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Various Artists — Reimagining the Court of the Crimson King
(Cleopatra CLO5255, 2024, CD / LP / DL)

by Jon Davis, Published 2024-06-12

Reimagining the Court of the Crimson King Cover art

Cleopatra Records seems to be on a quest to “reimagine” every classic album as a compilation with various combinations of well-known musicians doing each tune on the original. I’ve already written about two Pink Floyd albums which have received the treatment: Meddle and Animals. They also did Abbey Road, but the less said about that the better. At hand is the first go at King Crimson, presenting the influential debut album in full supplemented by two alternate versions of “21st Century Schizoid Man.” There’s probably no way to talk about an album like this one in general terms, so we’ll go track by track. “Schizoid Man” features Todd Rundgren (vocals), Arthur Brown (vocals), Mel Collins (sax), Chris Poland (guitar), Ian Paice (drums), and Jurgen Engler (guitar, bass, keyboards). This is a spirited rendition, and Brown’s vocals are suitably demented even without distortion, while Rundgren opts for the traditional fuzz tone on his. It’s the middle instrumental section where I’m a bit less enamored of the interpretation. It lacks the edginess of the original, mainly in the drums and bass; Poland’s guitar is slicker than Fripp, and Collins’ sax is comparatively tame. (It’s also not the same version that appeared on the Emerson and Lake tribute album in 2020, which is included as one of the bonus tracks here.) “I Talk to the Wind” is quite lovely, with Collins on multiple flute parts, along with Django Jakszyk (bass) and Jakko Jakszyk (guitar, keyboards, vocals) — there’s no credit for drums, so maybe Jakko programmed them. The flute solo is beautiful, and although nothing can replace the original version, this is a worthy recording. “Epitaph” is done by members of Pink Fairies and Hawkestrel, including Alan Davey (bass, Mellotron, organ), Paul Rudolph (guitar), Adam Hamilton (drums), Nik Turner (flute), and Danny Faulkner (vocals). This is a respectable effort on a classic track. It is with “Moonchild” that we have something fairly different. The musicians are Jah Wobble (bass), Chester Thompson (drums), Marty Friedman (guitar), and Joe Lynn Turner (vocals), with Jürgen Engler providing additional guitar, bass, and keyboards. The middle section takes a very jazzy turn, with Friedman’s guitar sounding very un-Fripp-like. The album proper (and the vinyl edition) finishes off with a rather short — just under six minutes — version of the title track performed by Carmine Appice (drums), Steve Hillage (guitar), and James LaBrie (vocals) with Engler again filling in other parts. This is also a solid rendition. The bonus tracks are two different versions of “21st Century Schizoid Man,” the first of which already appeared on a Keith Emerson and Greg Lake tribute album; the second seems to be identical to Track 1 but without any vocals. While this album as a whole is pretty enjoyable, nothing of real note is added or changed, so the main audience is likely fans of the participants rather than pure Crimson fans.

Filed under: New releases, 2024 releases

Related artist(s): Robert Fripp, Jakko Jakszyk, King Crimson, Nik Turner, Mel Collins, Ian McDonald, Todd Rundgren, Steve Hillage / System 7, Arthur Brown, Greg Lake, Various Artists, Brian Auger / Oblivion Express / Trinity, Alan Davey / Hawkestrel, Jah Wobble, Chester Thompson, Carmine Appice

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