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


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

3.92 | 1883 ratings

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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.

rushfan4 | 4/5 |


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