King Crimson - Starless 1972-1974: Larks Tongues in Aspic, Starless and Bible Black, Red , USA - £49.99

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LARKS TONGUES IN ASPIC / STARLESS AND BIBLE BLACK / RED / USA

LARKS TONGUES IN ASPIC

Larks' Tongues in Aspic is the fifth studio album by the English progressive rock group King Crimson, released on 23 March 1973 through Island Records in the UK and Atlantic Records in the United States and Canada. 

This album is the debut of King Crimson's fifth incarnation, featuring original member and guitarist Robert Fripp and new members John Wetton (vocals, bass), David Cross (violin, Mellotron), Jamie Muir (percussion), and Bill Bruford (drums). 

Larks' Tongues in Aspic is the fifth studio album by the English progressive rock group King Crimson, released on 23 March 1973 through Island Records in the UK and Atlantic Records in the United States and Canada. This album is the debut of King Crimson's third incarnation, featuring co-founder and guitarist Robert Fripp along with four new members: bass guitarist and vocalist John Wetton, violinist and keyboardist David Cross, percussionist Jamie Muir, and drummer Bill Bruford. It is a key album in the band's evolution, drawing on Eastern European classical music and European free improvisation as central influences.

At the end of the tour to promote King Crimson's previous album, Islands, Fripp had parted company with the three other members of the band (Mel Collins, Boz Burrell and Ian Wallace). Collins has stated that he was asked to stay on with the new lineup of the band, but that he decided not to continue. The previous year had also seen the ousting of the band's lyricist and artistic co-director Peter Sinfield. Fripp had cited a developing musical (and sometimes personal) incompatibility with the other members and was now writing starker music drawing less on familiar American influences and more on influences such as Béla Bartók and free improvisation.

In order to pursue these new (for King Crimson) ideas, Fripp first recruited bass guitarist/singer John Wetton (a longstanding friend of the band who had lobbied to join at least once before but had become a member of Family in the meantime). The second recruit was Jamie Muir, an experimental free-improvising percussionist who had previously been performing in the Music Improvisation Company with Derek Bailey and Evan Parker, as well as in Sunship (with Alan Gowen and Allan Holdsworth) and Boris (with Don Weller and Jimmy Roche, both later of jazz-rock band Major Surgery).

On drums (and to be paired with Muir) Fripp recruited Yes drummer Bill Bruford. Another longstanding King Crimson admirer, Bruford felt that he had done all he could with Yes at that point and was keen to leave the band before they embarked on their Close to the Edge tour, believing that the jazz – and experimentation-oriented King Crimson would be a more expansive outlet for his musical ideas. The final member of the new band was David Cross, a violinist, keyboardist, and occasional flute player.

Larks' Tongues in Aspic showed several significant changes in King Crimson's sound. Having previously relied on saxophone and flute as significant melodic and textural instruments, the band had replaced them with a single violin. Muir's percussion rig featured exotic, eccentric instrumentation including chimes, bells, thumb pianos, a musical saw, shakers, rattles, found objects (such as sheet metal, toys and baking trays), plus miscellaneous drums and chains. The Mellotron (a staple part of King Crimson's instrumentation since their debut album) was retained for this new phase and was played by Fripp and Cross, both of whom also played electric piano. The instrumental pieces on this album have strong jazz fusion and European free-improvisation influences, and some aggressively hard-hitting portions verging on heavy metal.

The band's multi-instrumentalism initially extended to Wetton and Muir playing (respectively) violin and trombone on occasion at early gigs. Wetton and Cross contributed additional piano and flute respectively to the album sessions. Larks' Tongues in Aspic is the only studio album with this particular line-up, since Muir left the group in February 1973, shortly after the album was completed and before they could embark for touring.

"Easy Money" was composed piecemeal, with Fripp writing the verse and Wetton later adding the chorus part.

The album spawned the concert staple "Exiles", whose Mellotron introduction had been adapted from an instrumental piece called "Mantra" the band's original line up performed throughout 1969. At that time, as well as in late 1972, the melody was played by Fripp on guitar. In addition, a section of "Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part One" was reworked from a piece entitled "A Peacemaking Stint Unrolls", which was recorded by the Islands-era band and finally released in 2010 as a bonus track on that album's 40th anniversary edition.

The album peaked at number 20 on the UK charts and at number 61 in the U.S. In 2012 Larks' Tongues in Aspic was issued as part of the King Crimson 40th Anniversary Series, including the release of an expansive box set subtitled "The Complete Recordings". This CD, DVD-A and Blu-ray set includes every available recording of the short-lived 5-man line-up, through live performances and studio sessions.

In his contemporary review, Alan Niester of Rolling Stone summarized the album saying, "You can't dance to it, can't keep a beat to it, and it doesn't even make good background music for washing the dishes" and recommended listeners to "approach it with a completely open mind." He described the songs on the album saying that they were "a total study in contrasts, especially in moods and tempos—blazing and electric one moment, soft and intricate the next." While not fully appreciative of the music on the record, he complimented the violin playing as "tasteful [...] in the best classical tradition."

Bill Martin wrote in 1998, "for sheer formal inventiveness, the most important progressive rock record of 1973 was... Larks' Tongues in Aspic", adding that listening to this album and Yes's Close to the Edge will demonstrate "what progressive rock is all about".

AllMusic's retrospective review was resoundingly positive, marking every aspect of the band's transition from a jazz-influenced vein to a more experimental one as a complete success. It deemed John Wetton "the group's strongest singer/bassist since Greg Lake's departure," and gave special praise to the remastered edition.

Robert Christgau's retrospective review gave a more ambivalent view, saying of the band's instrumental work, "not only doesn't it cook, which figures, it doesn't quite jell either."

In the Q & Mojo Classic Special Edition Pink Floyd & The Story of Prog Rock, the album came number 22 in its list of "40 Cosmic Rock Albums".

The album is featured in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

The progressive metal bands Dream Theater and Murmur both covered "Larks' Tongues in Aspic Pt. II". The cover is featured on the special edition of Dream Theater's album Black Clouds & Silver Linings.

STARLESS AND BIBLE BLACK

Starless And Bible Black is the eighth in a series of audiophile King Crimson vinyl re-issues and completes the availability of the band’s studio output from 1969/74 on 200g vinyl editions. 

Newly cut from masters approved by Robert Fripp, this super-heavyweight vinyl re-issue is housed in a reprint of the original gatefold sleeve. 

The first run of this edition contains bonus MP3 codes giving access to a download of a transfer of an original 1975 pressing. 

Starless and Bible Black is the sixth studio album by English progressive rock band King Crimson, released in March 1974 by Island Records in the United Kingdom and by Atlantic Records in the United States. Much of the album was recorded live but edited and blended with studio material.

King Crimson's previous album, Larks' Tongues in Aspic (on which they had moved decisively away from a more traditional progressive rock sound drawing on American jazz, and towards the influence of European free improvisation), had been recorded by a quintet line-up of the band, including experimental percussionist Jamie Muir. Early in 1973, Muir abruptly left the band, ostensibly due to an onstage injury, but in fact due to an overwhelming spiritual need which led him to retreat from music and join a monastery (something which was not communicated to his bandmates at that time). The band's drummer, Bill Bruford, absorbed Muir's percussion role in addition to his own kit drumming, and the band continued to tour as a quartet.

These upheavals and the pressure of touring left King Crimson short of new written material when it came to the time to record their next album. Having increased their level of onstage improvisation during recent tours, the band opted to take advantage of this to solve the problem. New compositions tried out in concert and captured on several live recordings were presented as part of the new album material, alternating and in some cases blending with studio recordings.

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 entirely improvised piece recorded in Glasgow. "The Mincer" was another improvised piece, originally recorded in concert at the Volkshaus in Zürich but overdubbed with Wetton's vocals in the studio; The track was the edited-out middle section of a longer improvisation, the other parts released on The Great Deceiver as "The Law of Maximum Distress". "Trio", "Starless and Bible Black" and "Fracture" (the last of which Robert Fripp has cited as one of the most difficult guitar pieces he has ever played) were recorded live at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. Also recorded at the Concertgebouw was the introduction to "The Night Watch" (the band's Mellotron broke down at the start of the next section, meaning that the remainder of the song needed to be recorded in the studio and dubbed in later). In all cases, live applause was removed from the recordings wherever possible (although the remains of it can be heard by an attentive listener). The complete Amsterdam Concertgebouw concert was eventually released by the band in 1997 as The Night Watch.

"Trio" was notable for being a quartet piece with only three active players – John Wetton on bass guitar, David Cross on viola and Robert Fripp on "flute" Mellotron. Bruford spent the entire piece with his drumsticks crossed over his chest, waiting for the right moment to join in but eventually realized that the improvised piece was progressing better without him. His decision not to add any percussion was seen by the rest of the band as a crucial choice, and he received co-writing credit for the piece. "Trio" was later included on the 1975 compilation album A Young Person's Guide to King Crimson, the performance credits of which cite Bruford's contribution to the piece as having been "admirable restraint."

A sequel or related piece to "Fracture" was released by a different King Crimson lineup in 2000 on The ConstruKction of Light, titled "FraKctured".

Only four tracks on the album have lyrics. As had been the case with Larks' Tongues in Aspic, these were written by John Wetton's friend Richard Palmer-James (the former Supertramp guitarist who'd left the band after its first, self-titled album). "The Great Deceiver" refers to The Devil and is an ironic commentary on commercialism (Fripp contributed the line "cigarettes, ice cream, figurines of the Virgin Mary" after seeing souvenirs being marketed in Vatican City). "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 Mincer" has more ambiguous lyrics, though lines such as "fingers reaching, linger shrieking", "you're all alone, baby's breathing", and the song's title could be references to a home invader or killer. Original issues of the album include the lyrics to "The Great Deceiver," "Lament" and "The Night Watch" on the album's inner sleeve.

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 "Starless", which contains the phrase "Starless and bible black", whereas "Starless and Bible Black" is an improvised instrumental. The title track on both the album and the compact disc is an edit of the original Amsterdam improvisation as performed at the Concertgebouw, which presumably ran several minutes longer (as improvisations of this tour often did). (The sleeve notes included with the CDs indicate that it was cut short for the 1973 album "due to the constraints of vinyl"). All currently-available master tapes contain the 9:11 version.

The album art is by painter Tom Phillips. The phrase "this night wounds time", which appears on the back cover, is a quotation from Phillips's signature work, the "treated Victorian novel" A Humument (p. 222).

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", though he would eventually give higher ratings to Red and USA.

n 2004, Pitchfork ranked it at number 94 in their list of the "Top 100 Albums of the 1970s."

The track "Great Deceiver (Long Mix)" on the album Spiral Honey by the Japanese noise musician Merzbow features the ending chords of the track "The Great Deceiver".

The Japanese band Acid Mothers Temple recorded an album entitled Starless and Bible Black Sabbath in 2006 as a double homage to Starless and Bible Black and Black Sabbath's self-titled album.

 

The eroge PC video game Bible Black and Starless: 21st Century Nymphomaniacs were both named after the album due to their original creator, Sei Shoujo, being a fan of King Crimson, even referencing the band in Bible Black.

RED

Red is the fourth in a series of audiophile King Crimson vinyl reissues.

Cut from masters approved by Robert Fripp, this super-heavyweight 200gm vinyl re-issue is housed in a reprint of the original sleeve.

One of the most powerful and influential albums in the band’s remarkable career.

Red is the seventh studio album by English progressive rock band King Crimson. It was released on 6 October 1974 through Island Records in the United Kiand Japan. The album was recorded at Olympic Studios in London in July and August 1974 and produced by the band themselves. The track "Providence" was a free improvisation recorded at their 30 June 1974 concert at the Palace Theater in the city of the same name. Parts of some of the pieces were conceived during previous improvisations performed by the band live. "Starless" was originally considered for their previous album, Starless and Bible Black (1974), but was considered incomplete at the time. The lengthy version included on this album was refined and performed during concerts throughout 1974.

Red is a progressive rock album with a noticeably heavier sound than their previous albums; it was later called one of the 50 "heaviest albums of all time" by Q. This was achieved with the performances of just three band members: guitarist Robert Fripp, bassist and vocalist John Wetton and drummer Bill Bruford. The dense sound of the album was achieved by significant layering, multiple guitar overdubs, and key guest appearances by musicians including founding King Crimson member Ian McDonald, classical oboist Robin Miller and English jazz trumpeter Marc Charig.

Roughly two weeks prior to the release of Red, King Crimson disbanded. The album turned out to be their lowest-charting album at that time, spending only one week in the UK Album Chart at No. 45 and the US Billboard 200 at No. 66. However, it was well received among fans and critics. It has received further praise retrospectively, being recognized as one of the band's best works, and has been re-issued many times.

Near the conclusion of King Crimson's 1974 US and Canada tour, the decision was made to ask David Cross to leave the band. EG, the band's management, urged Fripp not to tell Cross until after the final date of the tour, but he would not be able to do this anyway as Fripp would not return from the United States until after Cross would return to Europe. Fripp reached an agreement with EG management that they would tell Cross, "on proviso that [Cross] was told that I objected to not telling him personally." Despite reaching this agreement, Cross would not be told by EG until the day before the recording of Red began. In his stead, the band brought back several contributors to past albums: Robin Miller on oboe, Marc Charig on cornet, former King Crimson members Ian McDonald and Mel Collins on saxophones, as well as an uncredited cellist and acoustic bassist.

Red sees King Crimson follow in the direction established by their previous two albums, Larks' Tongues in Aspic and Starless and Bible Black, but in contrast to those albums, Red features more layered production with multiple overdubs, as well as the return of the earlier instrumentation of the guest players. Red's heavier tone was largely due to the influence of the rhythm section, Wetton and Bruford, whom Fripp has referred to as "a flying brick wall". During the recording of the album, Fripp took a "backseat" when making large decisions. He had decided to take "a year's sabbatical ... at Bennett's Institute," and offered the idea of McDonald rejoining the band in his absence to EG. When this idea was met with lack of interest, Fripp abruptly disbanded King Crimson on 24 September 1974, and Red was released two weeks later.

Much of the material on Red has origins in improvisation. Motifs that would eventually be used for "Fallen Angel" were first played by Robert Fripp in 1972, as part of improvs performed with the quintet lineup that would record Larks' Tongues In Aspic. These improvisations are documented as "Fallen Angel" and "Fallen Angel Hullabaloo" in the Larks' Tongues in Aspic: The Complete Recordings box set, as well as standalone releases of their respective concerts. The distinctive introduction to "One More Red Nightmare" was also deployed by John Wetton and Robert Fripp in various improvs throughout 1974, which can be heard in the Starless (box set) and The Road to Red box sets. One notable performance including this introduction is titled "The Golden Walnut". Lastly, "Providence" itself was an improv, taken from the group's show on 30th June in Providence, Rhode Island. It was included in its uncut form as part of various live sets, such as The Great Deceiver, as well as the 40th Anniversary Edition of Red itself.

"Red" was composed solely by Robert Fripp. In an analysis of the piece by Andrew Keeling, he describes "Red" as "an instrumental piece scored for electric guitar (multi-tracked in three layers), bass guitar and drums," as well as "one of the more muscular pieces of Robert Fripp's, in particular the deployment of open strings and heavily attacked and syncopated bass and drums." In an online diary from 2012, Robert Fripp speaks about the development of "Red": "A motif; moved from [the missing piece] "Blue" to "Red": the opening and closing theme of "Red" itself. The driving, relentless figure that follows it, and the middle figure played by the basses, weren't enough for a complete piece." Speaking about it in the book accompanying the Larks' Tongues in Aspic: The Complete Recordings box set, he says, "After we had just recorded the track "Red" in [Olympic Studios] ... we played it back and Bill said, 'I don't get it, but if you tell me it's good, I trust you.' ... I said, 'We don't have to use it.' John was in no doubt: 'We'll use it.'" An unused variation of the song's middle section would later emerge in 1983, during the writing rehearsals for Three of a Perfect Pair. Though it went unused, it finally saw light in 1995, more than two decades later, as the middle section of the instrumental "VROOOM VROOOM" on THRAK.

"Starless" was originally written by Wetton, with the intent of it being the title track for Starless and Bible Black. At the time, the piece consisted only of the vocal section of the song, and Wetton claims that it got a "cold reception" from both Robert Fripp and Bill Bruford. Later, an introductory theme was written by Robert Fripp and performed on violin by David Cross, and two additional sections were added after the vocal, one being contributed by Bruford. The final section reprises various themes from earlier in the song, and it also re-uses a bass part which was originally written for the song "Fracture". This early arrangement of "Fracture" can be heard on discs 1 and 25 of the Starless box set, as well as the standalone releases of their respective concerts. The lyrics went through several iterations, with one early verse later included by Wetton in "Caesar's Palace Blues," a song he would perform with U.K. Since the title "Starless and Bible Black" was already used for an improvisation on the group's previous album, the song's title was shortened to "Starless". On Red, "Starless" is credited to the quartet, as well as lyricist Richard Palmer-James.

The lyrics to the three songs on the album were not originally included as part of the packaging for the album, unlike all previous Crimson studio albums, which always had lyrics printed either on the inside of the gatefold covers, or on the custom innersleeves. This led to some occasional confusion amongst listeners about precisely what was being sung, particularly on the song "One More Red Nightmare." The first printing of the lyrics would occur 26 years after the album's initial release, on the 2000 30th Anniversary Edition' release.

Released in October 1974, Red spent only one week on the British charts, at No. 45, whereas all the band's previous studio albums had reached the Top 30. In the United States, it reached No. 66 on the Billboard 200. However, it remained a popular album with fans and critics.

Retrospective reviews were resoundingly positive. In theirs, AllMusic declared Red to be weaker than its two predecessors, but nonetheless a superlative work: "few intact groups could have gotten an album as good as Red together. The fact that it was put together by a band in its death throes makes it all the more impressive an achievement." Robert Christgau also applauded the album, having been generally critical of the group's past work, calling it "Grand, powerful, grating, and surprisingly lyrical" and commenting that "this does for classical-rock fusion what John McLaughlin's Devotion did for jazz-rock fusion." Classic Rock reviewer considered Red "a walk down a lightless corridor and an unhappy and ferocious counterbalance to the frolics of King Crimson's beginnings", and described it as "dark, brooding and laden with heavily distorted sections and a decidedly melancholic vibe".

Like most of King Crimson's catalogue, Red has been re-released numerous times since 1974. First issued on Compact Disc in 1986, it has also been released as part of the "Definitive Edition" series in 1989, and the "30th Anniversary Edition" series in 1999. In 2009, Red was chosen, alongside In the Court of the Crimson King and Lizard, to launch the "40th Anniversary Edition" series. As part of this series, each album is presented in a CD/DVD-A package, with new stereo and 5.1 surround mixes crafted by Steven Wilson. Unlike the other editions in the series, however, Red launched with no new stereo mix. In 2013, Wilson and Fripp created a new stereo mix for The Road To Red boxed set, and this mix was also issued separately as part of a 2CD package.

In 2001, Q magazine named Red as one of the "50 Heaviest Albums of All Time" and Pitchfork ranked Red number 72 in its "Top 100 Albums of the 1970s" list, stating that "For a band that was very obviously about to splinter, King Crimson's music sounds remarkably of a single mind. On Red, they achieved a remarkable balance between bone-crushing brutality and cerebral complexity." Rolling Stone ranked the album at number 15 on their list of the 50 best progressive rock albums of all time. Kurt Cobain had reportedly cited the album as a major influence.

"Red" was covered by Canadian rock band Glueleg in their 1994 debut Heroic Doses, with this version featuring saxophone and trumpet. "Red" was also ranked as the twentieth best progressive rock song of all time by PopMatters, as well as number 87 in Rolling Stone's list of "The 100 Greatest Guitar Songs". Additionally, "Red" has been considered an influence on avant-garde metal.

Musicologists Eric Tamm and Edward Macan both consider Red, particularly the track "Starless", to be the highlight of King Crimson's recorded output. "Starless" is played over the opening titles of the 2018 horror film Mandy.

USA

This 40th Anniversary Edition On 200g Vinyl LP was Remixed by Robert Fripp, David Singleton & Tony Arnold!

Featuring stunning live versions of Starless and 21st Century Schizoid Man

This limited edition vinyl release was previously available in boxed set format only. This is the original live album remixed by Steven Wilson & Robert Fripp. Pressed on 200 gram vinyl with an additional second disc .

Originally begun in 2009 by Steven Wilson & Robert Fripp for King Crimson's 40th anniversary, a series of new mixes were prepared .Consumer demand for the remixes on vinyl led to two boxed sets being issued in late 2018.

 

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