Members (at the time)
1 Lark' Tongues in Aspic, Part One
2 Book of Saturday
4 Easy Money
5 The Talking Drum
6 Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part Two
King Crimson's sixth album, Larks' Tongues in Aspic is the first (and only) album in the Wetton-Fripp-Cross-Bruford-Muir lineup. Shortly after the album was created, Muir left to experiment
with other musical ideas, which left the band without his percussion talent. Nevertheless, his gift for using everything and anything for percussion, and his bizarre techniques, fit well with the other members of the band, if only for one time.
Larks' Tongues is a bit of a departure from the more prog-rock-oriented earlier albums, with Greg Lake. It's more rock-oriented, but still retains the epic, arrogant quality that made King Crimson famous. It begins with Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part One, which is really the centerpiece of the album, despite being the first song. A thirteen-and-a-half minute instrumental, it traverses through many different volumes and types of music, and really shows off the musical talents of the band. It starts quietly, with Muir gently plunking away at various and sundry things, and then the mellotron comes in, softly at first, but steadily increasing in volume, heightening the mood. Then comes the real fury. Fripp comes in with a low, angry guitar line, and Muir and Bruford can be heard in the background, getting faster and faster, building up to a furious peak. Things get slower, and Wetton gets to show off his bass chops, and Bruford really beats the hell out of his drumset. Fripp comes back in to finish off the rock part, and then backs off, letting Cross come in. Cross displays his own aptitude for the violin, and brings the listener back down from the ferocity of the earlier part of the song like a junkie coming down from one hell of an acid trip. Muir lends a hand, playing what seems like three instruments at the same time, albeit very softly. Then Fripp slides back in with Cross to have one last climax. It jumps so quickly out of the relative silence, that it's like peeling back the layers of dirt and grime, and being totally exposed to the sound, naked and vulnerable. An aural journey that staggers the senses.
The next track, Book of Saturday
, is a strange transition from the first track. A slightly poppish tune, with lyrics of a faulty love
. Gentle, with Fripp's guitar sounding like it's being played backwards (someone notify me on what that effect is, will you?), but still a good song. Cross gets to play a bit on this one, too, which adds to the calm mood of the song. Possibly the most pop-oriented
song on the album.
Next is Exiles, an epic song, (sort of) harking back to the days of Peter Sinfield. A lot of odd effects are used in the beginning of the song, reminding one of strange, yipping beasts, and a sort of machine. The rest of the song is mostly mellotron, violin, and bass driven, with a quiet guitar adding to the layers of sound. Wetton's voice really shines in this one, emphasizing the feeling of sadness. Again, David Cross really gets to display his talent on this one, giving the song an almost baroque feel. Near the end, Fripp gets in a few licks, finishing the song up nicely with a slightly sad solo, along with Cross's violin.
Easy Money, the album's fourth track, is, lyrically, a real departure from usual Crimson stuff. It talks about a whore from the viewpoint of her pimp, and how they make "easy money" by taking (ahem) customers. Obviously, not a very compelling song, lyrics-wise, but in the midpoint of the song, it slips from a vocal-driven piece to a quiet prog-rock instrumental. Fripp's guitar, Wetton's bass, and Bruford's drums weave and intertwine with each other, more than making up for the mediocre lyrics. Also, despite the aforesaid mediocre lyrics, Wetton's voice, as on Exiles, is excellent on this track, and gives it a bluesy feel. The track ends with an insane laugh, then segues into the next song.
The fifth and sixth tracks, The Talking Drum and Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part Two are both instrumentals. The Talking Drum is, obviously, a mostly percussion-driven song. It starts with Bill Bruford playing quietly, and then Wetton comes in on bass to accompany Bruford. Cross then joins the fray with a low violin piece. To complete the mix, Fripp adds a high guitar part that meshes well with Cross's violin as the song begins to get louder. Then Cross and Fripp take over, slowly taking the song to a shrieking crescendo at the end. The last track on the album, Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part Two, is mainly a rock instrumental. No strange percussion, no long, quiet violin solos. Cross still lends his violin to the effort, but it's not as pronounced as in the first part of the piece, at the beginning of the album. This song centers on the talents of Robert Fripp and John Wetton. Additionally, Bruford's work on this is outstanding as always, keeping the music together. Near the middle of the song, Fripp's riffs get almost Black Sabbath-y. Combine low, heated guitar riffs, intricate bass lines, furious drumwork, and a mentally unbalanced violin segment added in, and you have one hell of an ending to an amazing album.
Although a departure from earlier prog-centered works, Larks' Tongues is a mind-blowing rock album, marking the beginning of (in my opinion) the greatest era of a band that would go through many different incarnations. Recommended to most fans of Crimso (unless you're more into their prog-type stuff), fans of Pink Floyd, and fans of good music.
skow has informed me that the effect in Book of Saturday is probably a combination of a gate, limiter, or compressor. What this means is that I need to learn a lot more about guitar effects.