Larks' Tongues in Aspic

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Larks' Tongues in Aspic
Studio album by
Released23 March 1973
RecordedJanuary and February 1973
StudioCommand, London
ProducerKing Crimson
King Crimson chronology
Larks' Tongues in Aspic
Starless and Bible Black
King Crimson studio chronology
Larks' Tongues in Aspic
Starless and Bible Black

Larks' Tongues in Aspic is the fifth studio album by the English progressive rock group King Crimson, released on 23 March 1973[2] through Island Records in the UK and Atlantic Records in the United States and Canada. This album is the debut of King Crimson's third incarnation, featuring co-founder and guitarist Robert Fripp along with four new members: bass guitarist and vocalist John Wetton, violinist and keyboardist David Cross, percussionist Jamie Muir, and drummer Bill Bruford. It is 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). Collins has stated that he was asked to stay on with the new lineup of the band, but that he decided not to continue.[3] The previous year had also seen the ousting of the band's lyricist and artistic co-director Peter Sinfield. Fripp had cited a developing musical (and sometimes personal) incompatibility with the other members,[4] and was now writing starker music drawing on influences such as Béla Bartók, Igor Stravinsky, Jimi Hendrix and free improvisation.[5][6]

In order to pursue these new (for King Crimson) 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 original 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 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 violinist, keyboardist and occasional flute 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 eccentric instrumentation including chimes, bells, thumb pianos, 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 by Fripp and Cross, both of whom also played electric piano. The instrumental pieces on this album have strong jazz fusion and European free-improvisation influences, and some aggressively hard-hitting portions verging on heavy metal.[7][8]

The band's multi-instrumentalism initially extended to Wetton and Muir playing (respectively) violin and trombone on occasion at early gigs. Wetton and Cross contributed additional piano and flute respectively to the album sessions. Larks' Tongues in Aspic is the only studio album with this particular lineup, since Muir left the group in February 1973, shortly after the album was completed and before they could embark for touring.

"Easy Money" was composed piecemeal, with Fripp writing the verse and Wetton later adding the chorus part.[9]

The album spawned the concert staple "Exiles", whose Mellotron introduction had been adapted from an instrumental piece called "Mantra" which the band's original line up had 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.

Release and reissues[edit]

The album peaked at number 20 on the UK charts and at number 61 in the U.S.[10] 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.

Reception and legacy[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
All About Jazz[12]
Christgau's Record GuideB−[13]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music[14]
The Great Rock Discography8/10[15]
Record Collector[18]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[19]

In his contemporary review, Alan Niester of Rolling Stone summarized the album saying "You can't dance to it, can't keep a beat to it, and it doesn't even make good background music for washing the dishes" and recommended listeners to "approach it with a completely open mind." He described the songs on the album as "a total study in contrasts, especially in moods and tempos – blazing and electric one moment, soft and intricate the next." While not fully appreciative of the music on the record, he complimented the violin playing as "tasteful [...] in the best classical tradition."[20]

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".[21]

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. It deemed John Wetton "the group's strongest singer/bassist since Greg Lake's departure," and gave special praise to the remastered edition.[11]

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."[13]

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".[22]

Larks' Tongues in Aspic comes in at #20 in Rolling Stone's "50 Greatest Prog Rock Albums of All Time" list.[23]

The album is featured in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[24]

The progressive metal bands Dream Theater and Murmur[25] both covered "Larks' Tongues in Aspic Pt. II". Dream Theater's version is featured on the special edition of their album Black Clouds & Silver Linings.

Track listing[edit]

Side A
1."Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part One" (instrumental)David Cross, Robert Fripp, John Wetton, Bill Bruford, Jamie Muir13:36
2."Book of Saturday"Fripp, Wetton, Richard Palmer-James2:53
3."Exiles"Cross, Fripp, Palmer-James7:40
Total length:24:09
Side B
1."Easy Money"Fripp, Wetton, Palmer-James7:54
2."The Talking Drum" (instrumental)Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford, Muir7:26
3."Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part Two" (instrumental)Fripp7:07
Total length:22:27


King Crimson
Additional personnel


Chart (1973) Peak
Canada Top Albums/CDs (RPM)[27] 56
Finnish Albums (The Official Finnish Charts)[28] 15
Italian Albums (Musica e Dischi)[29] 8
Japanese Albums (Oricon)[30] 26
UK Albums (OCC)[31] 20
US Billboard 200[32] 61
Chart (2012) Peak
UK Independent Albums (OCC)[33] 35
UK Rock & Metal Albums (OCC)[34] 19


  1. ^ Fricke, David (29 March 2010). "Alternate Take: King Crimson's Royal Remix Treatment". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 2 March 2021. Retrieved 27 November 2021. ... an untitled piece with riffs that later turned up on the 1973 avant-metal killer Larks' Tongues in Aspic.
  2. ^ King Crimson - Larks' Tongues in Aspic Album Reviews, Songs & More | AllMusic, retrieved 29 October 2023
  3. ^ "Mel Collins on Robert Fripp...and the return of King Crimson". HeraldScotland.
  4. ^ Smith, Sid (9 June 2022). "Earthbound At 50". Retrieved 10 June 2022.
  5. ^ Fripp, Robert (11 March 2001). "Robert Fripp's Diary: Nashville". Retrieved 20 May 2022.
  6. ^ Barnes, Mike (23 March 2024). ""You pick five interesting guys, lock them in a room together… and if they make an album without actually killing each other first, it will at least be an interesting album": How King Crimson made Larks' Tongues in Aspic". Loudersound. Retrieved 4 April 2024.
  7. ^ The Encyclopedia of Heavy Metal, 2003 Barnes & Noble Books
  8. ^ Bradley Smith. The Billboard Guide to Progressive Music, 1997, Billboard Books, p. 119
  9. ^ Curtiss, Ron; Weiner, Aaron (3 June 2016). "John Wetton (King Crimson, U.K., Asia): The Complete Boffomundo Interview". YouTube. Retrieved 3 March 2019. Event occurs at 7:02-7:15.
  10. ^ Hoffmann 2004, p. 1144.
  11. ^ a b Eder, Bruce (2011). "Larks' Tongues in Aspic – King Crimson". AllMusic. Retrieved 28 June 2011.
  12. ^ Kelman, John (22 October 2012). "King Crimson: Larks' Tongues In Aspic (40th Anniversary Series Box)". All About Jazz. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  13. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: K". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved 28 February 2019 – via
  14. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0-85712-595-8.
  15. ^ Martin C. Strong (1998). The Great Rock Discography (1st ed.). Canongate Books. ISBN 978-0-86241-827-4.
  16. ^ Mike Barnes. "The Crown Jewels". Mojo. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  17. ^ Graff, Gary (1996). MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide. Canton, Michigan: Visible Ink Press. p. 386. ISBN 978-0787610371. Retrieved 27 October 2021.
  18. ^ Ian Shirley. "KING CRIMSON - LARKS' TONGUES IN ASPIC". Record Collector. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  19. ^ DeCurtis, Anthony; Henke, James; George-Warren, Holly (1992). The Rolling Stone Album Guide. Random House. ISBN 0-679-73729-4.
  20. ^ Niester, Alan (30 August 1973). "King Crimson: Larks' Tongues in Aspic : Music Reviews". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 2 May 2009. Retrieved 13 July 2019.{{cite magazine}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  21. ^ Martin 1998, p. 225.
  22. ^ Q Classic: Pink Floyd & The Story of Prog Rock, 2005.
  23. ^ Dolan, Jon; Geist, Brandon; Weiderhorn, Jon; Reed, Ryan; Grow, Kory; Fischer, Reed; Gehr, Richard; Epstein, Dan; Hermes, Will (17 June 2015). "50 Greatest Prog Rock Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 25 January 2022.
  24. ^ 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.
  25. ^ "Larks' Tongues in Aspic, by MURMUR". Season of Mist. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  26. ^ "Interview with DAVID CROSS".
  27. ^ "Top RPM Albums: Issue 4852". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 23 September 2023.
  28. ^ Pennanen, Timo (2006). Sisältää hitin – levyt ja esittäjät Suomen musiikkilistoilla vuodesta 1972 (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Helsinki: Kustannusosakeyhtiö Otava. ISBN 978-951-1-21053-5.
  29. ^ "Classifiche". Musica e Dischi (in Italian). Retrieved 23 September 2023. Set "Tipo" on "Album". Then, in the "Artista" field, search "King Crimson".
  30. ^ Oricon Album Chart Book: Complete Edition 1970–2005 (in Japanese). Roppongi, Tokyo: Oricon Entertainment. 2006. ISBN 4-87131-077-9.
  31. ^ "Official Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 23 September 2023.
  32. ^ "King Crimson Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved 23 September 2023.
  33. ^ "Official Independent Albums Chart Top 50". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 23 September 2023.
  34. ^ "Official Rock & Metal Albums Chart Top 40". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 23 September 2023.


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]