Larks' Tongues in Aspic

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Larks' Tongues in Aspic
Larks tongues in aspic album cover.jpg
Studio album by King Crimson
Released 23 March 1973
Recorded January – February 1973
Studio Command Studios, Piccadilly, Westminster, London, England
Length 46:36
Label Island
Producer King Crimson
King Crimson chronology
Larks' Tongues in Aspic
Starless and Bible Black
(1974)Starless and Bible Black1974

Larks' Tongues in Aspic is the fifth studio album by the English progressive rock group King Crimson, released on 23 March 1973 through Island Records. This album is the debut of King Crimson's fifth incarnation, featuring original member and guitarist Robert Fripp and new members John Wetton (vocals, bass), David Cross (violin, Mellotron), Jamie Muir (percussion), and Bill Bruford (drums). It is also a key album in the band's evolution, drawing on Eastern European classical music and European free improvisation as central influences.


At the end of the tour to promote King Crimson's previous album, Islands, Fripp had parted company with the three other members of the band (Mel Collins, Boz Burrell and Ian Wallace). The previous year had also seen the ousting of the band's lyricist and artistic co-director Peter Sinfield. In all cases, Fripp had cited a developing musical (and sometimes personal) incompatibility, and was now writing starker music drawing less on familiar American influences and more on influences such as Béla Bartók and free improvisation.

In order to pursue these new ideas, Fripp first recruited bass guitarist/singer John Wetton (a longstanding friend of the band who had lobbied to join at least once before but had become a member of Family in the meantime). The second recruit was Jamie Muir, an experimental free-improvising percussionist who had previously been performing in the Music Improvisation Company with Derek Bailey and Evan Parker, as well as in Sunship (with Alan Gowen and Allan Holdsworth) and Boris (with Don Weller and Jimmy Roche, both later of jazz-rock band Major Surgery).

On drums (and to be paired with Muir) Fripp recruited Yes drummer Bill Bruford. Another longstanding King Crimson admirer, Bruford felt that he had done all he could with Yes at that point, and was keen to leave the band before they embarked on their Close to the Edge tour, believing that the jazz- and experimentation-oriented King Crimson would be a more expansive outlet for his musical ideas. The final member of the new band was David Cross, a rock violinist and occasional keyboard player.


Larks' Tongues in Aspic showed several significant changes in King Crimson's sound. Having previously relied on saxophone and flute as significant melodic and textural instruments, the band had replaced them with a single violin. Muir's percussion rig featured exotic, eccentric instrumentation including chimes, bells, thumb piano/mbiras, a musical saw, shakers, rattles, found objects (such as sheet metal, toys and baking trays), plus miscellaneous drums and chains. The Mellotron (a staple part of King Crimson's instrumentation since their debut album) was retained for this new phase and was played either by Fripp or Cross, both of whom also played electric piano. The band's multi-instrumentalism initially extended to Wetton and Muir playing (respectively) violin and trombone on occasion at early gigs, but this was quickly dropped (Wetton and Cross did, however, contribute additional piano and flute respectively to the LTiA album sessions).

The album opens with a long experimental instrumental piece titled "Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part One". After that there are three vocal pieces, "Book of Saturday", "Exiles" and "Easy Money", with lyrics written by Richard Palmer-James. These are followed by two more instrumentals, "The Talking Drum" and "Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part Two". The instrumental pieces on this album have strong jazz fusion and European free-improvisation influences, and portions also have an almost heavy metal feel.[citation needed]

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. In addition, a section of "Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part One" was reworked from a piece entitled "A Peacemaking Stint Unrolls", which was recorded by the Islands-era band and finally released in 2010 as a bonus track on that album's 40th anniversary edition.

Larks' Tongues in Aspic is the only studio album with this particular quintet line up, since Muir left the group while on tour in 1973. (Musical and personal attrition would gradually reduce this incarnation of King Crimson from five men to three across the course of the next few albums, culminating in Fripp's "retirement" in 1975 and a cessation of Crimson activity for six years.)

In 2012 Larks' Tongues in Aspic 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.[1] 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.[2]

Reception and legacy[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[3]
Robert Christgau B−[4]

The album peaked at number 20 on the UK charts and at number 61 in the U.S.[5]

Bill Martin wrote in 1998, "[f]or sheer formal inventiveness, the most important progressive rock record of 1973 was... Larks' Tongues in Aspic", adding that listening to this album and Yes's Close to the Edge will demonstrate "what progressive rock is all about".[6]

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.[3]

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."[4]

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".[7]

The album is featured in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[8]

The progressive metal bands Dream Theater and Murmur[9] both covered "Larks' Tongues in Aspic Pt. II". The cover is featured on the special edition of Dream Theater's album Black Clouds & Silver Linings.

Track listing[edit]

Side one
No. Title Writers Length
1. "Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part One" (Instrumental) David Cross, Robert Fripp, John Wetton, Bill Bruford, Jamie Muir 13:36
2. "Book of Saturday" Fripp, Wetton, Richard Palmer-James 2:53
3. "Exiles" Cross, Fripp, Palmer-James 7:40
Side two
No. Title Writers Length
4. "Easy Money" Fripp, Wetton, Palmer-James 7:54
5. "The Talking Drum" (Instrumental) Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford, Muir 7:26
6. "Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part Two" (Instrumental) Fripp 7:07


King Crimson
Additional personnel


Year Chart Position
1973 Billboard 200 61[11]


  1. ^ "Reissue announcement". 
  2. ^ "Rainbow Theatre - MP3 Download". 
  3. ^ a b Eder, Bruce (2011). "Larks' Tongues in Aspic - King Crimson | AllMusic". Retrieved 28 June 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (2011). "Robert Christgau: CG: King Crimson". Retrieved 28 June 2011. 
  5. ^ Hoffmann 2004, p. 1144.
  6. ^ Martin 1998, p. 225.
  7. ^ Q Classic: Pink Floyd & The Story of Prog Rock, 2005.
  8. ^ 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. 
  9. ^ "Larks' Tongues in Aspic, by MURMUR". Season of Mist. Retrieved 19 May 2018. 
  10. ^ "Interview with DAVID CROSS". 
  11. ^ "Billboard entry". Billboard. Retrieved November 14, 2017. 


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]