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


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

3.93 | 1695 ratings

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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

tszirmay | 5/5 |


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