A Romantic's Guide to King Crimson by The Mastelottos

Release date: February 14, 2021
Label: 7D Media

It seems like a weird idea at first to cover the music from King Crimson. It is challenging, complex, sinister, intense, and energetic. But when it comes to The Mastelottos, it was like walking into the lion’s den all over again to revisit the classics that Crimson has embraced. But what they’ve done is to transform these 12 tracks into this sweet, smoothing, and jazz-pop orientated compositions.

With a little help from 21 performers, most of whom participated in the annual Music Masters, Three of a Perfect Pair camp that was held in the Catskill Mountains in New York State. Mind you, I had no idea on what to expect from both Deborah and Pat’s arrangements for A Romantic’s Guide to King Crimson as I pressed the play button. And I didn’t know if my ear phones were going to accept it or not.

While Crimson’s music has been a challenge since 1969 as Robert Fripp describes Crimson as a “Way of Doing Things”, this was one of the most unexpected releases this year from Trey Gunn’s 7D label. Most of the pieces on here are cavernous, surreal, dark, and hypnotic that The Mastellotos have embraced. And the seven centerpieces that are on this release, are quite intriguing.

The nod to Edith Piaf is a walk into the mystical forest on ‘Inner Garden’. It will send shivers down your spine by entering into this intense tango embrace with some accordion arrangements into the empty streets of Paris. ‘Elephant Talk’ goes into the crossover structures of Fusion and Bebop jazz arrangements with echoing trumpet effects. While Deborah channels the beat poets and writes from the realms of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Neal Cassady as if she did this crossover as an alternate score to Kerouac’s 1957 classic, On the Road, she was creating these intense dance beats for her husband to capture the inner grooves, not knowing what will happen next.

Then Deborah tips her hat to Belew’s lyrical structures as ‘People’ walks into the town of David Bowie’s ‘Fame’ from the Young Americans album with its Blue-Eyed Soul and Post-Rock arrangements. ‘Moonchild’ sets up this empty theater for the unsung ballet dancer who dances alone to be free from all the people telling her what to do and what not to do.

‘One Time’ sees Pat returning to his THRAK roots since joining the band in 1995. The original version goes from 140 beats per minute, this version goes to 105 with a bossa-nova groove in the hot Brazilian sun as ‘Peace’ becomes the calm before the storm. With its free-jazz arrangements, Deborah returns to the Orwellian nightmare throughout an intercom as she becomes the next Big Brother by watching the entire city and knowing that the next danger has become even more intense to get out of.

‘Book of Saturday’ transforms into this dooming classical turned flamenco-harp section with a lullaby setting as ‘Exiles’ transforms The Mastelottos into film score maestros Wojciech Kilar and James Horner as if they had teamed together to create their own version of Paul Grimault’s French animated classic, The King and the Mockingbird.

The Mastelottos have taken up a big challenge on their own version of King Crimson’s music. While it was a very interesting listen, it was very brave of them to take it to a whole new level and go beyond the Futuristic Tribal scenario into something beautifully strange, but delicate.

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