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King Crimson - Starless and Bible Black CD (album) cover


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

3.93 | 1915 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

5 stars A tough one to assess and at times a tough one to absorb, Starless and Bible Black starts very strangely, abruptly and belligerently on "The Great Deceiver" with the band playing loudly, aggressively and frantically fast before suddenly stopping on a dime as John Wetton's bass leads the way before his vocals begin with a startling "Health food faggot..." It is a real "in your face" kind of moment. The overall feel of this song is at this moment is almost punk. The effect is driven home greatly by Wetton's sometimes raspy and simultaneously thin voice and the twisted lyrics of Robert Palmer-James. The song moves through tremendous syncopated bass and drum work by Wetton and Bruford, with Fripp's highly distorted guitar and Cross' string embellishments rounding out the opener. The next piece, "Lament", is considerably slower at its start, with a sweetness and sadness in Wetton's voice and Cross' soft strings in the backgound, then in the middle, out of nowhere comes this wild funky baseline by Wetton, followed shortly afterward with a few timely explosions from Bruford and then a couple of electrifyingly colorful and dissonant cords by Fripp before moving rapidly into a ascending and descending chromatic maelstrom with Billy's tight, almost militaristic drumming in the background and with Wetton's highly charged (almost screaming) vocals in the front. Then, those highly colored chords by Fripp again, followed by a really hard driving repeating guitar line that stops as abruptly as it began leaving you with the feeling that the floor is about to drop out under your feet. It's sick. "We'll Let You Know" is a fascinating little jam that features some of Wetton's most distinctive bass guitar work on record. The overall feel of the piece is that of a sort of hornless funky jazz-- it's really not rock in the sense that I understand rock music but this in no way detracts from the fact that the musicianship is solid. It is obvious in listening to this piece that the players are in a jazz mindset, listening intently to and truly feeling the play of the other members of the band and allowing that to influence their own play. "The Night Watch" is a classically-influenced little song with lovely singing by Wetton... some of his best and with some understated bass guitar by him as well. Fripp's electric guitar plays lyrically and about as beautifully on this piece as I've ever heard it. "Trio" is another slower one and an instrumental on which Cross' high violin and Fripp's toys shine, with Wetton providing a gentle and melodious bass in the background highlightling his tremendous sense of dynamic and harmonic sensibility and taste. This is an understated masterpiece. "The Mincer" is a bizarre little experimental instrumental piece that includes some really unusual textural effects. The muffled bass line by Wetton in the last few seconds at the end (and which ends abruptly) is really provocative. The piece sounds as if it is ending where it might really be just beginning, leaving the rest to the imagination of the listener. Next, "Starless and Bible Black" a lengthy experiment featuring eery violin effects by Cross, twisted chromatic guitar lines by Fripp, a varied palette of bass approaches by Wetton with Bruford, through his refined percussion skills, keeping the unit finely tethered to Earth. It is an improvisational piece with remarkable interplay among the band. "Fracture" stands as one of the greatest single pieces of improvised music in the entire progressive rock literature. It is so together, in terms of the collective interplay among the bandmembers, that it sounds composed. It starts with a repeating chromatic/modal theme that is expanded gradually by Fripp, with a growling/droning bass added by Wetton and viola colorations by Cross. Fripp's rapidfire picking and coloration is a tour de force. Cross' viola work and Wetton's insistent and increasingly urgent bass establish a palpable tension before it all explodes. It is an absolute work of genius. WARNING: THIS RECORD CONTAINS SOME OF THE BEST EXPERIMENTAL PROGRESSIVE ROCK EVER RECORDED. IF YOU APPROACH THIS RECORDING FROM PERSPECTIVE OF CASUAL LISTENING, YOU WILL BE UNFULFILLED, PUT OFF AND CONFUSED. THIS IS A RECORDING THAT IS UNUSUALLY DEMANDING ON THE LISTENER. IT REQUIRES ONE HUNDRED PERCENT FOCUS ON THE MUSIC AND ON NOTHING BUT THE MUSIC. FAILURE TO DO SO WILL INEVITABLY RESULT IN LESS THAN OPTIMAL IMPACT WITH AN OPINION COLORED BY AND DISTORTED BY YOUR INATTENTION TO THE DETAILS. IT ALSO REQUIRES REPEATED LISTENING AS SUBTLETIES AND NUANCES WILL APPEAR ON REPEAT LISTENINGS THAT YOU DID NOT APPRECIATE PREVIOUSLY. REPEATED LISTENINGS ALSO REQUIRE ONE HUNDRED PERCENT FOCUS.


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