1. a dish, supposedly popular with Roman emperors, often quoted as the summum of decadence
  2. the title of three King Crimson tracks (parts I, II, and III)
  3. the title of a (phenomenal) King Crimson record, released in 1973
Ah, larks' tongues in aspic...a tasty dish. Had it for lunch. Actually, the full citation was "a dish made from the tongues of 1000 birds taught the power of speech", a one-time indulgence of the 2nd. Century (CE) Roman Emperor Heliogabalus, who most love to credit for being the worst emperor of them all. The obsession of the Imperial Romans with weird food was fuelled by a) the general high prices for food in a preindustrial era with really crappy transportation (horses didn't have collars, so they pulled carts half-strangling in their harnesses), b) sumptuary laws (which supposedly kept people to strict food (and other kinds of) rationing, but only served to divide those who could afford to bribe the cops from those who could not), and c) the lack of variety in Roman, or for that matter, pre-Columbian European diet. (No hot peppers, tomatoes, corn...very few spices, and at least one gone extinct through overpicking.)

Most of the more egregious excesses in Roman living were reported by satirists and other propagandists, and so it's difficult to figure out exactly, for instance, a proper family meal consisted of, as opposed to a fantasy meal given by the Roman equivalent of Larry Ellison. Only one cookbook survives, and that's not terribly detailed....professional cooks had their secrets, then and now.

Oh yes, I LOVE the album, too.

Members (at the time)

Robert Fripp: guitar, mellotron, devices
John Wetton: bass and vocals
Bill Bruford: drums
David Cross: violin, viola, mellotron
Jamie Muir: percussion and allsorts


1 Lark' Tongues in Aspic, Part One
2 Book of Saturday
3 Exiles
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.

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