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King Crimson - Islands CD (album) cover


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

3.81 | 1761 ratings

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Cygnus X-2
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars After the chaotic disarray of lineups in King Crimson, Robert Fripp tried one more time to keep a band together for more than one album. The result was Islands (and the live counterpart Earthbound). Now, the album is a mixture of softer jazz pieces and bombastic mellotron infused fusion of heavy guitar and manic drumming. I often see this album (and Lizard) as the most looked over albums in the King Crimson catalogue, and I can see why. They aren't terribly strong, but they aren't bad either. Robert Fripp tries his best on this album with blocky guitar chords and pseudo leads. Mel Collins keeps the jazzy atmosphere alive with varied horns and reed instruments. Boz Burrell tries on bass and vocal, but comes up a little bit short in both departments, and Ian Wallace gives dynamic and varied performances for each track.

Formentera Lady opens this album rather slowly, with a winding buildup of gentle guitars, washes of saxophone, mediocre bass (and almost inaudible vocals), and subdued drumming. Even though the track is 10 minutes, it could have used some editing and some more refinement. Sailor's Tale is a slow buildup instrumental, with some nice mellotron sections that peak with some punchy, melodic drumming. It starts out a bit slow, but soon shows some promise. The Letters is the last song on the first side of this album. It's a bit of a saxophone led piece, with some manic drumming from Wallace. There's a bit of a feel of chaos here that only gets surpassed on later works like Larks' Tongue in Aspic. Boz's vocal here is once again very hard to hear, and even when you can hear it, it isn't terribly great.

Ladies of the Road opens the second side of the album with some very compressed vocal from Boz and some emotional leads from Fripp. A steady beat is kept via the tambourine for the most part. Slowly but surely, more instruments come in and out and the piece evolves and buildups quite nicely. One of the better tracks on the album. Prelude: Song of the Gulls is a gentle flute/mellotron led instrumental track. It has a classical feel to it mainly because of a psuedo string arrangement in the background. The only real problem is that the song doesn't really evolve, so it's this tedious arrangement for about four and a half minutes. Islands closes with the title track, clocking in at 11:52. A pretty piano motif is the showcase for about 2 and a half minutes. Some gentle saxophone slowly builds up as the track progresses into a newer direction. This is one of the most mellow tracks King Crimson has ever produced, with great Harmonium work from Fripp, as well as a stunning cornet solo in the second half.

In the end, this album is stylistically different that King Crimson created or were about to create. The next album, Larks' Tongue in Aspic, was a drastically different in that it had a harder, more experimental edge. Personally, Islands is a good album, but it's not the album that everyone cracks it up to be. It could have used a bit more refinement in songs like Formentera Lady and The Sailor's Tale. But otherwise, it's an interesting album that fans of King Crimson and gentle jazz-based symphonic music will enjoy. 3.5/5.

Cygnus X-2 | 3/5 |


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