King Crimson - Red (1974), 6/10

King Crimson’s Red has a very clear maturity that stemmed from a group focused on progression in the years leading up to its recording. The inclusion of free improvisation makes a track like “Providence” interesting and intriguing, yet the focus on heaviness and dark melodies set it apart from their previous work. While this darkness is apparent and genuine, its usefulness is a matter of taste. The opening title track has a compelling and gratifyingly rhythmic motif yet one whose repeated development varies little in terms of interest. Then “Fallen Angel” sees a fortuitous change in direction yet still revels in its own satisfyingly colorless emotional build. The use of horns and varied electric textures is ominous and sensual. Perhaps the most divisive experience is that of “One More Red Nightmare” whose vocal hook is less than successful; the track is largely supported by its deviations and tangents in structure, sound, and form. The albums successes and failures in terms of melody are surprisingly consistent considering its foundations in improvisation, particularly the lack of highs in adventurousness and lack of lows in terms of spontaneity. The most uniformly effective track is arguably “Starless”, a song written by Wetton and decorated later by Fripp and Bruford to great effect. The song goes places that “Red” should have, for example, illustrating the group’s capacity for milking every last ounce of artistic potential from a foundationally simple melody, originally simply in the form of the vocal passage written by Wetton. Still, the track utilizes the existing themes of darkness and brooding energy to elevate its feeling even further than otherwise possible. While there are better efforts from such a legendary progressive rock group, Red is remarkably unique yet accessible for its focused approach to blending shadowed melody and scattered improvisation.