Jon Anderson) who changes the tone of the record this time.

As much as Lizard wants to assume its own landscape, the arrangements are too self-conscious to fully transport me sometimes. I suppose that’s where the tower and the library come into play. It’s a beautiful world glimpsed from a distance, Robert Fripp intruding into the picture with black and sour commentary to yank the listener out of their immersion in Lizard’s warm protection. Interesting though the Anderson cameo is, it’s not the sympathetic setting he’d find on The Yes Album, instead siding more with the overwrought Time and a Word. Better by far is Gordon Haskell on Cirkus, though tampering with his voice on Indoor Games and “Happy Family” lessens the stakes of his dulcet throat. Joining them (and expanding King Crimson’s musical dialogue considerably) are pianist Keith Tippet, drummer Andy McCulloch and a trio of horn players. It’s arguably one of Crimson’s most accomplished lineups, revealed by the fact that Islands was found lacking with the departure of McCulloch and Haskell.

Original elpee version

A1. Cirkus incl. Entry of the Chameleons (6:28)
A2. Indoor Games (5:38)
A3. Happy Family (4:15)
A4. Lady of the Dancing Water (2:43)
B1. Lizard
(a) Prince Rupert Awakens (4:34)
(b) Bolero – The Peacock’s Tale (6:30)
(c) The Battle of Glass Tears (10:55)
i. Dawn Song
ii. Last Skirmish
iii. Prince Rupert’s Lament
(d) Big Top (1:05)

All songs written by Robert Fripp and Peter Sinfield.

The Players

Mel Collins (flute & saxes), Robert Fripp (guitar, mellotron, electric keyboards & devices), Gordon Haskell (bass guitar & vocals), Andy McCulloch (drums), Peter Sinfield (words & pictures) with Jon Anderson (vocals on B1a), Marc Charig (cornet), Nick Evans (trombone), Robin Miller (oboe & cor anglais), Keith Tippet (piano & electric piano). Produced by Robert Fripp & Peter Sinfield; engineered by Robin Thompson; tapes by Geoff Workman.

The Pictures

Outside painting by Gini Barris. Sleeve conception by Peter Sinfield. Inside marbling by Koraz Wallpapers. Typography by C.C.S.

The Plastic

Released on elpee on December 10, 1970 in the UK (Island, ILPS 9141), the US (Atlantic, SD 8278), Germany (EMI, 1C 062 92231) and in 1971 in Japan (Atlantic, P-10347A) with gatefold cover. Reached #30 on the UK charts and #113 on the US charts.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in Italy (Polydor, 2310 518).
  2. Re-issued on elpee in 1977 in the UK (Polydor, 2302 059) and Germany (Polydor, 2344 071) with gatefold cover.
  3. Re-issued on elpee in Japan (Polydor, 25MM-0263) with gatefold cover.
  4. Re-released on remastered Collector’s Edition elpee and cassette in January 1987 in the US (Editions EG, EGKC/EGKCC 3) with gatefold cover.
  5. Re-issued on remastered compact disc in 1999 in the US (Caroline, 1504).
  6. Re-released on remastered 30th anniversary edition compact disc on March 21, 2000 in the UK (Virgin, CDVKC3), the US (Virgin, 44068) and Japan (Discipline, PCCY-01423).
  7. Re-issued on remastered 30th anniversary edition compact disc in 2002 in Japan (Discipline, PCCY-1525).
  8. Re-released on high-definition remastered compact disc in 2005 in Japan (Universal, UICE-9053).
  9. Re-released on 200g vinyl elpee in September 2012 in the US (DGM, 633367910318).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *