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King Crimson - Islands CD (album) cover


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

3.83 | 1883 ratings

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5 stars Islands. What a weird album. What a weird band...!

I feel the same way about King Crimson since their debut album: I'm used to something more symphonic, but King Crimson wants you to be a masochist... The music challenges you, lets you know what can you take in terms of nonsense. And it makes you want more of that nonsense! It's like a hot, spicy pepper. It hurts your tongue, and yet you love it. That's how Crimson works, sometimes. There are others times, though, where the music is a sweet, sweet delect. Their first album is closer to that. Islands? It's a mix of both. The perfect balance.

Without even playing the album, what hooked me particularly on this one is the awesome cover which, IMHO, compliments extremely well with the name, Islands. Now that I think about it, it just blows my mind how awesome of a duo they both make, despite being in such a different theme. Islands are more referring to the land. But the cover fits around the space-theming, and on a magical side. It looks like the Orion Nebula, except it limits itself around specific colors, and is overall a lot more... Moody. But magical! Will the album stay the same?

When you play the first song, it seems not, Formentera Lady starts not-so-pleasantly, but right when the vocals hit, subtle but wonderful piano follows and you search for the valuable sounds inside that chaos. That's what it is when you first listen to this album. But I found that the more you listen to it, the more enjoyable it becomes. And it's true: I HATED Formentera Lady when I first listened to it. But a few minutes ago, as I'm typing this, I tried it again just to see it my opinion still holds, and no, not at all. I guess it's just a question of getting used to it. I feel like this applies to every KC album, but it's really just this one. Islands is the only one to be like that. It's the chili pepper of all prog albums.

I prove this even more when going through the next track, Sailor's Tale. Fripp gets very agressive on the guitar, but the sound of it is so rich that your ears still enjoy it. I've never been a fan of wind instruments, but I'm still learning to like the ones found on the first half of the track, and only recently I've started liking them. I could perhaps be a question of getting used to something new, because KC is NOT accessible. At all. But your average prog fan will like this: Halfway through Sailor's Tale, mellotron gets louder and sets the magical theme for a first time in the album. The drums get more complex, and the guitar alone sets for an eargasm when everything else is quiet. Sailor's Tale is an odd but very enjoyable instrumental once you get used to it, and one of the better tracks of the album.

The final track of the first side, The Letters, starts with a great jazzy riff, and only two minutes in, you get the first and last "King Crimson moment" of the album. What I'm referring to here is the strange buildup that surpasses the limits of what it should usually be, challenging the listener using multiple instruments (This time, a lot of wind instruments) getting higher and higher. For example, the ending of 21st Century Schizoid Man is a King Crimson moment. Anyway, you have this one right in the middle of the song, but right after, Boz continues on vocals in such a good way. The song finishes with only him singing quietly, everything else being silent. It shouldn't be, but it's special and not usual. It compliments well the musical theming of the album, and only looking at the cover will make me recognize this theming. But I love it.

Starting on the second side is Ladies of the Road, which seemingly starts with unmelodic notes, but it is soon over as a (saxophone?) jazz-experimental solo kicks in louder than ever. Again, that's a moment that you have to get used to if you want to love it. Fortunately for us prog fans, the bass compliments well the solo and makes it much more enjoyable. My favorite part is when (I think it's the chorus?) backing vocals appear and the bass gets very catchy. One of the more experimental, but still enjoyable tracks of the album.

The next track is not the most experimental, but maybe the weirdest because it's a straight-up classical piece. Or is it? Not really, because old classical music wouldn't approach such music this way. Prelude - Song Of The Gulls is something that makes me relax even more than a usual classical piece. It gives a mood of "What a lovely day" while walking through a park on the border of a river. That's what it feels like, but it is so unusual for what the rest of the album is, and it's why I love it. It speaks for the diversity of what a prog album should have. It also acts like a prelude for for the final title track.

Although the longest, Islands is the most accessible song of the album. It is soft, contains great vocals (Boz might be my favorite singer of KC), complimenting with a few jazz instruments, and later on, sets magic with the mellotron entering. With Sailor's Tale, it is the track that I feel compliments much more with the album cover and the *general* theming of the album. It's not something you can describe, but rather something you feel. A specific kind of magic that goes into your ears.

On the technical side, Islands is a mix of experimental jazz and symphonic prog ala King Crimson ; Which means the music will not fear being agressive at times, it likes to challenge the listener. But this is why one likes King Crimson in general, they won't stay in melodic / symphonic moments all the time, they like to have their music spicier.

Although it's considered one of the two jazz albums by KC, I prefer Islands over Lizard by far. Islands has this special ability of finding sense in something that seems nonsense ; Lizard is just nonsense, and there's nothing more to it.

At first, Islands is not an easy listen. Chances are, you won't like it on your first play. But trust me, let it grow on you, and I'm sure you'll love it. For all that I've described above, Islands is brilliant, and definitively hits the top 3 King Crimson albums.

MaxPap | 5/5 |


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