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King Crimson - Islands CD (album) cover


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

3.80 | 1695 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Stilted but still fitfully brilliant, "Islands" accepts Athena's bright beacon and runs with it (straight into the ground sometimes). Perhaps it's the loosely woven "Formentera Lady" that gives the impression of a listing ship; earlier CRIMSON albums began with a battle, but "Islands" ambles in with an offhand artiness that suggests bored jazz players pitted against their progressive captain in mutinous indolence. New vocalist/bassist BOZ BURRELL possesses some of GORDON HASKELL's sleepy charm, though nothing on here creeps with the hushed beauty of a "Cadence and Cascade." The eye-opening instrumental occurs on "Sailor's Tale", a cranky piece that at least climbs partway up the tall spires of past achievements (though IAN WALLACE's drum parts are remarkably uninspired in spots). It's here that "Islands"' Achilles' Heel is exposed: this incarnation of CRIMSON simply doesn't possess the requisite hands to propel their craft past the precipitous rocks that have sunk so many ambitious musical sailors in the past. ROBERT FRIPP can't steer and stroke, leaving the album to either slow down or move quickly but off by degrees. That said, there are many things that even a mediocre Crimson album can achieve: moments of blistering fury, soft pockets of artful imagery in PETER SINFIELD's lyrics, a cool command of orchestral elements that oozes pretty thoughts. "Islands" has all of these, while testing the patience of less resolute adventurers with digressions into squalls of saxophone, dissonant clashes, and limply handled passages.

The more I listen to this (and, honestly, it's always something of a chore), the less I distinguish between "Islands" and "Lizard", placing them both on a pedestal slightly below their first two albums. You, in your unshakable fealty to the KING, might find this a lady worth championing, citing "Formentera Lady" or "Ladies of the Road" as distressed damsels. And there is no denying that the orchestral "Prelude: Song of the Gulls" is a refined interlude worthy of royalty. Yet this remains my least favorite of the CRIMSON studio albums, good insofar as the participation of FRIPP and Sinfield would brook no failure, yet the last place to look for the KING's true treasures.

daveconn | 3/5 |


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