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Old 04-06-2009, 02:08 AM   #51 (permalink)
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Great review of Larks'. Again we'll dissagree a bit about the score, tiiny bit too generous here :p John Wetton was brilliant though.

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Old 06-02-2009, 06:23 PM   #52 (permalink)
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Just wondering, what the hell happened to this thread.
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Old 06-05-2009, 04:18 AM   #53 (permalink)
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Just wondering, what the hell happened to this thread.
I've got exams now for 3 weeks but I'll be reviving it after then - can't wait to review SABB and Red.
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Old 06-06-2009, 05:38 AM   #54 (permalink)
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I've been slacking with my King Crimson thread too, I only have 4 albums left to review.
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Old 06-06-2009, 03:52 PM   #55 (permalink)
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I would just like to say thank you for opening my eyes up to King Crimson. I found that they are more of an aquired taste than an instantaneous understanding. It took a quite few good listens for it to really soak in for me. It might have been too much in one sitting. Now that it is a little more familiar to me, I can truly appreciate its larger than life qualities. And I think Seltzers reviews were outstanding.
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Old 09-05-2009, 11:39 AM   #56 (permalink)
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MOONCHILD

"Moonchild" is both the best track on the album "In The Court of the Crimson King", and one of the most remarkable pieces in rock music - a fact that most people overlook, painfully missing the point by describing it as "boring", "noodle" and using other similar terms that would indicate a lack of patience, narrow tastes in music and, well, simply not liking it, so writing it off as therefore a bad thing.

Not so.

And so it is that I'm going to take this track offline and work on an analysis to help you understand just why it is so spectacular.

Moon Child - one of the most remarkable pieces in rock music

Cue up the start of the piece. Ready?

Here we have drifts of mellotron, and a repeating picked guitar figure, which is soon joined by a short, repeating guitar figure that is important. Listen carefully to it's soaring tones - those opening notes are remarkably similar to "Au Clair de Lune" by Claude Debussy.

Greg picks up on this quickly with the vocal line - a two-part affair that picks up on this figure, appending an answering phrase, and acquiring a light accompaniment comprising bell-like cymbals, and a regular falling soft tom-tom pattern. This is repeated, then the second part of the verse picks for an additional answer. The solo guitar takes the 1st "theme" and plays with it, before the second verse is presented with the ongoing light percussion.

Little tension is built - but the song does not demand it. This is not a dramatic song, and that is part of its progressive nature - it is painting, with striking lights and shades, a kind of watercolour-hued portrait of the Moon Child that is non-linear, which kind of pushes against the intrinsically linear nature of music, yet covers many angles;

"Dancing in the shallows of a river", "Dreaming in the shadow of the willow", "Talking to the trees of the cobweb strange". None of this necessarily describes a person, real or ficticious - to me, it describes the effects of moonlight on earth - the reflection in the river or fountain, the moonbeams "dancing" and "Waving silver wands", and the interplay of the moon's light on flowers, cobwebs and the sun dial. "Sailing on the wind in a milk white gown" and "Waiting for a smile from a sun child" are self- explanatory, and "Playing hide and seek with the ghosts of dawn" clearly refers to clouds.

So the music expresses the soul of these ideas - the subtle keyboard changes highlight this best.

You'll note that this is not standard song structure - there is a 3-part idea that is repeated 3 times for this first section, which could be seen as verse/chorus/instrumental x3, except that the "chorus" is in no way a chorus, but an extension of the verse.

Then we have the famous, widely hated instrumental section, which continues this expression - it seems a bit pointless to map it all out, but the first section appears to represent the rippling waters of the river - the willow, of course, will be on the river bank, and the slightly sinister edge that the music acquires could be expressing this.

We continue in the branches of the trees, "talking of the cobweb strange" - 5:28 might be expressing this, with tiny strands of melodic runs that pick up from each other. Just re-read the lyrics as this section plays out - it's not too hard to make your own mind up about what's being expressed.

The music of this section has an atonal feel to it - and some of the stylisations are strikingly similar to music in "Pierrot Lunaire", by Arnold Schoenberg. Listen to "Der Kranken Mond" - particularly the flute backing. An online recording of the entire work may be found online - note also that there are 4 sections of Pierrot directly concerned with the moon.

The interplay between the instrumentalists here is remarkable - all aiming for an overall series of pictures, or, rather continual moving image, with none taking centre stage, going into personal space every now and again, then rejoining the conversation, using a predefined set of ideas. This is not aimless noodle - this is carefully constructed. The point at which it all comes back together (around 10:45) is masterly - all parts drifting slowly towards each other, and the little major chord on the guitar clearly showing the "smile from the sun child" - all music from this point has this upbeat feel of morning approaching and the darkness lifting.

This latter is the key to this "improvisation", for what is happening here is an abstract representation of the song that preceeds it - the soul of the song is re-presented in music that verges on the onomatapaeic.


All of which serves to underline "Moon Child"'s position in the album - as the penultimate piece, it provides the necessary contrast from which to kick into the grand splendour of "The Court of the Crimson King". Indeed, if you have your stereo at the necessary volume to catch each and every tiny detail in "Moon Child", the title track is like a mighty rush of wind, and somewhat overwhelming. It's in this dynamic perspective that the true power of this album may be experienced - and you probably won't get it listening to compressed mp3s on your computer speakers or headphones. It's like hearing it properly for the first time - every time.

(Taken from a review I posted at ProgArchives).
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Old 09-06-2009, 03:24 PM   #57 (permalink)
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Absolutely incredible album. Certainly one of the few prog rock bands (and albums) that successfully manages to fuse musical styles for the sake of making music that's theirs, not for some ideal to elevate rock. One of my top tens for sure.

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Old 07-17-2010, 04:47 AM   #58 (permalink)
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STARLESS AND BIBLE BLACK (1974)
  • Robert Fripp - Guitar, Mellotron, Electric Piano, Other
  • John Wetton - Bass, Vocals
  • David Cross - Violin, Viola, Mellotron, Electric Piano
  • Bill Bruford – Drums, Percussion
  • Richard Palmer-James - Lyrics





PROLOGUE


Starless and Bible Black occupies an interesting position in the discography of King Crimson. In the wake of the great Larks' Tongues In Aspic (no pun intended), it is sometimes criticised a little more harshly than it deserves, and it doesn't help that it happens to be followed up by the greatest album in existence. For the recording of SABB, KC maintained the same lineup from the preceding album, minus Jamie Muir, their percussionist. Despite his monastically inspired departure from the music industry, he left a legacy in the form of his influence imparted upon Bruford and Fripp. Starless and Bible Black is, to some extent, a natural continuation of the proto-metal sound of LTIA. But whereas LTIA was a meticulously constructed album replete with precise composition, SABB was a gutsy endeavour in the improvisational direction. Only two of the eight songs were fully recorded in studio and the other six, four of which were improvised, were recorded live with background audience sounds taken out.



TRACK-BY-TRACK


01 - The Great Deceiver:
SABB dares not dally here and immediately kicks off with an uncompromisingly pummelling guitar/violin riff, the likes of which is to be a trademark for this album. As soon as you hear Wetton acerbically uttering the opening words, "Health food faggot" (which as an aside, are completely unrelated to homosexuality), it's patently obvious just how much Richard Palmer-James' direct lyrics differ from the comparatively chimerical lyrics of Sinfield. This song is also interesting in that it features Fripp's sole lyrical contribution to KC, the chorus line "Cigarettes, ice cream, figurines of the Virgin Mary". "The Great Deceiver", like "King Crimson", is clearly a synonym for the devil, and Fripp's line was instigated by his less than favourable view of the commercialisation of the Vatican. Fantastic song with KC in full assault.

02 - Lament:
In arrant contrast, Lament starts out as a subdued ballad. There are some nice vocals from Wetton who for two verses, plays the part of a washed-up rockstar reminiscing about his glory days. What follows is a sort of bizarro white funk popping segment from Wetton and it soon develops into an embittered tirade against the music industry, following on from the anti-commercialism theme of the previous track (and of Easy Money from LTIA). Wetton rolls out some nice basswork towards the end.

03 - We'll Let You Know:
We'll Let You Know is one of the improv pieces of the album. Like many of KC's jams, it starts out with a load of ambience and everything amalgamates before your very ears, but unlike most of them, this only clocks in at three minutes. I feel I should include a funk warning here: this song gets pretty damn infectious when Wetton and Bruford groove in lockstep underneath Fripp's dissonant soloing and lovely dinosaur noises (at least that's what I call them).

04 - The Night Watch:
The Night Watch offers a pleasant respite from cacophonous Crimson and is somewhat similar to Exiles from LTIA, but (and I'm swallowing my words here), even better. The artists amongst you might recognise that it shares its title with the name of Rembrandt's most famous painting. And indeed, this song was written about said painting, and the Dutch Golden Age in general. It's perhaps an unusual topic but don't let that put you off because this song, in an utterly captivating manner, manages to transport you back in time to 17th century post-war Holland. Wetton's vocals are quite nice and vastly improved from the previous album, but it's Fripp who really shines here with his gorgeous guitar motif. If you really want to know why Robert Fripp is so highly respected, you needn't look further than the ingenuous (and ingenious) solo contained within. Whereas 95% of guitarists go for the blistering in your face pentatonic approach, Fripp is the oddball who sits in the corner and comes up with these supernatural but strangely fluid arrangements of sustained notes. I can't really explain why this solo sounds so good; it almost seems to shift time.

05 - Trio:
Trio is a full improvisation between violin, mellotron and bass. It takes a while to get started (and is annoyingly, practically inaudible for the first minute) but as it gradually adopts a structure, it evolves into something quite splendid. The lush mellotrons are absolutely haunting and it evokes a meditative state of calm. It still dumbfounds me to think that this is an improvised piece.

06 - The Mincer:
The Mincer is actually the result of superimposing a few Wetton vocal lines over a live improv. It sets a creepy and menacing yet enticing mood, not so different to the Devil's Triangle from ITWOP. But unfortunately, it's rather directionless and meandering, and even Fripp's leads (in the style of the Lizard epic) can't save it. Amusingly enough, the recording ends quite abruptly from when the band ran short of tape during the live performance... it's a cool effect in my books.

07 - Starless and Bible Black:
SABB's S/T track opens the second side in amorphous fashion but doesn't really get going until halfway through. A review from the inlay booklet states that this album is at times similar to the "dark satanic mills" Blake talks about and suggests that you don't listen to it if you're depressed or contemplating life after death. It's easy to see what he means when listening to these last two tracks, and the claustrophobic mellotrons, bombastic rhythm work and hell-on-earth Frippisms featured here really give that claim credence.

08 - Fracture:
Fracture bears some similarity to LTIA Part II, both in form and melodic theme, but it manages to reach even greater heights. It's worth noting that sole composition credit goes to Fripp here and he claims it's the hardest piece he has ever played (this is live too). Its neurotic spidery fretboard patterns and colossal build-up make it possibly the most inaccessible KC piece there is. A fantastic way to close the album.



EPILOGUE


Despite its status as a studio album, Starless and Bible Black is, if anything, proof that King Crimson were as skilled as any jazz outfit on the live improvisation front. Even when wedged between Larks' Tongues in Aspic and Red, SABB certainly holds its own. In its best moments (The Great Deceiver, the Night Watch and Fracture), it is in fact better than LTIA although its lack of cohesion in places makes it weaker overall. Starless and Bible Black sets the stage perfectly for Red to blow the prog world away.

8/10
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Old 07-17-2010, 05:24 PM   #59 (permalink)
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This thread is ruined because of that post about "Moonchild" right up there.

I love how he assumes that anyone who doesn't like is a narrow-minded, uncultured swine who doesn't understand anything and doesn't give the song a fair chance.

The first 3 minutes of that song are good, and then it delves into 8 minutes of masturbatory improvisation. Don't call me uncouth for thinking that. Jerk.
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Old 07-18-2010, 10:21 AM   #60 (permalink)
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I admire his devotion but Moonchild is certainly a weak improv by KC standards... there are four superior to that on SABB alone! I'll agree that the transition between tracks is cool though.
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