Rank ‘Em: King Crimson studio albums

It’s been a while since my last “Rank ‘Em” column and I actually thought I already did King Crimson. Then after looking at the discography, I realized why I hadn’t done Crimson yet. Unlike most bands, Crimson really falls into distinct “periods” which are difficult to compare with each other. At least, difficult for me!

This becomes more about periods first and then albums within those periods. But even with that strategy, there are albums from one period that I love more than albums from others. So yes this is really hard to do. And to make matters trickier, Crimson had offshoot “ProjeKCts” which some might consider to be Crimson albums. But to make life easier on me, I decided to not include any of those. Plus, this is FULL LENGTH studio albums so no EPs.

So here goes. These are my rankings for King Crimson studio albums:

13. the construKction of light (2000): This one just never did a lot for me. To be clear, there are a couple of great songs on it though. The title track and “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic – Part IV” are great. And so is “FraKctured” but it feels like ideas that have been done before. The rest of it kinda falls flat for me. EDIT: The reconstrukction of light is a VAST improvement and moves this higher.




12. The Power to Believe (2003): This album feels like an extension of both “THRAK” and ‘the construKction of light” but falls somewhere in between. It also has a couple of great songs on it in “Level Five” and “Eyes Wide Open.” It has some filler though.



11. Beat (1982): I am guessing many people would place “Beat” down further and I could do that too but other than “The Howler,” this is a very strong album. In fact, it tends to slide up a few notches with me rather than down.



10. In the Wake of Poseidon (1970): Yes this album is a classic but it’s also feels thrown together. Part of my issue is that it’s clear that Robert Fripp was willing this album to be completed. Had the original lineup survived and recorded this album, I do think it would have been incredible. This album does slide both up and down these rankings from time to time.



9. Lizard (1970): When I started to make this list, this album was actually down at 11 and honestly it can be that way. It’s a tough album for me to rank because it’s so different from the rest of the catalog. Musically it’s more jazz than prog which is not usually my thing. But the songs are so strong. My biggest issue is Gordon Haskell’s voice which I think is weak. So this is as high as I would ever rank it. I am already questioning my decision!


8. Islands (1971): I did an albums revisited for this one so if you want more details on what I think of this album, read that one. The bottom line is that I just like a lot of other albums a lot more. UPDATE: This album has taken on a new life for me and I love it.


7. Three of a Perfect Pair (1984): I have grown to love this album more and more over the years. I really wanted to rank it higher and if I wait long enough, it could surpass the album above it on the list. “Sleepless,” “Man with an Open Heart,” “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic (Part III)” and the title track are among my favorite Crimson songs. Underrated album!



6. Discipline (1981): It’s a classic. This album did redefine what Crimson sounded like and until the current lineup, Adrian Belew became as important to the sound of the band as Robert Fripp. Every song is a classic but there are times I like “Three of a Perfect Pair” more than this album. No it doesn’t slide higher.



5. THRAK (1995): The second coming. This album really merged the 70s and 80s sounds of Crimson to create something else. I think the albums that followed where attempts to copy what “THRAK” did much better. Plus this album has some of my favorites: “Dinosaur,” “One Time,” “People,” “Walking on Air” and “VROOM.” This album can slide up to 4 but no higher or lower.



4. Starless and Bible Black (1974): I could push this album lower but there is just something about the ’72-’74 lineup that was special. They were a true band IMO and the material reflected that. This album, while not as strong as the two around it chronologically, is a beast! “Fracture” along makes this album ESSENTIAL. “Lament” and “The Night Watch” are two of my favorite songs ever. So yes this album is crucial.



3. Larks’ Tongues in Aspic (1973): The top three are set in stone for me. They are all givens. The question is what order. They do change. This album is usually third but I could rank it at number 2. It’s perfect. I just tend to love the 2 above it just a little bit more. Iconic.


2. Red (1974)
1. In the Court of the Crimson King (1969): These two are essentially TIED. FUCK!!! I really hate having to pick one over the other since they are both just SO damn amazing. “Starless” is my favorite Crimson song and one of the greatest songs ever recorded by anyone. But damn look at ALL of the songs on “In the Court of the Crimson King”!!! I’ll give that the edge only because if I match up “Fallen Angel” or “One More Red Nightmare” against “I Talk to the Wind” or “Epitaph,” the latter songs are just better. But you can’t go wrong with either album!

So those are my rankings for King Crimson studio albums. There are definitely some very close calls and many albums go up and down depending on my mood. What about your rankings? Let me know how you RANK ‘EM!

About Rob

I have been a fan of progressive metal and progressive rock for most of my life. My music collection is insanely large. My passion for life is music...progressive music!
This entry was posted in experimental rock, jazz, progressive rock and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Rank ‘Em: King Crimson studio albums

  1. Fairly easy one for me
    1. Starless. No Brainer
    2. Discipline
    3. LTIA
    4. Red
    5. ITCOTK
    6. Wake
    7. Beat
    8. Construction of Light
    9. Islands
    10. TOAPP
    11. THRAK
    12. Power to Believe
    13. Lizard

    Liked by 1 person

  2. progbeawr831 says:

    Interesting take on KC albums indeed! Like the previous reader’s comments my list varies somewhat but I can appreciate and admire your reasoning. From least listened to most my KC list goes as follows (excluding any live albums and box sets of course),

    13. Starless and Bible Black
    12. Islands
    11. Lizard
    10. ConstrucKtion of Light
    09. Beat
    08. Three of a Perfect Pair
    07. Discipline
    06. The Power to Believe
    05. Thrak
    04. In the Wake of Poseidon
    03. In The Court of the Crimson King (Observation…)
    02. Red
    01. Larks Tongues in Aspic

    LTIA has always been my favourite album and the first one I ever heard. Having many shows from every live period of KC including the show they did here in Toronto last November I have heard the ever evolving sounds and styles of the band and every album was a different facet of the band’s development as well as the lineup changes they made created an entirely different atmosphere within each album. I don;t hate any of their records but I find that they are suited to specific moods to your current Prog palette at the time.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. poeticliaisons says:

    1/2) I agree – tie!!! In The Court Of The Crimson King – and – Red
    3) Larks’ Tongues In Aspic
    4) Lizard
    5) Starless & Bible Black
    6) In The Wake Of Poseidon
    7) McDonald & Giles (okay, I suppose that’s cheating)
    8) Islands
    9) tie amongst a number of the archival live releases from the ’69-’74 lineups & the 21st Century Schizoid Band live albums
    10) …the rest – to me they weren’t any more KC than McDonald & Giles – though still very good

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Joe Cogan says:

    I’d move some of the others around, but the top three are spot on. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Anonymous says:

    This is probably not the list most would expect,but I just love Islands,it transports me to a world.

    1. Islands.
    2. liaison
    3. Itcotck
    4. Three Of Perfect Pair.
    5. Starless And Bible Black.
    All the others no real preference.


  6. loubreed says:

    Existence of this rating actually encouraged me to finally give a thorough listen to the whole Crimson discography (I’ve been stuck with re-listening their first two albums over and over for several years before that), so thanks! Won’t give my own rating, because my impressions are too fresh for most of the albums

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Anonymous says:

    1. In the Court of the Crimson King
    2. Red
    3. Larks Tongues In Aspic
    4. Starless and Bible Black
    5. Islands
    6. In the Wake of Poseidon
    7. Lizard
    8. The power to believe
    9. Discipline
    10. THRAK
    11. Three of a perfect pair
    12. Construcktion Of Light
    13. Beat


  8. San Jose Shark says:

    Starless and Bible Black


  9. San Jose Shark says:

    As of right now
    Starless and Bible Black
    Three of a Perfect Pair

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I haven’t listened to every KC album (In The Wake is the only one I’ve found online and I own five) but here’s my list so far.

    1: Red (easily my favorite)
    2: THRAK
    3: In The Court
    4: Larks’ Tongues
    5: Discipline
    6: In The Wake (Greg single-handedly saves this one)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Now that I have heard all the albums several times, here’s how I’d rank them.

      1: Red (still easily my favorite)
      2: The Power To Believe (definitely the most underrated)
      3: Three Of A Perfect Pair (the catchiest)
      4: THRAK (slides up and down. More great moments that TPTB but also more “meh” moments)
      5: In The Court Of The Crimson King (a classic for a reason)
      6: Larks’ Tongues In Aspic (a bit overrated, but still excellent)
      7: Discipline (mostly up here because of Tony)
      8: Islands (EXCELLENT songs, poor production and singing. Deserves a good reworking)
      9: Starless And Bible Black (not catchy, very dense, but also very exciting)
      10: In The Wake Of Poseidon (knockoff In The Court. Still very good)
      11: Beat (some very good songs and some filler)
      12: Lizard (side 2 is great; side 1 makes no sense)
      13: The ConstruKCtion Of Light (a good deal of filler)

      Liked by 1 person

  11. San Jose Shark says:

    Starless and Bible Black
    Larks Tongues In Aspic
    The top 4 always change positions


  12. Rijk Zandstra says:

    13 The ConstruKction of Light
    12 Starless and Bible Black
    11 In the Wake of Poseidon
    10 Islands
    09 Beat
    08 Three of a Perfect Pair
    07 The Power to Believe
    06 Thrak
    05 Larks’ Tongues in Aspic
    04 Discipline
    03 In the Court of the Crimson King
    02 Red
    01 Lizard


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