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The Fundamental difference between King Crimson and the Brit Prog Cartel

Wading through the countless Prog Rivers and endless streams of England’s Progressive tide however magical cannot be described as a wondrous Tolkienistic endurance of Dr Robert Moog’s resurrection and eventual demise. The causeway has valleys of unreachable dimension and between those undulating plains, hidden crevices and jagged cliffs you will have your senses jarred and numbed, but rest assured, inevitably reaching the golden sanctuary of the Holy Grail. Once such creature is the enigmatic beast called King Crimson, hardly comparable to the Latimer ‘B Marvin’ guitar riffs of Camel, the anglo Saxon tales of synth Genesis or Canterbury mellotron delights of Viola flavoured Caravan. Fripp’s Crimson was delusional and bizarre throwing you into turmoil and over the precipice in once instant and then soothing you out in the next with Lake’s pastoral vox and mellotron manicured soundscapes. But don’t get comfortable in the courts of that Crimson magician because Fripp reinvents himself with each album as in the anguishing ‘Wake Of The Poseidon’ or jazz abstract ‘Lizard’, I mean Tippet’s input was far from accessible compared to Jon Andersons’ lengthy contribution adding sanity to the ‘Lizard’s’ shape shifting metamorphosis.

Fripp was continually churning out bizarre landscapes often rancid with jazz invocations and off- beat structures while Camel pursued a more consistent plain of synth conceptual creations wonderfully augmented by Barden’s’ characteristic keys although primarily Latimer’s guitar that always took frontal. Only in the latter seventies did those Camel ridden trails enter a saxophonist drone, although notably never sliding into a jazz incline and very distant from the Olympic strides of say ELP. The revolving door of Camel keyboardists and Mel Collins’ soaring escapades may have distanced some Camel riders, albeit in flow with the changing tide of the seventies.  Even Caravan, a Canterbury marvel who could whip up astounding live synth battles had moments of morose gesticulation, (Even John Peel nodded off to some of the more wavering BBC mellotron trials) Genesis was consistently the most original Brit Prog band with its determined lyrical richness, ultimately their mainline strength  even if Gabriel claimed he walked out the of the ‘Broadway’ machine, what a fucking machine, superbly oiled and far from the endless striving of Yes‘Topographical’ dimensions. 

Genesis ‘Lamb’ offered short tasteful morsels of mellotron coupled with astounding drum scales, Hackett was so in the crease that one hardly noticed that it was guitar and not keyboards. Crimson went from bizarre to bludgeoning vibrato after Wetton made his glorious entry, but not the quite the finesse of the Crimson courts. Caravan trails dismembered sadly at ‘Waterloo’ and some blundering bulldog with no more water at any oasis but refilled graciously with the jazzy Hatfield & the North and National Health, nothing to do with Thatcher but more the enlightened slant of Mr Robert Wyatt, six guns fully drawn for the ‘shipbuilding’ Falklands.

Possibly the closet relative ‘bastard’ to Fripp’s inventive prognosis  would be Hammill’s Van der Graaf Generator ,  a more Gothic sombre splendour but far more refined as time goes by than the relentless  ravaging of Crimson’s sabre warriors. Van Der Graaf was wonderfully ugly, sensationally awkward and as real as rough gravel, a far cry from the adult contemporary pleasurable Renaissance. Hammill’s lyrical magnum force arguably the best in Britain, moreover globally was a force to be reckoned with that even Gabriel stood in awe of.  So in rewind that gaping red face that swallowed you whole in the late sixties , a Fripp marvel cannot be discounted in the same revered countenance as Syd Barrett’s’ cosmic ‘Piper’ exordium. Yet beyond the brightness and lightness of the chosen few the likes of Julien J Saverin, Gravy Train, Audience, Beggars opera and Curved Air were busy carving an indelible stamp on the more discerning mass of Prog lovers.  

Across the channel Germany was logistically at the forefront of the Prog revolution, yet sadly deemed ‘Krautrock’ an inherent stab at historical enemies that even vented at the soccer stadium. Thanks and no thanks to the M&N cartel (Melody Maker & New Musical Express Polls) the mainland of Europe was largely ignored and only when Jan Akkerman crossed the channel did the British realise that the royalty perceptions of Hackett and Steve Howe were clearly in dire threat, as quoted by Jack Bruce ‘oh shit he really can play the whole Focus album, well enough to get him on stage and jam with the Akkerman acolyte. In hindsight Germany’s Prog bands outnumbered Britain, 10 to 1 but that’s another story?

Added: May 20th 2012
Reviewer: Shiloh Noone | See all reviews by Shiloh Noone

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