Starless and Bible Black
|Starless and Bible Black|
|Studio album by King Crimson|
|Released||29 March 1974|
|Recorded||January 1974 at AIR Studios in London (studio tracks); October 1973 at Concertgebouw, Amsterdam (most live tracks)|
|Genre||Progressive rock, experimental rock|
|King Crimson chronology|
Starless and Bible Black is an album released by the British progressive rock band King Crimson in 1974. Most of the vocal pieces on the album are satires and commentaries on the sleaziness and materialism of society. An exception to this lyrical theme is "The Night Watch".
Even though there are no drums on "Trio", drummer Bill Bruford received co-writing credit because the piece was improvised in concert, and Bruford's decision not to add any percussion was seen by the rest of the band as a crucial choice.
Several songs from the album were recorded live in concert, with applause edited out. The only songs recorded entirely in the studio were the first two tracks, "The Great Deceiver" and "Lament". "We'll Let You Know" was an improvisational piece recorded in Glasgow. "The Mincer" was another improvised piece, recorded in Zürich and overdubbed with Wetton's vocals in the studio. "Trio", "Fracture", and "Starless and Bible Black" were recorded at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, as was the introduction to "The Night Watch" (the remainder was recorded in the studio). The complete Amsterdam Concertgebouw concert was released by the band in 1997 as The Night Watch.
The lyrics were composed by former Supertramp guitarist Richard Palmer-James (who left that band after its first, self-titled album). Only four tracks on this album have lyrics. "The Great Deceiver" refers to The Devil and is an ironic commentary on commercialism. The lyric was co-written by Fripp. "Lament" is about fame. "The Night Watch" is a short essay on Rembrandt's painting of the same name, describing the painting as an observer sees it and attempting to understand the subjects.
The phrase "Starless and Bible Black" is a quotation from the first two lines of poet Dylan Thomas's play, Under Milk Wood. The band's next album, Red, contains a song called simply "Starless", which actually contains the phrase "Starless and bible black", whereas "Starless and Bible Black" is an improvised instrumental. The title track is actually an edit of the original Amsterdam improvisation. The liner notes for The Night Watch Live in Amsterdam Compact Disc indicate that it was edited "due to the constraints of vinyl".
The album's final track, "Fracture", is similar in both style and melodic phrasing to "Larks' Tongues in Aspic Pt. 2". Robert Fripp has stated that "Fracture" is the most difficult guitar piece he has ever played.
|Robert Christgau||B |
|Rolling Stone||(favourable) |
|The Daily Vault||C− |
Rolling Stone called the album "as stunningly powerful as In the Court of the Crimson King," praising Bruford's mastery of his percussive style and the successful integration of David Cross's violin and viola as a counter-soloist to Fripp. They found the album's variety of tones and lengthy instrumental improvisations particularly impressive, and concluded, "Fripp has finally assembled the band of his dreams — hopefully it'll stay together long enough to continue producing albums as excellent as this one."
Allmusic also praised the album's variety of tones in their retrospective review, and remarked that the album's second side "threw the group's hardest sounds right in the face of the listener, and gained some converts in the process." Robert Christgau's review was more ambiguous, deeming it "as close as this chronically interesting group has ever come to a good album", even though he gave higher ratings to both Red and USA.
Track listing 
|1.||"The Great Deceiver"||John Wetton, Robert Fripp, Richard Palmer-James||4:02|
|2.||"Lament"||Fripp, Wetton, Palmer-James||4:00|
|3.||"We'll Let You Know" (instrumental)||David Cross, Fripp, Wetton, William Bruford||3:46|
|4.||"The Night Watch"||Fripp, Wetton, Palmer-James||4:37|
|5.||"Trio" (instrumental)||Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford||5:41|
|6.||"The Mincer"||Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford, Palmer-James||4:10|
|7.||"Starless and Bible Black" (instrumental)||Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford||9:11|
|2011 bonus tracks|
|9.||"The Law of Maximum Distress, Part 1"||6:42|
|10.||"Improv: The Mincer"||4:22|
|11.||"The Law of Maximum Distress, Part 2"||2:28|
|12.||"Dr. Diamond" (Live)||4:00|
|13.||"Guts on My Side" (Live)||4:31|
- King Crimson
- Robert Fripp – guitar, mellotron, devices, electric piano
- John Wetton – bass, vocals
- Bill Bruford – drums, percussion
- David Cross – violin, viola, mellotron, electric piano
- Additional personnel
- George Chkiantz – engineer
- Peter Henderson – assistant engineer
- Richard Palmer-James – lyrics
- Tom Phillips – cover design
- "Equipment by Chris and Tex"
In popular culture 
- Interview with Richard Palmer-James in Tylko Rock, Elephant Talk.
- Thomas, Dylan. "Under Milk Wood". gutenberg project. Retrieved 23 March 2013.
- Eder, Bruce (2011 [last update]). "Starless and Bible Black - King Crimson | AllMusic". allmusic.com. Retrieved 28 June 2011.
- Christgau, Robert (2011 [last update]). "Robert Christgau: CG: King Crimson". robertchristgau.com. Retrieved 28 June 2011.
- Fletcher, Gordon (6 June 1974). "King Crimson: Starless and Bible Black : Music Reviews : Rolling Stone". web.archive.org. Retrieved 28 June 2011.
- Ray, Benjamin (04/12/2007). "Starless And Bible Black King Crimson EG, 1974". Retrieved August 23, 2012.
- Entry on Elephant Talk, contains lyrics and other info