Sound — 10
It has been quite a few years since a new King Crimson record, and fans of the band may fear that this is the end for the band that has influenced so many musicians since the release of "In The Court Of The Crimson King". The band's last album, "The Power To Believe" was released in 2003 and though the band continued to tour for quite a while, even picking up a new member in drummer Gavin Harrison (known for his work with progressive masterminds Porcupine Tree), the band eventually grinded to a halt and 3 years later it doesn't seem like much is happening in the Crimson camp. Until the release of this little gem. Fripp joined up with the frontman/guitarist of the 21st Century Schizoid Band and former King Crimson saxophone virtuoso Mel Collins to bring us "A Scarcity Of Miracles", this album proves to be the miracle they claim in the title. The titular track opens on a distant cry, followed close by strange lines from guitar and saxophone. A true Fripp style soundscape if there ever was one, but something changes about a minute and 40 seconds in. The sounds suddenly meld together into a beautifully crafted song. The saxophone taking lead lines, bass and drums guiding the others through the strange soundscape and finally Jakszyk's vocals break through and you quickly realize this is no ordinary Crimson record. In fact, it is hard to say that it is a Crimson record at all. The album is dominated by beautiful soundscapes combined with simple guitar lines and leading saxophone power. All this is backed by what I can only describe as Progressive rock's best rhythm section, composed of longtime Crimson bassist/stick player Tony Levin and aforementioned drummer Gavin Harrison. This new project is much more atmospheric than anything King Crimson has ever attempted, and really sounds nothing like Crimson's last 6 albums. But as Robert Fripp states in the album notes "It still contains the Crimson gene".
Lyrics — 10
I had never heard Jakszyk's voice before this album, so I was pleasantly surprised upon hearing it. He is an absolutely amazing vocalist. And unlike much of the later Crimson albums, with Adrian Belew taking lyric and vocal roles, there is no tongue-in-cheek humor going on. The subject matter is very serious, dark and at times truly depressing. I feel this is best shown in the track "Secrets", with the line "I spent a decade on the run, but I escaped from nothing and no one", and later the line "I'll take a hammer to your trust". Truly the songs express feelings of regret, longing (especially with "This House") and the state of a constantly changing world. But coming back to Jakszyk's vocal abilities, they are simply superb. Beautiful harmonies fill the album and in a couple cases, in the beginning of "This House", actually use dissonance to achieve beautiful resolutions. His tone works perfectly with the songs and soundscapes and it is hard to imagine Belew managing the same feats that Jakszyk does on this album.
Overall Impression — 10
If I were to compare this to other King Crimson records, I would have to say they left much of the heaviness, hard hitting chords and gamelan pop sensibilities behind. And that would be a shame. But this is not exactly a Crimson record. While it features many members of the famed Progressive King, it was never meant to be the next album in Crimson's grand scheme. When it comes down to it, I found that I enjoyed the album more than any Crimson album. I know, blasphemy. But the textural and atmospheric approach is a wonderful one and makes a much more accessible album. The sound compares to some of the more atmospheric tracks from Porcupine Tree, such as from their album "Deadwing". But it uses saxophone lines reminiscent from the early days of the group. Largely, the album brings to the forefront what has always been in the background of King Crimson since the beginning. My personal favorites fromt the album were the opening "A Scarcity Of Miracles" and the haunting "This House". Though fans of recent King Crimson may enjoy "The Other Man" most as it is the only song that features any ounce of heaviness. To me, this is an amazing new direction for Fripp and something I would love to hear more of. Perhaps the best way to describe this album, as mentioned in the album notes, is that this is King Crimson that your mother or wife will like too.