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

STARLESS AND BIBLE BLACK

King Crimson

 

Eclectic Prog

3.95 | 2119 ratings

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Neo-Romantic
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 because this album is largely comprised of improvisational numbers taken from their live shows and EQed to an appropriate mix for a studio album. This is a ballsy move that is sure to leave some people cold. The defining factor in assessing whether or not one will enjoy this album is if they like KC's improv chops and/or how forgiving they are of open experimentation. This reviewer was completely sold and is willing to give it high marks without reservation.

This album demonstrates a tremendous amount of variety. The three in-studio songs (The Great Deceiver, Lament, and The Night Watch) are all awesome tracks in their own right, striking a balance between the upbeat energy of the LTIA songs and showing signs of the grit that would so prominently characterize red in its infancy. The improvised numbers are incredibly solid. I find it so immensely impressive that these were being formulated on the spot. This really speaks for the level of musicianship demonstrated by these four talented individuals and just how cohesively they functioned as an ensemble. Each one also presents a unique mood, proving that there was no end to their ability to evoke and express a tremendous variety of emotions in their playing. It's not only gratifying to hear how talented they were technically speaking, but how much feeling went into each performance. They're not just guys with instruments. They're true musicians and emotionally expressive artists. Nobody can deny the wealth of emotion being conveyed by these works, and this is what makes this album truly special.

As if there weren't already plenty of reason to love and appreciate this album's unique charm, we have at the end what I consider to be the group's finest instrumental achievement: the composition Fracture. I refer to this as a composition, not just as an instrumental track on a rock album, because this is so expertly composed with masterful formal treatment, contrasting moods, exploitation of dynamics and the unique idiomatic qualities of each instrument, and thematic statement, development, and recapitulation that characterizes the finest works of the classical music realm. I'm in awe of just how truly expressive and deep this work is every time I hear it. This single piece encapsulates the strongest traits of KC's music and musicians within its diverse passages: justifiable and expressive virtuosity, powerful emotion that needs no words to be communicated, and a tremendous amount of variety, balance, bold innovation, and a willingness to play some of the most challenging material and still make it sound both easy to pull off and pleasantly natural to the listener. What could make this monumental piece better than that? How about the fact that what you're hearing was recorded at a live performance and contains no overdubs? Because that's exactly what happened, and yes, Robert Fripp really is capable of playing that many notes in that many layered parts for that long with that degree of clarity, consistency, and control while incorporating articulations, dynamics, and other expressive shadings into each second of his performance without needing any help.

Whether you like this album or not, it's impossible to deny the amount of guts and ambition it must have taken to release a collection of tracks based largely on material that was conceived and performed spontaneously at live performances. At least you know this way that they are not only capable of recreating the incredibly challenging material they've been producing, but bringing something new, fresh, and dynamic to the table with each new performance. This album is a bold masterpiece in my mind, and I award it 5 stars without hesitation.

Neo-Romantic | 5/5 |

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