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King Crimson

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King Crimson Starless and Bible Black album cover
3.94 | 2071 ratings | 138 reviews | 31% 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 (improv recorded in Glasgow) (3:46)
4. The Night Watch (4:37) *
5. Trio (5:41) *
6. The Mincer (improv recorded in Zurich) (4:10)
7. Starless and Bible Black (9:11) *
8. Fracture (11:14) *

Total Time 46:41

* Recorded Live at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam

Line-up / Musicians

- Robert Fripp / guitar, Mellotron, effects
- David Cross / violin, viola, Mellotron, electric piano
- John Wetton / bass, vocals
- Bill Bruford / drums, percussion

Releases information

Artwork: Tom Phillips

LP Island - ILPS 9275 (1974, UK)

CD EG - EGCD 12 (1987, UK)
CD Virgin ‎- CDVKC6 (2000, UK) 30th Anniv. 24-bit remaster by Fripp & Simon Heyworth
CD Discipline Global Mobile - DGM 0506 (2005, UK) Reissue of 2000 remaster

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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Buy KING CRIMSON Starless and Bible Black Music

KING CRIMSON Starless and Bible Black ratings distribution

(2071 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(31%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(46%)
Good, but non-essential (19%)
Collectors/fans only (3%)
Poor. Only for completionists (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.

Review by Sean Trane
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

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.
Review by daveconn
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.

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.
Review by el böthy
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!

Review by Man With Hat
COLLABORATOR Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury 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.
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

Review by Philo
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.
Review by Eetu Pellonpaa
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.

Review by lor68
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...

Review by Raff
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

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

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.

Review by Guillermo
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.

Review by Australian
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.

Review by OpethGuitarist
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.

Review by Mellotron Storm
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.

Review by thellama73
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.)
Review by Chicapah
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.

Review by ZowieZiggy
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.

Review by febus
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam

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.

Review by Prog-jester
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).
Review by Prog Leviathan
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.
Review by Flucktrot
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.

Review by jammun
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.

Review by Moatilliatta
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.
Review by Nightfly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

Review by fuxi
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.

Review by obiter
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.

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.

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.

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!

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


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

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.
Review by LiquidEternity
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.

Review by ProgBagel
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.

Review by rushfan4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator

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.

Review by The Quiet One
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!

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

Review by The Sleepwalker
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.

Review by Tarcisio Moura
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.

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!

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

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.

Review by 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.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury 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.

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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)

Review by tarkus1980
4 stars While I started enjoying Larks and Red pretty quickly once I began putting a little effort into assimilating King Crimson beyond In the Court of the Crimson King, it took a very long time for me to regard this as anything other than an aggravating and overrated disappointment. As complex and noisy and filtered through avant-garde jazz as Larks was, the music that made up that release was still very controlled and precise, and if somebody was already predisposed towards prog rock it wouldn't take much more than a handful of listens to realize that Larks wasn't really so far from more "conventional" and easily assimilated forms of prog rock. King Crimson's live performances, however, tended to feature multiple group improvisations within a given concert, and these improvisations tended to take on a level of chaos and aggression that tended to go far beyond even the levels shown in much of Larks. This album contains some properly composed material in the general style of what one would expect from a successor to Larks, but it also provides a sampling of the band's live improvisations (with audience applause edited out), and there's no guarantee that a fan of Larks will necessary enjoy this material. For my part, I hated a good chunk of this album's improvised material for a long time, but while I'm still not a huge fan of it, my feelings towards it have softened considerably. Add in that I mostly like the composed material on this album quite a bit (in some cases much more than I originally did), and a significant improvement of my feelings towards the album is inevitable. I still consider it an incredibly inconsistent release, but the highs are so high that I can't help but give this a very good grade.

The first half contains three "regular" tracks interspersed with three improvs, and both aspects of the band have their ups and downs in this half. 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 (as well as the most startling opening three words to any major prog album I can think of), 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. It would be hard for me to think of a reason for a fan of the band to not love this track, even if they somehow dislike the rest of the album.

The following "Lament" is an odd chimera of pleasant balladry, screaming hard rock and angry prog jamming, and it's a weird case of a song where I like all of the individual pieces but feel like it comes together poorly. The opening verse, laced with bits of violin and mellotron, is also graced by some lovely singing, but then the song turns into a hellish mix of chaotic drumming, popping basslines and Wetton screams over frantic Frippisms, and it took me a long time to regard the song as not representing the worst aspects of prog rock bands to ruin decent material through over-complication. I more or less like the song now, but I find that I have to focus on aspects like Bruford's killer drumming more than on the overall picture. Much better is "The Night Watch," which I've always categorized as "King Crimson plays The Moody Blues" and thus have always enjoyed. The melody is rock solid balladeering, and Fripp's guitarwork (in the long drawn-out introduction but also in other bits in the song) manages to shape the song into something quite moving, bizarre sounds for a ballad and all. Not surprisingly, this was the lead single for the album; it had little to do with Crimson's new direction on the whole, but it was definitely the best impetus for drawing people into having interest in the album.

The other three tracks side one are instrumental, with the exception of some vocals that were later overdubbed into the end of "The Mincer" (which starts out centered around some eerie tuneless mellotron, then turns into a bunch of angry guitar-driven atmosphere over an ok groove before the vocals come in and the tape suddenly ends). "We'll Let You Know" has always struck me as an example of the potential downsides of the band's approach to live improvisations; there's a long period of the guitar and bass circling around each other in search of what exactly they want to do, and when the groove eventually hits, it feels oddly clumsy and, in parts, as if it's tripping over its own feet. The thing is, by the standards of improvised music, this is pretty impressive, and the fact that it doesn't completely collapse is a testament to the band's abilities; it's just that I find myself kinda wishing that the band had taken this basic idea as a starting point, cleaned it up in a studio setting, and presented it in a more traditional form. Oh well, I guess that wouldn't have been consistent with what they wanted to present in the context of this album. The remaining improv, though, speaks to the surprising beauty the band could sometimes muster up when it was making up music on the fly. "Trio" begins with a quiet Fripp mellotron improvisation, then Cross comes in on violin, then Wetton quietly plays some understated bass, and the piece grows into the three of them circling around and playing off each other in a beautiful and delicate fashion. Again, maybe the piece could have been reworked and polished into something even greater, but in this case I think that would have been to its detriment; there's a vitality here from the spontaneity of its creation that would be lost in a studio reworking.

The second half of the album consists of but two instrumental tracks, one of them improvised and one of them as tightly composed and intricate as anything on Larks (and both taken from the Amsterdam concert that also produced "Trio"). The title track (which immediately preceded "Trio" in that concert) initially follows the band's frequent rubric (as shown in "We'll Let You Know" for instance) of "Let Robert and John make a bunch of noise until they stumble on something they both like, then build a groove out of it as Bill works himself in," and while I'm not terribly fond of it on the whole (it's 9 minutes!), I have to admit that the bass groove that Wetton eventually produces (while Fripp makes all sorts of squealing guitar noises and Cross does whatever on his mellotron) is a pretty great one, especially after Bruford locks into it. The vaguely atmospheric mellotron bits in the last couple of minutes are a decent touch as well.

Where I've gone from "this kinda sucks" to "ehn, it's fine" about the title track, "Fracture" has gone for me from "This is good but horribly flawed" to "This may be flawed but it's awesome anyway." My position on the track has long been that, at 11:17, it's a little overlong and could be reduced down to 6 or 7 minutes pretty easily, and for a long time I held to the idea that it's pretty overrated by KC fans. The thing is, though, while there's still that part of me that overthinks things and sees ways to make the track a little more "efficient," it's nonetheless also true that I've found myself in the mood for this track (warts and all) an absurdly large number of times over the years, and it finally wore me down to the point that I consider it a borderline classic from this era of the band (I'd probably rate it last among the "composed" instrumentals of the 70s KC, but that just means it's an A- track instead of an A or A+). The various themes (based around a whole-tone scale, just as "Red" would be) are deployed in a way that ramps up the tension of the track to a nearly unbearable level before the band breaks into an incredible hard-prog groove that's one of the greatest head-banging moments in all of prog rock. I'm not necessarily sure if this is the best available version of the track (again, it was recorded live), but it's up there, and Bruford's "woo!" during one of the more intensely grooving sections is awfully charming.

People often go out of their way to praise the album on the grounds of how dynamic and complex it is, but I don't think that's the right way to approach it; I mean, it is dynamic and complex, but that's just a natural outgrowth of having so much of the album coming from improvisations (granted, "Fracture" is plenty dynamic and complex itself). Rather, I think that the best way to sell this album to a more casual listener is to frame it as an album from a band with roots in tradition but that wanted to see just how far they could stretch the boundaries of rock music, without having any idea of whether a given idea would work but with enough musical chops and common sense to make it plausible that it could. I still would recommend getting Larks and Red before this one, and would offer the caution that enjoying those is absolutely no guarantee of enjoying this one, but nonetheless it finally won me over, and if I respect it more than I enjoy it, I nonetheless embrace it in both ways.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Heavy Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars I guess it's time a ante up and write a review for this album. Excellent musicianship. Experimental song constructs. Horrible singing voice and lyrics. "The Great Deceiver" God awful vocal/lyrics. A repellant song. (6/10). "Lament" Has a timeless quality to it's opening that I like--the multi-voiced vocal works. Then it turns instrumental, falls apart, and resorts to becoming a vehicle for the ear-grating vocals of John Wetton. Hate that fuzzy guitar, too! Rated up for musicianship. (7.5/10) "We'll Let You Know" Does the world really need another "Moonchild"? or a sound check/warmup exercise committed to tape? (6/10) "The Night Watch" opens like a classical orchestra warming up. Then moves into a "Goodnight, Irene"-type of crooner (without the singing, thank God). But then, au secours! JW appears in a MOODY BLUES-type voice. Pleasant enough. (8.25/10) "Trio" starts as "uno"--one Larks Ascending-like viola, then Mellotron flute, and then bass. Okay. So David Cross can play folk-classical. And Sir Robert can handle a 'tron. JW cannot. Again, why try to fake me with this (8.25/10). "Mincer" is eerie in a soundtrack way, but is too dynamic and too poorly engineered to ever be used as such--which makes sense since it was a recording of a live concert improv. Still, this is my favorite song on the album so far. I love hearing Fripp go spastic on his guit-box. (8.5/10) "Starless and Bible Black" more experimental sound/noise improv. How appropriate that it was recorded live in Amsterdam (where all kinds of wild and experimental things were legal). At 4:30 we finally get the rudimentary start of a song. It gradually evolves into quite a nice song structure, with Bruford and Wetton giving the band something inspiring to continue improving over. Sounds a little like the recent Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock experimentations. Why people rave so much about Jamie Muir, I don't know. Give me a stage full of things to heat or beat and I, too, could come up with some interesting accents. (16.5/20) "Fracture" one of those jams in which KC produce one of their menacing sounds. Magma taken darker. Lots of space in which to show off subtleties and Jamie Muir's percussion instincts. The jams toward the end are great--finally the band is playing together in a weave than can be construed as a "song". (17.5/20)
Review by Tom Ozric
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.
Review by thehallway
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.

Review by colorofmoney91
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.
Review by Warthur
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.
Review by friso
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.

Review by EatThatPhonebook
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.

Review by tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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

Review by stefro
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.


Review by jamesbaldwin
3 stars Second Lp with Wetton, "Starless And Bible Black" is one of the most controversial, extreme and unbalanced King Crimson's album. Despite presenting the same sound and arrangements as the previous record, SABB is profoundly different because it is not geometric, slow and thoughtful as Larks Tongues In Aspic but messy, unequal and almost improvised, according to a more jazzy wish. It's almost a live instrumental album.

Side A.

The beginning "The Great Deceiver (4:02)" is hyperkinetic, with a music that alternates moments of speed-rock (in advance of 20 years) with thoughtful moments. The sound is much more powerful and decisive than LTIA, with Wetton's wonderful bass in the foreground. Rating 8.

The second piece, "Lament (4:00)" is another strange track, very creative, the sound with Bruford's percussion and Wetton's bass in the foreground is increasingly jazzy and the composition is unpredictable, deconstructing the song form. Here you can hear better the violin of Cross that in this Lp is more in the background than the previous, in fact the rhythm section and the guitar of Fripp fill the whole sound scenario. Rating 8+.

These are the only two songs recorded totally in the studio.

The third piece, "We'll Let You Know (improv recorded in Glasgow) (3:46)", instrumental, is based on a really fantastic bass by Wetton, while in the background Fripp's guitar performs variations on the typical theme of jazz. it's little more than a sketch. Rating 6,5/7.

"The Night Watch (4:37)", partially recorded live, is another improvisation, but it's more melodic, the album's only burst of serenity. Rating 7,5.

"Trio (5:41) ", instrumental, recorded live at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, begins too soft, the first two minutes are almost in the background but the melody is beautiful, melancholy and poignant, almost medieval, thanks to a great work by Cross and an instrument that I can not identify. It's the symphonic track of the Lp. Rating 7,5/8.

"The Mincer (improv recorded in Zurich) (4:10)" is a live instrumental improvisation, vague and directionless, with Wetton's voice over-engraved in the studio. it's the weakest piece of the Lp. Rating 6+.

Rating side A: 7,75 (average 7,42).

Side B.

"Starless And Bible Black (9:11)" and "Fracture (11:14)" are recorded live at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. They are instrumental pieces, noisy, quite hard rock, criptic, dissonant, very ardous to listen. Starless is a real improvisation and begins slowly, percussion and guitar; the sound of Fripp's guitar is acid and very acute and becomes more and more acute and leads the sound of the group to abstract territories where the sound is rock but the score is jazz, thanks to the virtuosity of Wetton and Bruford. Rating 7,5.

Even Fracture begins slowly and Fripp's guitar is inhaled into a tonal scale that gives repetitive shape to the piece, whose sound robe is hard-rock but again the score is jazz. The piece alternates moments of pure minimalist improvisation with moments when it repeats a rock theme. Tra track is more structured than Starless. Around eight minutes the song became very remedied and continued until the end to conclude the album in a triumphant tone. Rating 8.

Rating side B: 7,75.

Medium quality of the two sides: 7,75.

Rating album: 7,75. Three Stars.

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars King Crimson's 6th album 'Starless and Bible Black' is the sometimes ignored album in the classic KC albums. It came between the two innovative and acclaimed albums 'Larks' Tongues in Apsic' and 'Red', and during a time when the band was in one of its most consistent stages, but also during a time when the band was touring more than every before. Because the band was mostly unprepared for this album in the way of having new music, the band decided to use improvised highlights from their concerts and to make them into tracks that sounded like they had been done in studio.

So, first let's look at the consistency of their line up at the time. This is the first time the entire core band remained for a second album in a row. The only person missing from the LTiA line-up is Jamie Muir, who played percussion, drums, and 'assorted found items', but other than that, Robert Fripp, John Wetton, Bill Bruford and David Cross all remained, which is the most stable the band had ever been in a line-up. Bruford had to take up the slack left behind by Muir, which he easily was able to do.

The main factor that probably lends itself to the fact that this album is the weakest of the three albums is the fact that it was made up more of improvised music garnered from live performances. Out of the 8 tracks, only four have lyrics. The crowd noises from the live performances have been edited out of the tracks, at least for the most part, in order to make the album sound like a studio album. Live albums just didn't seem to attract the music buying public back then, because live albums were usually comprised of music that had been heard before, and the public demanded new music, or at least preferred it according to their buying habits.

As was the case with LTiA, the four tracks on SaBB have lyrics written by Richard Palmer-James, who was the original Supertramp guitarist on their self-titled debut album. 'The Great Deceiver' is the first track, and has the attitude of many of the KC album openers of the time, of a somewhat complex and slightly chaotic manner as in '20th Century Schizoid Man', and this was always an effective way to start an album. This track, and the following track 'Lament' both have lyrics and were both entirely recorded in the studio, in fact, the only two tracks completely recorded in studio. The 3rd track 'We'll Let You Know', an instrumental is from an improvised performance in Glasgow, even though it sounds quite structured. 'The Night Watch' also uses some instances of live performances, but to a lesser extent than the previous track. This track is about Rembrandt's painting of the same name, described as an observer would see it and try to understand it.

'Trio' is another instrumental, improvised in concert in Amsterdam, this time it is a more pensive and sensitive improvisation. It is known as a quartet piece for three active player. Bruford was supposed to come in on drums when he felt it was appropriate, so he waited next to the drums with his sticks crossed on his chest, and then decided there was no good place to come in, so he was given credit on the track for 'admirable restraint'. The last track on the first side of the album is 'The Mincer' and is also the last track on the album to have lyrics. Even at that, the vocals don't come in until the very last part of the track. This was another improvised performance from Zurich (that is, part of a longer improvisation), and Wetton's eventual vocals were added later in studio.

The second side of the album consists of two instrumental tracks, both of which are from improvised concert performances done in Amsterdam. 'Starless and Bible Black' has a more experimental feel to it, while the longer 'Fracture' is more interesting and exciting, with a sudden burst of energy in the last four minutes that close the album off quite splendidly. Robert Fripp has said that 'Fracture' is the most difficult piece he has ever played. It is definitely one of the best recorded improvisations by the band. Fripp said that he wanted 'Fracture' to be indicative of where the band was at the time, and that is what it was. Most of the live performances were recorded in that live show in Amsterdam, and because of the impact that show had on this album, the band later released that complete show in 1997 entitled 'The Night Watch'.

So, in the end, this album is much more important than it might seem on the surface. It also takes a little more getting used to than the other two albums with this basic lineup, at least it did for me. I always considered it a weaker entry in the discography, but I have since changed my mind over that. One of the great things about this album, and the other two in this trilogy, is that it takes both sides of KC, the more symphonic sounding band of pre-LTiA, and the heavier, improvised style that the band was moving into. Both sides of the band are equally amazing to me, and the fact that they could easily do both so well is one of the main reasons I love this band as much as I do. They are my favorite band when it comes to their entire output. I do tend to rate this one just below masterpiece status, but I still enjoy it immensely.

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

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

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

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

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

Review by VianaProghead
4 stars Review Nº 384

"Starless And Bible Black" is the sixth studio album of King Crimson and was released in 1974. Most of the lyrics on the album are satires and commentaries to the sleaziness materialism of our society. It continued to explore the sound and style of "Larks' Tongues In Aspic" and proved that King Crimson could handle it very well. Many fans and critics always saw more "Starless And Bible Black" as a transitional album, both in terms of musical progression and line up, between the twin behemoths of "Larks' Tongues In Aspic" and "Red" than as a great album, on its own right. Still, I think to see this album in that simple perspective is to undervaluing this album considerably. I think it's more than that.

The line up of this album is Robert Fripp (guitar, Mellotron, electric piano and devices), John Wetton (lead vocals and bass), Bill Bruford (drums and percussion), David Cross (violin, viola, Mellotron and electric piano) and Richard Palmer-James (lyrics).

The album has eighth tracks. The first track "The Great Deceiver" written by Robert Fripp, John Wetton and Richard Palmer-James is a very aggressive rock song which marries a powerful riff with some of King Crimson's most weird lyrics. The song is dominated by the violin with a very precise guitar performance and on the back a great rhythm work by the percussion and the bass, which proves the perfect musical marriage between Bill Bruford and John Wetton. The second track "Lament" written by Robert Fripp, John Wetton and Richard Palmer-James is one of the greatest songs on the album. This is another heavy rock song with an unforgettable and fantastic work led by that wonder duo, John Wetton and Bill Bruford but where all the four musicians are at their best shape. The third track "We'll Let You Know" written by Robert Fripp, David Cross, John Wetton and Bill Bruford is a very weird instrumental piece of music very dissonant. It's an improvised track with some strange sounds and where the percussion section sounds chaotic. This is, in my humble opinion, one of the less interesting songs on the album. The fourth track "The Night Watch" written by Robert Fripp, John Wetton and Richard Palmer-James is a commentary in a form of a musical piece deriving directly from Rembrandt's painting of the same name. The song was also released with "The Great Deceiver" as a single. It's a calm and melodic song, perfectly performed by all band's members that captures, in my humble opinion, the feeling and sense in the context of the painting. This is another great song on the album. The fifth track "Trio" written by Robert Fripp, David Cross, John Wetton and Bill Bruford is the most serene song and is an instrumental piece of music composed for violin, bass guitar and Mellotron with the sound of a flute. The performance of the trio of the musicians is absolutely perfect which gives us a nice and relaxing piece of music. The sixth track "The Mincer" written by Robert Fripp, David Cross, John Wetton, Bill Bruford and Richard Palmer-James is another strange and weird song with some dark atmosphere with good musical notes from all musicians. However, we need to learn to like it, really. This is also, in my humble opinion, another less interesting song on the album. The seventh track, the title track, "Starless And Bible Black" written by Robert Fripp, David Cross, John Wetton and Bill Bruford is a very interesting improvised musical piece. It's also a very strange and weird song but is much better than "We'll Let You Know" and "The Mincer". It's a song with some fantastic and brilliant musical parts and so, is a very good song which probably needs lots of listenings to can enjoy it. The eighth and last track "Fracture" written by Robert Fripp is the lengthiest track on the album. It represents the epic magnus opus of the album and it's also my favourite track too. This is a masterful and colourful semi-improvisation piece of music with a strong and superb performance by the band. It's a track that reminds me strongly their other masterpiece "Starless" from "Red" and we may say this song, by itself, deserves the price of the album. This is one of the best pieces of music composed by Robert Fripp and released by King Crimson that fited perfectly well on their next studio album and great masterpiece "Red". There could be no better way to end this album.

Conclusion: Once more, I don't totally agree with many of my colleagues on this site. In my humble opinion, "Starless And Bible Black" is a great King Crimson's album and it's also, in some way, superior to "Larks' Tongues In Aspic". It's more balanced, is a more cohesive album and has also one of the best songs of the group "Fracture". It's true that "Starless And Bible Black" isn't a perfect album. Despite that, "Starless And Bible Black" is one of the heaviest albums of the band, is one of the most cohesive and it's also an album where, in my humble opinion, the musical performance of John Wetton and Bill Bruford is absolutely perfect. However, this isn't a particularly accessible album and it needs repeated listenings to be fully appreciated by its own merits. It's a must have for every fan of progressive rock. Anyway, that is what happens with all King Crimson's albums in the 70's. Besides, the band hasn't many weak points, really.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Review by DangHeck
5 stars Here is my first-ever ProgArchives review! And how fitting that it be, at one point, my favorite, and the second release I believe I'd ever heard [from them], from the great music collective that is and was King Crimson.

As many feel, for me, this is my absolute favorite lineup, David Cross here included. The counterpoint that he has with Robert Fripp here is excellent and a necessary function for what makes this album so great and interesting (especially given its majorly improvised nature). There are times of amazingly virtuosic bass playing from John Wetton, I would think an underrated bassist in the context of the Pillars of Prog; some of the most interesting percussive elements, all of which are performed by Bill Bruford, and some of the more interesting moments that Bill had ever put to tape, in my opinion; some of the most exquisite experimentation from Fripp; and, for me, some of the best lyrics in all of Progressive Rock (see "Lament" and "The Night Watch" for the best of the best from this release).

It is no secret to those who know me how utterly baffled I've been by Larks' Tongues in Aspic and its undeniable status as beloved and critically acclaimed. "Larks...", the two-part title track, is really the only thing that does it for me. This, though, Starless and Bible Black, is in great competition, alongside Red and ITCOTCK for me, as the best output King Crimson has to offer. [Full disclosure: it is at this present time, though it shall be remedied very soon, that I have only heard a handful off of Discipline and Beat in particular. Forgive me.] [Indeed, this has since been remedied.]

Review by A Crimson Mellotron
4 stars 1974 saw the Crimson King bring two fabulous records to the light of day - the first one of them often gets forgotten, maybe neglected, somewhat underappreciated, for reasons more than obvious. But this is just not right; 'Starless and Bible Black' is studio album #6 for the band, released in March, and the first one to have most of the material recorded live, and just a couple songs recorded entirely in the studio. Is it really shocking at this point in the band's career when the new studio album sounds nothing like any of the previous releases? There are no more symphonic inclinations, like in the first two albums, no more avant-garde jazz quests or romantic explorations, like on the third and fourth albums, and certainly no more 'classical crossover' (If we may describe it in this way), like on the fifth one - this is different; the sound is abrasive, unusual and unwelcoming. The presence of several live recordings means that most of the material on 'Starless and Bible Black' is highly experimental, borderline meaningless, and strongly improvisational. Blended with some studio recordings and edited out in the studio before release, this 1974 album has to be one of the more challenging but nonetheless essential examples of progressive rock.

Alongside Fripp, the listener will notice Bill Bruford on drums and percussion (taking this role after the spontaneous departure of Jamie Muir, a personal favorite and a man who brings a pretty unique flavor to the Crim's fifth album), John Wetton on bass and vocals, and David Cross on violin, viola, Mellotron - King Crimson's personal Paganini. It is the very presence of Cross that adds so much value and intrigue to this mysterious recording, his soloing, the manic violin parts, sometimes melancholic and sometimes hectic, the phrasing all add up to his account.

The album starts off with the two tracks that were entirely prepared in the studio, two fantastic and more straightforward rocking songs from King Crimson, 'The Great Deceiver' and 'Lament'; however, this does not mean that they are anything close to the standard and ordinary hard rock songs from the same time. Then comes the instrumental 'We'll Let You Know', about which all I could say is: why isn't this groovy bonanza a 15-minute composition, it feels like it could have been a true masterpiece of experimental rock. 'The Night Watch' is an observation upon Rembrandt's painting of the same name, 'Trio' is a dramatic instrumental piece, featuring the talents of Fripp on the Mellotron, Cross on the violin, and Wetton on the bass; It is not exactly clear what the purpose of this composition is, or why it was featured on the album. Finally, side one concludes with the menacing live recording 'The Mincer', a shortened version of the presumably very long improv.

Side two contains just two epic instrumentals, the murky title track, and the strangely uplifting and exciting 'Fracture'; They flow into each other almost seamlessly, forming this tremendously pleasant experience of enjoying some of the best experimental rock music from any band ever. Must-hear compositions for the fans of the Crim that might have missed these excellent instrumentals for whatever reason.

'Starless and Bible Black' is far from being a perfect album because it is simply a horrendous one! It is an album that invites you to listen, contemplate, not move, and decide; It is a proposal by King Crimson, an unwelcoming call to contemplate the sounds of the light and the shade.

Latest members reviews

4 stars Faithful to the compulsion to experiment and improvise as fundamental energy sources to develop their works, King Crimson take a step further with the complex "Starless and Black Bible", their sixth album (although to call it complex in the case of Robert Fripp's band is like saying the most com ... (read more)

Report this review (#2962417) | Posted by Hector Enrique | Wednesday, October 18, 2023 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I'm not a huge 'Starless and Bible Black' there is too much improv, and while it's good, it just seems pointless to be honest. Side 1 has a couple actual songs on it, with some interesting lyrics. Lots of boring improvisation on here, I get that for some, this is the best King Crimson album, cap ... (read more)

Report this review (#2923591) | Posted by Frets N Worries | Wednesday, May 10, 2023 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Review #29 "Starless and bible black" is considered King Crimson's sixth studio album even when only two of the eight songs that it contains, "Great deceiver" and "Lament", were actually recorded in a studio while the rest of the album was recorded alive. The album is mainly instrumental and with ... (read more)

Report this review (#2477837) | Posted by Uruk_hai | Friday, November 20, 2020 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Probably my favourite King Crimson album after In The Wake Of Poseidon. This is experimental, but it has more a well realized and much more polished look than this predecessor 'Larks' Tongues in Aspic'. I actually much enjoy this, and I know this will upset King Crimson fans a bunch but this ... (read more)

Report this review (#2377181) | Posted by Zoltanxvamos | Tuesday, May 5, 2020 | Review Permanlink

4 stars There's no way for any of the classic 70's KC albums with Bill Bruford to get less than 4 stars. This one is more experimental and has the ominous darkness in it. The first track, Great Deceiver, is the most accessible number of the album. The live tracks are sometimes leading nowhere until we ... (read more)

Report this review (#1949434) | Posted by sgtpepper | Wednesday, July 18, 2018 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Scrolling through these reviews I'm not surprised at all Red is considered the masterpiece and Starless is the headed stepchild. I've found most of the masses go for the glossy streamlined product. Me, I'll take the rougher road less traveled any day of the week. My history with this album ... (read more)

Report this review (#1938887) | Posted by WFV | Wednesday, June 13, 2018 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Due to being sandwiched between highly-acclaimed 1973's Larks' Tongues In Aspic and 1974's Red, - one may find it easy to understand why Starless and Bible Black gets overlooked. Before the recording of this album, experimental percussionist Jamie Muir left the group leaving Bill Bruford as the ... (read more)

Report this review (#1730346) | Posted by Orpheus-keys | Monday, June 5, 2017 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Fracture - Awesome. This album continues in the same vein as the previous album (Lark's Tongues), and once again is notable for both Fripp's new (at the time) guitar sound and Bruford's quirky but awesome and original drumming. The highlight of this album is the closer "Fracture", one of rock's - ... (read more)

Report this review (#1696031) | Posted by Walkscore | Wednesday, February 22, 2017 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The beauty of a young, inquisitive spirit. Starless and Bible Black was my first introduction to the world of progressive rock outside of the Yes on rock radio and Rush Chronicles. I remembered a quote where Geddy Lee stated he and Lifeson used to pretend they were King Crimson when they first ... (read more)

Report this review (#1648779) | Posted by DePloy | Friday, November 25, 2016 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Review n' 219 King Crimson - Starless And Bible Black Underrated gem between gems. My favorite from the classic Crimson era. The album isn't solid, almost falling totally in the avant-garde genre but consistent tracks, which explores deeper and expandables atmospheres. And why not? Wheren' ... (read more)

Report this review (#1419548) | Posted by VOTOMS | Monday, May 25, 2015 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Cigarettes, ice cream, Frippertronics. The title implies a void of nothingness, but to the contrary, a little of everything pops up on Starless and Bible Black; the second album by this King Crimson lineup. Excellent in its own right, but a bit uneven compared to its predecessor. The darker ton ... (read more)

Report this review (#1336432) | Posted by Tombo2 | Friday, January 2, 2015 | Review Permanlink

5 stars "Starless and Bible Black" is perhaps the misunderstood second act of a glorious trilogy. While "Larks Tongues" and "Red" are focused and methodical, this album is a little bit more meandering, heavy on improv and has dramatic shifts in style and temperament over the course of the disc. This al ... (read more)

Report this review (#1286243) | Posted by thesameoldfears | Tuesday, September 30, 2014 | Review Permanlink

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

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 1, 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 5, 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 4, 2013 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Hey all, time for another review of the prog rock variety. What's on tap? Well, the 6th album by King Crimson entitled Starless and Bible Black. Honestly speaking, I 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 from the UK but I fee ... (read more)

Report this review (#885594) | Posted by ProgMetaller2112 | Tuesday, January 1, 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 5, 2012 | Review Permanlink

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