If you know your lyrics, then the title of this record gives a clue as to its heritage, although opener Nurse Insane charges out of the traps with its prog metal armour shining in the half-light, to throw you off the scent. The David Cross Band have recently returned from Poland and Czechia, touring the 50th anniversary of Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, which of course was one of the Crimson albums band leader David Cross played on, manfully fighting against the sonic assault from Bob, John, and Bill, a battle that was ultimately and inevitably lost. The music David contributed to King Crimson will forever give that particular era of the band a readily identifiable sonic palette, and with the song Starless in particular has left us with an all-time prog classic.
Starless is one of two Crimson songs covered on this album in exemplary fashion, and this version will send shivers down your spine if you’re an emotional old fekker like me. Not that the band’s original material is lacking, far from it. Calamity has some fabulous interplay between the lead instruments and is driven along by the powerful rhythm section to great effect. The song builds and builds to a wonderfully anarchic denouement and lends itself to some serious head shaking. Rock on!
The band do some great harmonies on the ballad Nowhere, a gorgeous song with some mellifluous sax from David Jackson, a song that tugs at the heartstrings. The wide range of music revealed on Ice Blue, Silver Sky is testament to the top notch musicianship on display. Nowhere segues into the Crimson epic Exiles, here given the widescreen treatment, with some beautiful violin work from David that weaves its sonorous tendrils all through the song. Mick Paul also steps under the spotlight on this one with some fretless action that grooves effortlessly. All in all, it’s a great treatment of a song you might think you have heard enough times already, but this version gives it a fresh perspective. A totally un-Fripp like guitar break or two are the cherries on this particular cake.
Occasionally there are spoken word interjections that my poor old lug’oles struggle to decipher, but that doesn’t spoil my enjoyment! One of those tracks containing same is Karma Gain, which is an example of the ensemble’s vocal dexterity, and combines a folky feel with a jazzy groove that works well. The Crimson-like construction of Over Your Shoulder is a natural precursor to the album summit, the redoubtable Starless in all its finery. What can be said about this song, probably one of the top five most iconic songs in prog rock, that hasn’t already been said? Starting in abstract fashion with clattering percussion, it inevitably gives way to THAT violin melody, and instantly those aforementioned shiverrrrrs run down my neck. Here lies the power of music writ large. This is the second track that David Jackson appears on, lending a different texture to the trusty old favourite as it flies off down the musical highway to the seventh ring in suitably manic fashion, pinned down by the ultra-tight and solid rhythm section.
This is a really good and professionally played and produced album that will be returned to outside of reviewing purposes, oh yes! Any prog rock aficionado should have this on their creaking shelves. For various reasons, I missed seeing the band on at least two occasions this year, and now lead singer Jinian Wilde (fabulous name, that!) has left for pastures new, so I can only hope for purely selfish reasons that they soon find a replacement so I can witness this 50th anniversary Larks’ set in action sometime in the not too distant future.
01. Nurse Insane (7:45)
02. Calamity (9:50)
03. Nowhere (7:57)
04. Exiles (14:42)
05. Karma Gain (5:36)
06. Over Your Shoulder (5:27)
07. Starless (14:07)
Total Time – 65:24
David Cross – Violin, Keyboards, Vocals
Jinian Wilde – Lead vocals, Guitar, Flute
Mick Paul – Bass, Vocals, Keyboards
Steve Roberts – Drums
David Jackson – Saxophone, Whistles (tracks 3 & 7)
Record Label: Cherry Red Records
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 3rd November 2023