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


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

3.93 | 1754 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars I feel like the three albums of the improvisational period slowly progressed from soft ("Larks Tongues in Aspic") to louder ("Starless and Bible Black") to loudest ("Red").

While not as heavy as "Red", this album is still loud. Lyrically Wetton is more active this time around, already making his presence known on "The Great Deceiver" and "Lament". But the most noticeable change this time around is the lack of softer stuff. Laments are typically supposed to be fairly quiet. Well, this one is fairly quiet, for a few minutes, before it turns to 11 and blows the doors off. This is what happens when improvisation take a page out of the bebop and blues playbook.

Funny enough, those two are the only studio recorded songs on the album. The rest were from the band's 1973 tour, and of course, most of the tracks are improv. "We'll Let You Know" is a great example of that. Contemporary classical influences clashing with occasional bebop sporadic behavior with a rock and blues bone structure to latch onto. "The Night Watch" is one of the highlights here, showing restraint, but also a nice balance of Sinfield-era atmosphere and classic Fripp jazz-n'-blues sound. Decent songwriting and singing make this a worthwhile song to revisit time and time again.

"Trio" is basically a sonic soundscape while "The Mincer" is a slow bubbling improv that stews around a bit before Wetton sings some lines before the end. At first listen, these songs seem unremarkable until you realize these are mostly live songs that were edited (very painstakingly) to sounds like a studio album. Quite an impressive feat really. The title track, like most of the songs here, is also an improv, a slow starting track that builds up after a few minutes before the band breaks out into a groove before fading away into nothingness.

"Fracture" and "The Law of Maximum Distress" are the same as well, each slow building improvs that build to a head and peter out into rock grooves, blusey avant garde jazz stylings and atmospheric soundscapes. In terms of quality and songwriting, this album is nowhere near the top of my list, but for basically a hodgepodge of live improvs and a couple of standard loud Fripp heavy tunes, it does provide a nice diversity of sound and texture while also being an entertaining ride. Worth a good run through for the Crimson fan.

Wicket | 4/5 |


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