King Crimson and Toby Amies

In the Court of the Crimson King
King Crimson and Toby Amies
Robert Fripp playing a Fernandes Goldtop Custom with locking Kahler vibrato.

This film asks the musical question, “Is Robert Fripp a virtuoso guitarist, sensitive tone-poet – or brutal taskmaster?” The answer is, resoundingly, yes. Throughout this rock doc, Fripp’s acerbic comments intermingle with a backstage view – literally – of the prog institution, including co-guitarist Jakko Jakszyk. Interviews with ex-Crim members Adrian Belew and Bill Bruford provide vital insights.

Since 1969, Crimson has gone through endless permutations, but the focus here is a recent tour. You feel for roadie Paul Stratford, who describes hard work in a succession of “horrible, cold, dark halls.” Get up close to Fripp’s favorite Les Paul clone, a Fernandes Goldtop Custom with Kahler locking vibrato. A tech reveals the importance of Fripp’s irreplaceable electronics rack, containing decades of stored sounds.

There are difficult interviews with drummer Bill Rieflin, on the tour while suffering from cancer before his death in 2020. Turning to 1969-’70, original Crimson frontman Greg Lake gets thrown under the tour bus as a power-hungry egomaniac. This being Robert Fripp, we expect navel gazing, but the chief pleasure is observing the real life of working musicians. It’s a difficult job, but a result is the glorious noise of King Crimson.

This article originally appeared in VG’s February 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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