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For a band that favoured the presentation & honing of material in live performance prior to studio recording, it was perhaps inevitable that with the increasing portability of quality recording machines, the concert performance would, in effect, become the basis of the subsequent studio recordings. With 'Starless and Bible Black' KingvCrimson, now reduced to a quartet following the departure of percussionist Jamie Muir, took that step. Fully half of the album was sourced from live gigs - much of it from a concert at the Amsterdam Concertegebouw in November 1973. (The complete concert has subsequently been issued as 'The Nightwatch' album.) While some of the material was developed or overdubbed in the studio, other tracks were presented exactly as per the concert setting with the audience applause removed.
With the band's burgeoning live reputation, increased tour schedule, (concerts for which the musicians were never paid due to the bizarre structure of their then management agreements) & commitment to improvisation, the use of the live material led to the album being the most accurate representation to date of the lineup's uniquely powerful live sets. Side 2 of the original vinyl in particular, allowed the ban to present a pair of lengthy tracks - the title track drawn directly from the Amsterdam concert & 'Fracture' with additional studio overdubs - that demonstrated the manner in which live improvisations were forming the foundations for much of their material.
'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 70s lineup, 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.
1. The Great Deceiver
3. We'll Let You Know
4. The Night Watch
6. The Mincer
7. Starless and Bible Black