King Crimson - In The Wake Of Poseidon
Island Records
Progressive Rock
8 songs (41:02)
Release year: 1970
King Crimson
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

1969's fantastic, brilliant, amazing landmark classic In The Court Of The Crimson King would prove to be a pretty hard album to follow, even for a group as good as King Crimson, and In The Wake Of Poseidon is destined to be forever in its shadow. In some ways it's a miracle that it was ever released, as the band were in crisis at the start of the 1970s. Two key members in the form of Ian MacDonald and Michael Giles had departed, and singer and bassist Greg Lake was about to leave to form what would become Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Robert Fripp was the only musician left in the band, yet rather than giving up he went into action, rehiring Greg Lake who ended up singing on all but one track here, and various session players being drafted to help. History could well have been different; the band considered hiring the then-unknown Elton John to be their singer, but ultimately decided against it!

The music here was all written by Robert Fripp and writing partner and lyricist Peter Sinfield, with writing credits also going to Ian MacDonald on two tracks, and considering that the album was pretty much thrown together by Fripp from their live show, an excellent job was done. Although it is massively similar to In The Court Of The Crimson King in parts, even sampling the chorus from that album's beautiful finale, there's enough to make it worthy of purchase to the discerning Crimsonian. Even listening to this straight after its predecessor, as I did before writing this, this isn't so much "the same" as "more of the same". The album is structured differently, starting and finishing with the short ambient Peace tracks, and fans of 21st Century Schizoid Man will recognise the similar Pictures Of A City, although the track here is much Jazzier and meanders slightly less. In terms of effect, it's still an excellent track, one of the heavier things to hit 1970, and the technical level of the musicians is as breathtaking as ever.

Cadence And Cascade follows, one of those gentle, acoustic-and-piano-driven songs that is typical of early '70s prog and, like all the others, is rather beautiful in its own quiet way, meandering flute and the gentle vocals of Fripp's schoolfriend Gordon Haskell - of course, detractors will compare it unfavourably to I Talk To The Wind, as they will the title track to Epitaph, and the only real argument that can be made in the latter's favour is that it's as pleasant to listen to as the original track is. Yes, it is so similar as to be uncanny, and whilst it can be argued that Fripp should have held King Crimson to a higher standard than this kind of Status Quo-esque repetition, I'm inclined to forgive him simply because the song, whatever you call it, is so beautiful.

After another Peace interlude, the rather excellent Cat Food follows, an avant-jazz-prog four-minute track with copious piano flourishes and deliciously odd lyrics. Keith Tippett's piano playing is simply excellent, the Jazz-trained virtuoso an excellent choice here, as he really enhances the piece (Fripp would go on to produce Tippett's single full-length from the Jazz Centipede project). The Devil's Triangle, meanwhile, is an unauthorised reinterpretation of Gustav Holst's Mars piece, from the famous Four Planets suite (the band had to change the track title from "Mars" to avoid legal proceedings) and although it takes six minutes to really get going, distant keyboard and militaristic drums pounding with some seemingly random horn flourishes, when the horns climax and strange wind sounds and a ticking clock take over, before a deranged stomping percussion and melody take the reins, moving towards Avant-Garde territory as the weirdly psychedelic track comes to a close, and after another Peace track, the album finishes.

If I have one issue with In The Wake Of Poseidon, it's the unsatisfying nature of it. It's a real musical journey, true, and in the hands of such talented musicians no fan of the Progressive should be really disappointed, but the album just doesn't "do" it for the listener, making all the right moves yet never managing to put the ball in the goal. Much of this can be blamed on the line-up troubles, and Fripp should be applauded for managing to put together an album as good as this under those circumstances, yet when viewed retrospectively there's little reason for casual Crimsonists to chase this when there's much better elsewhere. If you're willing to forgive the band's (self-)plagiarism and are a fan of their debut, then this is a solid purchase; I wrestled long and hard with myself over the score, which reflects this forgiving frame of mind - it is still a great album, after all. Detract twenty and skip this if you're not so keen on the kingly court and detest bands re-using songs in general, even when the results are as good as this.

Killing Songs :
There's nothing bad really, but Pictures Of A City and Cat Food are highlights
Goat quoted 85 / 100
Other albums by King Crimson that we have reviewed:
King Crimson - Red reviewed by Bar and quoted CLASSIC
King Crimson - Islands reviewed by Goat and quoted 65 / 100
King Crimson - Discipline reviewed by Crash and quoted 95 / 100
King Crimson - Lizard reviewed by Goat and quoted 90 / 100
King Crimson - In The Court Of The Crimson King reviewed by Goat and quoted CLASSIC
To see all 7 reviews click here
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