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.
12. 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.
11. 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.
10. 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.
9. 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.
8. 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!
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!