King Crimson – In The Wake Of Poseidon

1970 (DGM / Virgin)

1: Peace – A Beginning (0:50)
2: Pictures Of A City (8:01)
3: Cadence And Cascade (4:38)
4: In The Wake Of Poseidon (7:57)
5: Peace – A Theme (1:16)
6: Cat Food (4:55)
7: The Devil’s Triangle (11:36)
8: Peace – An End (1:52)

How is it possible that as a 14-year-old brat, I found so much joy in an album like “In The Wake Of Poseidon” by King Crimson? Wasn’t that music too eccentric for me? Apparently not, because I thoroughly enjoyed the cassette I had recorded from the LP. Especially the song Cat Food with its quirky jazzy piano playing resonated with me, as well as the title track infused with Mellotron. During my first encounter with the album, I was immediately captivated by the intriguing cover, with twelve mystically dressed figures invitingly staring at me. The evocative titles also appealed to me, which, especially in combination with the idiosyncratic music, planted the seed.

Fast forward to today. A reader pointed out that there are no King Crimson albums on the site yet. A glance at my to-do list revealed that several were scheduled and now it’s time for “In The Wake Of Poseidon”. Here we go.

The album, the band’s second, was released in 1970 and marks the departure of two band members: keyboardist and brass player Ian McDonald and drummer Michael Giles. Singer and bassist Greg Lake had also announced his departure because he had been asked to join Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer’s band. However, they managed to persuade him to sing on most of the songs. Michael Giles, on the other hand, decided to fill the void himself. Such lineup turmoil isn’t great for group dynamics, but you don’t hear that in the music. In fact, there are some refreshing new impulses, such as Robert Fripp handling the keyboard parts himself and the addition of saxophone and jazz piano. Peter Giles’s bass guitar (brother of Michael) also rumbles along with tasteful and warm playing.

The album kicks off with the vocal track Peace – A Beginning. The piece lasts only 50 seconds, most of which are spent building up to a crescendo. Nevertheless, it immediately intrigues. Eventually, there are two more variations of Peace on the album, with different arrangements and lyrics. The inner tranquility of Peace is followed by the thunderous Pictures Of A City. The song can best be described as a jazz-rock/fusion variant of 21st Century Schizoid Man from the debut album “In The Court Of The Crimson King”. Mel Collins’s saxophone fits perfectly in this occasionally busy track. With the subsequent Cadence And Cascade peace is restored. Fripp plays the Celesta here, an electronic piano with a dreamy harmonium-like sound. It works well in combination with Gordon Haskell’s smoldering vocals and the atmospheric flute playing by Mel Collins. It’s a beautiful display of creativity. And then there’s the title track. The aforementioned song is brimming with melancholy that beautifully aligns with the album’s zeitgeist. It’s all so extraordinary.

The B-side opens with an acoustic guitar rendition of Peace played by Fripp. Here, you can clearly hear the genius of the master. This side of the record consists of two remarkable songs and the closing variation of Peace, combining vocals and acoustic guitar. Cat Food is noteworthy, at least due to its strongly rhythmic character and the impression that a cat is walking on the piano keys. The Devil’s Triangle is downright bizarre with its rolling rhythm. This epic track comes across as highly experimental, just like this variation on Gustav Holst’s Mars. Although Fripp and company delve deep, they never lose themselves in shameless chaos. This gives the album an intriguing edge that contributes to its overall interesting nature.

With all its figures on the cover, “In The Wake Of Poseidon” is a colorful album with magnificent tracks and notes that require a bit more deciphering. Looking back at the openness of the ’70s, I can understand why this young symphonic music enthusiast was quite receptive to this album. I’m afraid it won’t happen again.

Robert Fripp: guitar, mellotron (2,4,7), celesta (3), Hohner pianet (7)
Mel Collins: saxophone (2), flute (3)
Michael Giles: drums (2-4,6,7)
Peter Giles: bass
Gordon Haskell: vocals (3)
Greg Lake: vocals (1,2,4,6,8)
Keith Tippett: piano (3,6,7)

© Dick van der Heijde 2023