Family affair in the court of progressive royalty transmogrify red nightmares into blue idyll to celebrate affection.
There have been a plethora of tributes paid to KING CRIMSON over the years, yet most of the ensemble’s followers seem to be hung up on their sonic assault rather than soft aspect, and while many artists covered their occasional ballads, only one collective, Ian Wallace‘s CRIMSON JAZZ TRIO, dared to turn familiar skronk into something adventurously delicate – and now another member of KC family, drummer Pat Mastelotto, and his wife Deborah, found another route to the band’s tender heart. It’s not the project’s female front, though, that, defying the notion of the veterans’ audience being predominantly male, makes “A Romantic’s Guide” special and proves the songs, gathered on an album tied in with Valentine’s Day, are the songs for all seasons; it’s the Mastelottos, the couple’s friends and the Three Of A Perfect Pair Music Camp alumni’s ability to get to the core of a tune to propose an unexpected reading of a classic – faithful to the original but fresh and differently scented.
Of course, such obvious choices as “Book Of Saturday” or “Moonchild” shouldn’t take anyone by surprise – only they do: the former flown towards otherworldly languor, and sweet fatigue, by the perfect balance of woodwind and harp alongside angelic voice intimating the sentiments from a woman’s perspective, and the latter turned into a flugelhorn-tinged and vibes-splashed, celestial serenade. What’s bound to gently startle the listener is less predictable, for this treatment, numbers like “Elephant Talk” which has been robbed of phonetic angularity in favor of cosmic ivories-driven, if still punchy, slow soliloquy, whereas the Mellotron-facilitated finale “Sleepless” lost its erstwhile insistency to gain a sexual throbbing instead and to get speared with a purr-spurred violin. As a result, tracks spanning previous KC eras create a sort of hypnagogic concept that’s so easy to admire despite all the sophistication on offer.
The change may be not too apparent in a piano ripples of a slightly psychedelicized “Exiles” or the gloomy and solemn “Matte Kudasai” – which has its chorus replaced by a few lines from “Waiting Man” – whose half-whispered truths are rather ethereal here, yet opener “Two Hands” is free of despair now, having traded infinite sadness for an emphasized leitmotif and acid-house-type glacial dancefloor, while the glorious brass and drums of “Heartbeat” stress the beauty of Mrs Mastelotto’s vocals. Further on, “Inner Garden” visits, accordion in hand, the Seine for an impressionistic waltz, borrowing the feel from the prototype of “One Time” that’s given a jazzy jive and the recital of “Eyes Wide Open” lyrics in the middle to suit Pat and Deborah’s approach.
Their method is romantic indeed, and hopefully this album will pull new aficionados into the KC court; else, a lot of lovers will merely receive a soundtrack to their relationship.