“Ladies of the Road” is the raunchiest, most sexist song in King Crimson‘s catalogue; an atypical celebration of groupies from their fourth album Islands. It’s atypical due to its sex-centric, innuendo-stuffed lyrics but it’s also somewhat atypical musically, with its bluesy saxophone solos and the backing vocals in the bridge and group vocals in the coda. The song is one of those relics of the ’70s that unabashedly celebrates the sex in “sex, drugs and rock and roll.”
Former Solemn Novena lead singer Louise Patricia Crane knows her way around prog rock. Her 2020 solo debut was acclaimed by the prog music press (yes, that’s a thing) and even featured guest appearances by members of Jethro Tull and King Crimson (not an Islands-vintage member of Crimson, but rather the band’s final lead singer Jakko Jaksyk).
On Crane’s new cover of “Ladies of the Road,” former King Crimson guitarist Jaksyk starts things off with a riff that both honors Robert Fripp’s original and plays with it. (The original is one of Fripp’s knottiest guitar parts.) The track echoes the original’s arrangement, with guitar, bass and drums in the first verse Crane singing the salacious lyrics suggestively, with a little more sensuality than original vocalist Boz Burrell. Mel Collins, the original sax player on the track, joins for the saxophone solos but takes a jazzier approach.
Though the track is pretty faithful, Crane, Jaksyk, and Collins all play inside the frame of the original, rather than reinvent the track outright. If you know the song well, the changes aren’t so subtle as they might seem,. The biggest change is obviously Crane’s gender, which spins the meaning of the song and makes it just a tiny bit less grotesque.