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STARLESS AND BIBLE BLACK

King Crimson

Eclectic Prog


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King Crimson Starless And Bible Black album cover
3.89 | 1213 ratings | 121 reviews | 30% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection


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Studio Album, released in 1974

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Great Deceiver (4:02)
2. Lament (4:00)
3. We'll Let You Know (3:46)
4. The Night Watch (4:37)
5. Trio (5:41)
6. The Mincer (4:10)
7. Starless And Bible Black (9:11)
8. Fracture (11:14)

Total Time: 46:41

Lyrics

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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- Bill Bruford / drums, percussion
- David Cross / violin, viola, keyboards
- Robert Fripp / guitars, mellotron, devices
- John Wetton / bass, vocals

Releases information

LP Island ILPS9275 (1974)
CD DGM 0506 (2005)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Tarcisio Moura for the last updates
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KING CRIMSON Starless And Bible Black ratings distribution


3.89
(1213 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(30%)
30%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(46%)
46%
Good, but non-essential (19%)
19%
Collectors/fans only (4%)
4%
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)
1%

KING CRIMSON Starless And Bible Black reviews


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Peter
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I certainly do not find STARLESS AND BIBLE BLACK to be a "disappointment," as some have maintained -- far from it! While it may not quite equal LARKS' TONGUES IN ASPIC for inventiveness, it is a very good effort from this classic lineup. Wetton's bass and vocals are as strong as ever, Fripp's guitar sounds like a weapon, Cross's violin really adds to the overall feel, and Bruford is, of course, the best.

"The Great Deceiver" is one of the heaviest, most frantic and cutting songs Crimson ever released, and "Lament" is a powerful portrait of the jaded rock star. "The Night Watch," -- inspired by Rembrandt's famous painting -- is a beautiful piece of classic prog (Palmer-James does a great job as a lyricist), and the airy instrumental "Trio" is simply lovely. While the other songs are not as noteworthy, "Fracture" is a notable exception. My favourite track on the album, this 11+ minute song starts out slow, then steadily builds to an absolutely explosive finish. This one MUST be played loud!

Simply put, if you like LARKS' TONGUES, RED and USA, you should find plenty to enjoy on this album.

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Send comments to Peter (BETA) | Report this review (#15126) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, January 16, 2004

Review by Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Folk
3 stars 3.5 stars really!! Sunless And Babe's Bumpland

Hot on the heels of Lark's Tongue, the band started touring, and despite losing quickly Muir, they chose to go on as a quartet and when the came back to the studio to record this SABB album, they'd grown into a very tight quartet. Of course Muir's exciting percussions and noises are missing into this album, and the very bland artwork and probably some lesser worked-upon songwriting make this album quite a deception compared to Lark.

This one sounds sloppy to me, unfinished studio tapes and weird song endings. Although I see this mostly on the first side of the album I realize that I must be one of the only one to think that way but try the "Aspic" or "Red" albums as they represent the best of this line-up. Strange song structures such as Lament or un-interesting writing as trio makes that much is lost on me in the first side. Even the more conventional songs like Nightwatch and Great Deceiver appear a little weak and would be fillers on either album preceding or following SABB.

The two instrumental on the flipside are a bit unstructured to my liking, but they tend to be the best tracks of the album, solid energetic and crunchy. The instrumental numbers on Aspic were so much more interesting and riveting. Still much worth a spin, though! And as a Crimson fan, it's relatively inconceivable not having this album in your shelves, even if it is the poorest Crimson studio album of the 70's

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#15118) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This record is very experimental. FRIPPp's guitar is often random in the high notes, and the percussions are numerous. WETTON's bass is full of bottom and very present. The drums parts are very good. The dark keyboards parts remind me the early TANGERINE DREAM. I wonder if sometimes they were not influenced by the krautrock style. The music is often not very loaded, so that you can fully listen to all the drums and percussion parts.

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Send comments to greenback (BETA) | Report this review (#15127) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, April 11, 2004

Review by daveconn
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars A remarkable animal with a pair of dangerous horns on its head, an impregnable shell of exquisite design and the beat of a gentle heart beneath it all. The listener may first feel he's cornered the beast in error, as "Starless" immediately flies into attack mode, baring its horns and teeth on the opening two tracks. In this pose, our animal is most basilisk, arresting the audience with a stunning display of power, planting the flag on a peak of intensity that had yet to be called punk rock. Just as abruptly, CRIMSON exposes a softer side on "The Night Watch" (one of their most elegant entries) and the lovely instrumental "Trio." "Starless" falls into disarray soon afterward, delving into amorphous lands with "The Mincer" and the title track. With "Fracture", however, clarity emerges from chaos, and we're given a glimpse of the tightly reined vision of CRIMSON that would appear on "Red" and, later, "Discipline".

"Starless And Bible Black" can be alternately draining and exhilarating at various junctures, but prog fans should deem the journey essential. A "favorite" CRIMSON album is bound to be a matter of taste, but I wouldn't mind arguing on the side of Starless. Despite the loss of percussionist JAMIE MUIr and the personal difficulty I have in detecting the work of DAVID CROSS, these sessions concede nothing to "Larks Tongues". BRUFORD does a brilliant job of covering as a drummer/percussionist, WETTON gives the band one of their most viable bass guitarists to date, and FRIPP's guitar work is inspired. Artful and intense, this CRIMSON generates at least as much energy as VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR. As such, "Starless" may be the most appealing of the "original" CRIMSON albums for the second generation of fans who found the marvelously manicured indiscipline of the post-"Discipline" outfit intoxicating.

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Send comments to daveconn (BETA) | Report this review (#15124) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Review by James Lee
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars My favorite of the 70's KC studio albums; this is such a varied and yet cohesive collection- a raucous, caustic opener immediately followed by the reflective (and eventually even harder-rocking) Lament..."The Night Watch" is a perfectly composed anglo-tinted gem, from the heartbreaking opening swell to the melancholy narrative; the quiet, simple beauty of "Trio", the creeping menace of "The Mincer"...but the opus is in the extended tracks on the second half. "Starless" and "Fracture" are similar in tone and direction, penultimate examples of the mid-period KC sound: heavy, seemingly improvisational but with perfect flow and balance...emotionally cathartic, this is one of the few Prog albums that really compliments a heavy session of lovemaking! My only regret is "We'll let you know", which is a pointless throwaway jam, and the slightly muffled quality of the recording throughout.

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Send comments to James Lee (BETA) | Report this review (#15130) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, May 30, 2004

Review by el böthy
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Probably Crimson's weakest album of the 72-74 era, but still, it's very good. I don't think Crimson could have made a bad album during this period, more than in any other at least. Quite varied, half studio half live album, it could have been a real testament of the Wetton era, but it falls short of it. maybe not because of the album itself, but because the other two (Lark's and Red) are such masterpieces; any album in the middle of this two giants will see quite weaker than what it really is, but taken on it's own it's pretty damn good!

The studio songs are some of the best they have produced ever. The powerful and fun The Great Deceiver, with it's astonishing riff and Bruford´s tornado percussion. What a shocking way to start off an album! Lament would become a live classic during these years, a small 4 minutes rollercoaster that goes from gentle singing and violin to groovy rhythms to weird atonal soloing to heavy riffing. A personal favorite of mine. And of course The Night Watch. beauty personified. What a. beautiful song, really, it´s so damn beautiful I fall short of another description but this one! Outstanding!

From the live tracks it´s important to remember that most of them are improvisations, so do not take them as a "song", but rather as a piece of music. As a matter of fact there is only one real composition in this part of the album: Fracture, but I will talk about this one in a while. From the improvs the absolute bests are We´ll let you know for it´s funky feeling, Wetton takes the cake here, and Trio, a sound collage of mellotron, violin and some others that achieves an unexpected calmness and beauty (again with this word, I need a dictionary) if we keep in mind that what we hear came out at the very moment with no preconceived idea. Extraordinary! Funny thing, although Bruford does not play in this one he still is credited for the song for the fact that he decided not to play, but he sat down during the 5 minutes doing nothing. jajajaja, got to love that! Now there are also some songs we could, or at least I could, live without. The Mincer goes absolutely no where, with Wettons vocals put over in the studio to give it some coherence and that sudden stop (they literally run out of tape during the live recording) makes this a forgettable number, while Starless and Bible Black also suffers from this "going no where" it's not that bad, but again, nothing really shocking either.

But if you want shocking. then get really for the last track. Of course I´m talking about Fracture. If you ever need prove of how original Fripp can be, just listen to this. The progression in the guitars, the dissonant bass, the grand final. probably the best song of the whole album, this one, although live recorded is no improv. Terribly good, Fripp you freakin´ genius!

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Send comments to el böthy (BETA) | Report this review (#15139) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, December 04, 2004

Review by Man With Hat
COLLABORATOR Jazz-Rock/Fusion Team
4 stars The meat in the 70s KC studio sandwich. My least favorite of the 70s trilogy, but by no means bad. The Great Deciever starts things off perfectly. A true Crimson track. Fast, complex, avanty, fun lyrics and really a powerhouse. Next is Lament. A decent tune, that provides a little cushion after the manic start. Then comes the thrid song. A great little piece to clam thigns down a bit. Then comes The Night Watch. A spooky track with great vocals and guitar work. A fantastic piece. Then comes Trio, an instramental that is ok. Then The Mincer, a extension of the previous, but it ends great. The title track was a bit over long, but offers some memorable moments. Finally comes Fracture, an explosive little instramental. The end is true Crimson yet again. All in all, this shows what KC was capable of live, interjected into a studio album. Certainly the most improv based work in the KC studio catalogue (at least of the 70s). Recommended to fans of this type of music.

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Send comments to Man With Hat (BETA) | Report this review (#15140) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, December 19, 2004

Review by Bj-1
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Who said "Starless" was King Crimson's prog apex? "Fracture" is the real deal and is surely one of the reasons I come to like this album so much. It took some time for me to really get around this album after being blown away by 'Larks' Tongues in Aspic', but I guess that was because of the majority of this album consist of improvised material. The written songs here are the strongest ones, especially the two opening proggers which have enough ideas alone to fill a side, Crimson style. However, "Fracture" remains my favorite KC composition. Ever. Not even "Schizoid Man" can reach up to the dark and menacing moods of this track, and the complexity of it alone would give an orchestra a run for their money. Sadly, this album doesn't really get the attention it deserves though the improvs (live, with audience noise removed) here really adds to the album overall although they're not the strongest ones in Crimson's catalogue.

A very rewarding album in the end, just a tad misunderstood. 4.5/5

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Send comments to Bj-1 (BETA) | Report this review (#15147) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Review by Philo
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Starless And Bible Black comes at the listener with all the subtlety of a bar room brawl only better choreographed and punctually orchestrated. The unfocused period of Lizard and Islands were well out of scope and the Fripp/Wetton/Bruford/Cross line up had exercised their strength with Larks Tongues In Aspic and by this album were a well oiled machine working together in complete harmony and consistency. "The Great Deceiver" could be an auto biographical song concerning Robert Fripp, in title only though, as The Crimson King tore his King Crimson vision through another line up but one that would leave their most impending legacy and strongest progression to date. Even more so than the Adrian Belew era of the eighties that produced Discipline and its two weaker clones, Beat and Three Of A Perfect Pair. The energy and convincing aggression on Starless And Bible Black is wide and consuming. The recording at the AIR Studios is massive and the bass tone especially sounds wide and vibrant while it gives plenty of scope especially to the two longer tracks on the B side of the album. The manic doom filled and aptly titled album ender "Fracture" and title track "Starless And Bible Black", which scorches away on progressive passages of improvisation juxtaposed with well arranged interplay between the musicians. In the eye of the storm lies a beautiful gentle flowing number. Tagging on to the back of "The Night Watch" "Trio" is excellently polarised with the rest of material on the album though inconspicuously fits into the concept giving an added texture but it soon crashes into "The Mincer", probably the weakest song on the album that comes across as an unfinished aimless jam that ends quite abruptly. Starless And Bible Black like its bookended counterparts is a timeless album. The mark of any skilled group of like minded musicians is an ideal to produce music that may be peerless without thinking it to be peerless. The method in which the musicians approached the music through their instruments is extremely intelligent. The trilogy of albums released by King Crimson in the mid seventies are well ahead of their time. Starless And Bible Black sits in the middle chronologically and musically almost tearing between Larks Tongues In Aspic and Red albums. A great release of tension.

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Posted Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Review by Eetu Pellonpää
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A controversial album indeed, but still containing exceptional music. The positive sides of this record are the wonderful live tracks from the Amsterdam concert; The improvisation "Starless and Bible Black" is one of their most powerful jams, reaching long duration and having eerie, mystical feeling, it is like a religious experience borne from amazing musicianship and talent. This is followed with the band's most important composition "Fracture", and this is also the most essential recording of it from the versions which I have ever heard. The "Trio" is also from the same concert, a quiet, beautiful musical wandering, where Bill doesn't play a single note. The only problem with these tracks is that they are also found now from "The Night Watch" double CD, which has the whole Amsterdam concert in it.

The few studio recordings on this album are good though; "The Great Deceiver" which they didn't quite manage to play in satisfying way at the concert stages, and "Lament" which then worked in the concerts much better. "The Night Watch" is a beautiful ballad from Rembrandt's famous painting which being held at the Amsterdam's national museum, but the version presented here is a bit weird. The pastoral opening is from the Amsterdam concert, but the main song is redone in the studio, as mellotron crashed during the concert. If this kind of editing doesn't bother, this is a good version, but I have heard the best rendering of it on their "Live in Mainz, Germany 1974" CD. "We'll Let You Know" is in my opinion their dullest improvisation, almost nothing happening there, and "The Mincer" is a quite stupid track. It has a recording from a live jam, where the tape runs off during middle of the play, and then there's some studio overdubbed singing on it. Quite disappointing, the version without these studio overdubs can be found from "The Great Deceiver" box.

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Posted Thursday, June 23, 2005

Review by lor68
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Well you could say it's normal for them, but their harsh and brainy execution concerning a few live jam sessions (here you find an extract from a few ones), plus a couple of typical ballads by J. Wetton (always supported by the cello and the mellotron as well, in a remarkable way), create together an unbalanced work. Produced at the famous Air Studios, this album was criticized at that time, as for its uneven features. Therefore you find elements of experimental and avant-garde music within, afterwards reproduced by the so called "Zeuhl Music", even though the melodic lines (sometimes simple and a bit depressed too) by D. Cross and J. Wetton altogether, which was another "trademark" of the original K.C., are pretty anyway. For me that's not enough to let it be as a unique or essential album if you regard of their complete discography, and moreover its discontinuity is quite irritating. yet the skill of the musicians, but also the important "change of route" in the song "The Great Deceiver" (except on the "calmed" tone regarding the vocalism inside the ballads, which sometimes is a bit strident ) could be interesting after all.however by considering the experimental K.C. and for instance another famous album like "Lark's Tongue in Aspic", being always regarded as a much better and more complete work, sometimes at the end you can remain unsatisfied about this "Starless &.": nevertheless you could make your own best choice, according to your preferences!!

Resumed score:

"3 stars" as for a couple of songs, especially "The Great Deceiver"...

"2 stars and an half" as for the controversial choice regarding the jam sessions taken from a live...

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Posted Thursday, September 08, 2005

Review by Raff
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Strident, angular, dark and chilling as its title suggests, "Starless and Bible Black" is a hard ride, but ultimately quite a rewarding one. It takes repeated, careful listens to get into it, and even then chances are it will never become your favourite KC album. When I first heard it, my reaction was one of perplexity, something like "well, OK, it's not bad at all, but is it that good either?". Even now, I only tend to put it on when I know I will be able to sit for a while without being interrupted by other tasks. There's no way out of it: you MUST listen to "Starless..." in order to really appreciate it, otherwise it will just seem to you like a bunch of weird, disjointed sounds with some quieter moments thrown in for good measure. I would say that the title of the closing track, "Fracture", is in a way the album's statement of intent.

John Wetton's performance is one of the best features here. In fact, his vocals are vastly superior to "Larks' Tongues in Aspic", even though he still sounds rather weak in the upper ranges, as in the second part of "Lament", which would be more suitable for a hard-rock singing style. In the opening "The Great Deceiver", he snarls and spits out the biting, acerbic words in a way that complements the music perfectly. Moreover, his powerful, aggressive bass playing really comes to the fore on this record, especially on "We'll Let You Know".

"Starless..." offers fewer vocals and far less melody than most KC albums, the wistful "The Night Watch" and the instrumental "Trio" being the only moments of respite in the frantic, tense feel of the whole. Fripp's guitar is at its most experimental, as in the eerie, disturbing "The Mincer"; while Bruford's crisp, complex drumming patterns provide a perfect foil for both Wetton's booming, muscular bass lines and Fripp's wild guitar excursions. David Cross's violin, though, is somewhat under-employed here in comparison to "Larks'..." and "Red".

"Starless and Bible Black" may not be a masterpiece like its follow-up, the monumental "Red", but it's an album no self-respecting prog fan can afford to ignore. This is KC at its darkest and most intellectual - not for the faint-hearted maybe, but progressive in the true sense of the word.

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Posted Monday, November 21, 2005

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars As Sid Smith put it in his book "In The Court of King Crimson" (Helter Skelter, 2003), this album was recorded with Bruford's thought on the band's uncertainty to carry on without Muir, although this was quickly dispelled as Crimson began a punishing tour of UK, Europe and the States. [page 174]. Between mid-March and early July the new quartet played more than 60 gigs with only a few days off. At the end of the tour the band returned to the UK in December for some overdue Christmas R&R with family and loved ones and in January 1974 entered the Air studio to begin work on their first album as a quartet, almost exactly one year after the recording of "Lark's Tongue in Aspic".

The opening track "Great Deceiver" is a dynamic composition showing Fripp and Cross combined their work in an excellent way. The power of vocal by Wetton is also key contributing factor to the beauty of this song that later became the title of the compilation boxed set of 4 CDs (see my review on "The Great Deceiver at this site). "We'll Let You Know" sounds like improvisation work with tight bass lines by Wetton which brings the music moves in various styles. "The Night Watch" is a nice ballad with good melody and right balance. Other tracks like "Starless and Bible Black" are interesting ones to enjoy and they indicate the early King Crimson sound. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

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Posted Friday, April 21, 2006

Review by Cygnus X-2
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Interesting concept with this Crimson album, as half of the album is performed live in front of an audience (the same concert as the live release The Night Watch), and the other half performed in the studio. The live tracks on this album range from totally out there improvs (Starless and Bible Black) and impeccably structured songs (Fracture); regardless, this is probably the weakest album of the Wetton/Bruford era of the group. The members of the bands are great (as always) on this album, with Wetton giving great vocal performances and incredibly tasteful bass performances, Bruford going off in his own world of complex and lush drumming, Cross creating sorrowful lines on his violin and mellotron, and Fripp, who brings all of it together, with his endlessly complicated and intricate playing. It all adds up to a recipe of success. But is this album I success?

Unfortunately, there are many strengths to this album, but there are also some weaknesses. Lament is an overall weak tune, with a bland intro and a somewhat unispired middle section. We'll Let You Know and The Mincer are also pretty forgettable instrumentals, despite the excellent performances from the band. However, those songs comprise of less than half the album. So let me tell you about the strong tracks.

The Great Deceiver is the opener to the album, with a strong opening riff that is really heavy for its time. A memorable chorus and a strong bass performance from Wetton top off the track. The Night Watch appears after Lament and We'll Let You Know, and it's one of the most beautiful pieces the group had created at that time (with only Exiles being ahead of it). The great mellotron work from Cross is augmented brilliantly from a great guitar line during the instrumental breaks from Fripp. Easily one of the best on the album. Trio is one of the two completely improvisational works on the album. It's amazing how intuitive the group is, because this song sounds like in no way, shape, or form, an improv. Every musician performances couples perfectly with everyone elses to make a truly enjoyable experience.

Starless and Bible Black is the second true improvisational track on the album, and it really is strong. The drumming on this track is also notable, with Bruford really going all out on this track. The guitar from Fripp is also utterly superb. Speaking of superb guitar from Fripp, Fracture totally takes his playing to the next level. Words cannot describe how utterly complicated the guitar playing on Fracture is, it's just so, unbelievably difficult to play those dissonant lines that are played all around the fretboard in such a quick sequence. Fripp really is one of the greatest guitarists of all time because he can play songs as complicated as this. Wetton, Bruford, and Cross help him out all along the way, with strong performances from all of them as well.

Well, musically, this album is hit and miss. Vocally, this album is hit and miss. But despite these faults, there is a lot to like about this album. If you are a guitarist, or any musician as a matter of fact, you should get this album because you will be blown away by some incredibly talented (an understatement) musicians. For me, I liked this album, but I wouldn't call it a masterpiece such as Red or Discipline. It's a good album. 3.5/5.

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Posted Saturday, April 29, 2006

Review by Guillermo
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars As previous reviewers wrote, it seems that some songs in this album were recorded live in concert, but the band mixed out the sounds of the audience, added overdubs in the studio and released the songs as part of their new "studio" album.

"The Great Deceiver" has interesting things, like a very good violin and guitar. Wetton sings lead and backing vocals.

"Lament" has good lyrics about the music bussiness, and it is more heavy than the previous song.

"We`ll Let You Know" is an instrumental improvisation which I like.

"The Night Watch" is a ballad with a good instrumental introduction, good guitars by Fripp, and again all vocals by Wetton. It is the best song in this album, IMO.

"Trio" is a peaceful instumental song without drums. Curiously, Bruford had a songwriting credit despite not playing in this song.

"The Mincer" sounds like another improvisation with few vocals and lyrics, and it sounds at the end like the tape was finished without the song being totally recorded.

"Starless and Bible Black" is another instrumental improvisation without much form until the end.

"Fracture" is credited as be composed only by Fripp, and it seems like the song had a clear structure prior to be played. It is a "neurotic" instrumental song, heavy in some parts, with Bruford playing tuned percussion. It is very good piece of music which at the end has a climax. One of the best instumental songs played by this line-up of King Crimson.

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Posted Thursday, June 22, 2006

Review by Australian
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Soon after the release of Larks' Tongues in Aspic percussionist Jamie Muir departed from King Crimson to pursue a different, non-musical career. This, in turn reduced the band to four members, Robert Fripp, David Cross, John Wetton and Bill Bruford. Jamie Muir defiantly left an impression on the band as Bill Bruford adopted his style of using strange, assorted percussive objects which range from a bow-saw to pistachio nut shells. For some reason I don't find Starless and Bible Black as interesting as a majority of King Crimson's classic albums. I guess its because a lot of this album is inconsequential and almost inaudible instrumental songs in which nothing really happens. Many people will disagree with me on that.

There are one or two very good songs here, and The Night watch is the first to come to mind. It begins with a quiet violin theme which erupts into a big crescendo. Some of the lyrics are spoken which effectively makes it a rap. The Night watch is easily the best song on Starless and Bible Black, just take on listen and compare it to the rest of the album. Lament is another highlight and the song is basically a crescendo, as the opening starts of quiet but with intensity and then erupts and gets louder and louder. The Great Deceiver goes down with me as one of the strangest King Crimson songs; it's so different to the rest of Starless and Bible Black. The rest of the album is essentially instrumental and the second half of the album features nothing which particularly stands out.

David Cross's violin plays a major part in Starless and Bible Black and he seems to almost overshadow Robert Fripp. In some of the instrumentals the interplay between the band is incredible, even if a bit boring. Bill Bruford is at his peak here and some of the percussion rhythm is amazing, it makes me wonder how he is capable of being fast enough to keep up, the whole band is amazingly talented.

1. The great deceiver (3/5) 2. Lament (4/5) 3. We'll let you know (3/5) 4. The night watch (5/5) 5. Trio (3/5) 6. The mincer (3/5) 7. Starless and bible black (3/5) 8. Fracture (3/5)

Total = 27 divided by 8 = 3.375 = 3 stars Good, but non-essential

Starless and Bible Black is an essential album for any self-respecting King Crimson fan and if you enjoy instrumental music then this stuff is for you. Also, Starless and Bible Black is one of the few progressive albums where the violin is used constantly, and as lead instrument tied together with the guitar. I'd recommend Larks' Tongues in Aspic over Starless and Bible Black as it is, in my opinion a more advanced version of Starless and Bible Black.

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Posted Sunday, September 03, 2006

Review by OpethGuitarist
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Just wing it.

What seems as a largely improvisational instrumental album is more or less just that. Because of this, Starless and Bible Black has its hits... and its misses.

The best of these themes is the title track itself, but unfortunately even it has it's mishaps. We don't really get rolling till the powerful bass line comes in about 4 minutes into the song, and then it seems almost entirely too short-lived. There's lots of experimentation and exploration throughout, which really shines in certain sections. Unfortunately, there are also parts where you wonder what exactly was the point of all this.

Lyrics are almost entirely absent, but if you are similar in taste to me, you'll know that I've never especially cared for lyrics much in the first place, and I view the vocals as another instrument to add to the music rather than a driving force. The absence of Muir from LTIA is noticeable as his presence would have really benefited this album.

As always Fripp and Co. possess mastery of their instruments and are able to make ordinary parts much more. However, this album does show a lack of consistency and solidness throughout that would be found on Red and LTIA.

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Posted Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Review by Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars They certainly took a different approach to this record with four of the tracks being improvised or having improvised sections, while half of the tracks were recorded live with the audience edited out. There is a "Larks' Tongues In Aspic" flavour to this album as well. Of their first six studio records I would rate this behind only "In The Court Of The Crimson King" and "Larks' Tongues In Aspic". Yes, I really like this one.

"The Great Deceiver" hits the ground running with violin and guitars, until it completely stops and the lyrics are spoken. Nice solo from Fripp during the last minute of the song. "Lament" opens with reserved vocals as mellotron and violin come in. The percussion is cool reminding me of "Larks' Tongues in Aspic". Bruford also gives us some outstanding drumming and a good solo from Fripp 3 minutes in. "We'll Let You Know" is an instrumental that features different sounds peircing in and out throughout the song. There is some funky bass and drumming later in the song that create a melody.

"The Night Watch" has some faster paced vocals that remind me of GENESIS for some reason as well as mellotron and violin. Great tune ! "Trio" is an improv of bass,mellotron and violin. "The Mincer" features lots of mellotron and some amazing guitar melodies. "Starless And Bible Black" is another improv that works perfectly. This one is quite atmospheric to open and has some screaming guitar along with mellotron,percussion and various experimental noises. "Fracture" opens with guitar as heavy drums come in. There is a real frenzy 6 minutes in and at 8 minutes the sound is nice and heavy. This song builds beautifully to an explosive climax.

This is a must have for fans of progressive music. 4.5 stars. I'm bumping this up to 5 stars after getting the re-mixed and expanded version late in 2011 because it sounds amazing.

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Posted Saturday, February 24, 2007

Review by thellama73
COLLABORATOR Eclectic Prog Team
5 stars Easily King Crimson's most underrated album. After reading all the reviews here I picked it up with some trepidation and was shocked at how good it is. It has since become my favorite of the John Wetton era records. The Great Deceiver opens the album with a frenzied power not achieved by the band since 21st Century Schizoid Man. John Wetton's vocals are in extremely fine form here, as is his bass on We'll Let You Know. I realize that most of this album is improv, but oh what improv it is! The Night Watch is fantastic and Trio sounds like it was carefully composed. Amazing that they made it up off the top of their heads. Fracture is as good as everyone says it is, and the title track is slightly better than everyone says IT is. The only track that disappoints is The Mincer, but it's only a little bit below the excellence of the rest of the record. If you've been holding out on buying this one due to negative reviews, you should reconsider. You may be pleasantly surprised (like me.)

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Posted Saturday, April 07, 2007

Review by Chicapah
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Not completely satisfied with the results they were getting in the studio, King Crimson decided to take some of their live recordings, remove all audience noises/responses and use those basic tracks as the foundation for five of the eight songs on this album. Only this band would do something radical like that and have it come out sounding as good as it does. Since there's no mention of this process on the LP cover, I wondered for decades how they had managed to get such a raw, in-the-moment atmosphere to surround this project and now, thanks to this site, I know. "Starless and Bible Black" is one of the group's most underrated efforts and I've never understood why that is because it's just so damned intriguing.

"The Great Deceiver" kicks the door down from the get go with its compressed, tightly- wound hard energy but then turns into anti-rock as soon as the unorthodox verse begins. Bassist John Wetton frantically sings twisted lines like "Health food faggot with a bartered bride/likes to comb his hair with a dipper ride," provided by lyricist Richard Palmer-James and you know you're in Crimson's wicked world immediately. As strange as the song may be the catchy chorus of "Cigarettes, Ice Cream, Figurines of the Virgin Mary" will stick to your brain like some kind of macabre nursery rhyme. "Lament" is next and it is one of their most engaging tunes ever. It's about a former rock idol looking back on his overnight success and the inevitable decline that followed. The melody is simple yet profound at the start, then the tune develops into something more dramatic. It's a song made up of different segments and ideas separated by a recurring musical sigh portrayed by an augmented guitar chord. In the end the singer has no regrets and has humbly accepted his reduced role in the rock and roll biz. "I like the way the music goes/there's a few good guys who can play it right/I like the way it moves my toes/just say when you want to go and dance all night." Exquisite. "We'll Let You Know" follows and the instrumental's deliberately slow buildup has always caused me to envision a disassembled robot pulling himself together piece by piece. It finally rises and takes a few clunky steps before his battery runs down. It's a great example of how these four musicians could work together on a very avant-garde experiment without ever stepping on each other's toes.

Speaking of imagery, to my seasoned ear the beginning of "The Night Watch" has always sounded like nostalgic music composed to accompany an old-time silent movie with its sad but beautiful melody. (The fact that it was recorded on stage only adds to its magic.) Inspired by Rembrandt's famous painting, Palmer-James' lyrics bring the master's art to life with lines like "The smell of paint, a flask of wine/and turn those faces all to me/the blunderbuss and halberd shaft/and Dutch respectability." The descriptive words, Wetton's restrained vocal delivery, Robert Fripp's tasteful guitar work and the reverent attitude of the group as a whole make this cut a true gem. Next, after an extremely long fade-in, you are treated to the sublime serenity that is "Trio." It features David Cross on violin and viola, Fripp on guitar and Mellotron and Wetton on bass. It's a musical glimpse of heaven and you owe it to yourself to hear it before you depart this mortal coil. I haven't mentioned the greatness of drummer Bill Bruford yet but he's been lurking just below the surface (except on the last tune, which he tactfully sat out). On "The Mincer" he opens the song with a cool, jazzy feel but then things start to wander a bit. For one thing there's no melody to speak of for several minutes as Robert's guitar and his "devices" create eerie sounds and effects seemingly at random. Suddenly John starts singing along with some three-part harmony and then the whole thing just abruptly stops. It's an odd duck of a tune, for sure.

The title song is a little over nine minutes in length and if you are patient and attentive in your listening you will be richly rewarded. After some airy layerings of guitar and keyboard sounds Bruford finally enters to establish a basic beat with the tambourine, then Wetton's bass starts kicking at the bars erratically like a caged beast. Bill's drums relieve the incredible tension as they corral the bass monster and initiate some serious funk underneath the guitar and Mellotron. It all winds down eventually with reluctant dying spasms as Cross' somber violin lays it to rest. "Fracture" is an aptly titled jazz rock/fusion piece that actually has an identifiable riff to follow but it's far from the normal two-step as it coasts along (for a while) in 6/4 time. The tune has a lot of starts and stops with Bruford even adding some rare percussive Vibes before David's fierce violin playing gives it a slight Mahavishnu Orchestra glow. After a quieter section that nearly lulls you to sleep Fripp's stark guitar awakens you rudely as they tumble into a rock beat and accompany an ascending melody that leads to a loose ending. If this were any other band the last two instrumental songs would be beyond comprehension but for King Crimson it's just another highly constructive day at the office. Er, studio. Er, stage. Whatever.

I used to wonder how Atlantic Records approached marketing these guys. The King Crimson dossier probably got handed down to whomever was the newest member of the staff in advertising as a "let's see what you can do with THIS, genius" welcome-to- the-club present. They never got played on the radio (except for their classic debut), they didn't appear on or host television concert shows and they sure as hell didn't care what some record executives thought they should or shouldn't be doing. What they did have was a horde of loyal fans that bought enough of their records to justify their contract year after year and that's why we have albums like "Starless and Bible Black" to ponder, decipher and contemplate till kingdom come. Thank God.

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Posted Friday, April 13, 2007

Review by ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Don't believe I am a masochist. It is true that KC is far from being a fave of mine. But in my reviewing process, I decided to review each band I picked up all the way through (in this case at least their studio albums, because it would really be too hard for me to review all their live and compilation ones). So, I have to go on like a Benedictine monk and do my job...

Loads of difficult improv work here. Worst being "We'll Let You Know" : this "song" is going nowhere. Really a PITA. "The Mincer" is of the same caliber : useless. "Lament" holds two sides of KC which are easily identifiable : a peaceful one and a noisy one. The balance being reached between the two.

One of my favourite track (there won't be many here) is, for obvious reasons, "The Night Watch" : a sublime melody with superb instrumental parts. Almost five minutes of pure joy.

My feeling about this band seems to follow the same scheme from their very beginning till this album (and probably for some more to come). While I just can't stand their noisy and improv side, I just love their melodic and symphonic one. How comes ? I don't know, but no other band provides me with this feeling.

"Trio" is another peaceful track, but could have been bombastic with a little more inspiration. This instrumental track is too repetitive to be interesting (or it should have been shortened by half). You can't hear anything from this before 1'40". This is not an isolated fact with KC, "Moonchild" was the first example and almost the whole of "Islands" was like that as well.

The album ends up with two long instrumental pieces. I would like Wetton to be more on the vocal side, since he definitely reminds me of Gregg Lake and my two preferred KC albums. The title track is pure experimental and hard to digest, I'm afraid. Nine long and boring minutes...

The longest and closing number "Fracture" is rather hypnotic. It has a catchy riff and is quite scary I must say. Reminds me a bit Van Der Graaf who also had this very dark side in several of their songs (although I prefer VDGG by far). It reminds me "Lizard" and its "Bolero" theme. The middle section is rather dull but the last three minutes are really great. Typical KC I would say.

I am not really charmed by this album. If, like me, you prefer KC's symphonic side, I suggest you to stick to their first two albums. Two stars.

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Posted Monday, April 16, 2007

Review by febus
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam
4 stars BETWEEN TWO MASTERPIECES.

This album is often considered to be slightly weaker than LTIA and RED. I agree with this assessment as it is an album with a rawer edge, with tunes completely different from each other. The new hard-rocking side of King Crimson is even more developed than on LTIA with songs like THE GREAT DECEIVER or LAMENT and powerful vocals of mr Wetton. (cigarettes-ice cream, anyone?) On the other side, the band is starting to play experimental or improv. tunes that are not always easy to get into like the title track or'' we'll let you know''. K. Crimson was definitely not trying to have a ''hit'' with this album. They play what they wanted to play, not looking behind. I always was wondering what the marketing manager of the recording company could come up with to promote them. But as long as they were selling a lot of records....!

The only link to the past is this time the beautiful ''The Night Watch'' with a great violin intro. David Cross can be heard again with the sad sound of his instument in the magnificent little instrumental ''Trio''; such a beauty.

Jamie Muir is no longer on this album, but the rest of the band is the same than on LTIA. That's a first with King Crimson to keep the same musicians 2 albums in a row; will even be a third even if David Cross role will be reduced as a ''guest'' on RED.

The opus on this album is evidently the 11ms instrumental ''Fracture'' that is still to this day one of my 10 all time favorite pieces of music. Such power! no other prog band would ever sound so powerful IMO, than Crimson on such tracks. ''Fracture'' has everything that a prog fan wants; there is not one dull second on it. Such creativity and strength.

Not the best of the Wetton era, but still some amazing music, no one else could have come up with. Could have been 3.5 stars, but because of ''Fracture'' will be 4 stars.

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Posted Saturday, April 21, 2007

Review by Prog-jester
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars An uneven one, which has both masterpieces (“Fracture” and “The Night Watch”) and rather pointless stuff (improvisations). Again, as with my “Moonchild” complaints, I understand and appreciate KC experiments, but I think they should belong to certain albums. This material should have been released as a live record, while other tracks should have been in “Red”. Never mind – we can’t change it now. Enjoy it the way it is (though it isn’t the best 73-74 album).

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Posted Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Review by Prog Leviathan
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars An exciting mix of straightforwardish rock (with plenty of KC flair) and slow building instrumentals which makes for good listening every time. The tone and moods the quartet give us here are dark, eerie and sanity-draining, with a welcome increase of guitar experimentation from Fripp doing wonders to increase the dynamics laid down by Bruford's always great drumming and Wetton's unique guitar; the violin is smartly incorporated throughout as well. "Starless and Bible Black" is almost as good as its predecessor, and has a lot for attentive listeners to discover.

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Posted Monday, September 17, 2007

Review by Flucktrot
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Let the experimentation continue.

Actually, on second thought, maybe not. Starless and Bible Black for the most part disregards many of the aspects of music that I really enjoy: structure, melody, and harmony. Despite this, I still enjoy this album every once in a while, as it serves as a nice counterpoint whenever I get burned out by my favorites. Other than that, there's not much on this record to keep me coming back very often.

The Great Deceiver, Lament. Crimson let you know right off the bat that they are not going to conform to any expecations, with absolutely bizarre and irreverent lyrics, as well as alternating blasts of guitar, bass and drum cacophonies and low volume sections. Wetton's voice seems much more appropriate here compared to Larks Tongues in Aspic, and he even lets loose some wails reminiscent of Greg Lake.

We'll Let You Know, The Mincer. These are the (mostly) instrumental tunes that feature some interesting tones and textures, and even rock a bit in places. Abrupt and quirky, they are notable more for their uniqueness than quality.

The Night Watch, Trio. Here Crimson actually attempt a bit of contemplative melody, the former a mellow vocal piece with captivating lyrics, and the latter a rather boring, simplistic improv tune.

Starless and Bible Black, Fracture. Finally, the album closes with two extended improv tracks. The title track is quite forgettable, with boring minutes of lead-in and die-down that surround about 4-5 minutes of actual interesting music. Fortunately, the final track is an absolute monster. Here Crimson deliver some gruesome and haunting melody and tones for the first two thirds, building intensity throughout. Then the final 4 minutes arrive, and you should prepare for your head to explode and face to melt. This is the only Crimson improv piece that really moves me, but boy does it ever!

Worth owning just for Fracture, and little else, unless you really enjoy improvisational music or need something much different from what you are normally exposed to. I may not enjoy all of it, but I certainly can appreciate it, if that makes sense.

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Posted Thursday, October 04, 2007

Review by jammun
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars My review echoes what many others have already stated: Starless & BB is a disappointing follow-up to LTIA.

By my count there is one 5-star song on this: The Night Watch, which is incredibly melodic and diverse, with it's shimmering opening, thoughtful lyrics, a great Fripp guitar solo. It's also readily accessible, which some may view as a minus, but for me, really, I'm thinking this is one of the finest songs KC has recorded.

Great Deceiver and Trio are both pretty good songs, but the rest of the album just doesn't seem to go anywhere, save for the latter half of Fracture.

I love Great Deceiver's lyrics, the refrain of which is apparently a catalogue of things which people take solace in, only to eventually suffer because of said solace: cigarettes, ice cream, figurines of the Virgin Mary. And of course the song, being a rhythmic monster, is a classic KC opening track.

But in the end, there's a bit too much meandering jamming here for my tastes. Obviously KC fans will either already have this album or want to get it -- you wouldn't want to be without The Night Watch -- but for everyone else it can go pretty low on your list of must-have albums.

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Posted Friday, October 26, 2007

Review by Moatilliatta
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Between the two strongest albums of King Crimson's career, Starless and Bible Black comes off as a bit weak and sloppy, or, weaker and sloppier than normal, I should say. This album always gets the middle child treatment, but there are definitely reasons it does. Largely improvisational, something the band always seemed to lose listeners' attention during, the album meanders about and in doing so causes ones mind to do the same. Sure, there are some moments where the music is decent - every King Crimson album can be appreciated or even enjoyed at some point/points - but even the stronger tracks can get tenuous. It still stands above a handful of the band's past and future releases. So, if you are a really into King Crimson, go ahead and give this a shot, but so long as you're not a stubborn 70's prog fan, you will come to realize that this is yet again Robert Fropp & co. laying down the foundation for a myriad of future bands to build off of.

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Posted Thursday, November 15, 2007

Review by Nightfly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
3 stars There's no mistaking seventies King Crimson; one of the most original and inventive of all the Progressive Rock bands, they sound like no one else with their fractured (no pun intended) rhythmic structures, some of the heaviest Guitars ever committed to tape mixing with the more quiet restrained yet often unsettling parts. Released between Larks' Tongues in Aspic and Red, Starless and Bible Black is however somewhat of a disappointment.

The album starts off well enough with The Great Deceiver, a powerful opener which in only four minutes still contains many twists and turns. Lament is also pretty good; starting off quietly with a chiming Robert Fripp Guitar and John Wetton Vocal the song turns out to be another noisy piece and particular praise goes to the always rhythmically inventive Bill Bruford.

We'll Let You Know, an instrumental, although interesting sounds unfinished and comes across as little more than a studio jam. The Night Watch, a very laid back piece sounds more complete but is not particularly interesting. Trio, also an instrumental is another quiet piece, Bruford totally absent and is a pleasant interlude to the bands more abstract moments. The Mincer is perhaps the least satisfying of all, again a little directionless.

After the six shorter pieces of side one of the original LP version the flip side is divided into just two instrumental tracks. First up is the title track which from a quiet start slowly builds to a loud peak but once again is somewhat directionless. More satisfying is Fracture which would not have sounded out of place on their follow up album Red. A dark and brooding piece with much use of light and shade it explodes into a fantastic Fripp riff towards the end with the full band following in his wake.

So while Starless and Bible Black contains moments of greatness they are too few and far between for it to be a fantastic album and hence the three star rating.

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Posted Sunday, December 23, 2007

Review by fuxi
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Don't let 'em fool you. The many improvisations that can be found on this album (and usually slightly embellished in the studio) do not exactly make it inferior, because all improvisations are first rate. Whenever you put Fripp, Wetton, Bruford and Cross together on a stage, sparks did not necessarily fly, but this album certainly captures some moments when they did. No, the most serious problem with STARLESS AND BIBLE BLACK is that 'a heap of fascinating snippets do not an album make'. There's a disjointed feel to the whole thing. Now that most of this music can be heard in its original context (and unembellished) on superior live albums such as THE NIGHT WATCH (Live in Amsterdam) or THE GREAT DECEIVER (4-CD live box set), I would advise new fans to go for those TRUE live versions straightaway.

However, I understand many of you may still be interested in STARLESS AND BIBLE BLACK. You may want to know in what format this music was originally released. So if you insist on getting the album, let me just tell you this: I can't think of any Crimso ballad that's lovelier than 'The Nightwatch'; there's probably no Crimso improv lovelier than 'Trio'; and as for 'Fracture', well, that's ominous, high-class instrumental prog with an orchestral feel, which (in my view) surpasses even the middle section of '20st Century Schizoid Man'.

Did you ever long for a four-man rock band who sometimes seem to equal (in symphonic power) the Concertgebouw Orchestra or the Berlin Phil? Well here they are.

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Posted Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Review by obiter
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars OK, this is one of those albums that many people will listen to and then back slowly out of the room maintaining eye contact. Personally I'm the guy in the background tearing away down the garden path screaming like a demented victim from an HP Lovecraft story.

On the plsu side, the opening track has the sort of sound that you think Aerosmith listened to and said; Hey if we play this a bit slower and rock ti up we're really on to something. We'll let you know grants us a little respite by being uite rhythmical and uplifting. The night watch is a genuinely touching ballad. Trio is hardly Lark Ascending but the violin is soothing and melodic. A world away from the prolific fiddle playing common in the prog folk genre.

However, I totally fail to get the second side if this album. Fracture is a welcome realease from the aimless jangling of the title track and you are lulled into a sense of thinking it is a pretty decent track, but then it's all about context.

A must for KC collectors. Definitely not my cup of tea but the middle tracks of the first side raise it up to 3 stars. Although in all honesty if it wasn't King Crimson I would surely give it 2.

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Posted Sunday, December 30, 2007

Review by Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars It's been fun reacquainting with two old Crimson titles the last few months but the experiences have been decidedly different. Whereas "Lizard" was a joy all over again and a masterpiece in my eyes, "Starless" by contrast is emotionally indifferent and a tedious slog for repeated play. It's not that the album doesn't have some cool moments, it really does and I appreciate them. But there is an underlying coldness to the playing, a seeming diabolical impulse to reign in any sort of heart before it explodes into anything fun. Fripp has that old story about how he lured Bruford into the fold by saying it was time for him to play some "real music." Well sorry Bob, but as hard as they work to make this a happening album I keep having to ask myself why I should care about the "Cigarettes Ice Cream" Crimson when from the same time period I could be playing Relayer. I love improv and experimentation as much as the next guy but does it have to be so dry? Fripp can diss Yes all he likes but Yes had great heart.

"Trio" is a lovely meditation without drumming that is a rare pastoral breather in the often sharp, imposing atmospheres of Starless. The other gem for me is "The Night Watch" which combines the Crimson sound with just a bit more buttery aftertaste than the hardass stuff. A nice welling up of guitar, cymbals, and violin lead to a wistful vocal accented by Fripp's harmonics. Then comes a lead guitar line with some heart and a decent solo as well, for a moment you feel some warmth. And there you have it. The last 3 tracks are 25 minutes of straight, unflinching improvisation that will either thrill you or have you reaching for your pistol. Whether Starless is a success to you will depend on these songs. To my ear there is plenty of musical bravery on hand but not enough musical joy.

The album had it supporters when it emerged. This blurb is from Rolling Stone's Gordon Fletcher from June 1974: "They've taken the disjointed pieces of Larks' Tongues in Aspic, infused them with some life, and woven them into a package as stunningly powerful as In the Court of the Crimson King. The material relies on instrumental interaction, with Crimson now intent on exploring some of the frontiers charted by Yes. The Great Deceiver rocks out almost as maniacally as did 21st Century Schizoid Man, showing that where Yes would marvel at the world, Crimson prefers to grab it by the balls. But with Trio Crimson demonstrates that it's capable of maintaining the balance between aggression and introspection, using the juxtaposition of viola and mellotron-flute tape to evoke a hauntingly blissful serenity. The two lengthy instrumental passages that comprise Side Two of Starless and Bible Black show Crimson at its best, relaxing into lengthy improvisational patterns that spotlight the virtuosity of each member. The ease with which these moves are carried off indicates that Fripp has finally assembled the band of his dreams." [Gordon Fletcher, Rolling Stone, June 1974] More recently Brandon Wu at Ground and Sky put it another way in a few sentences from his review: "Not a good introduction to the band's work, but still an essential release for fans. I read somewhere something akin to this description, which is perfect: If Starless and Bible Black does not quite succeed, it is one of the most spectacular failures I've ever heard. [Brandon Wu, Ground and Sky]

Starless is not a bad album but I do not feel it is a masterpiece either. The first two tracks are throwaway and while some of the instrumental mayhem is choice other sections are as much fun as a root canal. This is the Crimson album for true believers of the band rather than casual fans. It is more intellectually impressive than emotionally satisfying. I believe it is a good progressive album but it is not a favorite.

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Posted Saturday, January 12, 2008

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Starless and Bible Black which is the sixth album from King Crimson might be my least favoured one. It continues the trend set with Larks´ Tongues in Aspic which I wasn´t too impressed with either. The second era of King Crimson with both albums belong to is very dark and pretty heavy. Unfortunately on Starless and Bible Black the music is also mostly of the jamming kind, which is something I think belongs in a live environment and not on a studio album.

The only songs I can say I like are the two opening songs The great deceiver and Lament. Fracture which ends the album is pretty good too and sometimes reminds me of the Larks´ Tongues in Aspic part II which ended that album. If King Crimson had shortened Starless and Bible Black down to an EP contained these three songs it would have been a great EP, but unfortunately we are treated with one after another of terrible instrumental songs which are just jams. No structure and all dissonant noise. No thank you. The night watch is a vocal song like the two first songs on the album though it just doesn´t have the quality of those.

The musicianship is very good, but I wish the very prominant musicians playing on this album would have used their talents wiser.

The production is very good even though I think the vocals sounds like they were recorded in the loo. But that was the same with Larks´ Tongues in Aspic.

I´m not very impressed and quite frankly I´m a bit disappointed with Starless and Bible Black. All the talent on display here should have brought something special with it, but unfortunately these brilliant musicians were too lazy and only wanted to jam. Horrible dissonant jams. 2 stars and that´s only because I like the three mentioned songs. This is definitely a fan only album.

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Posted Friday, May 02, 2008

Review by Queen By-Tor
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Fractured

Since this was the middle child between the albums Larks Tongues In Aspic and Red it's only natural that years later this one gets somewhat overlooked. Starless and Bible Black is a rather mixed album, all things considered, as this was the album where the improvisational method of writing that started on the previous album is somewhat abused, leading to a series of forgettable songs within the good ones.

There are a couple of classics to be had on this album still. One the first side we have the quirky The Great Deceiver which opens up the album with a bizarre arrangement of all sorts of instruments until it all slows down to just the bass for Wetton to deliver the first vocal parts. Lament is a heavy and wonderful piece which opens with a calm (almost lamenting) passage before moving on to full on Fripp guitar attack. The Night Watch is a beautiful and eerie track which turns out to be the standout of the first side.

Unfortunately, the rest of the first side is otherwise forgettable. We'll Let You Know is a quickly passed instrumental, Trio is a bit better with some very nice violin work, but still not outstanding. The Mincer is a good track with some interestingly subdued vocals and a very cool ending - the tape ran out during recording and the song just ends.

Going into the second side, the half is completely instrumental and home to only two songs. The title track, Starless and Bible Black is a track that goes on a bit long but is saved by the final and greatest song on the album. Fracture is the (by now) standard Fripp guitar fest. Full of catchy hooks and dark parts that the man is so good with, this is an instrumental that has the power to rival some of their greatest such as Larks Tongues In Aspic Parts I-II, Devil's Triangle and Red. Not to be missed!

So in the end this is an album that has a number of great songs but a number of average ones to take it down as well. Still good for all the Krimson fans out there, this probably isn't the one to start with. If you're a big fan of the prior and following album then you will probably enjoy this one, but it might not be your favorite. 3.5 stars!

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Posted Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Review by TGM: Orb
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Review 32, Starless And Bible Black, King Crimson, 1974

StarStarStarStar

This album was very difficult to get to grips with, compared to either its predecessor or its successor. Firstly, the sheer amount of texture-based improvisation means that you (well, I, you might not) have to attach the right idea or image to a piece. Second, John Wetton's vocals take a deliberate shift to a much thicker and edgier tone, which is less instantly likable, but leaves a greater lasting appeal. However, a lot of listens have left this album as a great favourite of mine, the Crimson album I'll put on for a spin when I feel like putting on a Crimson album. The improvised nature and distinct edges have left this album very enjoyable after a lot of listens. My only quibble with it is that I haven't yet found the right idea for the admittedly excellent Starless And Bible Black itself.

Starless and Bible Black kicks off with the aggressive rocker 'The Great Deceiver'. Dominated by a violin riff, monstrous percussion from Bruford and a superb example of both Wetton's thick bass and Fripp's very precise guitar. Wetton gives the vocals a rather malady-like sound, and the various harmonies are mostly lead-ups to stunning returns-to-form, and it's very impressive how they can return to sound like they're sounding the same as they did earlier while being completely different with classic solos from Cross and Wetton, before dropping off into Lament. Lyrically, the song's quite amusing if you're impervious to the PC elements of society, but I can see how they'd be offensive to some people.

Lament is a very clever two-part song, with a juxtaposition of a quirky 'ballad' and a ferocious drum-driven part which is able to make me go into a chorea-like state. The first part features a thick guitar and Wetton's rather deliberately thick vocals, and a duet of wailing guitars and violins (and an occasional bass flourish). A mellotron gives a background for the others to play over. Following the conclusion of this washed-out rock-star story, Wetton and Bruford lead us onto the heavier, biting rock song, with a savagely compelling drum part, some Fripp whirring of the highest order, great shouting vocals and superb splintering violin. Seriously edgy and again impressively minimalistically concluded.

We'll Let You Know is the first of the album's improvised pieces, with its rather dissonant feel, some truly weird percussion from Bruford, including something sounding like a horse's hooves, dancy use of sheets and proper drums. Fripp and Cross wail away cheerfully in a catlike, while Wetton does what you expect an entire rhythm section to do, only better. The sarcastic wailing disappears promptly and cheerfully.

The Night Watch is the most clearly directed of the album's pieces, deriving from Rembrandt's painting of the same name. A combination of mutilated mellotron, chaotic tingly and normal percussion, and delicate bass leads up to the wallowing vocals. The middle section, however, is where the utter perfection comes through. Wetton's folk-like vocal suits the song perfectly, Bruford and Cross (mellotron) handle the softer song's needs with no slips whatsoever. The real standout player here is Fripp with his combination of gorgeous guitar soloing and minimalistic solos. A tragic mellotron-whirling leads us with David Cross's violin to a final conclusion. Gorgeous, and it perfectly captures the feel of the painting.

Trio is mostly indescribable. A soft, improvised trio (oh wow), with all three musicians fitting in place perfectly. Wetton provides a soft acoustic bass part, slowly building up, but never dominating, David Cross provides some reconciliatory violin, and Fripp (some sort of keyboard with a flute-like sound, possibly a 'tron) similarly plays without any real boundaries in the music. A relaxing rest, and a truly uplifting piece of music.

The Mincer is an acquired taste, with its hideously dark atmosphere, curious ending choice (the tape runs out), combination of haunting solos from Fripp and Cross with a thick harmonised vocal and the bursts of Bruford percussion. As always, John Wetton provides a thundering and original bass part, including high parts. A burst of energy gives way to the tape running out, which apparently Cross and Fripp loved to pieces, while Bruford and Wetton didn't. Superb, but definitely acquired.

Starless And Bible Black is the third of the album's improvisations, with a rather bleak feel evoked by the title. I'm not quite certain what exactly the theme is, and though I enjoy the entire piece, I find it difficult to attach the right imagery and ideas to it. The second I get this piece, this album will be upgraded to a five star rating.

The standout player is indubitably Fripp, who provides some wailing solos happily reminiscent of Prince Rupert's Lament. Bill Bruford takes an assortment of percussion, while John Wetton provides a rather jumpy and sudden bass-line and David Cross's mellotron both lends a certain dissonance to the piece and highlights the others' playing. This intelligent assortment of ideas gradually builds into a more substantial piece, with a more typically used 'tron and increasingly impressive Fripp shrieks and Bruford crashes. The piece returns to a more minimalistic sound a little around six and a half minutes in, allowing some gorgeous soft guitar from Fripp and then a decisive conclusion with Cross, Bruford and Fripp combining forces to lower the piece to its equally bleak conclusion. All in all, a distinctly dark, bleak and uninvasive improvisation. Still, I can appreciate the components, but not the grand design.

Fracture is the conclusion to the album, and my favourite piece from it. A masterful, colourful piece of semi-improvisation with strong imagery and superb interplay between the quartet. Fripp's guitar introduces us to the tiny cracks in the earth, with some Wetton bass, plucked violin and Bruford choices giving us a few more tiny tears, which the various instruments gradually extend to produce an image of several increasingly widening and stretching rifts. Clever minimalistic guitar-playing and xylophone continue to take us on this musical and geological journey, and are then accompanied by a violin and a bass to provide a richer texture. Eventually, squirming solos from Cross and Wetton with a rich drumming background move us into the first tremors. A minute or so of calm guitar and whinnying bass and violin provides the calm before the storm with the knowledge that the full quake will be hitting us soon enough.

Suddenly, out of this, Fripp's guitar explodes, with a thundering bass, shrieking mellotron, insanely building percussion from Bruford. Wetton gives us a superb bass solo before David Cross's violin returns to provide Fripp with something to echo. Cross and Wetton engage in what is almost a duel, with Fripp providing a couple of additions, while Bruford tingles and crashes in behind them. A dazzling set of bass-parts from Wetton, Bruford's powerful, percussive rolls and Fripp's flawless guitar leave us stunned in the aftermath of this sonic earthquake. Masterly Crimson material, and this track alone is worth the price of the album.

In conclusion, I'm not yet giving this album five stars, because I haven't yet 'got' the title track, but I may later change my mind on that. Essential listening for anyone interested in progressive rock, and especially a Crimson fan like myself. Be warned that this is not an easy album, and will require the right mindset and energy while listening to appreciate, and is unlikely to be love at first listen for many. It may not be love at all for those not interested in the textures and ideas behind the improvised pieces. Still, a set of unforgettable atmospheres, and at least worth trying. Leave it for later in the Crimson collection, but don't leave it altogether.

Rating: Four Stars Favourite Track: Fracture

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Posted Friday, May 16, 2008

Review by ExittheLemming
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Rage, rage against the dying of the light (Dylan Thomas)

According to Eric Tamm's book Robert Fripp: From King Crimson to Guitar Craft the majority of this album was recorded live and subsequently overdubbed to bring it to it's present form. If that is indeed the case, they have done a wonderful job of both removing the audience noise completely and disguising the origins of the performances. It seems that Fripp has an ongoing reservation about the studio being a valid medium as representative of a performance, and this half live/half studio hybrid possibly offered for him, an acceptable compromise between the two competing disciplines.

'The Great Deceiver' - After being accustomed to quiet mood building intros on previous albums, it's something of a shock to hit the ground running here with an explosive salvo of sixteenth note riffing from the violin and guitar over Bruford's manic kit groove. A truly spellbinding display of controlled power and dynamics from a band who sound leaner and hungrier than ever before. I particularly love John Wetton's voice as his faintly adenoidal tenor serves as the 'eye of the storm' at the center of the Crim tornado. The chorus here is so good that it would have served a more mainstream pop classic well. In lesser hands this type of unconventional structure can sound disjointed and unbalanced but King Crimson make the difficult sound monstrously easy (and vice versa - see Prelude: Song of the Gulls)

I think the lyrics are (unusually) Fripp's, and he casts a jaundiced eye over the commercialization of spirituality that pervades the modern age:

Cigarettes, ice cream, figurines of the virgin mary

'Lament' - Beautiful 'chiming bell' guitar sound enhances another fine vocal performance by Wetton in a song that betrays a jaded cynicism with the machinations of the rock world in general. A feature of Cross's violin playing throughout this record is how sparing it is and his contributions carry more weight as a result. Those duetted lead moments he shares with Fripp's fuzzy black liquorice tone are exquisite. Again, sublime use of dynamics in the separate parts and boasting a melody that even Lennon would have been proud.

'We'll Let You Know' - The dramatic style change that was initiated by Larks Tongues in Aspic is emphasized on the improvisatory tracks like this one. More than any other band whose origins are from a predominantly rock tradition, Crimson demonstrate an ability to improvise using the vocabulary of rock as fluently as that employed in the jazz of say, Miles Davis' various groups over the years. When Bruford and Wetton kick into the main groove after teasing us for several delightful minutes, the effect is that of an entirely credible white funk. Accept no imitations, these guys can make Parliament sound like pale Russian bank clerks. The title may be an overspill of the caustic from Lament i.e don't call us etc?

'The Night Watch' - The rapid trilling of the guitar on the intro appropriates a venetian mandolin, but there the comparison ends, as all conventional techniques tend to in Fripp's erudite hands. A very plaintive and haunting tune sung admirably as ever by Wetton. Even on something as harmonically conventional as this (by Crimson standards) is refreshingly free of the sort of 'ear candy' coating employed by so many of their contemporaries. Unadorned, humble and beautiful.

'Trio' - So named presumably because Bruford does not play on it? This has a capricious celtic/middle eastern tinge and features some fantastic dynamic interplay between Fripp, Wetton and Cross. How unusual is this, a rock band where the individual members actually listen to what each other are playing? Those of you familiar with Scottish pranksters 'Chou Pahrot' may detect a whiff of the Wee Thing hereabouts.

'The Mincer' - After a very atmospheric build up we get a multi tracked psychedelia hued vocal from Wetton that portrays some harrowing and disturbing imagery.

Fingers reaching, Fingers reeking. Jump for the scream, Good night, honey

Your very expensively assembled 'Hi-Fi system falling through a black hole' effect at the conclusion is where the first reel of tape ran out half way through the original live recording.

'Starless and Bible Black' - Takes over from where We'll Let You Know left off. Like most inspired phenomena, this is resistant to causal analysis and appears to inhabit the realm of 'happy accidents' that Fripp and co guessed could not be arrived at in any other fashion. Perhaps Robert was justified, and that the recording studio was not conducive to the realization of beautifully crafted moments like this? These types of tracks need LOTS of listens before they can seep into your affections, but on arrival, they remain there steadfast and true.

'Fracture' - For an album that contains no weak troughs at all, this is the certifiable highpoint of the set.

(If EVERYTHING is just peaks, why does the resulting landscape NOT look like a high altitude Holland? - .....Dunno)

In its 11 minute duration we hear a culmination of everything that Robert Fripp had learned up to that point in his driven quest for perfection throughout an inconsistent but adventurous career. The building blocks for this piece are almost without exception, very short phrases and motifs that are treated with a bewildering array of transpositions and modulations as the track progresses. All the elements that made this scarlet red animal so special and thus an endangered species vulnerable to predators, are well in evidence throughout: Wetton's guttural bass provides the rock hook and generous heart, Cross supplies an ethereal mystic spirit, Bruford contributes a playful polyrythmic funk and Fripp mans the controls at Brain Central. A cerebral creature yes, but one that has learned to kick and scratch for both love and sustenance.

This is not a particularly accessible album, but one that will provide enduring rewards on repeated listens, so don't be discouraged by the paucity of conventionally 'pretty' music as what is here is damningly beautiful forever.

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Posted Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Review by Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Don't get me wrong I am a big King Crimson fan but this was a disappointment on Lark's Tongues In Aspic and weaker than the follow up, Red. It is a largely experimental effort, half of which is recorded live and the other, you guessed it, in the studio. ' Great Deceiver' gets the album off to a menacing start and Lament follows, more a slowburner that gradually breaks into some serious riffs. The following ' We'll Let You Know and Nightwatch, both live are pretty much forgettable. The title track for me is the best here with some fine drumming from Bill Bruford. Other highlights would be Trio. John Wetton provides good bass work for Robert Fripp but to stress this was KC experimenting all the way. Absolutely no compromise. Two and a half stars.

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Posted Sunday, August 24, 2008

Review by LiquidEternity
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars While a good companion album to Red, this is probably the band's weakest release before their breakup in '74.

Essentially a glorified live album, this plays as a preview of what Red would be like. Indeed, it's hard to rate this release without comparing it to Red: having the title of this album come from a song from that release doesn't help. I know that this one came chronologically first of the two, but even still it strikes me more like a release of the songs that didn't make it onto Red. That may not be the case, but it's really how this album feels. The music is aggressive and interesting, with a few exciting songs and a few really strange improvisations. Wetton, though given a prominent role in this album, does not shine in his vocals as he will on their next release or in his days with Asia. I almost gave this album two stars because I did not think it would really appeal to first time listeners, but the truth is, there are some very good tunes on here anyways, even if it is not up to King Crimson's usual standards of quality.

The first side kicks off with the belter The Great Deceiver. This is easily the strongest and most energetic tune on the album, featuring lightning fast guitar and some quirkily fun lyrics. It's got instant hooks and a clever composition. The album moves on, then, with Lament, and interesting song that is unfortunately a bit unmemorable, despite some more aggressive later sections. We'll Let You Know is similar, throwing some neat parts out there but not really giving my ears anything much to stick. Following that is the other really strong song on Starless and Bible Black, namely, The Night Watch. Wetton sounds nice singing over traditional KC mellotrons, and the song sounds vast and impressive. Trio wraps up the first side of the album with a bit of spacey melody, gently plying away with its soft sounds.

Side two kicks off with The Mincer, a more aggressive improvisation, building a dark soundscape before closing it with some nice vocals. The remaining two tracks, namely the title track and Fracture, are both building tunes full of improvisation and haunting sounds from the keyboard and guitars. Though they are both pretty neat, I usually don't find myself interested enough in what they promote to listen to them very regularly. They are enjoyable, but nothing terribly lasting, in my opinion.

When it comes down to it, fans of Red will almost undoubtedly have to buy this. It's not a bad release, just not as clever and deep as the King Crimson they had allowed us to get used to before this. I'd recommending checking out either of the two other Wetton-era albums (Larks' Tongues in Aspic and Red) before this one.

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Posted Thursday, October 09, 2008

Review by ProgBagel
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars King Crimson - 'Starless and Bible Black' 4 stars

A great album, just wedged in between two unbelievable classics.

After the incredibly experimental 'Larks.' and right before an incredible jam record as 'Red', this album will obviously get some slack. It doesn't stand up to those two albums at all, but it is a great one regardless.

David Cross's violin contributions are his best on this album. Everyone else still maintains there ever vibrant sounds. The opening number, 'The Great Deceiver' is the most friendly Crimson song ever created. It features some really frantic guitar riffs from Fripp and a catchy chorus that is really humorous.

All the tracks have some instrumental goodness in them, but the true standouts are the last two mini- epics. The title track has some really cool improv's in the middle and when they exit has an unbelievably structured rhythm section by Bruford and Wetton. I will state again, unbelievable rhythm section. Fripp's guitar would also soar over them, creating an illustrious soundscape.

'Fracture' closes this album out beautifully. It stands alongside the wonderful titans that Crimson produced in their career so far. Slow song that goes into a never-ending explosive instrumental, makes it sad that it did in fact, end.

The worst of the Wetton era, but an excellent album none the less.

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Posted Monday, November 24, 2008

Review by rushfan4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars MAYBE BILL BRUFORD ISN'T RETURNING TO YES AFTER ALL

Starless and Bible Black is King Crimson's 6th studio album and their second with Bill Bruford, formerly of Yes, in the drummer's seat. As I mentioned in my review of Lark's Tongue, I started listening to King Crimson in the 80's and 90's as a result of my being a fan of Yes, and because Bill Bruford played drums for King Crimson, I wanted to hear his work in other bands, including King Crimson. Starless was a first in the history of King Crimson, in that all 4 musicians who appeared on Starless also appeared on the previous album, Lark's Tongue, but as in the rest of their early history, it wasn't the complete lineup from Lark's Tongue, as percussionist Jamie Muir did not return for Starless and Bible Black. As a result of reading some of the previously written reviews I have been made aware that some of the songs on this album were written and performed in the studio, and some of the songs were improvised live and later edited in the studio.

The first of the eight songs on this album is The Great Deceiver, which seems to be a cryptic song about an evil person, who might be Satan or possibly a Record Studio Executive, or possibly they are one and the same. This is the second album in which Richard Palmer-James is in charge of writing the lyrics for King Crimson, but as they were with Peter Sinfield, the lyrics make very little sense.

The second song, Lament, has lyrics that actually make sense. It tells the story of a musician who had prior musical stardom, who has become lost in the shuffle and forgotten. It starts off with a nice mellow acoustical sound. Following the first two stanzas, we get some nice interplay of percussion from Bill Bruford with bass playing by John Wetton. The remainder of the songs features some pretty heavy guitar, drum and bass playing.

The third song, We'll Let You Know, is an instrumental that was apparently recorded from live improvisation. I'm personally not a big fan of improvisation as to my ears it generally comes across as disjointed. I tend to pay most attention to the drums and percussions being a Bruford fan, and he plays some pretty decent percussion at times during this song, but otherwise I don't find this song to be all that interesting.

The fourth song, Nightwatch, finds Richard Palmer-James writing lyrics about Rembrandt's famous painting of the same name. The song itself is pretty mellow with pretty laid back acoustic guitar playing and percussion. The highlight of this song is John Wetton's voice, as he is in great form here on this song.

The fifth song, Trio, is an instrumental in which Bill Bruford's contribution is sitting this song out. This is a soft and mellow instrumental with David Cross' violin interplaying with Robert Fripp on acoustic guitar and John Wetton on bass.

The sixth song, The Mincer, is also an instrumental that was improvised and recorded live. According to previous reviews, the tape ran out before the song was over, thus the strange ending to this song which just abruptly cuts off. This song seems to be the consensus least favorite song on this album by other reviewers. Although it is far from his best work, Bill Bruford plays some decent drums and percussion on this track and Robert Fripp's guitar playing is decent although highly repetitive. It is possible that this track might be an inspiration for some of today's post rock.

The seventh song is the title track, Starless and Bible Black and it fits in to my above opinion of improvisational playing. It appears that we have 4 people standing on stage playing 4 different songs with some cohesion, but not much. Kind of the equivalent of throwing things against the wall and then playing whatever sticks. Again there is some decent standalone percussion and standalone guitar playing but taken as a whole it is mostly just noise.

The eighth and final song on this album is Fractured, which appears to be the favorite song amongst previous reviewers. Apparently it is partly composed and partly improvised. It is the longest song on the album as it clocks in at just over 11 minutes, and it will be followed up on future albums with other Fracture sequels. This track definitely has more focus than the other instrumentals on this album. It features some of Robert Fripp's best guitar playing to date as well as some great drums/percussion from Bill Bruford and bass playing from John Wetton.

It is kind of funny, but for me this is the first album where Robert Fripp's skills as a guitarist were very apparent. On previous albums it seems to me as though he was pretty low key in comparison to the other musicians, but his guitar playing is very much apparent on this album. I guess that on my next time through the King Crimson discography I will have to listen closer.

My overall rating of this album is that it is worthy of 4-stars. It is definitely an excellent addition to any prog music collection, especially for those who are fans of improvisation. I also tend to agree with the majority of previous reviewers in that even though this is a good album, it is weaker than both its predecessor, Lark's Tongue in Aspics and its follow-up Red.

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Posted Friday, December 26, 2008

Review by The Quiet One
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Larks' Tongue in Aspic Part 2: Darker and a bit more loose(improvised)

As you know already from Larks', King Crimson had moved to heavier territory, more guitar, more bass, no jazzy keyboards, Mel's sax is gone, though being replaced by David Cross' mysterious violin/viola adding a eastern flavor to the music. To summarize it in four words: ''A New King Crimson'', though this you already knew from Larks', so what can I tell you about Starless & Bible Black?

Starless and Bible Black was in the same situation as In the Wake of Poseidon, after their creative-peak(Larks'/Court), Fripp created something in the same vein or at least not in the heights of the previous', in which generally fans didn't appreciate because of the similarities, or less stunning in this case. However, I and I think a whole bunch of others consider this quite a different treat:

Starless & Bible Black is mainly a live album, in which the live tracks(all except track 1 and 2, though don't be fooled by the deleted applaude section of each of these live tracks) are mainly improvised instrumentals, this making one radical difference to Larks', rather than being elaborated compositions, which is the case of Larks', this one as I said in the title, it's much more loose.

Now to tell you a bit more detailed, the darker edge is due to the improvised instrumentals led by Fripp's dissonant guitar, John's ferocious bass work, and Bill's incredible drum work, plus the already mentioned mysterious violin. Prime examples of this 'darker edge' are: Starless & Bible Black and Fracture. Then you'll also find energetic songs like The Great Deceiver with killer guitar and fierceful rhythms, demonstrating that ''Hard Rock'' can be complex. Fripp also delivers some beauties like The Night Watch and Trio, complex, chilling experiences.

To finish this review I'll have to say that this is not an easy place to start with, though after you have listened to Larks', this one should fill your ears comfortably.

4 stars. Experimental and improvisation music lovers this album is waiting for you!

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Posted Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Symphonic Team
3 stars Does not live up to the hype

Starless and Bible Black is one of the early entries into the huge repertoire of King Crimson before the huge lineup changes and sound transformation. I had heard from others how great this CD is so eagerly made the purchase. I was slightly disappointed.

It starts off well enough, 'The great deceiver', with the patented familiar Crimson sound, intricate time signatures and complex drum patterns abound mixed with shades of light and dark instrumental genius. But it all begins to pale out to shades of grey by the third track. The album is inconsistent, with moments of brilliance and mediocrity throughout. The mediocre moments, such as 'Trio' and the title track, are extremely dull and this hinders the overall effect. The tracks are over long and very difficult to listen to at times. I do like a lot of jazz fusion but there is little to inspire my tastes on this effort. The noodling and messing about of 'The Mincer' is woeful and 'We'll let you Know' is insipid - unlistenable experimental efforts - the worst jazz fusion I have heard.

The shining lights are naturally a complete contrast to all the mundane music within. The dreary over long instrumental pieces descend to the depths of the worst the band have played. Very experimental but very irritating too - tuneless little gasps of air without substance. However "Starless and Bible Black" is saved by the incredible tracks 'Great Deceiver', 'Night Watch' and the wonderful 'Fracture'.

So its not a complete waste, it is definitely better than "Islands", but its a pity such a great band could sink to these depths and I was told this was a classic, but that simply is not true. It is tiring at times and never holds up against the brilliant work of the first 3 albums or "Red" which are all quintessential King Crimson classics.

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Send comments to AtomicCrimsonRush (BETA) | Report this review (#208449) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Review by The Sleepwalker
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Starless And Bible Black is the follow up to King Crimson's Larks' Tongues in Aspic, and it seemed kind of hard to make an album better and more experimental than that. So, King Crimson didn't do that. Starless And Bible Black is in the same experimental, powerful style as its precessor, but is slightly less good. Why? Larks' Tongues In Aspic had several King Crimson classics on it, some really memorable songs, this album only has a few of those, and most of them are not as great as songs like "Easy Money" or "Exiles" from Larks' Tongues In Aspic.

The album is very much alike Larks' Tongues but has some slight differences. First, there is no Jamie Muir anymore, so there is no more wacky percussion, although Bruford seems to have a more exotic drum kit. Second, the album has much more improvisation, songs like "Trio" and "We'll Let You Know" are not very structured, were the experimental bits od Larks' Tongues had some structure in them. Third, Starless and Bible Black is much less stiff than Larks' Tongues, a really great progress.

The album starts with "The Great Deciever", an up tempo heavy rocker. Though being only four minutes long, the song has quite a few different riffs and other changes. "The Great Deceiver" is not a very complicated song, and is pretty straight forward, it is a very nice song though.

The second song is "lament". "Lament" is much better than "The Great Deceiver" and is really one of the biggest highlights of this album. Just as the first track it's a pretty straight forward song, but I can enjoy it much more than the great deceiver.

"We'll Let You Know" is an improvisation. It's not very structured and seems to be a little bit pointless, also because it's pretty short, while King Crimsons improvisations mostly are pretty lengthy.

The fourth track, "The Night Watch", is one of the more popular King Crimson Songs. The song is about Rembrandt's famous painting, and really is in the same mood as the painting is, it's very beautiful and pretty epic, though not being to long. John Wetton also does a great vocal performance in this song, and Fripp plays a great guitar solo.

Next is "Trio", a very mellow song, without any drums. The song is very calm, and that's why I can't always enjoy it. This is a song I can only listen when I'm in the right mood, a calm mood.

"The Mincer" is another improv, though it has a couple vocal lines in it. The song start very dark and atmospheric, with some great guitar work from Robert Fripp. Just as "We'll Let You Know", "The Mincer" is pretty short for an improv, and it'll be over when you're getting into it. Though being a bit too short this is a really good King Crimson Improvisations, one of my favorite.

The title track is next, and once again, its an improvisation, and it's definitely not too short. In fact, it's 9 minutes long, but nothing really interesting happens. The song has a couple of good parts, but most of the times it's a pretty dull improvisation.

Starless And Bible Black closes with "Fracture", a fantastic composition that really shows Robert Fripp's amazing guitar playing abilities. The first half excists of Robert Fripp playing the guitar pretty calm, but the song has some uplifts, like a distorted riff that pops up several times. After having repeated this riff two times, Robert plays his guitar unbelievably fast, it really is incredible, and most of all good and emotional, it's not just basic shredding. In the second half of the song the song gets much heavier, and becomes a true epic. Violin comes in and Bill Bruford once again does a great job on the drums. Amazing song.

Starless and Bible Black is not as good as the other two albums of King Crimsons heavy era, but if you are a fan of King Crimson's not always very structured improvisations you should check this album out. If you're not a fan of the improvs this album probably is not something for you, though songs as "Lament" and "Fracture" are true King Crimson classics. I'm giving this album a three star rating cause it is good, but not as good as Larks' Tongues and Red, which I both rated four stars.

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Posted Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Review by Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Starless and Bible Black was probably my first King Crimson album I ever owned (I´m not sure if Larks Tongues In Aspic was actually the first, but probably not). It´s interesting to see with hindsight how such album was a 16 year old favorite. I just wore out my vinyl copy at the time. I used to listen to it so frequently I must have drove my parents crazy! When I found the CD version I was very glad to hear it again after so many years.

Although not as perfect as its precedor, the wonderful Larks Tongues In Aspic, SABB is another powerful release from the classic line up of Fripp-Wetton-Cross-Brufford. As usual they mix experimental, avant guard tracks (We´ll Let You Know, The Mincer, the title track) with some very beautiful, simple and poignant numbers (Trio, The Night Watch). Some mix a bit of both (The Great Deceiver, Lament). Unlike many other bands that pedal on the same slippery terrain, King Crimson always managed to come out with something both strong and memorable. Well, what to expect with such musicians? The chemistry is just perfect! I´m still amazed by their talents. Fripp´s guitar is simply astonishing while Brufford is the best drummer in the world.

After more than 30 years after its release Starless And Bible Black stands as one of prog´s most inventive works ever. They proved that the complex and the simple, the atonal and the melodic can be dsiplayed side by side and be used in full harmony to produce something exciting, fascinating and very appealing. I wouldn´t call this CD a masterpiece, it has its flaws, but it comes close. final rating: something between 4 and 4,5 stars.

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Posted Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars One of KC best albums ever!!! Very experimental ( in sense of containing many raw improvs in it), heavy and perfectly mixed! Plenty of guitar, strong bass line , quite acoustic sound. For sure much more better production, than on Red album.

I know many fans don't like this album much because of it's improvs and heavy sound. I think, this is stronger side of that album, guys!

The album contains three very strong songs as well: The Great Deceiver, Lament and The Night Watch. In combination with improvs, filling the space between them, album is very interesting mix. This album as well doesn't have this jazzy elements so usual for KC of that time. Real Progresive ROCK!

Another strong point - looking now from all these years, many early period KC albums sound as dated classics. And SABB is one of a few ( near ITCCK), that dated well, and sound perfectly fresh till now.

Very recommended to all listeners, searching on heavy and experimental side of KC Mk I.

Not less than 4,5!

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Posted Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Metal Team
3 stars Starless and Bible Black works a lot better for me then its predecessor. Much of the music consists of polished edits from live registrations and that may well be the reason why it sounds more gripping then the somewhat sterile Lark's Tongues in Aspic.

The Great Deceiver is a frantic start with a crushing main theme and strong verses. The chorus with its awkward melody is a bit poor; Wetton's vocals get grating here and the chord sequence is rather clear-cut for Crimson's standards. Lament and The Night Watch are a lot better and boast memorable and sophisticated vocal lines from Wetton. In between sits We'll Let You know, one of the tracks compiled from live registrations, hardly their best one though and it seems to stop just when things are starting to get interesting.

Trio is gentle improvisation of violins and something that sounds like a flute but probably lists under 'mellotron' or 'devices', it's a moment of rest and evokes the feel of the Island album. After this mellow moment, the album would have needed a strong catchy track again, but The Mincer hardly ranks as such. The vocals at the end are interesting but the first 3 minutes are tedious. It sounds like work in progress and shouldn't have qualified as suitable album material.

The second side of the album consist of live material from a concert that would be released in 1997 as The Night Watch. Starless and Bible Black is an adequate improvisation but works a lot better in its live setting. The album ends with the superb Fracture which rates among Crimson's best instrumentals.

Overall this album is uneven and sounds a bit rushed, it has a lot of outstanding material but it has become rather unnecessary since the release of the far superior The Night Watch. It's too good to be banned to the fans/completist section but I wouldn't recommend this as a necessary King Crimson purchase.

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Posted Sunday, December 20, 2009

Review by The T
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Once again, KING CRIMSON disappoints me.

After the terrible "Larks' Tongues in Aspic", pretty much anything Fripp and Co. could have released would've been an improvement over its predecessor. This is true of "Starless and Bible Black", but only to a certain degree.

Yes, the album sounds a little bit more like a true attempt at writing structured music, but it still sounds more like glorified jamming than anything else. For every person that calls this "experimentation", another one could give it a more proper (in my view) name: recorded self- indulgence and show-off. True experimentation requires form of some kind, even if the experiment involves trying out a new form or structure. We can't just press "record" in a console, play whatever comes into our minds, and call it "experimentation". There are a few moments when KC music sounds just like that. And it's a pity, for this band (and its mastermind, mostly) showed us what they could do when they had a clear goal in their minds (other than trying to out-prog everybody else, which is what it looks like they wanted to do with this album and its predecessor).

This band is no favorite of mine, but I still own some of their albums, and I'll keep giving my thoughts on them as I re-visit them. I thought the experience was going to be better than the first time I listened to all of them, but, apart from the fantastic "In the Court of the Crimson King", up until now it obviously hasn't been the case. Good thing the much better "Red" is on my listening-horizon.

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Posted Saturday, February 27, 2010

Review by js (Easy Money)
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars Progressive rock doesn't get much better than this, unless of course it's another album by King Crimson, Lizards or Larks Tongue for example. No formulas and very few clichés, Fripp and company explore restlessly and combine all manner of musical styles into a unique mix that is all their own. All the favorite Crimson flavors are here: blistering urban jazz rock on Great Deciever, bizarre avant Brit-funk on We'll Let You Know, fierce driving Bartok/metal proto-math rock composition on Fracture and rare glimpses of sensitivity and beauty on Trio. The best thing about Crimson is despite their intellectual approach, when they decide to rock, they really rock, and in an over the top aggressive way that is only matched by other supreme hard rockers such as Deep Purple or The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Crimson also keeps it real and gritty, unlike other prog rock bands of their era there are no fairies, dragons, capes, boots or dungeons, just honest hard rock influenced by jazz fusion, modern composers and avant- garde improvisation.

The interesting lynch pin in this group is bassist John Wetton. Faced with the unbelievable challenge of fitting in between the humongous talents and egos of Bruford and Fripp, Wetton rises to the challenge and plays in an aggressive heavily distorted funk/metal influenced style that I have never heard him recreate since. The poor guy was probably exhausted after a couple years with this all star cast that tours endlessly and always sleeps with one eye open.

This was probably the last classic progressive rock album that I really felt enthusiastic about. Crimson's follow-up, Red, sounded like it was rushed out for release and relied too much on repetitive formulas and a bigger sound that was getting far too close to stadium rock. The Trans-Am crowd was never Crimson's domain as KC was far too jazzy and avant-garde for the crowd that was eating up other prog rock bands who were starting to shift to a more radio friendly sound. Soon after the release of this album the world of progressive rock would slide into arena rock influenced conformity and predictability, but fortunately the jazz funk elements in Crimson's music pointed the way towards a huge wave of creativity that would soon come from the worlds of jazz fusion and P funk.

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Posted Saturday, March 13, 2010

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams
4 stars Of the three John Wetton era King Crimson studio albums, this one is the lesser. Which means in this case is only rates a meager four stars. Some songs sound pieced together, and therefore not quite complete. The two tracks that open the album fall into this category. But despite that flaw, both Thr Great Deceiver and Lament are both great prog songs. The former, one of the most uptempo vocal based songs of the seventies Crimson, provides quite an energetic opening to the album. And the latter (with the band's imminent breakup after the next album underlining my theory that when a band starts writing songs about how horrible it is to be in the music industry, it's time to hang it up), has some very cool rhythmic interplay.

The second half of the album is where the greatness lies. The Mincer (Did they really have to edit the ending on the CD? I like how the tape runs out on the first side of the LP.) Starless And Bible Black and especially Fracture show the height that this band was capable of.

And Bruford, not without the assistance of Jamie Muir, really shows is grasp of intricate percussion on this one.

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Posted Monday, June 14, 2010

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Metal Team
5 stars I've been trying to write this review for the last three days without much luck. This is definitely not a good way to start my homage to Starless And Bible Black, an album that began like a pretty average King Crimson release in my collection and has now blossomed into a full-fledged masterpiece!

The biggest difference that had occurred since Larks' Tongues In Aspic was the notable level of maturity in the band's sound and direction. The compositions fit the lineup like a glove and the improvisations are as tight as they would ever be! Of course this album is not really a studio release since less than half of this material was actually recorded in a studio setting. Instead, it captures the lineups essence better than its predecessor and depicts the work in progress approach that Robert Fripp would become notorious for later on in his work with King Crimson.

The Great Deceiver is a great album-opener that kicks off the record very sharply and doesn't give us a moment of rest until the first moments of Lament. This second track starts off as a very smooth ballad with clear guitar/bass undertones of the style that the band would later develop on Red. Still, Lament is probably most remembered for its very tight jam session towards the middle of the composition and especially the abrupt ending that features one of the coolest guitar riffs in existence! The Night Watch adds another layer of depth to the band's style with prominent violin work by David Cross and Fripp's magnificent guitar. Even though I actually prefer the live version of the piece taken from the live album with the same name, this version isn't that far behind.

The best part of the album comes right towards the end with a composition that I can safely describe as my favorite song of all time! Yes, Fracture deserves nothing less that this status and listening to it will hopefully make you see things my way. It's not really a piece that I would like to break down into separate sections, even if that wouldn't be that hard to do, since its that feeling of a complete experience that makes me feel satisfied every time I hear it. It also features some of the most extreme guitar work that Robert Fripp has ever put on tape and the idea of him playing all this without overdubs completely blows my mind!

I rarely like albums that feature too much improv music, but since King Crimson were highly active in that department at that time of their career, it does make sense to hear a lot of this material on Starless And Bible Black. This album is not the easiest first listen and I would actually recommend experiencing it at least 10-20 times before making your final judgment of its material. Just remember that this is one of those albums that rewards the listener for taking the time uncovering all of its layers, be patient and it will grow on you!

***** star songs: The Great Deceiver (4:02) Lament (4:00) The Night Watch (4:37) Fracture (11:14)

**** star songs: We'll Let You Know (3:46) Trio (5:41) The Mincer (4:10) Starless And Bible Black (9:11)

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Posted Thursday, September 16, 2010

Review by tarkus1980
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars There's no other way to say it - King Crimson got arrogant. As complex as Larks was, Crimson had a whole other side to their performance style - the kind of endless improvised jams that categorize much of The Night Watch. These jams actually gained this incarnation a LOT of infamy and popularity (in limited circles, of course) - no other rock band had a jamming style quite like this - and as such the band seemed to conclude that capturing these jams for use on a pseudo-studio recording would be a good idea for an album. Unfortunately, this is definitely not the side of Crimson that makes me consider them a great band - it's the side that makes my head hurt and long for some friggin' Ramones. It takes the delicate balance of chaos and structure shown on Larks and pushes it firmly in the chaos direction, which is not for the better. Add in worse production and an annoying reduction in Cross' overall impact, and it should be little wonder that I don't relish this album much.

To be fair, three of the eight tracks don't actually match the above description, so that kinda helps. One of them kind of blows, though - the softer part of "Lament" is pretty, with a good vocal performance from Wetton, but the more "rocking" part has some obnoxious screaming vocals to go with instrumental parts that have an overall clumsy feel to them. On the other hand, though, the opening "The Great Deceiver" is one of the best songs Crimson ever did, full of whacky melody twists, gruff and fast rhythm work, and a NEAT electric violin line on top of it all. It also has some hilarious lyrics against organized religion, inspired by a band trip to Rome. Supposedly, Fripp visited The Vatican and nearby living areas, and found his way to a gift shop in the area. He went in, and sure enough, saw that they sold, among other things, cigarettes, ice cream bars, and figurines of the Virgin Mary. Needless to say, he was disgusted, and related the tale to the band - the result was the text found here.

The other "conventional" song, "The Night Watch," can basically be categorized as "King Crimson plays The Moody Blues." The lyrics are nothing special whatsoever, but the melody is rock solid balladeering, and even Fripp's guitarwork, bizarre sounds for a ballad and all, manages to shape the song into something quite moving. Not surprisingly, it was issued as the lead single for the album - even though it had little to do with Crimson's new direction as a whole, it certainly was a better impetus for buying the album than the instrumental stuff...

Ah yes, the instrumental stuff. One of them, the closing "Fracture," is a Fripp-penned piece recorded at the aforementioned Amsterdam concert. I'm not in love with it, to tell the truth - at 11:17, it's dreadfully overlong, taking way too much time to develop itself through its various themes. As a six minute piece or so, though, it would rule mercilessly - Fripp does a great job here of making the whole-tone scale-based themes (at least, that's what they are according to my brother; I've never actually sat down and figured out the scale for myself, and I'm taking his word for it) quite engaging (in limited doses, of course), and the parts where it starts to rock hard and loud are a pleasure-and-a-half to headbang to. So yeah, it can stick around.

The rest, though, is pure improvisation with audience noises edited out. "The Mincer" has some overdubbed vocals in the last half (the song just stops out of nowhere at the end, by the way, as if the tape just stopped), but the rest of the track is just a sort of ok groove. As opposed to "We'll Let You Know" and the title track, which are less-than-ok attempts at grooves. "We'll Let You Know" occasionally TRIES to congeal into something solid, but it basically spends the entire time trying to figure out what it wants to do, and in the end accomplishes nothing. As for the title track, it enters a VERY intense groove for a short time in the middle of the piece, but that's only a very small bit - the rest just kinda diddles around, hoping that something interesting will happen.

One slightly redeeming instrumental comes from "Trio" - as with the other improvs, it takes a while to figure out what it wants to be, but eventually, the mellotron, violin and bass are able to circle around each other in a very delicate manner. I'd prefer it if they'd taken this idea into the studio and polished it up, but I guess there's something to be said for the spontaneity of improvisation, so whatever.

Overall, I don't hate this album, but it's definitely nothing great. Reviews of the album from that time tended to rave about how dynamic and complex it was, but for crying out loud, if you're just making stuff up as you go along, of COURSE what you produce is not going to have a trivial structure. Point is, this album has aged much worse than the albums bookending it, and I'd only recommend it to people who really love those albums (and even then, no guarantees of liking this much).

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Posted Friday, October 08, 2010

Review by Tom Ozric
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars STARLESS AND BIBLE BLACK is a record I've had a love/hate 'relationship' with for over 20 years - only since the last few years have I accepted its moodiness, its somewhat directionless eclecticism, and unique strangeness. Whilst the album before this, Larks' Tongues In Aspic, featured an eccentric percussionist by the name of Jamie Muir, whose incredible skills help shape a most wonderful landmark of Progressive rock history, here Master Bruford has taken on the responsibility of playing all the percussive nik-naks, as well as the kit, himself. He learnt well from Muir (who reputedly dropped a gong on his foot and joined a monastery...) and applied this knowledge to the musical extravaganzae on this album. We still have guitarist/mellotronist Robert Fripp being his 'usual' self (and that means 'unpredictable'), John Wetton who is an exceptional bassist with a great voice to boot, and David Cross with his Violin/Viola contributions and backing keyboards (since some of this material is recorded live, I don't think Fripp mastered playing the mellotron with his feet whilst soloing on his Les Paul - though I'm sure he probably tried...). The first half of the album has six tracks between 3 and 6 minutes where the styling varies between almost heavy metal ('Great Deceiver', parts of 'Lament'), to funky ('We'll Let You Know'), pastoral and slightly folky ('The Night Watch'), to mellow, meandering and mysterious ('Trio' and 'The Mincer'). The second side features 2 lengthy improv pieces recorded live in Holland at the time - 'Starless and Bible Black' and 'Fracture'. These two tracks reflect the spontaneous nature of this creative unit, but lacks the collective 'magic' which was apparent on Larks' Tongues, and the focus of the next masterpiece, 'Red'. Overall, I am content to award SaBB with 4 stars, but it's easy to see how this album holds divided opinions.

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Posted Friday, February 11, 2011

Review by thehallway
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Poor, poor sandwich album... the relative "bread" is so appetising; it could be ANY record wedged in between 'Larks' Tongues in Aspic' and 'Red' and it would look mediocre in comparison. 'Starless and Bible Black' is unlucky in this respect, but deserves to be heard for the simple reason that it is very good.

The line-up from '73 remains, sans Jamie Muir, but he had influenced Bruford enough for the drummer to incorporate similarly crazy percussiveness into the music on this album. The angluar and distorted guitars, linear compositions and immense dynamic range that so characterised this incarnation of the band are also present. But now we are seeing improvisation taking a bigger role, even in the studio, as well as an effort to create more succinct, straight-rock pieces. Of these, 'The Great Deceiver' is the most successful; an action-packed, hard-rock anthem that wouldn't be too out-of-place on a Led Zeppelin record. 'Lament' is also cool with its contrasting vocal sections and excellent polyrhythms. The other one I'll mention is 'The Night Watch', the token symphonic piece, which could benefit from being longer and even more epic, as it carries all the emotion of a great 'Epitaph' or 'Exiles'.

To pass the rest of the material on here as improvised noodling would be harsh, but a lot of it seems that way until one gets one's head firmly around it. The pieces are all of a different feel, 'We'll let you know' bluesy and rocking, 'Trio' calm and sublime, the title track rather dark and climactic. 'The Mincer' is aimless, building up to what seems like an introduction (making the first 3 minutes a pre- introduction?) and then being cut-off just before anything interesting happens. But overall, and when interspersed with the composed songs, the effect of these ditties is a flowing and successful album with great balance, if a little unmemorable.

However, there is a grand finale that I haven't mentioned. A strictly composed, mega-composition made of interlocking themes; some dark, some pretty, some fiendishly quick and some blisteringly loud. I of course refer to the wonderous rock bolero 'Fracture', an achievement for Robert Fripp and the pinnacle of guitar composition in the 20th century. It is proof of this band's staggering technical ability (and sheer power) that the recording is actually live, but with essential overdubs by Fripp. The piece builds in speed and volume but each time it reaches a peak, quietens down again to add a new layer of complexity. 'Fracture' must refer to the state of Robert's finger bones after he plays it! Without that song, 'Starless and Bible Black' would seem a bit more directionless, a bit less satisfying and a lot shorter.

But with it, I really like the feel of the album, and the marriage of (apparent) chaos and absolute order. I only ask that it isn't ignored because of the big guns that surround it. Cross is featured less and Wetton more, but that isn't so much of a bad thing, and Bruford has improved since Yes. 'Starless and Bible Black' is a defining album of King Crimson's second era, featuring some immense music but sadly a little filler too.

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Posted Saturday, March 12, 2011

Review by colorofmoney91
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Starless and Bible Black is one of the early King Crimson releases that I really don't care for. The sound here is really messy avant-garde and jazz influenced hard rock, mostly with emphasis on the avant-garde and rock. There also is a prominent funk influence, but it doesn't really work too well in my opinion. Everything on this album has always seemed incredibly messy and forced without lacking any clear direction. The musicianship is undeniably incredible, but any one element does stand out at all through the barrage of noise. I can't honestly say that I recommend this album, but some people tend to enjoy it. I don't particularly care for it, but perhaps you will.

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Posted Friday, April 08, 2011

Review by Anthony H.
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars King Crimson: Starless and Bible Black [1974]

Rating: 8/10

Starless and Bible Black is the second of the three exceptional albums King Crimson released under the Fripp/Wetton/Bruford/Cross lineup. This album is generally considered to be the weakest of the three, but considering the quality of this era, this is more complimentary than disparaging. Starless and Bible Black is sharply divided between two different styles: quirky experimental progressive hard rock, and avant-garde improvisations/instrumentals. With the exception of three songs, this is the most minimalistic album in the band's catalogue.

"The Great Deceiver" is a heavy jazzy song, beginning frantically with fast-paced jazzy guitar and throbbing bass. Wetton's vocals add to the madness, and the chorus is excellent. "Lament" starts in a calm manner, with subdued vocals and Mellotron. Crazy percussion enters, and the song becomes quite heavy. "We'll Let You Know" is the first experimental instrumental here, with dissonant guitar/percussion and throbbing bass. Cross's violin finally gets some attention on "The Night Watch." This is a spectacular song that features some of Wetton's best vocals. Fripp's characteristic guitar style is quite emotional here. "Trio" is quite minimalistic, similar to "Moonchild" is many ways. The atmosphere is excellent. "The Mincer" focuses on eerie Mellotron, repetitive percussion, and crazy guitar tones. The brief vocal segment at the end adds to the almost spooky atmosphere of this piece. About half of the excellent title track is occupied by ambient guitar soloing, and the rhythm section picks up the pace during the section half. "Fracture" is one of the greatest King Crimson instrumentals. The greatest thing about this song is the way it builds: subtle tones and textures turn into an intense crescendo-laden climax. This conclusion is one of my favorite moments from the band.

This is yet another esteemed album from a band during one of their creative peaks. However, Starless and Bible Black is one of King Crimson's least accessible records; it has a steep learning curve, if you will. The more abstract tracks can sound a little bit like mere feedback to the unaccustomed ear. Although the compositional ingenuity present on Larks' Tongues and Red isn't quite as present here, I would still call this album essential, particularly to fans of experimental and minimalistic rock.

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Posted Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Review by Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars A strong followup to Lark's Tongues in Aspic - though I don't think it's quite hits the fifth star, following up an absolute masterpiece with another excellent album is still an achievement to be proud of, and displays a level of consistency which previous lineups of King Crimson had failed to attain. The album takes an interesting approach of mixing studio tracks in with edited highlights from live performances, most of which coming from the legendary Netherlands concert which would be released in its entirety on The Night Watch. To be honest, I prefer hearing the relevant songs in that context, especially the side two improvisations, because the live album captures the concert atmosphere which inspired them very well. But either way, it's a good King Crimson album which no fan of the Larks'-to-Red sound will want to pass up.

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Posted Saturday, September 03, 2011

Review by friso
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars King Crimson - Starless and Bible Black (1974)

On the 'Larks Tongues in Aspic' album the legendary progressive rock group King Crimson re-established itself as founder of proto-metal progressive rock act under the ever bright waving flag of Robert Fripp. On this second offering of this line-up (that is the first that could be called 'steady') the band continues its course with heavy rock influences, harmonic experimentation and creative compositions.

John Wetton's vocals seem to have grown and the lyrics by Palmer-James provide some new bite to the music, mainly on the well written and performed 'The Night Watch' (based on the famous Dutch painting). The sound of the album is still a bit muddy, just like on the one before this. On side there is mainly song-writing and tracks with short experimentation, whilst the second side is fully instrumental and consists of two tracks (that sound like one) with free expression and heavy guitar experimentation. Most songs sound a bit like loose sand and the brilliance of form (that was a strong elemental of the debut) isn't reached any moment. Having that said, songs like 'The great Deceiver', the ballad-type 'Lament' and 'The Night Watch' are good tracks. 'Trio' has a long fade-in but does evolve into a nice instrumental, almost folk track. 'The Mincer' sounds as if it were only the intro for more to come, but the side ends just when this track begins to get shape. The intro is however very strong. On side two 'Starless and Bible Black' and 'Fracture' are both good psychedelic/progressive compositions/improvisations with inventive heavy guitars by Fripp and a strong rhythmical section by Wetton and Bruford. The percussionist of 'Larks' isn't missed a moment. The band doesn't invent much that wasn't heard on its predecessor, but more strong Crimson tracks are always welcome.

One thing that still bothers me is the lack of understanding how much dynamics a record can have. The enormous difference between loud en soft passages is almost frustrating, especially on side two. One moment you can't almost hear a thing (though the band is playing), the second moment I can't even talk to my company because of the loudness of the music. This makes the music un-attractive for people that aren't too well introduced to the progressive genre.

Conclusion. Another good King Crimson record, but I'm really glad the band changed its vision on production values on the follow-up 'Red'. The soft-loud differences are a problem. Some of the song-writing is really attractive and the inventiveness and dark/heavy sound remains a winner. I guess it's just great to have some bad-ass darkness sounding compositions from time to time. They feel powerful. Having that said, 'Starless and Bible Black' will have to settle for the small three-and-halve star rating. Recommended to fans who also liked 'Red' and 'Larks', but not a great starting point for new-comers.

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Posted Friday, December 02, 2011

Review by EatThatPhonebook
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars 6/10

"Starless And Bible Black" is a constantly neurotic piece of music that keeps the listener alert for the most part.

King Crimson are known for being daring at each album they release. Mostly, their experimentation relies on strong instrumentation, complex song structures, but especially improvisation. In a way, 'Starless And Bible Black', containing all three of these elements, is the most experimental and daring album they've released.

Being their sixth studio album, the band had left us quite a bit of material before SABB: the previous effort was and still is praised as one of the great albums of Progressive Rock ('Larks Tongues In Aspic') because of it's brave innovation and instrumentation. If that was one of the most solid and focused LP's of the band, this one is definitely more stretched out, more spread, and has wider boundaries, however, it's not focused or solid enough to be praised as much. One of the main reasons is definitely because on more than half of these forty one minutes are improvisation, whether in studio or recorded live, or whether the vocal parts were dubbed to the improvised music. The written material ends up covering only a small part of the LP. The music here itself however isn't very far from the sounds of 'Lark's Tongues In Aspic'; there are heavy, wild moments, especially in the first few songs, where sax, guitar, and jazzy rhythms are dominant. But the slower parts are the complete opposite of peaceful: At all times, this album is extremely neurotic, tense, and anxious. The eclectic instrumentation, which includes for the best part wild percussion, as it did even more in the previous album, highlights the nervousness of the sound.

'Starless And Bible Black' is a continuous mystery, but it is frustrating how some times, despite the huge attention that it requires and for the most part gains, what is heard isn't extremely thought-provoking or daring. It's listening to multiple improvisations that occasionally build into bursts of virtuously fierce moments, and then one down a bit. It's a sort of roller coaster that expects you to be constantly paranoid, when there's nothing really to be scared of, because despite the freedom it has music-wise, it doesn't push the envelop too far.

It manages for the most part, however, to be quite entertaining, especially in songs like the first two, the fierce yet memorable 'The Great Deceiver', and the more mysterious and intriguing 'Lament'. The improvised parts have their moments as well, like the brief 'We'll Let You Know' or the much longer title track, which boasts amazing musicianship on behalf of everybody. 'The Mincer' is improvised as well, however, vocals by John Wetton were added in studio. 'Trio' is a sort of mellower instrumental piece, while 'Fracture' is actually the most studied and complex song off the album. Finally, a nice little piece of beauty, 'The Night Watch', with good vocals by Wetton.

'Starless And Bible Black' is an extremely ambitious album by King Crimson, and despite the few negatives, it is absolutely well worthwhile. Essential for fans, but people who aren't so shouldn't hesitate.

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Posted Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Review by tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover Team
5 stars My recollections of purchasing this are as vivid today as it was in 1974 when I got this as a birthday gift from my very first girlfriend/lover. I remember what I was wearing and the fast food joint where we met for a kiss and an exchange of gifts. Ever since that glorious day, I have a special place in my ventricle for this iconoclastic offering from a band that has set its stone in the prog palace yet does not evoke the highest marks by the general review illuminati who love to rate (aka competition) albums against each other, case in point the previous white "Larks Tongues in Aspic" (a total masterpiece) and the black funnily titled "Red" monument. The problem is therefore not with the 2 bookends but with the book. This recording is just as mind-blowing, jaw-slacking and ear-bleeding. Obviously, I have an emotional wing (she was French and very hot!) to go with my prayer but the facts are there: 1- Gorgeous cover, the original LP has a unique gravel-like cardboard that made it even more enticing 2- The sheer contrasts of softness and power that is the KC signature after all is suitably demonstrated in spades. 3- The quality of the performance and the material presented is simply extraordinary.

"The Great Deceiver" has fooled many fans who had never heard of the Crimson King into believing this was a metal track (that Metallica fan went on to buy Red, never recovered OMG!) . I mean is there a more brutal assault ever? No bleeping sissy intro, Wham! Straight for the jugular at supersonic speed, stopping on a bass dime and sounding effing effortless (needed that wordplay Mister Editor!) in the process, aw. C'Mon! "Cigarettes, ice cream, Cadillacs and blue jeans, figurines of the Virgin Mary", yes its sweet sedition, sonic rape, aural sex, whatever. Mostly, it's bloody insane. One word describes this 4 minute scorcher. DEVASTATING!

"Lament" immediately sets a quieter expanse, mellotron and sweet violin caressing the Wetton vocals along. Bruford boots in some savvy percussives, Wetton gets hot under the collar and begins to rumble, Fripper growling smugly, seated bifocally as always. This ability to surge into rapid ascents and dives is why their music always has this impalpable ominous streak, almost immoral or better even, perverse! The vibrant "We'll Let You Know" doesn't get much recognition but its one of my fave KC tracks ever, proof positive that Bruford is a mastermind of rhythmic polyvalence as well as reminding many that Wetton was a scintillating bass player in his heyday. I mean when the drums kick in, its just plain ferocious! Cross screeches and scratches with more authority than on LTiA and he is set to soar as on the glorious "The Night Watch" where only the Fripp solo glows higher in the night sky! This is such tremendous piece of classic prog showcasing the little details that make KC so special, the little touches of oriental influence in the mid-section for example. I still shake my head in bewilderment 37 years later. Like Bruford wearing a Boston Bruins hockey jersey! Eternal memories. . He stated in 1995: " When you want to hear where music is going in the future, you put on a King Crimson album."

Best example of opposing tones is in the next 2 tracks, a bold maneuver. The mystical and mellotron/violin heavy "Trio" gently seeps through the suddenly silent grooves with elegance and refinement whilst maintaining that foreboding I mentioned earlier. A pulsating, living organism that is inspired, genuine and ultimately free. Like a soundtrack for a sci-fi or horror movie, KC likes to elicit visions of radiant hope and contrast that "subito" with illicit darkness, which is what "The Mincer" portrays rather bleakly. Ominous, brooding, menacing, Fripp's buzz-saw axe grinds with phosphorescent burn slashing among galloping Brufordisms (this is not noodling and if it is, definitely 'al dente") , Wetton finally adding some obtuse Beatles-like singing that is again at odds with the surroundings, stroking his palpitating bass into a sudden death eargasm. The final 2 tracks could have fitted easily on the subsequent Red magnum opus. The title track is a semi-constructed improv (as per usual with this crew) that settles scores with any technical doubters and served only to augment their already burgeoning legend. In fact, as exemplified on this extended piece and the next, SaBB is Bruford's finest work ever, no weirdo Jamie Muir to fence with, all responsibility on his imposing Tintin frame. The red-ish "Fracture" is of course an iconic composition, featuring carnal guitar playing like you cannot possibly fathom let alone imitate, permeating a soft brutality, a silken torture if you will, that defies logic. The others only provide the needed platform for Robert to exhibit his unique gift, mathematical precision within the widest emotional expanse is a trait very few can crow about. (Who else? MacLaughlin? Santana? Miles Davis? Magma?) . Listening to this is like attending a Hawkwind concert in the 70s. Devastating and what can you listen to after such an onslaught?

This music is as modern sounding in 2012 than when it appeared on the scene, scaring the crap out of the rock world in the process, preaching the future Math, Metal and Post scene. I have heard this album so often; I can even tell where you hear the lads yelping of glee in the background! King Crimson could peel paint from a wall a mile away was one of the multiple innocuous comments made by the maestro. Good on You, Bobbi.

Black was and still is Beautiful.

5 Splintered Liars

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Send comments to tszirmay (BETA) | Report this review (#610015) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, January 14, 2012

Review by stefro
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars A raw and metallic precursor to the same year's superb 'Red' album, 1974's 'Starless & Bible Black' would find King Crimson exhibiting a singularly nihilistic and darkly-wrought sonic streak ever at odds with the flowery symphonic music produced by many of their fellow progressive acts, explaining just why they are one of the few such acts to be accepted outside of prog-rock circles. With maybe only Van Der Graaf Generator coming close to replicating the trademark daunting atmospherics and challenging musical ideology of Crimson's best work, it's safe to say that the group formed by Robert Fripp back in the late sixties can be claimed as perhaps the purest evocation of the much-maligned genre, each of their original eight studio albums from between 1969 and 1974 characterized by it's own individual stylistic themes. Coming at the end of their initial phase of activity, 'Starless & Bible Black' is often, if not always, overshadowed by it's successor, an album that alongside 1969's debut 'In The Court Of The Crimson King' is regarded as one of their true classics and therefore one of the progressive rock genre's outstanding achievements. Therefore it is virtually impossible to discuss this album outside of the context of 'Red', the two entwined both in their conception and execution. 'Red', of course, is the superior album, yet 'Starless & Bible Black' also has it's merits, though in the grand scheme of all things King Crimson this is not a 'classic' release. It is, however, a significant one, laying a fresh heavy rock foundation so very different from the material produced by their contemporaries, such as the hopeful, fantasy-flecked musings of Yes or the cosmic soundscapes of Pink Floyd. Tracks such as 'the Mincer' are burnished with an ominous tone, Fripp's cutting and deliberately-discordant guitars creating a swirling, proto-metal effect several years ahead of it's time, whilst the album's closing pieces - the title-track and the lengthy 'Fracture' - also mine a similarly dark sonic pathway to impressive if sometimes overly-aggressive effect. Very much a dry run for 'Red', this is a stark, grinding and relentlessly metallic affair so untypical of both the group and the genre. It's not an altogether pleasant listen, the grimly fascinating moments of dissonant feedback and experimental curiosity almost deliberate in their attempts to confront the listener, yet this is also (another) highly-original statement from a group whose musical explorations never seem sated. Recommended then, but beware: this album bites.

STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2012

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Send comments to stefro (BETA) | Report this review (#733227) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, April 19, 2012

Latest members reviews

3 stars I'll make this short & sweet, Only because "S&BB" is, yes, an indispensible addition to any Crimson fan's library. However, There is a serious flaw contained within it that the original buyers of this album in March-April 1974 would never have been made aware of, and probably still aren't awar ... (read more)

Report this review (#1224918) | Posted by Crimson_King | Sunday, July 27, 2014 | Review Permanlink

5 stars King Crimson-Starless and Bible Black Truly an underrated album, Starless and Bible Black has to be my favorite King Crimson album. This album shows King Crimson at one of their most experimental moments, even more so then 'Larks Tongues In Aspic' in my opinion. The music follows most of what ... (read more)

Report this review (#1169212) | Posted by Unitron | Friday, May 02, 2014 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Starless and Bible Black usually gets less love than it's neighbors, Lark's Tongues and Red. Although they're all brilliant - it's King Crimson - I prefer Starless and Bible Black to Lark's Tongues. The latter is a little TOO free-jazz for me; it's too unstructured. Starless and Bible Black f ... (read more)

Report this review (#1140164) | Posted by thwok | Saturday, March 01, 2014 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This album is the pinnacle example of one in which the listener must keep in mind the context under which its material came into existence. Sure, the tracks for the most part seem a little more free-form than on most other albums in their discography, which is already saying a lot, but that's ... (read more)

Report this review (#1029231) | Posted by Neo-Romantic | Thursday, September 05, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This album is a strange one. I was used to KC's albums like 'In the Court of the Crimson King' and 'In the Wake of Poseidon' so I found 'Starless and Bible Black' not quite as interesting when I picked out a few songs. While listening to 'Larks' Tongues in Aspic', I realised that I had not bee ... (read more)

Report this review (#918950) | Posted by Rwprog | Monday, February 25, 2013 | Review Permanlink

3 stars King Crimson's follow up to A Lark's Tongue in Aspic, is one of the weaker Crimson albums of the 1970s. Yet even with this being weaker, it has some of my favorite King Crimson moments. I love the Great Deceiver, it would have been a great single, full of bombast and expertise, and the only sp ... (read more)

Report this review (#906023) | Posted by wehpanzer | Monday, February 04, 2013 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Here is the 6th studio album by King Crimson. I honestly have yet to find what is so great about this band. I get the fact that they were one of the first Prog Rock acts in Britain but I feel they are just an average band a tad bit overrated.What is the deal here. Why are they so loved by many here ... (read more)

Report this review (#885594) | Posted by ProgMetaller2112 | Tuesday, January 01, 2013 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Although this album is quite disjointed, the majority of it contains very good music. I really like the first two songs with vocals. Some pieces are a little too experimental for my liking. "We'll Let You Know" is not bad but just when it's starting to get interesting, it abruptly ends! "Trio" i ... (read more)

Report this review (#679829) | Posted by Frankie Flowers | Saturday, March 24, 2012 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Amazing! I would argue that this album is even better than its neighbors, Larks' Tongues in Aspic and Red. The improv pieces on this album are a great representation of Wetton-era King Crimson's style, much better than Red's Providence. The Great Deceiver is my favorite short King Crimson ... (read more)

Report this review (#627083) | Posted by Apollo2112 | Sunday, February 05, 2012 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Florian Schneider of Kraftwerk once said: "Sometimes I can taste the sounds. There are a lot more feelings than just the feeling going through the ears. The whole body can feel the sounds" (1975). I would say the same thing about myself, especially when it comes down to listening to "Starless and Bi ... (read more)

Report this review (#613440) | Posted by Dayvenkirq | Thursday, January 19, 2012 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This is one of the best 70's prog albums released, yet it seems to suffer from being surrounded by comparisons with the KC masterpieces of LTIA and Red, and hence gets a much lower rating than it would probably receive otherwise. I also don't see the improvisations as a negative here, as im ... (read more)

Report this review (#544391) | Posted by By--Tor | Thursday, October 06, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Starless and Bible Black, not to be confused with the song that contains the phrase on the universally acclaimed Red, is a rather uncompromising album in the King's discography. An album of strain-till-you-can-hear quiet and abstract noise, it actually begins with with quite a frenzy on the (aptl ... (read more)

Report this review (#510744) | Posted by Dancing Lemming | Sunday, August 28, 2011 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Starless and Bible Black ? 1974 (2.4/5) 8 ? Best Song: I got no clue! Ever wondered what KC'd be like if they decided to go hogwild and perform as a rockin' heavy prog act, a la Rush? No? Me either. Luckily that will never happen in the entirety of all music. There's probably a higher chance ... (read more)

Report this review (#441717) | Posted by Alitare | Monday, May 02, 2011 | Review Permanlink

3 stars NOT AS GOOD AS "LARKS TONGUES IN ASPIC" and "RED", BUT GOOD "Starless and Bible Black"is the disc of counterpoint between the frenzy of experimentation and "Larks ..." and the sound of heavy and aggressive "Red". Of the eight tracks, only two were made in a studio (the first two). The rest are ma ... (read more)

Report this review (#408574) | Posted by voliveira | Saturday, February 26, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Starless and Bible Black or Where King Crimson seem to be on top for me. There is more reasons why I find this album as the best from the line-up Fripp - Wetton - Brufford - Cross (- Muir). Maybe it´s only just that lasts 5 minutes longer than LTIA and Red, or that there is more songs, in sum up ... (read more)

Report this review (#363364) | Posted by Matej Roman | Saturday, December 25, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars ECCENTRIC, COMPLEX PROG, BUT IT'S FUN, ACTUALLY BACKGROUND: King Crimson had established themselves as fore-runners of progressive rock in 1969 with the landmark recording 'In the court of the Crimson King'. They struggled to follow this up, however, with an album that would make the same im ... (read more)

Report this review (#358403) | Posted by Brendan | Monday, December 20, 2010 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Starless and Bible Black. A good album, with downright boring lifeless songs throughout. That being said, it also has some of Crimsons greatest in The Great Deciever, The Night Watch and Fracture. If you're still not a believer in Fripps guitar skills throw on Fracture and let your mind be blown. ... (read more)

Report this review (#306815) | Posted by Billy Pilgrim | Wednesday, October 27, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars A lot of prog bands, King Crimson in particular, had this strange propensity to release albums that were almost complete copies or at least heavily similar to their predecessors. Of course, some of this was undoubtably an attempt at tightening up the loose ends that the previous albums left un-s ... (read more)

Report this review (#286190) | Posted by TheGrandWazoo123 | Saturday, June 12, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This was the first of many King Crimson albums I bought. This kind of music was something I had never heard before. It just blew me away! My favorite on the set is "The Mincer." Man, it puts you on the edge of your seat. The music is so intense. I don't think I've heard anything like it befor ... (read more)

Report this review (#281821) | Posted by Keetian | Thursday, May 13, 2010 | Review Permanlink

3 stars "The Great Deciver", another expression of The Crimson King (the prince of demons). And the opening track, powerstart megaspeed guitar riff, Bruford hammering on the drumset. Then a break to a bass riff with vocal verse, lot of tempo changes on this one. "Cigarettes, ice cream, figurines of the ... (read more)

Report this review (#279557) | Posted by tamijo | Tuesday, April 27, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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