Coming as it does between the startling re-invention of Larks’ Tongues In Aspic and the far-reaching repercussions of Red, when it comes to assessments of the King Crimson canon, Starless In Bible Black has often been overlooked. Yet even a cursory listen reveals this to be a powerful record, brimming with confidence borne out of the band’s increasing mastery of the concert platform.
Though the public weren’t aware of it when it was originally released in March 1974, Starless And Bible Black was in essence largely a live album, an experimental hybrid of in-concert material (much of it improvised) and studio recordings. Often the two are so finely dovetailed together it’s difficult to tell them apart.
Only two tracks on the record (The Great Deceiver and Lament) were fully recorded in the studio. The Night Watch contained a live introduction, while the instrumental backing to The Mincer was excised from an in-concert improvisation with vocals overdubbed later. The rest of the tracks were taken from concert recordings from the UK and Europe with the audience carefully edited out.
Starless And Bible Black demanded the attention and concentration of the listener. Crimson’s audience responded to the challenge, making it a much loved album by the band. As with the other recordings by the mid 1970s line-up, the intervening years have seen the album’s reputation increase among fans & musicians alike, while the then unusual approach to using live performances as core elements of subsequent studio recordings has also become increasingly commonplace.
Robert Fripp once talked about an album being a love-letter and a concert a hot date. Arguably, Starless combined the best of both worlds, making it the most accurate representation of the band’s uniquely powerful mid-70s identity.
As with other albums in the King Crimson CD/DVD-A series, the stereo CD features a new stereo mix by Robert Fripp & Steven Wilson, while the DVD-A features 5.1 mixes of the album by Steven Wilson, high resolution stereo mixes of the original & new stereo mixes, the full Law of Maximum Distress parts 1 & 2 improvs with The Mincer in their original unedited form/running order, Lament, The Night Watch & Fracture from the same Zurich concert, (completing the show presented in part on The Great Deceiver boxed set), a 1973 live recording of the concert favourite Dr. Diamond & an audio restored bootleg recording of the played once only Guts on my Side.
The DVD-A also features live footage from New York’s Central Park in 1973 of Easy Money & the improv Fragged Dusty Wall Carpet the track that formed the basis of Guts on my Side.
* As a result of lost multi track tapes Trio & The Mincer have been up-mixed to 5.1 by Simon Heyworth & Robert Fripp.
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