This is an absolute gem of an album. The four members of Krim really shine throughout the album. The improvisation had taken on almost telepathic qualities, so much so that Bruford gets a song writing credit for knowing that his absence from the live improv Trio would make it a better piece of music.
If you are reading this you are probably not new to King Crimson and are wondering if it is worth the punt to upgrade the last version of the cd. Well I had my doubts....until I heard it. This is a masterpiece of remixing and remastering. Going back to the multi track recordings and cleaning them up individually has allowed the album to be cleaned up without resorting to a quick dose of eq and compression. The details in the percussion are a relevation. Bill Bruford has never sounded so good. His contributions to Lament and We'll Let You Know are served well here. Everything sounds so fresh and uncluttered despite being frenetically busy.
Trio and The Mincer are the same as the 30th Anniv cd issue, so no change there. The bonus tracks are robust and inventive live tracks captured on different recording setups, three being audience recordings, used here as they are insights into the live beast that was Krim.
Overall a first class reissue. Kudos to Robert Fripp, Steven Wilson, the DGM Audio Team and, of course, the band for making the music in the first place.
on 12 April 2011
I know every note of this record. I almost don't need to listen to it. Listening to the CD, memory still supplies some of the scratches. Nonetheless I'm baffled by much of what's in the other reviews so here's my take.
As an LP there was an obvious division between side 1 (songs and short improvisations) and side 2 (two, longer instrumental pieces). It wasn't a problem because turning the LP over served as an intermission between these two, distinct sides of King Crimson. You can't separate the recorded music experience from the physical nature of the medium so maybe it does become a little bit more disjointed as a CD, certainly compared to Red or Power to Believe.
I think I bought this LP because Alan Freeman used bits of The Great Deceiver as a sort of jingle on the radio. I always loved this opening track, with its jazzy riff, tricksy rhythmic changes, the mocking lead guitar behind the verses (what other rock guitarist can do 'mocking'?), the rather childishly nihilistic lyrics. I was a teenager. At its greatest, Crimson's music goes to places words can't follow.
Lament is a tiny little rock opera, the progression of the story and the changing mood echoed in the changes of tone, pace, rhythm. Great. Funky, tricksy playing.
A lot of people like the gentle, contemplative tone of Trio but I always preferred the energetic We'll Let You Know (disposable title, like you find in a lot of jazz). Together with The Mincer, this was one of the places where I listened to the lead lines, learning my own major and minor scales, and thought, "where the f*** do those notes come from?" Masterful playing, boisterous and with what I can only describe as a sort of sarcastic humour in We'll Let You Know; in a dark, edgy place in The Mincer. Listen to Bruford's forceful punctuation on The Mincer. This was one of the great rhythm sections, technical like jazz players, muscular like rock.
Lots has been written about the Night Watch. It's sort of beautiful, has one of the finest Fripp set piece solos. The lyrics are clunky. Lyrics have always been a Crimson weak point. Imagine "King Crimson with P J Harvey"?
Side 2 is in different territory, however, and it's for side 2 that I can't give this less than five stars. The title track I find completely remarkable. Three men thinking and acting as one (and let's face it, poor old David Cross, an excellent musician, reduced much of the time to adding colour and underlining mood). The music builds tension and mood gradually, ebbs and flows, gains dark, burning intensity in such a sustained, deliberate way you could think it was written. There are no false steps, nobody ever pulls in the wrong direction. It's like three people walking a tightrope together. There is not technically spectacular lead, just the right notes, often sustained while the rhythm section builds and pushes underneath, the chromatic intervals, the sevenths, the flattened fifths - the forked tongue of the Crimson King. This goes far beyond "jamming", it's really "improvised music". Jamie Muir had left by this time but this collective music making maybe owes something to his influence. The moment at the end, when they've been marking time, then suddenly explode together into a slowing, decaying release - how did they all know to act at once? Was there some nodding of heads, looking at each other around the stage? Or had they attained by this point a sort of telepathy? Anyway it's just remarkable.
Fracture is a totally different sort of masterpiece, tightly written (I believe), a set of variations on a simple, if rather chromatic theme, technically demanding, repeatedly dropping then building intensity, the endless variations in the rhythm section ratcheting up the tension to a pretty Wagnerian climax. Wetton and Bruford are particularly great here. It's spectacular, pretty overwhelming on the record; it must have been close to brain-melting to have been there.
I never read other peoples' long reviews on Amazon so I'll be surprised if you're still reading. I've listened so closely, so often to this record over the years that I may by now have poured all my own musical fantasies into it. Anyway what I've written is different from the other reviews so maybe somebody will find it interesting.
on 25 November 2005
A fine album, one that falls between Larks Tongues in Aspic and Red in Crimsons history, and is perhaps a little over-shadowed by them both. It's the only studio album to feature the foursome of Fripp, David Cross (violin), Bill Bruford (drums) and John Wetton (bass, vocals); Jamie Muir had left, and Cross would depart before Red was recorded, although he did appear on one track.
My fellow reviewer (below) has given a fair summary of the music, which I won't repeat. For me, the album doesn't gel quite as well either "Larks Tongues" or "Red", and I think the reason for this is the use of live material plus overdubs. One tip - if you buy the double live CD "The Night Watch" you will discover much of the concert in Amsterdam from which several tracks on this album, including "Fracture" and the excellent improvisation "Trio" were performed. I think they work much better on the real "live" album , plus the Night Watch CD is a lot easier to track down - and cheaper! than The Great Deceiver...though if you are a Crimson fan you will want them all!!!
on 16 October 2011
This has never been my favourite King Crimson album, in fact prior to this release it was one of only a few that didn't appear on my Ipod. It is now. I have collected all of the 40th Anniversary releases so far and this one in particular has brought the original album to life for me. Highlights on the CD include the violin/bass interplay on Trio, a track that could bring a grown man to tears!, the thumping bass on Fracture, the amazing guitar on The Great Deceiver and the vocals of John Wetton on Lament. There are plenty of extras on the DVD as well including a great Video from June 1973. I still find the title track hard going but otherwise it's all good.
on 3 February 2012
I purchased Starless and Bible Black on a whim in 1974/5. My friends, who largely shared the same Jimi Hendrix/Groundhogs/Animals obsession expressed sympathy for my having bought something so "duff". But there was something in it that hooked me - even though I owned the world's worst record player, and heard only a fraction of what was there...
Today, I have never tired of all three recordings from this King Crimson line up. Red is wonderful, Lark's Tongues in Aspic has the best song (Easy Money) but Starless and Bible Black is the best album because it combines harsh agression (The Great Deceiver) with beautiful images (The Night Watch) and hypnotic circular intensity (Fracture) that leaves me breathless. King Crimson isn't elevator music, nor schlock, and shouldn't be judged against the same. If you want 2 minutes of pop, no problem, but to appreciate Starless and Bible Black you must let it be heard, all the way through. Like all the best music, it requires an investment from the listener to reap its rewards.
This re-master is a wonder. I cannot describe how music "sounds", words are so inadequate; but this edition has had the limitations of the recording, mastering and release chain lifted - leaving a work of art that reveals the actual performances of the artists and is therefore more glorious than I ever knew from LP, or CD.
There are many 1960s and 70s bands that have been more successful than King Crimson frequently attempting the same sort of sound/concept/thing, but I have never connected with them with any of the intensity and beauty I hear here. Robert Fripp seems to bring out their best, but not supplied them with mega star status, so they have split up. Even he has had the occasion to hide behind a curtain on stage so as not to steal the limelight from another pop star, yet rolling their offering in his glitter.
I hope this review prompts you to buy, not steal, their time and talent.
Recorded mainly live with some studio touch ups this is the King Crimson album which bridges between the prog of `Larks tongues in Aspic' and metal prog of `Red'. As with most king Crimson albums it's another album another line-up, this one featuring just David Cross, John Wetton, Bill Bruford and Robert Fripp. Highlights of the album are `The Great deceiver ` `Lament' with its Huge Cymbal sounds, and the closer `Fracture'. The album comes with a new stereo mix on the CD while the DVD comes packed with extras.
The original Multi tracks for 'Trio' and 'the Mincer' have gone missing, so for these two tracks an up-mix has been completed for the 5.1 and I have to say this is one of the best up-mixes I have ever heard and kudos to Robert Fripp for being so honest about this.
2 Stereo mixes original and 2011 in MLP (96/24 DVD audio players only) and PCM (48/24 DVD/Blu Ray Compatible)
New 5.1 Mix in DTS (DVD/Blu Ray Compatible) and MLP (DVD audio players only)
A host of bonus tracks mostly live in 48/24 PCM stereo (DVD/Blu Ray Compatible)
Two video tracks `Easy Money' and `Fragged Dusty Wall Carpet'
All in all another spectacular release from king Crimson roll on the rest of the catalogue.
on 11 September 2002
The astonishing thing about "Starless and Bible Black" (in common with much of Crimso's early output), is that it still sounds fresh and challenging over a quarter-century on. Most of all, however, "Starless" is impressive. The one constant factor in this band's long life (over 30 years and still counting) has been the obsessive perfectionism of virtuoso guitarist Robert Fripp. Other band members have come and gone, sometimes after a ludicrously brief tenure, but Fripp has rarely had any trouble surrounding himself with other musicians of appropriate calibre.
Crimso's early days were marked by a relentless urge to experiment: instrument textures, playing techniques, chord progressions, loud/soft contrasts, majestic tunes duelling with ragged dissonance... these were all subjected to rigorous interrogation and sometimes torture. Not all the experiments were a success, but that's the price of progress.
That's not to say that Fripp invented his music out of whole cloth - that would be an insult to his breadth of reference. It may seem that way, but that's only because his roots extend so far beyond rock, blues or even fusion that most listeners never recognise them. The usual avant/prog-rock influences are certainly in there, but Fripp reached higher and further back: Initially to the chamber-music of the likes of Telemann (listen to 'Cadence and Cascade' or 'Song of the Gulls' from earlier KC albums), but latterly to the angular diatonics of Stravinsky (the 'Rites of Spring' man), and above all the lush but disturbing neo-classicism of Bartok (listen to Bartok's late string quartets to get the clearest comparison).
Track-by-track descriptions are invariably subjective and boring, but listen to Fripp's fluid, serpentine guitar solo on "The Night Watch", an astonishingly beautiful ballad, inspired by an old Dutch painting. Listen with bated breath as Trio (one of the most Stravinsky-esque tracks ever attempted outside a full orchestra) builds to its shattering climax. Marvel at Fripp's restraint as he uses the guitar to provide a simple rhythmic accompaniment for Wetton's melodic but violent bass outbursts (incredibly, he used to break bass-strings on stage). Nod with appreciation at Bruford's subtle and sympathetic support as he investigates the barriers of popular percussion in his understated and uniquely British way. And gasp at their collective vision as they lay the sonic foundations of industrial rock right there before your eyes in 1974.
"Starless" is not even Crimso's greatest album, yet it convincingly blitzes everything else thrown up by the prog-rock wave of the early seventies and is still an invigorating listen today.
on 6 March 2015
Another lovely reminder of King Crimson's talents in the field of progressive rock music, 'Starless And Bible Black' is a fascinating and challenging album; as ever, Robert Fripp produces a wide range of gorgeous sounds from electric guitar and mellotron alike and again he is joined by the highly impressive bassist/vocalist John Wetton, the innovative drummer Bill Bruford and the versatile David Cross, who adds violin, viola and keyboards to the mix. This collection gets off to a punchy start with 2 rocky numbers, 'The Great Deceiver' and 'Lament' before the first of several instrumental pieces, the excellent jazz-funk of 'We'll Let You Know' kicks in. The masterful 'The Night Watch' along with 'The Mincer' allow Wetton to explore the more delicate end of his vocal range; sandwiched between these 2 songs is 'The Trio' which is beautifully subtle. The final pair of tracks here are both instrumentals (and very long) with the title track building very slowly, but in a highly impressive way ~ the rhythm department of Bruford and Wetton are on tremendous form here. 'Fracture', written solely by Fripp, is 11 minutes long and, although it seems it takes an age to get there, delivers a blisteringly good finale. This is full-blooded prog-rock and should not be taken lightly in any circumstances!!
Sandwiched in-between, "Lark's Tongue In Aspic" (LTIA) and "Red", "Starless and Bible Black" (SABB) is a composite of live, studio and concert performances; something I never knew in 1974. Following on the heels of the successful LTIA, King Crimson was in full drive concert mode all over the world. With little time to sit and write or record, the band took advantage of what they had and pieced together parts of concert performances, edited out the audience, added studio vocals and instrumental overdubs and created near perfect sounding songs.
All of the songs were recorded in multi-tracks, enabling the amazing Steven Wilson under the guidance of Robert Fripp to produce this edition. However, "Trio" and "The Mincer" were only available in stereo form, giving Wilson the opportunity to `Upmix' or sensibly create a surround effect with no gimmicks. The first few minutes of "The Night Watch" are from a live performance (Amsterdam) and the rest of the track was completed in the studio. Something you would never know. Even "Fracture" was taken from that show and Fripp double-tracked the lead line; something amazingly difficult to do.
Wilson's 5.1 surround mixing makes the album sound like brand new, eliminating any harshness and deepening and enriching every instrument and vocal. Much of this was necessary, given the inclusion of so much live material. The result is fantastic without being gimmicky (wait for LTIA to see what Wilson does with the sound effects). You get the full surround effect with minimal separation of instruments, but the clarity and immersion into the album is as good as anything King Crimson has released yet in this 40th anniversary collection.
Again the CD becomes the companion piece here, something for the stereo aficionado, but the DVD gives an enormous amount of music and extras. The main eight songs of the original album are worth the price of this set. But not all is perfect. The historic Zurich Volkshaus concert from 1973 (six songs) showcases the band's talent, but the sound is flat and sketchy. The 1973 Central Park video concert is included here with two offerings; "Easy Money" and "Fragged Dusty Wall Carpet". For the period, the sound is very good and the video is not high definition, but the editing is pleasing, showing each performer up close. Watching Fripp play guitar is magical and Bruford is like a wild man surrounded by his immense percussion collection. Watching the band in action is a real treat and it's a shame only two songs are included.
The extra tracks are hit and miss, but are worth the listen. "Easy Money" in its original format is exciting and raw, completely unlike the polished LTIA version. "We'll Let You Know","Dr. Diamond" and "Guts On My Side" are unedited live versions which in stereo, are valuable historically. "The Night Watch" 7" single edit is excellent in stereo and the US single edit mono version is taken directly from the vinyl, including tiny pops and clicks. The 30 second and 60 second radio adverts are fun to hear and provide more historical input. One advert is a straight forward DJ vocal and the second has an intellectually sounding woman promoting the album. Both include segment highlights of the better songs.
This is a unique album for King Crimson with the original mix already being taken from several sources. The eight songs are simply perfectly treated in this edition, but I was particularly amazed by the impact of "The Great Deceiver" in this format. "Starless and Bible Black" and "Fracture" are some of King Crimson's best instrumentals with a quickly progressive mix of styles, rhythm changes and surprising mood twists.
Sid Smith explains it all perfectly from his notes: "Utilising impressionistic moods, atonal elements, out-of-the-box rhythms, high-degree risk taking and a monstrous rock sound, there was always a magical mercurial dimension present in a King Crimson concert. One never quite knew what was going to happen next, and it's this aspect of the band which is brilliantly captured on Starless and Bible Black".
on 26 November 2005
I just bought this exellent CD with "Red", and I enjoyed them both immensly. I have to say that "Starless..." was the one that really hit the "Crimson Spot" for me. I had not heard any of the albums for about 20 years, and the reunion created great smiles in my ears and on my face.
"Starless..." is very fresh and airy, very inventive, and so playful and melodic that I came to think of the band as a gang of children that suddenly discoveres some magic joy of... well, something.
King Crimson makes music that can make you make soft tears, but most of all they make your muscles pump in rage, rythms, crazyness and pure joy. And they make you beautifully confused at the same time!
If you are not sure about King Crimson, listen to "Starless.." and wonder about how it is possible... You might think: "Too crazy for me", but then again: We're talking about a band that has it's own genre: Heavy Mental... Be good, beautiful beasts .)