In the Court of the Crimson King

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In the Court of the Crimson King
In the Court of the Crimson King - 40th Anniversary Box Set - Front cover.jpeg
Studio album by King Crimson
Released 10 October 1969
Recorded June–August 1969
Studio Wessex Sound Studios, London
Genre Progressive rock
Length 43:53
Label Island
Producer King Crimson
King Crimson chronology
In the Court of the Crimson King
In the Wake of Poseidon
Singles from In the Court of the Crimson King
  1. "The Court of the Crimson King"
    Released: 1969
  2. "Epitaph"/"21st Century Schizoid Man"
    Released: 1976

In the Court of the Crimson King: An Observation by King Crimson is the debut studio album from the English rock band King Crimson, released on 10 October 1969 on Atlantic Records. The album is considered to be one of the first and most influential of the progressive rock genre, where the band largely departed from the blues influences that rock music was founded upon and combined elements of jazz, classical, and symphonic music.

The album reached No. 5 on the UK Album Chart and No. 28 on the US Billboard 200, where it was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America. The album was reissued several times in the 1980s and 1990s made with inferior copies of the master tapes. After the masters were located in 2003, a 40th Anniversary edition of the album was released in 2009 with new stereo and 5.1 surround sound mixes by Steven Wilson.



King Crimson made their live debut on 9 April 1969,[1] and made a breakthrough by playing the Rolling Stones free concert at Hyde Park, London, in July 1969 before an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 people.

Initial sessions for the album were held in early 1969 with producer Tony Clarke, most famous for his work with The Moody Blues. After these sessions failed to work out, the group were given permission to produce the album themselves. The album was recorded on a 1" 8-track recorder at Wessex Sound Studios in London, engineered by Robin Thompson and assisted by Tony Page.[2] In order to achieve the characteristic lush, orchestral sounds on the album, Ian McDonald spent many hours overdubbing layers of Mellotron and various woodwind and reed instruments.

Some time after the album had been completed, however, it was discovered that the stereo master recorder used during the mixdown stage of the album had incorrectly aligned recording heads. This misalignment resulted in a loss of high frequencies and introduced some unwanted distortion. This is evident in certain parts of the album, particularly on "21st Century Schizoid Man". Consequently, while preparing the first American release for Atlantic Records, a special copy was made from the original 2-track stereo master in an attempt to correct some of these anomalies. (The analog tape copying process usually results in generation loss.) From 1969 to 2003, this second-generation "corrected" copy was the source used in the dubbing of the various sub-masters used for vinyl, cassette and CD releases over the years. The original, "first-generation" stereo masters, however, had been filed away soon after the original 1969 mixdown sessions. These tapes were considered lost until 2003.

Sleeve design[edit]

Barry Godber (1946–1970), a computer programmer, painted the album cover. Godber died in February 1970 from a heart attack, shortly after the album's release. It was his only album cover and the original painting is now owned by Robert Fripp.[3][4] Fripp had said about Godber:

Peter brought this painting in and the band loved it. I recently recovered the original from [managing label E.G. Records's] offices because they kept it exposed to bright light, at the risk of ruining it, so I ended up removing it. The face on the outside is the Schizoid Man, and on the inside it's the Crimson King. If you cover the smiling face, the eyes reveal an incredible sadness. What can one add? It reflects the music.[5]

The album cover is painted on a wall in the 1987 Troma Entertainment film Surf Nazis Must Die.[6]


The album reached No. 5 on the UK Album Chart and No. 28 on the US Billboard 200, where it was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America.[7]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars[8]
Robert Christgau D+[9]
Mojo 5/5 stars[10]
Rolling Stone favourable[11]

In the Court of the Crimson King initially received mixed reactions from critics. Robert Christgau called the album "ersatz shit".[9] Rolling Stone was favorable, writing that "[t]hey have combined aspects of many musical forms to create a surreal work of force and originality".[11] The album has since attained a classic status, with Allmusic praising it "[a]s if somehow prophetic, King Crimson projected a darker and edgier brand of post-psychedelic rock" in its original review by Lindsay Planer and calling it "definitive" and "daring" in its current review.[8]

In his 1997 book Rocking the Classics, critic and musicologist Edward Macan notes that In the Court of the Crimson King "may be the most influential progressive rock album ever released".[12] The Who's Pete Townshend was quoted as calling the album "an uncanny masterpiece".[13] In the Q & Mojo Classic Special Edition Pink Floyd & The Story of Prog Rock, the album came fourth in its list of "40 Cosmic Rock Albums".[14] The album was named as one of Classic Rock magazine's "50 Albums That Built Prog Rock".[15] In 2014, readers of Rhythm voted it the eighth greatest drumming album in the history of progressive rock.[16] In 2015, Rolling Stone named In the Court of the Crimson King the second greatest progressive rock album of all time, behind Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon.[17]


In the Court of the Crimson King was reissued several times in the 1980s and 1990s through Polydor and EG Records, with pressings made from copies of several generations from the stereo sub-master tape. This resulted in a sub-par audio quality and audible tape hiss. In 1999, Virgin Records released a 30th Anniversary 24-bit remastered edition of the album.

In 2003, the first generation stereo master tapes were rediscovered in a storage vault. A year later, the album was released on CD with the High Definition Compatible Digital encoding format, described as the "Original Master Edition", on Fripp's Discipline Global Mobile label with improved sound quality compared to previous editions. A 12-page booklet is included. In October 2009, Fripp collaborated with musician and producer Steven Wilson to remix the original 8-track master recordings in a new stereo and 5.1 surround sound mix, released as the album's 40th Anniversary edition.[18][19] The album was sold as three different packages: a two-CD set with the old and new stereo versions, a CD and DVD set with the new stereo and surround sound mixes, and a six-disc (5 CD/1 DVD) box with all mixes and bonus audio and video tracks.

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by King Crimson, except "I Talk to the Wind" and "The Court of the Crimson King", written by Ian McDonald and Peter Sinfield.

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "21st Century Schizoid Man"
  • "Mirrors"  
2. "I Talk to the Wind"   6:04
3. "Epitaph"
  • "March for No Reason"
  • "Tomorrow and Tomorrow"  
Side two
No. Title Length
1. "Moonchild"
  • "The Dream"
  • "The Illusion"  
2. "The Court of the Crimson King"
  • "The Return of the Fire Witch"
  • "The Dance of the Puppets"  

2009 40th Anniversary edition[edit]


King Crimson
  • The original album featured the following credit: "Produced By King Crimson for E.G. Productions – 'David & John'." David Enthoven and John Gaydon were the founders of EG Records, both of whom left the company during the 1970s. CD reissues from the 1980s removed "David & John"; the credit was restored in 1999 at Fripp's insistence.
  • Robin Thompson – recording engineer
  • Tony Page – assistant engineer
  • Barry Godber – cover illustrations[20]


  1. ^ Epitaph (CD). King Crimson. Discipline Global Mobile. 1997. 
  2. ^ Sleeve notes on original Island Records (ILPS-9111) release.
  3. ^ Robert Fripp: Elephant Talk interview
  4. ^
  5. ^ Interview with Robert Fripp in Rock and Folk – ETWiki
  6. ^ Martin, Chris. "SURF NAZIS MUST DIE: A STUDY IN GOOD BAD FILMMAKING". Network Awesome. Retrieved 24 July 2016. 
  7. ^ RIAA: Gold & Platinum
  8. ^ a b Eder, Bruce. "In the Court of the Crimson King". Allmusic. Retrieved 10 January 2012. 
  9. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (11 December 1969). "Consumer Guide (5): King Crimson: In the Court of the Crimson King". The Village Voice. Retrieved 5 December 2011.  Relevant portion also posted at "King Crimson: In the Court of the Crimson King > Consumer Guide Album". Robert Christgau. Retrieved 11 July 2007. 
  10. ^ Mike Barnes (November 2009). "Royal Flush". Mojo. London: Bauer Media Group (192): 106. ISSN 1351-0193. 
  11. ^ a b Morthland, John (December 27, 1969). "King Crimson In the Court of the Crimson King > Album Review". Rolling Stone (49). Archived from the original on 22 October 2007. Retrieved 24 September 2007. 
  12. ^ Macan, Edward (1997). Rocking the Classics: English Progressive Rock and the Counterculture, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-509888-9, p. 23.
  13. ^ "King Crimson biography". Discipline Global Mobile ( Retrieved 29 August 2007. 
  14. ^ Q Classic: Pink Floyd & The Story of Prog Rock, 2005.
  15. ^ Classic Rock magazine, July 2010, Issue 146.
  16. ^ "Peart named most influential prog drummer". TeamRock. 3 October 2014. Retrieved 21 August 2015. 
  17. ^ Epstein, Dan (17 June 2015). "50 Greatest Prog Rock Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 9 December 2015. 
  18. ^ "Steven Wilson Headquarters". Retrieved 2011-08-24. 
  19. ^ DGM news
  20. ^ "The Song Soup on Sea Gallery ~ Barry !". Retrieved 2011-08-24.