Lizard is the name of an album that King Crimson released in 1971. This was their second-to-last album with lyricist Peter Sinfield; the last was Islands. Back in those days, King Crimson worked with lyricists who didn't play instruments.

It's a weird record, an expansive chaos. There's a harsh, splenetic strangeness there that's hard not to like, but they were trying to do "fusion" on some tracks and that part is annoying. Even on the more coherent ones, it's a mighty disorienting listen when you're a bit groggy: Harmonically it ranges from odd to bizarre, instruments drift in and out, Fripp does disturbing things with a mellotron (yes, he was still in his mellotron phase, and yes, a mellotron can sound awful disturbing if you unleash Fripp on it) etc. None of the songs seems to hang together very tightly. The singer, bassist Gordon Haskell, is a bit strange too. The closest thing to an "accessible" song is "Prince Rupert Awakes", sung by Jon Anderson from Yes, and even that's a bit peculiar: There's lots of billowing mellotron grooviness, but it's billowing around something not quite normal. Was Fripp trying to write "In the Court of the Crimson King" again with that song? Maybe so. It's good to have Peter Sinfield on board. His successor, Richard W. Palmer-James, never did much for me.

The whole band seems to be in a capricious and very negative mood.

The drums are cut off at the knees: All you can hear is the snare and the cymbals. It doesn't help with the disorientation, not to have an anchor like that.

Still, it's an engaging and intresting record, and it's hard to have too much mellotron.

My copy is a "Promotional DJ Copy" from when it was first released; I found it in a used record store at some point. I'm not sure when. The cover is very nice, sort of a Book-of-Kells-ified illuminated manuscript thing, with little cartoon decadent rock stars hiding in the middles of the letters: You'd really miss the effect if it were shrunk down to CD size. It's a gatefold, of course (and the CD reissue as of August, 2000 has a little gatefold thing as well), with the lyrics on the inside of the gatefold in a ten or twelve point italic Baskerville; those weird angles on the capital letters are always a treat. On the front, on the "Promotional DJ Copy Not for Sale" sticker, it says: "Suggested Cuts for Air Play: 1. Prince Rupert Awakes, 2. Happy Family". I wonder if that "suggestion" seemed as howlingly arbitrary then as it does now. Maybe not; FM radio was something different in 1971. Still, these are not songs that anybody ever could have expected to be "hits" in any year, at least on this planet.

sensei tells me that "Happy Family" was about the Beatles, which makes sense.

Ahhh, prog rock . . . Enough was enough.


Side A:

  1. Cirkus (Including Entry of the Chameleons) (6:28)
  2. Indoor Games (5:35)
  3. Happy Family (4:15)
  4. Lady of the Dancing Water (2:43)

Side B:

  1. Prince Rupert Awakes (4:34)
  2. Bolero -- the Peacock's Tale (6:30) (instrumental)
  3. The Battle of Glass Tears (10:55)