November 17, 2008

The Greatest Band You've Never Heard Of?

The 1960s and 1970s were a great time to be a fan of rock music. Bands such as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and countless others were in their prime, and would influence a whole new generation of musicians. While many of these great bands are very well known, and deserving of their iconic status, there is one band that frequently gets overlooked.

In 1969, the band King Crimson released their debut album, the seminal In the Court of the Crimson King. The album, which was hailed as a masterpiece at the time, has largely been forgotten. From the album's Wikipedia entry:

The album is generally viewed as one of the strongest of the progressive rock genre, where blues-oriented rock was mixed together with jazz and European symphonic elements. In his 1997 book Rocking the Classics, critic/musicologist Edward Macan notes that In the Court of the Crimson King "may be the most influential progressive rock album ever released." The Who's Pete Townshend was quoted as calling the album "an uncanny masterpiece".

Despite the almost unanimous praise for the album, it and the band have largely been forgotten. On VH1's list of the top 100 artists of hard rock, King Crimson came in at 87. Among the "better" bands on this list: Hole, Ratt, and Korn. Even friggin Spinal Tap, a fake band, was ranked higher than King Crimson (nothing against Spinal Tap, but come on!).

I first heard the album the way that all rock albums from this period should be heard: on vinyl. My dad was, and still is, a huge King Crimson fan, and he purchased the album when he was a teenager. I was amazed at the complexity of the music and the talent of the musicians. Their influence on the progressive rock genre cannot be overstated.

Now, for your enjoyment, listen to "21st Century Schizoid Man," the opening track to In the Court of the Crimson King. The picture that the music plays over is the cover art of the album, one of my favorite album covers of all time.

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