Monday, June 4, 2012

King Crimson 2: In The Wake Of Poseidon

Almost as soon as they began, King Crimson was already fractured. Ian McDonald, who contributed the signature horns and keyboards to the first album, took off, and would eventually lure drummer Michael Giles away with him. Greg Lake was in the process of forming ELP, but deigned to contribute vocals to the follow-up. Bass duties were handled by Peter Giles, called back from the pre-KC combo he’d formed with his brother and Robert Fripp, while the saxes were played by Mel Collins, whom most people might know today from his work with Dire Straits. Fripp dominated the composing—as well as the Mellotron—with the help of lyricist and co-producer Peter Sinfield.
In The Wake Of Poseidon suffers by comparison with its predecessor, not only because it’s not as good, but because it follows much of the same formula. Despite the bookends of a recurring theme called “Peace” (complete with instrumental version in the middle) the five songs mirror those on the debut. “Pictures Of A City” has a slightly jazzy feel, with snotty vocals and an anarchic guitar ending. “Cadence And Cascade” (the only song here not sung by Lake) offers a pastoral respite that instead is just plain wimpy. The title track is a pale imitation of “Epitaph”, complete with the Mellotron strings and car-horn sax ending, to the point of almost being self-plagiarism. These guys weren’t exactly gobbling acid or smoking weed nonstop; didn’t they notice the similarities?
“Peace – A Theme” provides a nice acoustic break, kicked aside by “Cat Food”, most notably for the piano in the right speaker that sounds like several cats are indeed pouncing on the strings for most of the track. (When released as a single, the B-side “Groon” was even more exploratory jazz; it’s since been included on the 30th and 40th Anniversary Edition CDs of the album.) “The Devil’s Triangle” takes about a minute and a half to fade in on a march rhythm before the Mellotron takes over in tribute to the “Mars” section of Holst’s The Planets (according to every KC information source; we’ve never bothered to compare them). About four minutes in the march stops for a foghorn, then picks up with relentless determination. This might be where the next section takes over, and we’re guessing that the next part occurs after the windstorm in the middle of minute eight. Once that dies down, a few taps give way to more scary Mellotron on a slightly faster death march, whereupon a few other keyboards stumble in as the Mellotron sputters out for a truly chaotic end, complete with a sample of “The Court Of The Crimson King”. But just so you don’t think they’re all doom and gloom, the closing “Peace” installment has a vocal accompaniment to the acoustic.
There are those who will insist that In The Wake Of Poseidon delivers an astounding combination of jazz and prog unlike any other. They can have it. We’ll go back to the first album until we hear something unique, and by that we don’t mean free-from improv. (As mentioned above, the first expanded version of the album added both sides of the “Cat Food” single; for the 40th Anniversary these were accompanied by just “Groon”, plus an alternate of “Peace—An End” and a version of “Cadence And Cascade” with Greg Lake singing lead, as well as a whole pile of extras on a DVD. The eventual streaming version went with both “Cat Food” and “Groon”, plus the Lake “Cadence”.)

King Crimson In The Wake Of Poseidon (1970)—
2005 30th Anniversary Edition: same as 1970, plus 2 extra tracks
2010 40th Anniversary Edition: same as 1970, plus 3 extra tracks (plus DVD)


  1. McDonald (and Giles) actually did something pretty good before Foreigner--quite reminiscent of early KC but not nearly as dour as everything Fripp touches. Worth checking out!

  2. Others have told me I need to check that album out, so I'll just have to do that.