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King Crimson - In The Wake Of Poseidon (Front)

A few weeks ago, I threw up a post about Yes‘ classic prog-rock masterpiece Close To The Edge. The feedback I got from that post was so positive that I thought I’d give it another go and bring another favorite progressive album of mine to the forefront to be examined. This time around I’ll be investigating an album from progressive rock titans King Crimson - more specifically, we’ll be looking at their second studio album:1970′s In The Wake Of Poseidon.

In 1967, The Beatles‘ eighth studio album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band laid the groundwork for progressive rock to flourish by demonstrating that interesting concept albums could be pulled off, and showing that not all albums had to be a collection of radio hits, which is what had mainly saturated the music scene during that time. This gave the proverbial go-ahead to bands like Procol Harum, King Crimson and Yes to expand on the idea of taking rock into new and more complex directions. King Crimson’s debut album, 1969′s In The Court Of The Crimson King, took this philosophy to heart and created what is still heralded as one of the greatest progressive rock albums ever. Whereas the likes of Yes focused more the psychedelic aspect of prog rock, King Crimson’s early years produced a much more dark and eerie sound that was geared more towards jazz. Much like jazz, the guitars were sporadic in nature – consisting of odd chord changes and spastic passages that displayed immense technical prowess. In accompaniment would be flutes, saxophones, and even mellotrons helping to shape this eerie soundscape.

In The Wake Of Poseidon very much followed its predecessor in the vein of this sound. In fact, it is often criticized for sounding too much like it. While I would certainly consider this criticism valid, this was still a sound that, for its time, was bringing vigour to the music scene through its experimentation. This is mainly why I chose to cover In The Wake Of Poseidon over In The Court Of The Crimson King. It’s too often overlooked.

Like many progressive albums that were coming out at this time, complex song compositions also meant complex stories and concepts to back them up. While In The Wake Of Poseidon doesn’t have an apparent beginning/middle/end type story structure, it does dwell on a big concept pertaining to human nature. This big concept ties in with the complete album art shown below. Often called “The 12 Faces Of Humankind” or “The 12 Archetypes,” this art is a painting by Tamme De Jongh that takes air, earth, fire, and water to be the main elements that this world is comprised of. Each of the 12 faces/archetypes depicted represent different combinations of these elements which ultimately represent all phases of our human nature. Whether we realize it or not, these archetypes constantly work to balance each other to form one coalesced consciousness. The album title itself can also be tied into this concept. In Greek mythology, Poseidon controlled the middle ground, the seas, between his brothers Zeus and Hades. If we accept this middle ground as representing the culmination of our human selves, the album title more clearly means in the wake of what makes us human.

“In air, fire, earth, and water
World on the scales.
Air, fire, earth, and water
Balance of change
World on the scales
On the scales.”

“Searching for me
You look everywhere,
Except beside you.
Searching for you
You look everywhere,
But not inside you.”

King Crimson - In The Wake Of Poseidon (Complete)

Above is the complete album art that depicts the 12 archetypes. These archetypes are as follows (starting at the top left, going left to right, top to bottom):

The Logician (Air and Fire)
The Patriarch (Air and Water)
The Child (Water and Air)
The Enchantress (Water and Earth)
The Observer (Air and Earth)
The Old Woman (Earth and Air)
The Fool (Fire and Water)
The Actress (Water and Fire)
Mother Nature (Earth and Water)
The Slave (Earth and Fire)
The Warrior (Fire and Earth)
The Joker (Fire and Air)

I decided to pick two tracks to showcase In The Wake Of Poseidon. The first, “Pictures Of A City“, is the embodiment of the jazz infused side of King Crimson. The second, the title track, displays the eerier serenity that King Crimson also was known for in their earlier days. Enjoy!

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