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King Crimson - Islands CD (album) cover

ISLANDS

King Crimson

 

Eclectic Prog

3.78 | 1249 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

elcaballodecaligula
5 stars One of the most misunderstood and misread albums in the history of prog rock (or, maybe THE MOST misread of all), Islands has to be regarded as one of the top 10 best of all time. And with no exaggeration. I was shocked of the extremely low rating this one has received in progarchives. Most of the reviewers try to grasp the framework of Islands according to a comparison with the earlier ones, or by somehow instaurating a kind of canon or identity (i.e. whats the style of King Crimson, how their music should averagely sound). The biggest problem of this pressupositions is that they actually forget two crucial things: 1) The meaning (simbolically speaking) of Progressive Rock, and 2) Its objectives or ambitions.

Of course, we all know that the significance of progressive rock has been historically instaurated by means of its "avant-garde" tendencies, of its impulse to generate a type of popular music that can synthesize (without any precipitations) and harmonize with "high culture" music, namely concert music and jazz. This, of course, keeps an intimate connection with the main ambitions of progressive rock, opening a wide range of creative and experimental options, and also challenging the musicians to transform their language with regularity.

If one draws a careful comparison of the first five albums of King Crimson (In the Court..., In the Wake..., Lizard, Islands and Larks'...) you can find an amazing transformation of musical levels only within 4 YEARS, an achievement that 99.7% of the prog rock/metal bands of today would only dream about (in their wildest dreams, of course). Moreover, a kind of musical direction that 80's rebirth-King Crimson never achieved.

In this precise sense, Islands becomes a statement: rock music is also an "art" form, it is not subjected to the dictatorship of commercial interest only because it is popular music directed to a massive audience.

So, given this, let's talk briefly of each of the songs, taking into consideration that every one of them is a highlight (oh yes). Formentera Lady is a calm-paced song that tries to introduce a new sound into King Crimson, one that designates a proportion between classical music (I'm talking about the period of musical history, not "classical music" as a whole entity) and rock (blues oriented rock, to be more specific). The interaction between instruments is smooth and almost orchestrated, with some variations and a couple of interesting signature changes. Sailor's Tale can be considered almost as one of the first "jazz/fusion" songs in the genre, with a main theme strongly inspired in Eirc Dolphy or Albert Ayler. Seven and a half minutes that pass us by like a pair of seconds, with exceptional and complex drumming and also an incredible and almost atonal guitar solo. The only thing I can say about The Letters is that its main theme (with the sax, trumpets, chorus guitar and synthesizers) is like a stroke of lightning through the body. The rest of the song is just great, it can be thought as a short rock version of Wagner's epic tragedies. Ladies Of The Road is the most rock-based song of the album. It goes on with a classic rocker progression that can make you think of Deep Purple and Jimi Hendrix combined, with an incredibly strong chorus influenced by and worth of the best and most famous tunes of The Beatles. Prelude: Song Of The Gulls is a very simple baroque composition that has a very beautiful main theme on the oboe, serving as a proper entrance for Islands (the song named as the album), one of the most beautiful songs in prog rock history. With a slow and tender pace carried on by the piano and the voice, it can be considered a twelve minute in crescendo that unfolds cornet, sax and flute melodies which carry and develop the nostalgic mood of the whole song. The cornet solo in the ending accompanied by the drums is just beautiful. And last (but not least at all) one cannot stop praising the poetically conceptualized lyrics, enormously inspiring until now and for generations to come.

I also strongly recommend the remastered version that includes 6 extra songs (studio run-throughs and remixes), becuase it contains a very cool prototype version of Lark's Tongues in Aspic Part 1 (the name of the song is A Peacemaking Stint Unrolls).

In synthesis, 3.72 of average for such a masterpiece is not injustice, it's plain obscenity.

elcaballodecaligula | 5/5 |

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