Released 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 And Bible Black has often been overlooked. Yet even a cursory listen reveals this to be a powerful record, brimming with confidence born out of the band's increasing mastery of the concert platform.
Though the public wasn't necessarily 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 and 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 And Bible Black combined the best of both worlds, making it the most accurate representation of the band's uniquely powerful mid-70s identity.