Sound — 9
Red was recorded after David Cross left King Crimson in 1974, leaving the band as a trio which consisted of Robert Fripp (Guitar, Mellotron), John Wetton (Bass, Vocals) and Bill Bruford (Drums, Percussion). Many people refer to Red as King Crimson's swan song album, as the band disbanded before the release of it, leaving it without an accompanying tour. Although King Crimson did reform several times and made more records, none were held in as high regards amongst fans compared to Red and other previous releases. The album kicks off with the title track Red, an 8 minute heavy rock instrumental which sets the tone guitar wise for the rest of the album. While acoustic guitars were featured prominently in previous King Crimson records, in this record it has taken a back seat. Also different to previous King Crimson records is that Red features extensive use of guitar overdubs, resulting in a weightier guitar sound. This change works effectively within the title track, as the guitar work delivers a satisfying crunch that accentuates the fierceness of the track brilliantly. The Cello section in the middle does a great job of stopping the track from becoming stale, and also creates a dreaded ambience which contrastingly compliments the fierceness of the beginning and the end of the track. It works wonderfully and is a great example of Fripp's skill as a composer. Overall a solid start to the album. The second track: Fallen Angel takes a turn from the title track and starts off very mellow. Wetton's singing during the verse is beautifully haunting and parallels really well with the mellotron lines. The song gets slightly heavier and tighter during the chorus, which really shows off Bruford's unique drumming style. One More Red Nightmare starts off with a fierce and relentless feel not dissimilar to the title track. This draws the listener into expecting another Red, until the verse and singing starts, carrying an almost funky singing style which unbelievably works within the context of the song. The start of side 2 contains another instrumental by the name of Providence. Providence differs from Red by the fact that it is a live recording. It is an 8 minute improvisation that best showcases the incredible connection between the band members. It is absolutely phenomenal and no description I make can give it justice, go give it a listen. It's only downside is that perhaps it is too complicated for its own good, which may take some listeners several listens to get into it. The last track: Starless, is definitely the highlight of the album. Clocking in at over 12 minutes in length, it basically features all the best bits of King Crimson albums in the 70s and rolled them all into one. A slow mellotron strings passage coupled with a haunting electric guitar rift and saxophone line starts off the song, equating to arguably the most beautiful music King Crimson has ever put on a record. This then introduces a solid verse chorus structure until the middle of the track, where a build up is played in 13/8 starting with a distorted bass line. It gets louder and louder until the song erupts into a loud, jazzy rock number complete with Sax solo, then the song ends on a heavier reprise of the opening melody. Really I would attempt to describe Starless to you some more but, heck, just go listen to it yourself.
Lyrics — 10
Understandably, since two of the tracks are instrumentals, there isn't a lot of vocal work present. However, as mentioned numerous times, John Wetton's voice suits these songs perfectly, and gives them the extra energy to take them up a notch. Lyrics are expectedly solid. Fallen Angel showcases a good example of a talented lyricist at work and One More Red Nightmare shows a more imaginative and wilder side rear its head. Starless on the other hand ambiguously describes a starless night. The genius of it is that the song can be interpreted in many ways; it instils a difference sense of identification on each different listener.
Overall Impression — 10
It isn't easy to get into, and it certainly isn't a very mainstream album. I can understand why some people will not get into as it is very challenging music to listen. However, if you keep an open mind, all I can say is enjoy.