Review: In the Court of the Crimson King - King Crimson at 50

Sigmund Freud and I were listening to King Crimson the other evening. We ran through the entire studio catalog: From the genre-defining 1969 debut, In The Court Of The Crimson King, to the other “Peter Sinfield-Robert Fripp'' era releases, we were stunned with their originality and musicianship. We next ventured on to the “Larks” era and monstrous rhythm section of Bill Bruford-John Wetton. This was perhaps my favorite, being so visceral. After a little nip of Schnapps, we continued on to the early 80s incarnation, or Discipline lineup, with the Americans Adrian Belew and Tony Levin. I’d venture to say that Sigmund liked this era the best as he got a little fidgety at times, but in a happy way. Carrying on to the double-trio of the 90s, but not first without a quick dip into the Sylvian/Fripp collaboration from 1993, the evening started to feel long, but we persevered through. Finally, we briefly perused the ProjeKct era, before moving on to the lean years of the 2000s, with just a couple studio albums to show for it. I wasn’t even sure if I had them on the shelf. Amazingly, he managed to read all of Sid Smith’s In The Court of King Crimson: An Observation over 50 Years while we were listening, but then again, it was a dream, and he is Sigmund Freud! After a Sacher torte and coffee, we felt invigorated and decided to watch the latest from DGM, the film In the Court of the Crimson King - King Crimson at 50. Filmed and directed by Toby Amies, it follows the band during the last few years of its “Seven-Headed Beast” incarnations and their several tours (2014-2021) where they performed “reconfigured” selections from previous King Crimson albums. Finally, we settled back for a few Stiegl beers.

“Charles, the music is what I would call the Id of King Crimson. After all, music is what we are here for; to listen with our ears and mind and to indulge in these recordings again and again over these wonderful progressive sounds” Music is a very primal beast.
“Yes, very primal.” I turned to Sigmund and said, “But the music is so varied and different over their 35 year recording career. Often it sounds like several different bands we are listening to”.
“Nonsense”, Sigmund retorted, “One must realize that King Crimson is in fact the higher ideal or consciousness, the SuperEgo that guides these musicians when they are King Crimson. It is what oversees and shapes their musical output.
“You don’t say, Sigmund”, I added, “But what about all these guys in the band?”
“Now we get interesting, Charles. This film features many men, all with their musician’s ego. It's interesting how the film presents them all. What a collection of personalities! They are of course what I would classify as the Ego of King Crimson. Each musician channels the ideal of King Crimson into the music. Maybe this Robert Fripp is the captain, but I am not so sure. Anyway, with all those egos, it’s not an easy ship to commandeer, as the film presents!”
“I understand, Sigmund.” “I’ve followed some of the members for many years, both in the band and outside of it. Some are very much characters!”
“Yes,” Sigmund replied. “These guys from the Discipline era are especially contrasting. One - Bruford - is obviously in a happy place. He seems very much at peace with his time in King Crimson. But this Belew guy - he is not at peace - I think he wanted to be the SuperEgo, but of course, that is not his for the taking.”
“Well, I never really liked his voice, Sigmund”, I replied.
“Charles, who are these other people?” Freud asked. “Why is there no video from the violin player? I am Austrian and we love our violin! And who is this Bill Rieflin?
“Well, I actually worked with Bill in the mid 90s, he did a track for a compilation I was putting together. It was Industrial music.”
“Was it for King Crimson?” Sigmund quickly interjected.
“No,” I replied.
Sigmund cut me short: “Well, his is a sad story, with so many health issues and ultimately dying. But I am not sure what it has to do with the SuperEgo of King Crimson. You see, the music from this ‘Three Over Five’ lineup the film presents is quite interesting, but I think that Belew was on point when he asked about ‘where is the new music?’ from the lineup.”
“Sigmund,'' I replied, “Please let me play you the 2013 ProjeKcet release Scarcity of Miracles. It was recorded with five of the current members, Jakko Jakszyk, Robert Fripp and Mel Collins, along with Tony Levin and Gavin Harrison and just preceded the Seven-Headed Beast.”
“Ahhh” cried Sigmund as we listened, “Was this why he created the big lineup?”
“Maybe” I retorted, “but I think it was also in reaction to a little known band called the 21st Century Schizoid Band.
“Who were they?”, Sigmund asked.
“Well, they were - for the most part - the “bunch of c*nts” that Fripp referred to…”
“I thought that was the original lineup?” Sigmund interrupted.
“Yes, yes, many of those members were indeed in the first lineup of King Crimson, including Michael Giles and Ian McDonald. The 21st Century band played music from the first few Crimson albums, and was the first to include Jakszyk performing King Crimson repertoire”.
“You don’t say”, Sigmund replied. “So the Ego of that Fripp character must have been quite unbalanced to see himself lose control of the SuperEgo King Crimson. No wonder he then created the “Seven-Headed Beast”.
“Well,” I replied, “that’s one way to look at it!”
“Fripp is a very interesting personality for me,” Sigmund continued. “This film is very much a vehicle for him, I see. He has a very complex ego, and it is quite something that he has persevered with King Crimson all this time. But I agree with the film, without the others, you have no King Crimson. Yet this part where he talks about meeting J.G. Bennett, very poor theater I am afraid. Emotions are at the heart of the Ego, but this seems so contrived here. The pause was quite… peinlich.’
“Well Sigmund, I was once told by Fripp, ‘if you wish to lose faith in music, meet the musicians who played it.’”
“This is true, Charles”, Sigmund said. “We should turn this movie off and just listen to the music. Fripp is a very deep, intelligent, spiritual human, but King Crimson music is even better.”

Charles Snider