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King Crimson - Islands CD (album) cover


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

3.78 | 1508 ratings

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Anthony H.
Prog Reviewer
4 stars King Crimson: Islands [1971]

Rating: 7/10

When you think about it, it's pretty staggering how many musical identities King Crimson created for themselves during their thirty-plus year-long career. The band's 70s output makes this particularly apparent: with the exception of In the Wake of Poseidon, every 70s Crimson album is a unique work that stands on its own. Islands is no exception. After the bombastic quirkiness of Lizard, Fripp created a work that is almost equally jazzy, but decidedly lighter and more subdued; the symphonic nature of the band's sound is also explored in depth. Boz Burrell's vocals play a significant role in this album's sound. He is by far the most melodious vocalist the band ever had; Lake, Haskell, Wetton, and Belew all have a gruff side to their singing, but Burrell's voice is soft and harmonious. While Lizard was a romp though some sort of avant-garde medievalism, Islands is both a cosmic and pastoral piece of musical introspection.

"Formentera Lady" opens the album with brooding cello, flute, and light piano. Boz Burrell's voice enters in, and a simple bass/drum progression backs up the chorus. Acoustic guitar adds to the atmosphere, and a lengthy sax passage leads to the conclusion of this fantastic song. The instrumental "Sailor's Tale" picks up the album's tempo quite a bit. A driving rhythm section dominates this song, along with Mellotron and excellent free-jazz sax. This is definitely the most energetic track here. "The Letters" features absolutely wonderful lyrics from Sinfeld. It transitions between very quiet vocal/sax/piano sections and more upbeat jazzy moments. "Ladies of the Road" is a sort of jazzified Beatles song with hilarious lyrics. "Prelude: Song of the Gulls" is an entirely classical composition, making it quite unique within the Crimson discography. It's quite elegant, and it manages to reinforce the overall atmosphere of the album. The absolutely gorgeous title track closes the album. Vocals and piano take up a lot of the song, but the real highlight is the beautiful sax solo that concludes it.

Islands is an oft-overlooked King Crimson album, and this is lamentable. This is an excellent album with a wonderful atmosphere and fantastic musicianship. However, it probably will not appeal to strict fans of the band's wilder sound; there certainly is no "21st Century Schizoid Man", "Red", or "Larks Tongues Part 2" here. Although is this far from Crimson's best album, I do wish that they would have explored this sound more. Islands sometimes feels rather un-Crimsonian, but it remains an exceptional album that I would recommend to any fan of calm progressive rock.

Anthony H. | 4/5 |


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