This review is for the Starless and Bible Black album in general. This is album has had several "re-issues", including the new 40th, the box set live recordings of this tour called The Great Deceiver - (a must if you love this period), and The Night Watch (which is a...
This review is for the Starless and Bible Black album in general. This is album has had several "re-issues", including the new 40th, the box set live recordings of this tour called The Great Deceiver - (a must if you love this period), and The Night Watch (which is a concert recording that was used for the basis of much of this album, and part of the reason for my very favorable review.)
Lark Tongues In Aspic, Starless and Bible Black, and Red (and the live album USA to be complete). Other periods of Crimson are great and wonderful as well (In the Court.., Islands, Discipline, Thrack - the great double trio! -The ConstruKction of Light), but I want to limit my review to this era of KC.
This trio of albums is really, in my opinion, one long work - a three part epic, a trilogy. If you want to taste this era of KC you must get all three.
Lark''s Tongues is a masterpiece. Great songs, great concepts, great improves, and overall a masterful album of conceptions and executions. Bringing in Richard Palmer-James as lyricist was a stroke of genius, as Pete Sinfeld''s concepts and wordplay would not have worked with this line-up. Richard Palmer-James''s excellent english symbolism is perfect for this interplay of "impressionistic" progressive rock. Wetton, Bruford, Muir and Cross were the most perfect additions any band could ever hope to have. How Fripp managed to revive KC after the near-death experience of Earthbound is utterly amazing. Not that Islands was bad, in fact in my review I list it as a great album (in many ways it pointed to these next three albums), but the band and Fripp were not on the same page at all. Still, stealing Bruford from Yes, Wetton from Family and asking Muir to join, and that it actually happened - well how many bands make an all time classic record like "In The Court.." breakup a couple of times, and then come roaring back so hard that a third lineup is actually it''s classic line-up. Amazing!
But chances are you already know about that part of the story. So, now about why Starless and Bible Black is the best of the three..
First of all, I don''t really like saying one is better than another when I love them all equally. However, there are some differences that make Starless and Bible Black stand out. Lark''s Tongues has perhaps the best songs of the three, but it suffers from two things - one, the band was new and they were (especially Wetton and Bruford - the two most important new members), holding back, dipping their feet in and finding their place, and you can hear it. Wetton''s tone was great but reserved, as was Bruford''s. Bruford sounded like he was still in Yes, and Muir had not quite yet rubbed off on him (as would be evident on the following album - Starless and Bible Black). Also, I believe Lark''s Tongues was recorded at Air Studios (a fine studio indeed), but the production suffered a bit with a thin sound at times. Wetton''s bass not quite booming and distorted enough. Fripp''s guitar tone a little harsh. Bruford a little thin too. But despite these two faults, Lark''s Tongues is a perfect album. (Edit: Perhaps the 30th or 40th Anniversary Editions have rectified this somewhat, but still they''re playing wasn''t as big as it would be on the next album).
Let me skip to Red for a moment. Another great record that was HEAVY, scary, beautiful, and sexy. Yes, it was certainly RED (Edit: See the 40th Anniversary Edition for jaw dropping heaviness, not to mention 5.1 mixes). However, I find a couple of faults here too. My main problem with Red is that it is too short. There are basically four really great songs and one misplaced improve, Providence, that would have been better placed on Starless and Bible Black (but actually not good enough for that album either). Red is sequenced as good as it could be, but imagine a couple of more songs on side B and Red would be the winner. But Red was recorded so loud that either they couldn''t fit any more songs on the vinyl, and/or because they had broken up, they didn''t have any more new material. I''m afraid both are the case. Red had moved on from Starless and Bible Black and they couldn''t put older material on that album. Anything they were to put on that album had to be new. Side A represents that new sound well. The last track (oddly named Starless) was from the Starless and Bible Black touring period, but it made a great ending to this band''s existence. Starless contained musical elements of both the current KC, and the original KC, complete with an appearance by Ian McDonald. How perfect is that? Fripp, McDonald, Wetton and Bruford (with Mel Collins and David Cross to boot!). A KC supergroup!
Now to my point. Why Starless and Bible Black is the best. While maybe not quite conceptualized as well as Lark''s Tongues (although it''s equal really, it''s just that Lark''s Tongues'' was planned out and arranged very strategically), and maybe not as heavy and accessible as Red, Starless and Bible Black had a couple of things going for it that the others did not. The production AND conceptualization are 100% perfect. The recording (at Command studios I believe, but I may have Lark''s Tongues and Starless reversed), is massively huge. The ebbs and flows of energy and ambience are as perfect as could be. Great songs to start off the album in The Great Deceiver and Lament. Powerful and beautiful improves in We''ll Let You Know, Trio, The Mincer, a beautiful ballad in The Night Watch, and then there is side two. Shear power. The title track Starless and Bible Black starts ominously quite but begins to build, ever stronger and stronger until it''s a full out power jam with Wetton and Bruford in a total hypnotic fury, and then it settles down - like a storm brewing and the slamming you only to leave you and the destruction it caused. Stunning! As if that''s not enough, then comes another storm, another masterpiece in Fracture. Again, quietly coming, building, changing, and then again slamming you hard, this time with Fripp in overdrive (with his Whole-tone Scale goodness), and Wetton and Bruford again in a total hypnotic fury! Brilliant.
Starless and Bible Black may or may not have a running time longer than Lark''s Tongues, certainly more so than Red, but it feels longer because there is so much there. Part of all this magic is due to that band recording the tracks live and singing and doing overdubs in the studio (not the whole album, but parts of it), and it really brings out the power and sound of this band. Red captured it too, but too briefly.
Starless and Bible Black is a prog masterpiece. Any aspiring band that wants to be a good live band must listen to this record. Buy all three. But let this middle album sink in. Put some studio quality headphones on and turn off the lights late at night. You WILL be taken to places that you may or may not wish to go.
Enjoy - SS