Monday, September 28, 2020

Fracture – King Crimson

Call it 1974, I was at Crane's Records in Van Nuys. I’d bought Court and Spark there, my first Joni album (and still my favorite). The guy behind the counter was like my Merlyn, always allowing me to choose but guiding me to something new. I was pondering Eno’s Here Come the Warm Jets, but "the guy" said, "Maybe it's time to move on." I didn't know that I was to embark on the most difficult musical journey a listener could imagine: Starless and Bible Black. I was already familiar with King Crimson; the Crimson King album cover scared the bejeebers out of me – I had virtually no bejeebers.

I was already a prog kid who appreciated the complexities of Gentle Giant and Genesis and Caravan, but this was something else. I go on and on these days about musicianship and theory and the objective ways in which a musician can be rated, but I had no idea. Starless and Bible Black was KC's most stripped-down iteration with Fripp, of course, on guitar, the jazz stylings of Bill Bruford on drums, John Wetton on vocals and bass and David Cross rounding up the line up with keys and strings. Bruford was simply amazing; Cross was a nice string counterpoint to Fripp’s guitar and Wetton was the consummate musician, like Ringo, who knew how he fitted. I only missed Greg Lake's vocals, those these were better served in ELP where they were appreciated.
The record store guy, who knew how much of a fan I was of Steve Howe in Yes, said, "You let me know what you think about Howe, when you hear 'Fracture,'" the Fripp instrumental that closes Side 2. Fripp called it "Impossible." Its complexities purposefully created so that he had something to work towards, a high-water mark that he hadn’t really reached at that point. There’s a guy on YouTube who practiced 22 years to be able to play the piece and then gave himself a B-; it’s that intricate and dense.
So, it's been 46 years now since my first exposure and while I navigate more readily to Crimson King and Poseidon, it's Starless and Bible Black and "Fracture" that opened my eyes that music, like literature and painting, could be difficult and frustrating, that it took work and effort. The version provided is from the studio LP, but check out the live versions on YouTube to see just how compelling the piece can be.

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