Larks' Tongues in Aspic is the fifth studio album by the English progressive rock group King Crimson, originally released in 1973. This album is the debut of King Crimson's third incarnation, featuring original member and guitarist Robert Fripp and new members John Wetton (vocals, bass guitar), David Cross (violin, Mellotron), Jamie Muir (percussion), and Bill Bruford (drums). Bruford had just left Yes before they embarked on their Close to the Edgetour. Bruford felt that he had done all he could with Yes at that point, and thought the more jazz-oriented King Crimson would be a more expansive outlet.
Much of the music on the album is intimately reminiscent of the seminal Ethiopian jazz musician, Mulatu Astatke, whose long instrumental pieces immediately predated this album.
The album spawned the concert staple "Exiles", whose Mellotron introduction had been adapted from an instrumental piece called "Mantra" the band's original line up performed throughout 1969. At that time, as well as in late 1972, the melody was played by Fripp on guitar. It is the only studio album with this 5-man line up, since Muir left the group while on tour in 1973. Attrition took this incarnation of King Crimson through the next several albums until Fripp's "retirement" in 1975.
In 2012 the album was issued as part of the King Crimson 40th Anniversary Series, including the release of an expansive box set subtitled "The Complete Recordings". This CD, DVD-A and Blu-ray set includes every available recording of the short-lived 5 man line-up, through live performances and studio sessions. As with the rest of the 40th Anniversary Series, the release features new stereo and 5.1 surround mixes produced by Steven Wilson and Robert Fripp, taken from the original multi-track master tapes, as well as a selection of alternative versions. Clean video footage of the band performing early versions of "Exiles", "Larks' Tongues in Aspic (Part I)" and a 30 minute improvisation became available publicly for the first time as part of this reissue; previously only one of the pieces had been broadcast on German television, with heavy visual effects applied to the image. In addition, all known concert-recordings with this line-up are enclosed. Some of them were previously released through the King Crimson Collectors Club. There are two new recordings; one is from Glasgow, and was delivered from Ole Petter Dronen and the other one is Muir's penultimate gig with the band in Portsmouth, without credited source. The box also contains a link to a free download of a London-gig whose unrestorably poor audio quality renders it barely listenable; its internet-only release is meant for completists only.
Allmusic's retrospective review was resoundingly positive, marking every aspect of the band's transition from a jazz-influenced vein to a more experimental one as a complete success. They deemed John Wetton "the group's strongest singer/bassist since Greg Lake's departure." They especially praised the remastered edition.
Robert Christgau's retrospective review gave a more ambivalent view, saying of the band's instrumental work, "not only doesn't it cook, which figures, it doesn't quite jell either."
In the Q & Mojo Classic Special Edition Pink Floyd & The Story of Prog Rock, the album came number 22 in its list of "40 Cosmic Rock Albums".