Last week I wrote a positive review of Joe Jackson's new tribute to Duke Ellington. This past weekend I spent some time listening to King Crimson, specifically "In The Wake Of Poseidon," their second LP and last with Greg Lake and "Red" their third and last LP with John Wetton. It made me think of Joe Jackson again.
Jackson, since his debut, has dabbled in pop, punk, jazz, rock, classical, Latin and swing, and with each release, has left his fans in the wake of his whimsy. Diehards take to it all with grace. Casual fans, not so much. Not everything worked, but J.J.'s arrogance aside, none of the records sounded slapped together. The records were smart, whether you liked the result or not.
King Crimson, up until 2003, has been a constant. Well, at least founder Robert Fripp has. Since their debut, KC has not only shifted gears as much as Joe Jackson, releasing records covering genres such as prog rock, jazz, heavy metal, industrial, new wave and folk, but they have had as many line changes as a pro hockey team. If King Crimson was a man and each line-up was a job, this man hasn't kept a job longer than 4 years. (2000-2003 seems like the longest stretch with the same band members and the same sound.)
Many would argue that King Crimson is not a band, but an aggregation. People come and go, simply to act out Robert Fripp's musical fantasies and whims. I would imagine there are just as many fans of both as there are fans of neither. But what strikes me is the way KC (Fripp) has jumped from ship to ship, leaving employees in his wake, and has seemlessly created a career that for the most part, is unblemished, with a fanbase, for the most part, wholly satisfied.
I'm not comparing the artists. Nor am I creating a case for Joe Jackson. This is a curiosity. Is it simply the music? Does the free-form attack of King Crimson allow for the not-so-subtle changes in what they've delivered from LP to LP? What it is about pop artists that gets them less leeway in their creativity?
Another artist that comes to mind of course is Todd Rundgren. Many gave up on this poor guy 40 years ago, the second he followed the pop masterpiece "Something/Anything?" with the psych/prog/metal/soul/pop/funk of "A Wizard/A True Star." Or how about David Bowie? Poseur or visionary? Personally, I think Bowie's been one step ahead of everyone since 1970's "The Man Who Sold The World."
Any thoughts on artists or bands who have been musical chameleons for bad or worse?
In the meantime, here are two fave KC moments--one from each of the records I mentioned earlier.