Sound — 10
We have on this posthumously released album by the pre-King Crimson band Giles Giles & Fripp, consisting of Michael Giles on drums, Robert Fripp (on guitar), and Peter Giles (on bass) who didn't make it into the band for whatever reasons. The really awesome part about this is that it is just raw and there isn't really anything tampered with it, it is just a bunch of people playing as they naturally sound and making some extraordinary music, just pure talent. There are also Judy Dyble on vocals on this album who would later join Fairport Convention on their debut until she was replaced by Sandy Denny.
Robert Fripp sounds really excellent on this as usual and you can hear the unique complex rhythms and style that Michael Giles would later be using on the groundbreaking eponymous debut album "In the Court of The Crimson King." This is really showing you the jazz/English/folk musical side of the band which really does give a huge hint at what they would later do but somehow it's still a world apart, the real cutting out of everything standard and mainstream has to do with that and a serious collaboration and composition work with Fripp and the artists involved. This, in my opinion, is almost as good; I don't like to compare things and I obviously love the debut of King Crimson more but this has held a place in my heart being a fan of an older folk rock revivalist type of music with psychedelic jazz fusion type leanings which is an evolutionary step to the next album. I do prefer this album to "The Cheerful Insanity of Giles Giles and Fripp," the other album of the band that was the only one ever released and was commercially unsuccessful, the original vinyl LP is worth a fortune. The sole album they released before is almost as brilliant and is cut more and most likely edited in the studio having a cleaner sound. This was just recorded on a reel to reel tape recorder before the band actually went to the studio. The other album that was released has more of a pop rock psychedelic jazz feel to it with classical baroque leanings imbedded while this is definitely an all out raw psych folk type pop British album. There is also the King Crimson member to be Ian McDonald, later of Foreigner fame on her playing some excellent sax leads with those brilliant flute solos that would morph into the King Crimson album to come in the next year (this being recorded in early 1968). Metamorphoses is an alternate title to this previously unreleased album's vinyl pressing now available and a suitable title considering that they were transforming and the tracks done here are ones Fripp would use bits of throughout the King Crimson discography at times like "Why Don't You Just Drop In" or "Tremelo Study in A Major." Peter Sinfield also appears as a composer, writing the lyrics and helping shape the songs like "I Talk to the Wind", a beautiful folk rendition and in a more earlier version.
The electric guitar bits by Fripp used commonly throughout the album reoccurring on certain takes of tracks and predominantly on other songs is magnificent! Whatever equipment he is using gives his guitar a harder cutting sound that is unique especially for 1968, I know Hendrix and a few other artists would use a harder sound but this isn't playing in that style, it is being played in more classical sound yet it sounds naturally louder and harder in a higher tone like an earlier type of amplifier setting, the effect on there is highly favorable. Only a few of the tracks on here are also featured on the actual album that was released and these are more of demo takes and some have a slightly low fi sound, particularly on the opening track "Hypocrite" a clever play on the word hip for cool, turning it into a negative usage, quite humorous as some of these tracks have that comical sense but still serious songs with serious musicianship.
Lyrics — 9
The lyrics on here are excellent and creative, I think they were all collaborative with the help of Peter Sinfield as not all of them are clear except the tracks we know for certain were written by him, but tracks like "Wonderland" in particular are marvelous, using the concept of Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and turning them into an orgy of sound. Other lyrics have a sarcastic wit to them with playful banter like "Digging My Lawn" and "Newly Weds." The great part of this is the wholesome amount of material displaying the sheer talent all of them had, particularly Michael Giles, Fripp and McDonald. "Newly Weds" has kind of a trippy sliding effect used on it, this is really a great archetype of the history and evolution of prog/psych jazz fusion, I mean even at this time these guys were trying a commercial approach and yet were so far off in a good way, this was an attempt at pop but became an original blend of classical, folk, jazz with some rock. There are some excellent solos from time to time to to add to the overall satisfying material. Though Judy Dyble only appears on hear a few times her voice is very beautiful and reaches an impressive range, I would try to underrate any of the other musicians on here, I was just noting the ones that I feel are really important to me, there is some nice innovation here in the field of a type of blended English folk/jazz rock. The whole album has an experimentation to it and that really plays an important role in the change of direction and Fripp's distorted and loud heavy guitar throughout here gives way to that. I think their jazz influence would really help them in the years to come and form a longer more progressive type of band.
Overall Impression — 10
I would highly recommend this to any King Crimson completist or fan of an early type of Fairport Convention, Dylan, Incredible String Band type of outfit that has their own originality and flair to them. Overall this is a solid album and I can't really complain about or find any fault, except once again the recording is a bit lower quality and sounds home recorded as it was which is always a disappointment on these previously undiscovered artists that I'm finding out about. Real talent like this should have went straight to the studio and recorded everything on a double LP, music like this really can transcend standard generic pop of the era. Pop is always nice but won't be remembered, nice jams like "Plastic Pennies" with a good section of instrumentation displays great talent and intonation, this would be a good example of more length and you don't get that on the "Cheerful Insanity" album, although that is second to this in my opinion, but both are really excellent and well executed very dead on. It just is a matter of preference between a more free form sound or slightly confined but still just as creative on the other Giles, Giles & Fripp album, just a choice as a listener as far as taste goes really. They are very outstanding pieces of a rare kind of band that went for music that was more jazz oriented and an intellectual type of music not all that popular during their era (late '60s) psychedelic hard rock and blues being in favor, but those are just as excellent as I love them; it's just nice to hear something unique a bit like Pentangle's debut "The Pentangle" released the same year.
I'm more into a sound closer to "Pentange" for example so this album is another missing link in music that I'm missing out on that I really love. Robert Fripp's "Suite No. 1" (which was later transmuted into "Prelude: Song of the Gulls" from "Islands"), and an early Fripp guitar piece, "Tremelo Study in A Major" is a real fluid song and "Why Don't You Just Drop In" attains a rocker with killer soloing along with the scat vocal solo/drum fills by Michael Giles on "Wonderland" with good solo bits and a nice riff played throughout, similar to a Jefferson Airplane "Surrealistic Pillow" folk type and retaining the lyrics of a drug culture related "Alice in Wonderland" ("White Rabbit") except not as psychedelic but more blended in styled not orienting on one but three as I was saying jazz folk/softer rock with nice heavy riffs at times by Fripp. The distortion Fripp uses on here is very close but not as heavy as the type he would use on "21st Century Schizoid Man" throughout the soloing heard on tracks like "Why Don't You Just Drop In," which evolved through several intermediate stages into "The Letters" on "Islands"; and a portion of Fripp's "Passages of Time" ended up in the bridge of "Peace - A Theme" from "In the Wake of Poseidon." "Make It Today" has a nice piece of progressive pop jazz/folk and delivers a McDonald sax solo. It proves to be an excellent album from hard working skilled musicians of their time, quite underrated and somewhat forgotten but that is changing thanks to this release on CD of what was once lost, it is really a joy to see this happening but listening to it delivers the goods to one's ears without doubt.