In the Court of the Crimson King (an observation by King Crimson) is the 1969 debut album by the British progressive rock group King Crimson. The album reached #3 on the British charts. The album is certified gold in the United States.
The album is generally viewed as one of the strongest of the progressive rock genre, where blues-oriented rock was mixed together with jazz and European symphonic elements. In his 1997 book Rocking the Classics, critic/musicologist Edward Macan notes that In the Court of the Crimson King "may be the most influential progressive rock album ever released. The Who's Pete Townshend was quoted as calling the album "an uncanny masterpiece".
The album was remastered and re-released on vinyl and CD several times during the 1980s and 1990s. The original stereo master tapes were finally located in a Virgin Records storage vault in 2003, leading to a much improved remastered CD version released in 2004.
Barry Godber (1946–1970), an artist
and computer programmer
, painted the album cover. Godber died in February 1970 of a heart attack
, shortly after the album's release. It would be his only painting, and is now owned by Robert Fripp
. Fripp had this to say about Godber:
Barry Godber was not a painter but a computer programmer. That painting was the only one he ever did. He was a friend of Peter Sinfield, and died in 1970 of a heart attack at age 24. Peter brought this painting in and the band loved it. I recently recovered the original from EG'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.
The most recent CD version (described as the "Original Master Edition", DGM0501) was released in 2004 on Robert Fripp's Discipline Global Mobile
label. This release has greatly improved sound over previous CD editions. Previous CDs released by Polydor and EG Records used copies several generations removed from the original stereo master causing a lack of clarity and excessive tape hiss. The stereo master tapes were finally rediscovered in the archives of Virgin Records in 2003 after they had been misplaced for over 30 years. 24 bit mastering was also utilized to enhance the sound. This latest edition also has a twelve-page booklet that includes pictures and press clippings from the period.
"I Talk to the Wind" (McDonald, Sinfield) – 6:05
"Epitaph" (Fripp, McDonald, Lake, Giles, Sinfield) – 8:47
- "21st Century Schizoid Man" (Fripp, McDonald, Lake, Giles, Sinfield) – 7:21
- "March for No Reason"
- "Tomorrow and Tomorrow"
- "Moonchild" (Fripp, McDonald, Lake, Giles, Sinfield) – 12:13
"The Court of the Crimson King" (McDonald, Sinfield) – 9:25
- "The Dream"
- "The Illusion"
- "The Return of the Fire Witch"
- "The Dance of the Puppets"
- Robert Fripp – guitar
- Ian McDonald – flute, clarinet, saxophone, vibes, keyboards, mellotron, vocals
- Greg Lake – bass guitar, lead vocals
- Michael Giles – drums, percussion, vocals
- Peter Sinfield – lyrics, illumination
- Barry Godber – cover illustrations