(at the time):
Special thanks to (i.e., not actual members):
David Cross – violin
Mel Collins – soprano saxophone
Ian McDonald – alto saxophone
Robin Miller – oboe
Marc Charig – cornet
One More Red Nightmare
The third (and last) King Crimson album with the Fripp-Wetton-Bruford lineup, KC goes out with a bang on this one. The three remaining members really play the hell out of their instruments, giving the masses one more red nightmare (so to speak). Bob, John, and Bill really focus their talents, being (in my opinion) what King Crimson should be: just a group of truly remarkable talents playing some damn good music. Unfortunately, right before this album came out, Fripp disbanded King Crimson, because he wanted to prepare himself for the coming apocalypse.
"...a decade of considerable panic in the 1990s - collapse on a colossal scale. The wind-down has already started. It's no doomy thing - for the new world to flourish, the old has to die. But the depression era of the Thirties will look like a Sunday outing compared to this apocalypse. I shall be blowing a bugle loudly from the sidelines."* - Robert himself
I must've missed it.
Anyway, this last album sums up the whole library of Wetton-Fripp-Bruford King Crimson. Raw, unadulterated rock, depressing but strong ballad-tales, improv loosely bound into a coherent song with strange lyrics, and straight prog-rock lunacy.
It all starts with the title track, Red, an instrumental. Raw power is the issue here. Robert has a fantastic ability to write an incredibly intricate piece of music and make it a whole lot louder than it's meant to be. Reminiscent of the Larks' Tongues In Aspic, Part Two, off of Larks' Tongues In Aspic, this song is probably the heaviest on the album. Absolutely stunning riffage brings to mind a sense of evil, but Crimso stays true to its prog roots, and incoporates David Cross and his violin into the fray. Also, Bill Bruford's penchant for psychotic drumming is shown off through the whole song. Amazingly, he keeps perfect rhythm with the frenzied chords, and does a magnificent job. And, as always, John Wetton's basswork is on par with Fripp's guitar work. An ideal beginning for the end.
The second track, Fallen Angel, is my personal favorite. It starts out a bit like Exiles, a track from Larks' Tongues In Aspic, epic and sweeping, and then John Wetton's voice comes in. Low, comforting, a dark, smooth finish on the structure of the song itself. For once, it seems that the instrumental talents take backseat for a while. But when they take over again, it's absolutely awe-inspiring. Fripp's guitar weeps, moans, and screams, Wetton's bass sings softly and wistfully, and combined with Bruford's brilliant percussion and Wetton's gentle, sad voice, the three create a gloriously regretful ballad (for lack of a better word). Also, Mel Collins, Ian McDonald, Robin Miller, and Marc Charig play off of Fripp's guitar, and add greatly to the song. John sings of a life on the streets, of the death of a brother, and of deep regret. One of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard.
Third is One More Red Nightmare, the story of (surprise, surprise) a nightmare. This is where the album starts to get more prog-related. It goes from rock to prog improvisation, back to rock, and ends with a mellifluous combination of both. Robert really gets his Les Paul to sing for him on this one, evoking snarls and shrieks. Wetton's bass really stands out in this song, almost overtaking Fripp's guitar in the more prog-ish parts of the song. The nice thing about this song, though, is that it's almost a sampler of King Crimson's music in one song. It gets really raw at some points, and gets really progressive at others, creating a melange that coalesces perfectly. Modern jazz meets raw power in a sort of musical maelstrom.
Then comes the real prog-fest of the album, Providence. I've heard that this started out as an improv at a King Crimson live show, and made its way onto the album. Sounds good to me. For once, Robert isn't the main attraction. This song focuses a lot more on the talents of David Cross and his violin, and Wetton and his fantastic basswork. Providence gives the listener a taste of what King Crimson was like on stage: very bizarre. Fripp does get into the song near the end, but his guitar sort of takes a backseat to the lower instruments in the band. At one point (around the six and a half minute mark), Fripp seems to get pissed off, and starts playing his guitar louder. Wetton responds by playing his bass quicker and louder, to drive Fripp out. What results is a fight between instruments, a clash of the titans, as it were. This dies down after a while, the monsters shrink back into their respective caves, and Cross comes in to finish the song off.
Lastly, we have Starless, a supposed "reworking" of the track Starless and Bible Black, from the previous album of the same name. I'm not too sure about that, but Starless is still a great song. It's really Fripp's piece, though. As progressive and improvisational as it may seem, it's truly driven by Robert's black Les Paul. It starts with a sad mellotron backing and a saxophone solo, with hopeless lyrics crooned by Wetton. The beginning is misleading, going from gloomy mellotron to lone guitar for a few minutes, giving the song a creepy atmosphere. Fripp plays the same line, progressively higher and louder, and Bruford throws a few cymbals and other sundries into the mix, but nothing terribly exciting seems to be going on. Then, it all comes back together. Wetton's bass slides back in with some amazingly quick lines, and the saxophone takes over again. At one point, you can feel the tension of the musicians, holding back the full fury. Then, it finally comes. Fripp, Wetton, Bruford, Collins, McDonald, Miller, and Charig all play as hard as they can, intertwining to form Crimson at its progressive, raw best, to end the album with one hell of huge bang.
Looking back, this is probably the best '70s era King Crimson album out of the three. It seems like the three musicians knew that this would be the last one, and they put their all into it. Everything they had, and a lot more than that. Robert's guitar, John's bass and voice, and Bill's drums form a sort of triforce (heh) here, blowing the listener away at one point, and lulling him/her to sleep at the next. The perfect epitaph for the band that broke the rules and made some awesome music. Recommended for: King Crimson beginners, veteran Crimso fans, fans of rock, fans of classical music, fans of prog-rock, and fans of music. In short, everyone.
*Taken from Red’s liner notes