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
Released10 October 1969
RecordedJune – August 1969
StudioWessex, London
ProducerKing 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: October 1969 (UK)

In the Court of the Crimson King (subtitled An Observation by King Crimson) is the debut studio album by English rock band King Crimson, released on 10 October 1969 by Island Records. The album is one of the earliest and most influential of the progressive rock genre, where the band combined the musical influences that rock music was founded upon with elements of jazz, classical, and symphonic music.

The album reached number five on the UK Albums Chart and number 28 on the US Billboard 200, where it was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America.



The song "I Talk to the Wind" was written for King Crimson predecessor group Giles, Giles and Fripp (the only song on the album for which this was the case), but was retained by King Crimson in order to show the group's soft side.[2] According to lyricist Peter Sinfield, the song was influenced by Joni Mitchell; in a 1997 interview, he said it is still his favourite lyric that he ever wrote.[2]

"The Court of the Crimson King" was written by keyboardist/woodwinds player Ian McDonald and Sinfield for their earlier group The Creation, and started as a country and western song before its final progressive rock configuration.[3]


Multiple sources state that King Crimson made their live debut on 9 April 1969 at The Speakeasy Club in London,[4][5] but Sinfield claims they did an earlier show in Newcastle, stepping in for a cancelled King Curtis.[3] The Speakeasy Club concert, which Sinfield describes as their second, was smashed up by members of The Pink Fairies Drinking Club.[6] King Crimson opened for the Rolling Stones in Hyde Park, London in July 1969, before an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 people, which brought them positive attention.[7][8]

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-channel recorder at Wessex Sound Studios in London, engineered by Robin Thompson and assisted by Tony Page.[9] 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. In some cases, the band went through 5 tape generations to attain deeply layered, segued tracks.[10]

While supervising a mastering cut, Ian McDonald discovered that the copy master had a problem on the right track, and because the first generation master tapes were missing since 1969,[11] this problem was compensated for by EQ until 2002. Fripp speculated that the problem was caused by incompetent mastering engineers or "some tapes were mastered in different countries on machines that were not very well maintained or from copies made in the source country (normally US or UK in the case of rock music) where the second machine was inadequately maintained/monitored. These tapes were then sent out to licensee countries who had no adequate measure of comparison & trusted the source material from the record company office. Tape machines running at different speeds occasionally resulted in albums being a couple of seconds shorter/longer".[12] The first generation master tapes were found in Virgin archives in 2002.[13][14]


Barry Godber (1946–1970), a computer programmer friend of Sinfield's, painted the design for the album cover. He used his own face, viewed through a mirror, as the model.[2] Godber died in February 1970 from a heart attack, shortly after the album's release. It was his only album cover; the original painting is now owned by Robert Fripp.[15] Fripp had said about Godber's artwork:

Peter [Sinfield] 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.[16]


The album reached No. 5 on the UK Albums Chart[17] and No. 28 on the US Billboard 200,[18] where it was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America.[19]


In the Court of the Crimson King was reissued several times in the 1980s and 1990s through Polydor and E.G. Records, with pressings made from copies that were several generations removed from the stereo sub-master tape. This resulted in sub-par audio quality and audible tape hiss.

In 1982, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab released a half speed mastered version of the album on vinyl, cut by Stan Ricker with the Ortofon Cutting System.[20] In 1989 the album was remastered for its debut on CD by Robert Fripp and Tony Arnold, this version was part of "The Definitive Edition" series, which consisted of other remastered albums by the band.[21] In 1999, in commemoration of its 30th anniversary, the album was remastered again, this time using 24 bit and HDCD technology by Simon Heyworth, Robert Fripp and David Singleton, this edition was part of the "30th Anniversary Edition" series, which consisted of remastered editions of King Crimson back-catalogue for their thirtieth anniversaries.[22] Three years later, in 2002, the original masters were discovered in the Virgin archives, with splicing tape still present between the various songs, and crossfade between I Talk to the Wind and Epitaph yet to be created. In 2004, a new remaster was done by Simon Heyworth using these first-generation stereo master tapes and it was released the same year with a 12-page booklet, this release was called "Original Master Edition" and used the same HDCD and 24 bit technology as the 1999 remaster.[23]

In October 2009, Fripp collaborated with musician and producer Steven Wilson to remix the original master recordings in a new stereo and 5.1 surround sound mix, released as the album's 40th Anniversary edition.[24][25] 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.

In 2010, the original 1969 stereo mix was remastered and reissued on 200-gram super-heavyweight vinyl. This edition was cut by John Dent at Loud Mastering, it was approved by Robert Fripp and included a download code for a 320 kbit/s transfer of the original 1969 vinyl.[26]

In 2019, the album was remixed in 5.1 and stereo by Steven Wilson once again for a 50th anniversary box set of the album. Wilson expressed satisfaction with his 2009 remix, but stated that his 50th anniversary mixes are a significant improvement, being more faithful to the original 1969 mix and benefitting from his 10 years of ensuing experience.[27] The box set includes 3 CDs and a Blu-ray. The Blu-ray features the all-new 2019 stereo and 5.1 mixes encoded at 24/96 resolution, the 2004 "Original Master Edition" with the 1969 mix (also encoded at 24/96), a complete alternate version of the album comprising 2019 Steven Wilson mixes and 2019 instrumental mixes while the three CDs in the box set feature the new 2019 stereo mix, an expanded edition of the alternate album in the Blu-ray and the "Original Master Edition" plus additional tracks.[28]


Professional ratings
Review scores
All About Jazz[29]
Classic Rock[31]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music[35]
The Great Rock Discography9/10[36]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[38]
The Village VoiceD+[34]

In the Court of the Crimson King initially received mixed reactions from contemporary critics. Village Voice critic Robert Christgau called the album "ersatz shit",[34] while John Morthland of Rolling Stone said King Crimson had "combined aspects of many musical forms to create a surreal work of force and originality".[39] The album has since attained 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.[30] In Classic Rock reviews of King Crimson's 2009 reissues, Alexander Milas described In the Court of the Crimson King as the album which "blew off the doors of musical convention and cemented these quintessentially British innovators' place in rock history for all time".[31]

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". Macan went on to argue that In the Court of the Crimson King presented an example of every significant element of a mature progressive rock genre. Further, Macan mentions that the album coalesces prog rock tropes and conventions, some of which are only established in the future, into a single congestable medium. The impact of these developments, in his eyes, is the album representing but also influencing the overall musical impact of progressive rock as a whole for decades to come.[40] Paul Stump's History of Progressive Rock, published the same year, stated that "If Progressive rock as a discrete genre can be said to have had a starting point, In the Court of the Crimson King is probably it. All the elements that characterize Progressive's maturity are in place: jazz and blues influences are subservient to intense compositional rigour characterized by Mellotron-induced Western classical symphonic arrangements ... Individual and collective passages of arresting virtuosity and a rhythmic discontinuity bordering on the perverse are also components of an essentially tonal, approachable whole inoffensive to any classical or pop listener." Stump further commented that while the album is defined by avant-garde sensibility and subtle arrangements, it still communicates through the accessible language of rockers.[2]


The Who's Pete Townshend was quoted as calling the album "an uncanny masterpiece".[41] 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".[42] The album was named as one of Classic Rock magazine's "50 Albums That Built Prog Rock".[43] In 2014, readers of Rhythm voted it the eighth greatest drumming album in the history of progressive rock.[44] 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.[1] The album is also featured in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[45] It was voted number 193 in Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums.[46]

Rap artist Kanye West used samples of "21st Century Schizoid Man" in his song "Power", from his album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

Track listing[edit]

Side one
1."21st Century Schizoid Man"Robert Fripp, Ian McDonald, Greg Lake, Michael Giles, Peter Sinfield7:24
2."I Talk to the Wind"McDonald, Sinfield6:04
3."Epitaph"Fripp, McDonald, Lake, Giles, Sinfield8:49
Total length:22:17
Side two
4."Moonchild"Fripp, McDonald, Lake, Giles, Sinfield12:13
5."The Court of the Crimson King"McDonald, Sinfield9:26*
Total length:21:39
Expanded & Remastered Original Album Mix digital bonus tracks
1."21st Century Schizoid Man (Radio Version)"Fripp, McDonald, Lake, Giles, Sinfield6:41
2."I Talk to the Wind (Duo Version)"McDonald, Sinfield4:45
3."A Man, a City (Live at the Fillmore West)"Fripp, Sinfield11:44
Total length:23:10
  • After the end of The Court of the Crimson King, there is a hidden track run from 9:41 to 10:00 on some pressings.[47]
  • The timings on the inner sleeve of original pressings, giving a total album time of 41:59, are incorrect.


King Crimson

  • Greg Lake – lead vocals, bass guitar, production
  • Robert Fripp – electric and acoustic guitars, production
  • Ian McDonald – saxophone, flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, Mellotron, harpsichord, piano, organ, vibraphone, backing vocals, co-lead vocals on "I Talk to the Wind", production
  • Michael Giles – drums, percussion, backing vocals, production
  • Peter Sinfield – lyrics, illumination, production


  • 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[48]


Chart performance for In the Court of the Crimson King
Chart (1969-1970) Peak
Australian Albums (Kent Music Report)[49] 7
Canada Top Albums/CDs (RPM)[50] 27
Japanese Albums (Oricon)[51] 96
UK Albums (OCC)[17] 5
US Billboard 200[18] 28


Sales certifications for In the Court of the Crimson King
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[52] Platinum 100,000^
France (SNEP)[53] 2× Gold 200,000*
Italy (FIMI)[54] Gold 25,000*
United Kingdom (BPI)[55] Gold 100,000*
United States (RIAA)[19] Gold 500,000^

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.


  1. ^ a b Epstein, Dan (17 June 2015). "50 Greatest Prog Rock Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 9 December 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d Stump, Paul (1997). The Music's All that Matters: A History of Progressive Rock. Quartet Books Limited. pp. 52–54. ISBN 0-7043-8036-6.
  3. ^ a b Stump, Paul (1997). The Music's All that Matters: A History of Progressive Rock. Quartet Books Limited. pp. 46–47. ISBN 0-7043-8036-6.
  4. ^ Epitaph (CD). King Crimson. Discipline Global Mobile. 1997.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  5. ^ Robin Bell (20 June 2017). The History of British Rock and Roll: The Psychedelic Years 1967 – 1969. p. 458. ISBN 9789198191684.
  6. ^ Stump, Paul (1997). The Music's All that Matters: A History of Progressive Rock. Quartet Books Limited. p. 35. ISBN 0-7043-8036-6.
  7. ^ Hank Shteamer (14 January 2019). "Flashback: King Crimson Open for the Rolling Stones in Hyde Park". Rolling Stone.
  8. ^ Vulliamy, Ed; Beaumont, Peter; Reidy, Tess (7 April 2013). "Hyde Park, 1969: the counterculture's greatest day. And the Rolling Stones came too". The Guardian.
  9. ^ Sleeve notes on original Island Records (ILPS-9111) release.
  10. ^ "Interview: Steven Wilson on the King Crimson 40th Anniversary Reissue Project". Musoscribe: Bill Kopp's Music Magazine. 24 January 2011.
  11. ^ Fripp, Robert (1 October 2008). "Robert Fripp's Diary: DGM HQ". Retrieved 22 November 2021.
  12. ^ Fripp, Robert (20 January 2006). "Robert Fripp's Diary: DGM HQ".
  13. ^ Singleton, David (27 March 2002). "David Singleton's Diary: Today at the Vicarage".
  14. ^ Fripp, Robert (15 December 2003). "Robert Fripp's Diary: A day gentling with The Horse in Canterbury".
  15. ^ "Barry Godber (English, 1946–1970)". Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  16. ^ "Interview with Robert Fripp in Rock and Folk". Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  17. ^ a b "King Crimson | Artist | Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  18. ^ a b "King Crimson Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  19. ^ a b "American album certifications – King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 5 January 2017.
  20. ^ Crimson, King (1982). In The Court of the Crimson King (An Observation By King Crimson) (Liner Notes and Runout) (Vinyl). King Crimson. United States: Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab.
  21. ^ In The Court of the Crimson King (Booklet). King Crimson. E.G. Records Ltd. (EGCD 1). 1989.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  22. ^ In The Court of the Crimson King (An Observation By King Crimson) (Booklet). King Crimson. Virgin Records (7243 8 44065 2 3). 1999.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  23. ^ In The Court of the Crimson King – An Observation By King Crimson (Booklet). King Crimson. Discipline Global Mobile (DGM0501). 2004.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  24. ^ "Steven Wilson Headquarters". Archived from the original on 13 May 2011.
  25. ^ "In The Court Of The Crimson King 40th Anniversary". DGM Live. Retrieved 22 November 2021.
  26. ^ In The Court of the Crimson King (Media Notes). King Crimson. Discipline Global Mobile/Panegyric/ Inner Knot (KCLP1). 2010.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  27. ^ "Steven Wilson on Instagram: "Mr Fripp gives the thumbs up at my studio today to the 50th anniversary stereo and 5.1 surround remix of what is without doubt one of THE…"". Instagram. Archived from the original on 23 December 2021. Retrieved 3 November 2019.
  28. ^ "King Crimson / In The Court of the Crimson King 3CD+blu-ray | superdeluxeedition". Retrieved 3 November 2019.
  29. ^ Kelman, John (14 November 2009). "King Crimson: In The Court of the Crimson King (40th Anniversary Series)". All About Jazz. Archived from the original on 29 July 2014. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  30. ^ a b Eder, Bruce. "In the Court of the Crimson King". AllMusic. Retrieved 10 January 2012.
  31. ^ a b Milas, Alexander (November 2009). "King Crimson – Reissues". Classic Rock. No. 138. p. 95.
  32. ^ Mike Barnes (November 2009). "Royal Flush". Mojo. London: Bauer Media Group (192): 106. ISSN 1351-0193.
  33. ^ Reed, Ryan (11 November 2019). "King Crimson: In the Court of the Crimson King (50th Anniversary)". Pitchfork. Retrieved 11 November 2019.
  34. ^ 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 – via
  35. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0857125958.
  36. ^ Martin C. Strong (1998). The Great Rock Discography (1st ed.). Canongate Books. ISBN 978-0-86241-827-4.
  37. ^ Gary Graff, ed. (1996). MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide (1st ed.). London: Visible Ink Press. ISBN 978-0-7876-1037-1.
  38. ^ DeCurtis, Anthony; Henke, James; George-Warren, Holly (1992). The Rolling Stone Album Guide. Random House. ISBN 0-679-73729-4.
  39. ^ Morthland, John (27 December 1969). "King Crimson In the Court of the Crimson King > Album Review". Rolling Stone. No. 49. Archived from the original on 22 October 2007. Retrieved 24 September 2007.
  40. ^ Macan, Edward (1997). Rocking the Classics: English Progressive Rock and the Counterculture, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-509888-9, p. 23.
  41. ^ "King Crimson biography". Discipline Global Mobile ( Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 29 August 2007.
  42. ^ Q Classic: Pink Floyd & The Story of Prog Rock, 2005.
  43. ^ Classic Rock magazine, July 2010, Issue 146.
  44. ^ "Peart named most influential prog drummer". TeamRock. 3 October 2014. Retrieved 21 August 2015.
  45. ^ Robert Dimery; Michael Lydon (7 February 2006). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: Revised and Updated Edition. Universe. ISBN 0-7893-1371-5.
  46. ^ Colin Larkin, ed. (2000). All Time Top 1000 Albums (3rd ed.). Virgin Books. p. 99. ISBN 0-7535-0493-6.
  47. ^ King Crimson - The Court Of The Crimson King on YouTube
  48. ^ "The Song Soup on Sea Gallery ~ Barry !". Retrieved 24 August 2011.
  49. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  50. ^ "Top RPM Albums: Issue 3764". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  51. ^ Oricon Album Chart Book: Complete Edition 1970–2005 (in Japanese). Roppongi, Tokyo: Oricon Entertainment. 2006. ISBN 4-87131-077-9.
  52. ^ "Canadian album certifications – King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King". Music Canada. Retrieved 5 January 2017.
  53. ^ "French album certifications – King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King" (in French). InfoDisc. Retrieved 21 March 2021. Select KING CRIMSON and click OK. 
  54. ^ "Italian album certifications – King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved 14 February 2022.
  55. ^ "British album certifications – King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 5 January 2017.