McDonald and Giles

A Brief History

A point often brought up within progressive rock circles is to whom one could really attribute progressive rock's first real album. Many critics mention King Crimson's first album, In The Court Of The Crimson King, a masterpiece in rock music and on of music history's all time classic albums.

Though King Crimson have continued in one format or another till this various day, the classic lineup on this album was over before the world had woken up to their music. Two members of the quartet, namely Michael Giles and Ian McDonald felt they had to break away from the KC fold mainly due to musical differences with band leader Robert Fripp as well as due to constraints of touring. In fact the two left the band in December of 1969, during the US tour to promote their debut album (The last official date played by the band was December 16th 1969). Because of this Fripp had to stop the tour and cancel all dates booked for January/February 1970.

As can be imagined feelings between Fripp, McDonald and Giles were not too rosy during this period. According to McDonald, their departure from the band was due to the fact that King Crimson's music "is not happy music...And I want to make music that says good things instead of evil things". On the other hand Robert Fripp replied that their departure was due to them "falling In love" during the KC tour. What is definite is that Fripp decided to see out the first KC phase by releasing in quick succession a further two albums while McDonald and Giles would regroup together a few months later. Michael's brother, Pete (Of Giles, Giles & Fripp fame) was also roped in together with various guest musicians such as Steve Winwood. One can assume that Greg Lake was not involved in the band as he was still to a certain extent a member of King Crimson although he had already expressed his desire to leave.

The album is in itself an extremely upbeat album with many sharply contrasting events vis-a-vis In the Court Of The Crimson King occurring. One of the more striking points is the lack of use of the mellotron, an instrument that was popularised by McDonald on In The Court... , and an instrument that would be used to great effect by various other progressive rock bands. Furthermore, McDonald also plays guitar to great effect, something which he could not possibly do alongside Fripp!

When one discusses the album one should also reflect on a number of points, namely that both McDonald and Giles were creatively involved in KC's debut album, McDonald himself being composer of classic tracks such as I Talk To The Wind. However, one must definitely ask the question on what King Crimson's second album would have sounded like should McDonald and Giles remained within the line-up. A very good idea of that can be obtained from the McDonald and Giles album. Robert Fripp himself has stated that the M&G album was almost half of what the new KC album was to be and that the band had been rehearsing the material since the fall of 1969. Some material was composed even further back in time, For example, the Michael Giles' composition, Tomorrow's People -- The Children of Today dates back to the days of Giles, Giles and Fripp in 1967. In the UK, the album was released on the Island record label (Island ILPS 9126; 1st pressing, pink label with 'i' logo Value BS20.00; 2nd pressing, pink rim label, palm tree logo Value: BS10.00) and was subsequently re-release on the Polydor label (2302 070 Value: BS12.00) In the United States the album was released on the Polydor label (2302 070 Value: BS12.00) and on the Cotillion label (SD 9042).

The gatefold sleeve depicted the two musicians with their "loves". Ian McDonald's girlfriend at the time was called Charlotte while Michael Giles' was called Stephanie and they are photographed outside their apartment in Earl's Court in London.

Unfortunately the album did not meet the necessary expectations in terms of sales and both musicians agreed to go their separate ways. In a number of interviews, McDonald has often hinted that the recording of the album took a lot out of him resulting in him having a near nervous breakdown. Of the two musicians, Ian McDonald would achieve most fame mainly with his work on the first three of stadium rock band, Foreigner. However he was also linked to the post-Red King Crimson lineup for a time and has made a few guest appearances on albums by T. Rex, Fruup and Wolf just to name a few. Michael Giles played with the short-lived Jackson Heights and worked as a session musician with Anthony Phillips as well as a composer for musical scores. Peter Giles, on the other hand, left the music business and turned to the accounting trade.

However close McDonald and Giles were as friends, the two never got down to working together until 1999 when Ian McDonald released his first solo album, Driver's Eyes. The two collaborated on the track Straight Back To You while the album also featured the lyrical contribution of Pete Sinfield.

Nigel Camilleri

Album Reviews

McDonald And Giles - McDonald And Giles

Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:Island(UK)
Atlantic (Japan only)
Catalogue #:ILPS 9126
SD 9042
Year of Release:19711989/1998
Info:None Available

Tracklist: Suite in C including Turnham Green, Here I Am And Others (11:21),Flight Of The Ibis (3:18), Is She Waiting? (2:40), Tomorrow's People- The Children of Today (7:00), Birdman involving The Inventor's Dream (O.U.A.T.), The Workshop, Wishbone Ascension, Birdman Flies!, Wings In The Sunset, Birdman- The Reflection (21:45)

Musicians: Ian McDonald (guitar, piano, organ, saxes, flute, clarinet, zither, vocals and sundries), Michael Giles (drums, percussion (including milk bottle, handsaw, lip whistle and nutbox), vocals), Peter Giles (bass guitar), Steve Winwood (organ, and piano solo on Turnham Green), Michael Blakesley (trombone on Tomorrow's People)
Michael Lee Gray (conductor, arranger),
Peter Sinfield (lyricist)
Brian Humphries (Engineer), Richard Digby-Smith (assistant engineer)

Tracks 1 and 3 composed by Ian McDonald, Track 2 by B.P.Fallon and Ian McDonald, Track 4 by Michael Giles and Track 5 by Peter Sinfield and Ian McDonald

Cover Painting: Charlotte Bates; Photograph-Richard Dilello

The only album from McDonald And Giles is contrastingly different to much of what one experienced on In The Court Of The Crimson King, though nevertheless the album remains an important and sadly neglected album from the days of early progressive rock.

Suite in C; including Turnham Green, Here I Am, and others immediately sets the standard for the album showing the complete turn around in musical events with a much warmer atmosphere exuded from the music with touches of psychedelia and various references to the sixties British beat movement. The track itself was written during the King Crimson tour in between dates and Ian McDonald describes the dates of writing the track as "in Detroit, Los Angeles and Earls Court between December 1969 and February 1970". Percussion is an important feature of the album and is also a sign that though the composition is an Ian McDonald one, the hand of Michael Giles played an important defining role. Of further interest in this track is the fact that Steve Winwood makes a guest appearance on Turnham Green.

The track opens in a Beatlesque vein, very British sounding with the employment of various percussive sounds. Most of the track is set in acoustic mode with lush vocal harmonies though the focal point of the track comes about when the band resurrect one of the main King Crimson elements, improvisation. The flute and piano duet with the catchy jazz riffs make this track a real gem. Of course one cannot really define the track as being progressive in terms of what bands such as Genesis and Yes would create. However, one must admit that though there are definite touches of psychedelia, the music has a definite structure and the solos always seem to be under a pretence of control. One final note that should be mentioned regarding this track is the inclusion of strings within the musical structure. This particular pint comes as somewhat of a surprise, especially when one realises that Ian McDonald was a master of the mellotron, an instrument that should have mimicked the sound of strings without having to deal with an orchestra!

The music of Flight Of The Ibis originally was the music for the track Cadence & Cascade, a track which appeared on the second King Crimson album. Having originally been written when McDonald was still in the band with lyrics by Pete Sinfield, it was agreed that Robert Fripp would be entitled to the Sinfield lyrics (used on the KC album with lyrics by Beep) while McDonald would keep the music that he had written and to which lyrics by B.P. Falon were added. A relatively short piece of music, it is in actual fact a relatively folk-rock affair, something you could attribute to bands such as The Strawbs with a lush acoustic feel to it while the vocals remain placid and laid back.

Is She Waiting, was penned "in Earls Court in the summer of '69, between [Crimson] gigs" and would have undoubtedly ended up on the next KC album. A love song, the music features just McDonalds vocals accompanied by piano and acoustic guitar, a far cry what one would have expected alongside In The Court Of The Crimson King, and possibly a valid indicator at why the two wanted out of King Crimson.

Tomorrow's People- The Children of Today closes the first side of the album and is the oldest penned track on the album. In fact Michael Giles had originally started writing the track back in 1967, when still playing with Giles, Giles & Fripp. This could also explain why the track has a pop feel to it with the inclusion of a brass sound courtesy of Michael Blakesley on trombone. However when compared to the Giles' penned tracks from that era this time round there is much more of a mature feel to the music which is also more ambitious. Ian McDonald's contributing flute solo is outstanding and it is no wonder why many critics consider the track as one of the highlights of the album.

The entire second side of the LP was taken up by the twenty one minute plus Birdman involving The Inventor's Dream (O.U.A.T.), The Workshop, Wishbone Ascension, Birdman Flies!, Wings In The Sunset, Birdman- The Reflection. The track was a collaboration between Peter Sinfield and Ian McDonald, though the main concept was devised by Sinfield way back in the spring of 1968. In fact early recordings of King Crimson, such as the Live At The Marquee Club 1969 album has the band playing bars from Slowly Up, Then Slowly Down during the track Trees. The concept of the track was about an inventor who dreamt of flying and built the wings that allowed him to do just that (something like The Flight Of Icarus!). The music itself is extremely very British sounding with humour present throughout the entirety of the track. As always the solos from McDonald are impeccable as is the rhythmic backbone provided by the Giles brothers.

There is no doubt that after hearing this album one must ponder about how King Crimson would have evolved should McDonald and Giles remained within the band. On the other hand this album is a sadly overlooked gem of progressive rock that can stand on its own merits. Unfortunately it is unavailable on the European market, though it is available in Japan and via the internet can be readily bought from various CD vendors. Get this album, you won't be disappointed.

Nigel Camilleri

Related Websites

There is as yet no official McDonald and Giles website. However, should you have any further information regarding McDonald and Giles that could be added to the site, do not hesitate to contact me.