(All Album Reviews by Burgess Penguin)
If I was going to convert an uninitiated person to King Crimson's' music, this would certainly be one of my top choices (along w/ ITCOTCK and Discipline). No one release can give the complete picture, but this one certainly contains so many elements of what made KC so special!
Tracks like "Great Deceiver" and "Lament" certainly show their rocking yet tuneful side! It's kind of funny to consider that while Fripp looked so intense and studious onstage, his playing on these tracks conveys a lot of fun, reckless abandon and wit! Certainly Wetton, Bruford and Cross must have had a good ol' time on these tracks too, in spite of playing odd meters.
"We'll Let You Know" is a concise introduction to their improvisational side, and showed a rare quality, of being able to make a collective improvisation still have a shape and form. Wetton's funky, overdriven bass and that ever wonderful drumming by Bruford. After leaving Yes, he truly blossomed!
"The Night Watch" (one of my all-time fave KC tracks) shows how they were able to conjure up amazingly vivid images through both words and music. Extra bonus points for the lyrics being inspired by the Rembrandt painting of the same name. After seeing the painting myself and hearing the song, I can't help but say "PERFECT MATCH!!!!" John Wetton sure had his throat full on this one, those are not easy lyrics to sing and play bass over at the same time. Musically it somewhat harkens back to ITCOTCK epic tracks like the title track or "Epitaph", although with a few new twists.
"The Mincer" however was one of those "weak moments" sounding more like a rather creepy incomplete thought than a full-blown musical idea.
"Trio" was amazing in that it showed KC capable of great subtlety and beauty, and getting right to the point while improvising. In the wrong hands, this could've been a rambling mess, thankfully, it wasn't.
"Starless and Bible Black" showed KC's improvisational side at its absolute finest, colorful, disturbing at times, yet engaging and compelling. I also love the part with the 'tron flutes just before the explosive ending! Fripp also gets some of the most torturous, anguished and ferocious sounds I've ever heard from him! This is one of those rare times that a collective improv really takes a definite shape and form, darn near sounding written out at times. Definitely one of my favorite KC moments!!
"Fracture" stands as one of Fripp's most ingenious compositions! The whole tone theme at the beginning builds tension and drama in a manner similar to watching a tightrope walker between two tall buildings without a net! Will he make it? Will he fall? It's amazing how Fripp got so much mileage and color out of not much more than using a whole tone motif and an A pentatonic scheme throughout the piece, in addition to the amazing contrasts of dynamics! The beauty of this cut and "Starless---" is that it was recorded completely live (audience noise was edited out), as were "We'll Let You Know", "Trio" and parts of "The Nightwatch".
All told, this epitomizes what made this band so special! Grab it!!!