Apart from Robert Fripp and lyricist Peter Sinfield, Lizard features an entirely different lineup from the band that recorded In The Court of the Crimson King the previous year. Fripp is joined by bassist and singer Gordon Haskell, drummer Andy McCulloch, and Mel Collins on saxophone and flute. This lineup never played live, and Haskell and McCulloch were gone before the band’s next album. Haskell’s vocals worked on ‘Cadence and Cascade’ on the previous album, but his frog in the throat vocal style is tiring over an entire record; it’s telling that Jon Anderson from Yes is bought in for the album’s best song, the ‘Prince Rupert Awakes’ section of the side long Lizard.
King Crimson stakes out some unusual musical territory on Lizard – adding medieval and classical flavours to their progressive rock, and there’s little electric guitar from Fripp. Opener ‘Cirkus’ has a satisfyingly dissonant riff, although even there the lyrics and vocals render the song a tough listen. The rest of the first side is given to attempts at charming, non-rock songs; there’s weird light-hearted fare like ‘Indoor Games’ and ‘Happy Families’. Apart from the riff of ‘Cirkus’, the other salvageable part of Lizard is the ‘Price Rupert Awakes’ part of the ‘Lizard’ suite – even though the lyrics are still a tough sell (“Gone soon Piepowder’s moss-weed court”), Anderson gives the song a strong delivery. After this initial, excellent segment, the song goes into a lengthy pseudo-classical piece – it’s pretty, and better than the rubbish on the first side, but it’s not enough to make the song one of the great side-long progressive epics.
There’s some interesting material on Lizard – but overall it’s a band bereft of direction after losing some key pieces.