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ISLANDS

King Crimson

Eclectic Prog


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King Crimson Islands album cover
3.78 | 1288 ratings | 141 reviews | 33% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection


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Studio Album, released in 1971

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Formentera Lady (10:14)
2. Sailor's Tale (7:21)
3. The Letters (4:26)
4. Ladies Of The Road (5:28)
5. Prelude: Song Of The Gulls (4:14)
6. Islands (11:51)

Total Time: 43:34

Lyrics

Search KING CRIMSON Islands lyrics

Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- Robert Fripp / guitar, Mellotron, Peter's Pedal Harmonium and sundry implements
- Mel Collins / flute, bass flute, saxes and vocals
- Boz Burrell / bass guitar, lead vocals and choreography
- Ian Wallace / drums, percussion and vocals
- Peter Sinfield / words, sounds and visions

WITH:
- Keith Tippet / piano
- Paulina Lucas / soprano
- Robin Miller / oboe
- Mark Charig / cornet
- Harry Miller / string bass

Releases information

LP Island ILPS9175 (1971)
CD Discipline 0504 (2005)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Snow Dog for the last updates
Edit this entry

Buy KING CRIMSON Islands Music


Islands: 40th Anniversary SeriesIslands: 40th Anniversary Series
Extra tracks · CD+DVD · Remastered
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$17.99 (used)
IslandsIslands
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Earthbound LP (Vinyl Album) UK Island 1972Earthbound LP (Vinyl Album) UK Island 1972
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In the Court of the Crimson King [An Observation By King Crimson] (UK Island pink rim label vinyl LP)In the Court of the Crimson King [An Observation By King Crimson] (UK Island pink rim label vinyl LP)
Import
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Islands by King Crimson [Music CD]Islands by King Crimson [Music CD]
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King Crimson - Lizard - Island Records - 88 025 ETKing Crimson - Lizard - Island Records - 88 025 ET
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KING CRIMSON Islands ratings distribution


3.78
(1288 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(33%)
33%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(39%)
39%
Good, but non-essential (22%)
22%
Collectors/fans only (5%)
5%
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)
1%

KING CRIMSON Islands reviews


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Folk
4 stars the promised desert Island??

Island is a bit of a special album in the first chapter of the Crimson story, as it is only the second album that received any promotion by a touring band, as both Poseidon and Lizard simply had no touring line-up. With the previously-unknown Burrell singer, then later also bassist, and drummer Wallace (also contributing to vocals) as newcomers, only the immovable Fripp and reed player Mel Collins along with Sinfield remained from Lizard. The album came with another impressive (did someone say stellar??) gatefold artwork, the album sold less than previous, but profited from extensive touring and a lot posthumous live will be of this line-up and the repertoire was mainly song that appeared on this album.

Starting on the cool descending Formatera Lady, with a bunch of good songs but never leaving a real lasting impression, Island is a low-key album that glides along smoothly, if you'll except for the now-aged effect-laden guitar solo in Letters, which sticks out sorely a bit on the opening side. On the flipside, only Song For A Seagull is a notably different, built and played as a classic piece, and this song will impress Spanish cineaste Bigas Luna to use it all throughout his film Son De Mar (I from the sea), an excellent and sexy movie.

Much more accessible than Lizard, Islands is the last "Mk 1" studio album, Crimson toured some 18 months almost constantly, before breaking up, and Fripp signifying goodbye to lyricist/lightman/illustrator Peter Sinfield and keeping the Crimson moniker to continue his musical forays.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#14929) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Review by loserboy
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Grotesquely underrated masterpiece from KING CRIMSON which in my opinion takes the best elements from their previous 2 albums mixing the lyrical style of "Poseidon", and the orchestration and improv found on "Lizard". I have always been amazed at "Islands" profound musical extentions and emphasis on experimentation with its extended compositions. Critics harsh opinins on "Islands" seem to be mostly focused on the poor and inadequate lead singing of Boz Burrel (BAD COMPANY). In contrast my opinion is that Boz is more than adequate and offers a nice change from Mr. Wetton and actually gives "Islands" a different feel and identity than previous albums. "Islands" emphasizes its creators brilliance (Robert Fripp & Peter Sinfield) who were a very creative and "progressive" duo as demonstrated here. KING CRIMSON here rely heavily on classical instrumentation without ever getting too dominant. Guest musicians bring a nice musical influence with piano, vocal soprano, oboe, Cornet and string bass. This album also shows Fripp's Mellotron playing at it's best, along with his arrangement and composition skills. The standout for me is Fripp's use of the Mellotron (not to mention the 'ol guitar work). All in all this is a great recording and for me stands out as a great contribution to the wonderful world of progressive rock.

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Send comments to loserboy (BETA) | Report this review (#14941) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, March 14, 2004

Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This CRIMSON album is very good!! The Pete Sinfield influence is clear here: floating mellotron, saxophones, wind instruments, this is a really peaceful and relaxing album. The songs are mellow, and there are even some jazzy and bluesy styles involved. There are beautiful string arrangements on "song of the gulls". And "Islands" is one of my favorite CRIMSON's song: a mellow and relaxing mix of catchy piano, small wind instruments, smooth vocals, that can be listened endlessly.

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Send comments to greenback (BETA) | Report this review (#14921) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, April 11, 2004

Review by daveconn
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.

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Send comments to daveconn (BETA) | Report this review (#14922) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, May 01, 2004

Review by el böthy
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Maybe King Crimson worst album... and yet it´s very good!!! It´s just like that, King Crimson can not make an bad album, specially not the 70´s Crimson. But I do have to say that I don´t like this one as much as "Red", "In the Court ..." (my absolut favorite) or "Discipline". Maybe because it´s too... relaxed, so don´t expect hard songs like "21 st century schizoid man" or "Red". But if you are in the mood for something like that, then theres nothing better. I personally find the two instrumental songs to be the best of all the album, specially "Sailors Tale". That song is just so Fripp. So remember, its a good album, but if you like the rather hard side of the group, then you really should think it twice...

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Send comments to el böthy (BETA) | Report this review (#14955) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, November 07, 2004

Review by Bj-1
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars After many years of disliking this album I'll admit it has grown on me on time, and while it still doesn't reach up to the onslaughts that is 'Lizard' or 'In the Court..' the whole album is equally as atmospheric and haunting. Prime examples of this occours in the closing title track and the slightly psychotic "The Letters", the former represent the best of early Crim's beauty, the latter the beast as it tells the story of a raging wife killing her cheating husband. The unnerving middle section of the piece seem to sum up her procedure pretty well. The new lineup including Ian Wallace and Boz Burrel certainly isn't as interesting as the Lake/Giles era though Robert Fripp's unique techniques starts to shine brightly here, giving the music an extra boost within the beauty. The compositions are generally more toned down compared to earlier works but musically very interesting all the way through, the only exception being the (in my opinion) failed classical experiment "Song of the Gulls", a track that never have interested me. One of the few "skippers" in Crim's catalogue. Fairly even album in the end and worth 3.5 stars.

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Send comments to Bj-1 (BETA) | Report this review (#14968) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Review by James Lee
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Every time I listen to "Islands", I wonder what it would have been like to hear it without already knowing it to be a KING CRIMSON album. I have the sad sense that I would have appreciated it a little more if it was someone else, as it is quite good- but in a very different vein than most of the KC discography. Any fans of OPETH will understand completely when I compare this album with "Damnation", as both albums focus on the softer side of a typically louder, noisier band.

There are indeed many elements missing; the opening is a slow burn of dark strings and faint vocals rather than the usual mind-blowing KC overture, the bass and drums are rarely allowed to stretch their legs, and Fripp's masterful guitar is almost completely absent. Perhaps he was concentrating on the arrangements; "Song of the Gulls", although simply sublime and on par with any modern orchestral work, is almost completely devoid of any distinguishing KING CRIMSON sonic characteristics, as is much of the title track. "Ladies of the Road" is the single rocking exception, where one can hear plenty of proto-"Easy Money" style, and even some interestingly Beatle-esque harmonies.

I'll be the first to let Boz off easily; his voice is capable, if almost pointedly unremarkable; I'm occasionally reminded of Collins' quieter "Trick of the Tail" moments, and of Hammill during the brief periods of assertion (such as the "impaled on nails of ice" bit near the end of "The Letters"). His bass playing is at least never allowed to ruin the overall sound. I wonder if Sinfield had any objections to the mainly inaudible delivery of his lyrics...or perhaps it was intentional; aside from the baroque yet minimal excellence of "The Letter", his lyrics on the album mainly range from a now-tired retread of the classical references ("Here Odysseus charmed for dark Circe fell") to a limp stilted attempt on "Ladies of the Road" (just what rock needed, another 'road sex' song...but this time with failed humor and sneering pretentiousness to rob it of any of the usual visceral qualities). Don't fret, Palmer-James is coming to save the day soon...

From the flute intro to the final sax improvisations, this is the most Mel Collins-heavy KC album. One might say that it's his consistent and diverse talents that hold it together; I'm surprised to say that compared to the other instruments, there are twice as many impressive flute and sax moments. The secondary players also tend to steal the show; the rising, repeated string section topped by Tippet's piano and Charig's cornet soloing on "Islands" is the tender climax of the album.

Taken on its own merits, I enjoy "Islands" immensely; as a KING CRIMSON fan, I have difficulty placing it among either my favorite albums or the ones which more obviously show the relentless cacophonic experimental genius of the band. Whereas many people are often intimidated by other KC albums' noisier passages, the improvisation on "Islands" is actually more accessible with the use of acoustic and classical instrumentation; fans of post- rock or chamber music will absolutely adore this sound (compare the final minutes of "Islands" with GODSPEED! YOU BLACK EMPEROR's "Lift your Skinny Fists"). Those who prefer a more tightly focused virtuosity, on the other hand, will most likely dismiss this album as a low-key wash of half-realized ideas.

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Send comments to James Lee (BETA) | Report this review (#14957) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Review by billyshears'67
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Perhaps, my favorite KC album. Altough I've read that people didn't really care for Boz' vocals, I view them as the best from any KC album. What I don't get is Boz being credited with choreography (haha). "Sailor's Tale" is a searing freakout, cathartic instrumental, that really stands out for me. The seamless transition from "Formentera Lady" to "Sailor's Tale" is great. Boz' vocals really come out on "The Letters" which is a dramatic song about infidelity. The chorus in "Ladies of the Road" is really wonderful, with vocal participation from Ian Wallace and Mel Collins. Fripp's guitar playing is excellent throughout and his instrumental "Prelude: Song of the Gulls" is one of his most delicate and pastoral compositions. "Islands" is a very subtle ending to this album and is a continuation of sorts of the previous song. This album serves as a transitional album, from their earlier albums, to their next couple of amazing albums. If you can find this and you like KC, then buy it, I've only got it on record, but when it's back in print on cd, I'll definately pick up on that also.

PEACE & TAKE CARE

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Posted Friday, March 11, 2005

Review by Eetu Pellonpää
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars I'm not personally very fond of this album, which I consider as a symptom of rebirth pains deeper within Robert's musical journeys. Usually King Crimson has had exceptional bass players, but here the weak singer Boz has been taught to play that instrument by Fripp only few weeks before the recordings and tours of this album. Also many of the compositions are quite weak, "Sailor's Tale" and "The Letters" being the best of them in my opinion. On the time of this album I think Robert was searching new possibilities of implementing classical music textures to the heavy symphonic sound, now floating towards lighter baroque straits. For example the prelude for the closing title number is a conservative small neo-classical suite, and Keith Tippet's ethereal piano illuminates some romantic classicism to the opening of "Formentera Lady". I understood there were already strong tensions between the lyricist Peter Sinfield and Robert when this LP was done, and the band soon fell apart. The Phoenix which rose from that ash was luckily worth of all this chaos, Peter creating a wonderful solo album with the help from Crimsoid musicians, and Robert gathered new more powerful persons for his upcoming wonderful steps on art rock straits.

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Posted Friday, April 01, 2005

Review by NetsNJFan
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars After the disastrous LIZARD lineup of 1970, Robert Fripp regrouped King Crimson in 1971, to record the last album of their "classic" period (1969-71). The new lineup is an almost complete turnover, with the exception of Mel Collins, and Robert Fripp himself. Ian Wallace replaces McCulloch on drums, and is weaker. 'Boz' Burrell, a traditionally Blues singer is brought on to replace vocalist Gordon Haskell. Boz is a noted step down from the two previous Crimson vocalists. He also plays Bass Guitar on the album, due to bassist Rick Kemp exiting the band at the last minute. Robert Fripp had to teach Boz Burrell the instrument himself over the course of several months before recording. Predictably, Burrell's playing on the album is weak. This is generally considered the weakest of the numerous King Crimson lineups, and ISLANDS is an accordingly weak album. This lineup toured extensively, and can be heard live on the awful live LP EARTHBOUND (1972).

ISLANDS has it's moments, but for the most part is a very diluted album. The bright spots do not make up for it's many flaws. This album is much mellower than its three predecessors, and has more of a classical inflection. The album suffers from way too much improvisation, with sub standard musicians, especially compared with other King Crimson lineups. ISLANDS begins with Formentera Lady, which begins nicely, with gorgeous mellotron, but quickly runs out of steam and plods aimlessly for about ten minutes, with occasional good moments thrown in. A very weak opening for a King Crimson work when compared with their other albums. The next track, Sailor's Tail, is promising at first, with excellent guitar and mellotron improvisations from Robert Fripp. Like Formentera Lady, this song does not quite know when to stop, and repeats the same material for seven minutes; a very wearisome song. The Letters is just plain bizarre, a mediocre piece that does not arouse strong feelings either way, especially with Boz Burrell's flat delivery. As oppose to on LIZARD (1970), Mel Collins and the other woodwind/brass players sound much flatter and uninspired on this album, and this is especially apparent on The Letters. Side Two picks up, with the best song on the album, the lighthearted Ladies of the Road. This is a catchy song, with humorous Sinfield lyrics about female groupies. Unlike the largely improvisational Side One, Ladies is surprisingly composed. It also has an interesting Beatlesque refrain in some parts, with the backing vocals imitating Lennon perfectly. Quite odd. The next piece is also great. Prelude: Song of Gulls is Crimson's most classical piece ever, and is simply breathtaking. It does not quite fit in with the sloppy improv on the rest of the album, with its measured, carefully composed, stately grace. Sadly, it lasts for only three minutes, and the album returns to it's weak material, with the 'epic', Islands. This track, a cousin to Formentera Lady also suffers from being overdrawn, and easily could of been done in five minutes. It ends with pure nonsense, the last three minutes consisting of silence, laughing, talking, and occasional music. A sad end to a bad album.

3.5 stars - This album has its moments, but be ready to sit through lots of boring ones to find them. This is only my opinion, and fans are divided, though this album is generally disliked. Fans of KC's more classical/symphonic work will probably enjoy parts of this album, and one should remember it only is bad when compared to the other quality outputs by King Crimson. (I rate this album as good, enjoyable, but not essential)

**** After significant thought, I am upgrading this to a four star album. My above review is certainly accurate for a first impression, and many reviewers share these sentiments. However, after repeated listens, the subtle beauties of Islands begin to reveal themselves: The pitch-perfect, elegiac horn theme in the middle of Islands, Keith Tippet's nuanced and energetic keys in the periphery of the album and the sheer dynamism and relaxed gorgeousness of Formenteta Lady, to name a few. A perfect album for a gentle summer evening or a long car ride. In most respects, King Crimson would never recapture the beauty and delicateness of this album again, a real shame. I was much to hard on this album, and I'd go so far as to call my above review ignorant. However I don't have the time to change it now. This was one of the most unique Krim lineups ever, and its a real shame that Fripp abandoned the more acoustic tones of this album, and by the 1980s slipped completely into a boring guitar-bass-drum format. Islands, to put it shortly, is a melodic and soft album that deserves better.

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Posted Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Review by Philo
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars In the context of all King Crimson's seventies output the line up responsible for this album has to be the least rewarding. Islands has a jazz flavour running through the haphazard selection of cuts but there is very little focus involved in organising the structures into cohesive pieces that might have made this a more worthwhile album. The whole selection of the compositions, especially on the A side, comes across as one relentless jam with the occasional inspired moment breaking through, drummer Ian Wallace keeps things interesting from time to time. The monstrous cello which barges the album in on the opener "Formentera Lady" is a false dawn and not a weight with to measure the power, or lack of, on the album. Boz Burrell beside playing bass does his best Greg Lake impression on vocals and it might just be that Fripp was still trying to re-create the first incarnation of King Crimson but while Mel Collins (flute and various saxophones) and Boz Burrell were solid and well capable musicians the music of Islands is one long leaderless jam. "Ladies Of The Road" is more a comedy piece than anything else, serving as a prototype for "Easy Money" on the Larks Tongues In Aspic album which would follow. Boz is credited with "Choreography" on the album notes and I can just imagine him as Crimson Court jester like and being bullied on by King Fripp to act out the routine that might accompany this track. Title track "Islands" is a song that never fully gets going and in that respect is a bona fide piece of traditional prog rock. Fripp must have stood well back at this stage and wondered where he was and where all this was actually going, if indeed it was going anywhere. There was hardly any way to progress with this line up without the music becoming more unclear and more muddy despite the talent of the musicians involved, some serious restraint was needed. Islands is a frustrating and very loose concept but Fripp would trim the band down and move toward new territory while trashing away the frustrations of this period of King Crimson which in my mind is stillborn. The next chapter of King Crimson with a tighter line up and more focused direction would prove very rewarding.

Nearer to 2 and a half stars than three.

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Posted Sunday, July 10, 2005

Review by lor68
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars One of the most controversial as well accessible albums by K.C., containing a famous track like "Formentera Lady" (quite unusual, also for their standard, regarding of their experimental music), whose harmonic construction -along with its melodic line- is simple, however often being very pretty .therefore-generally- the present work is diverse, this time characterizing their easier rock and a kind of immediate music language too, absolutely strange for them.

Honestly- thanks also to the orchestral arrangement of strings all along its short duration, making it so interesting and never prolix, I think that "Island" is worth checking out at least, in spite of its unevenness (especially in the track "Sailor's Tale"). In fact for instance if you think of another recent album entitled "Overground Music" by After Crying (dated 1990), above all in a few light moments, I become more enthusiastic yet about almost each simple album by K.C.: A.C.'s 1st album and sometimes also their "Megalázottak és megszomorítottak" contain the same light unplugged stuff and a few songs with a similar melodic mood even though in a more melancholic vein (partially as within "Island" and "Lizard"), but after all even in the most accessible passages (a few ones actually)- I regard them as one of the best groups.They demonstrate to be skilful in the reproduction of those melodic elements, along with some of their typical refined music features, which made the fortune of K.C. in the past!! Ok that's valid for a relative ensemble like A.C., being strictly connected to K.C., but these latter after all - in spite of getting more and more opportunities inside the present music market-in the recent times haven't pursued such a different "policy" anymore...nowadays They are progressively entering a sort of "unknown" post rock scene, always within the world of the underground music,especially in comparison to their glorious past, and that's quite sad for me!!.Never mind, coming back to the present issue, I don't know whether it's essential or less, but for sure it's never boring nor too much "brainy", becoming pleasant at the end, both on the classic rock side and on that "refined" one of classical music, even though in a few moments!!

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Posted Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Review by hdfisch
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Even if this one is quite diferent from their other early 70's releases "Islands" is actually an excellent album by them although it took quite a few spins for me to love it. Maybe because it's a rather quiet and classically influenced one it's not immediately that much captivating and fascinating. But once one had got into the music it's really awesome. Most of the tracks on here are very pleasant and highly enjoyable, only the final part of "Formentera Lady" with the extreme high-pitched vocals and the sax part in the beginning of "Sailor's Tale" are a bit more difficult to support in the beginning. For retrieving maximum pleasure one should certainly be not too sensitive for such tunes. But actually there is not one weak track on here. Highlights? - Well I would almost say all of them. But my favorites are "Sailor's Tale", "Ladies Of The Road", "Prelude: Song Of The Gulls (wonderful pure classical piece!) and "Islands". After the title track there is still a hidden track containing only voice and tuning sound from a concert. Nice joke, not really relevant but neither disturbing at all since it's at the end of the record. I'd like to rate this album with the highest score since IMO it was together with RED (representing best the hard-edged side of them) their best album without any flaws!

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Posted Monday, October 03, 2005

Review by Raff
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I debated for a long time with myself on the rating I was to give to this album. A part of me wanted to give it only two stars; while the other tried to remind me that, after all, this was King Crimson, and you don't give only two stars to a legend of prog lightly. Eventually I decided for three, though "Islands" is far from being my favourite KC at all. Even "Starless and Bible Black", which is in my opinion the weakest offering from the Fripp-Bruford- Wetton-Cross lineup, is more interesting than this one. However, the quality of the musicianship involved cannot be denied, and Boz Burrell is probably the best KC vocalist after Lake's departure . Compared to the excruciating performance of Gordon Haskell on "Lizard" (which is musically a far better album), his vocals are a breath of fresh air. His voice may not be powerful as Lake's, but it is harmonious and graceful, well-suited to the extremely laid-back quality of the music.

As a matter of fact, 'laid-back' is the operative word here. This record is so mellow and relaxed as to be somewhat soporific. This is not a bad thing in itself, but when every track starts sounding the same as the one before, then you have a problem. That said, "Formentera Lady" and the title-track are quite nice, though not as memorable as other KC tracks, while the instrumentals are not on a par with such legendary pieces as "Red", "Larks' Tongues in Aspic" or even "Discipline". The best song by far, in my opinion, is the quirky "Ladies of the Road", much criticised because of its 'sexist' lyrics (which I don't find offensive at all - I've heard much worse!), featuring a lovely Beatles- tinged chorus and a great vocal performance by Boz.

Obviously "Islands" cannot be ignored by anyone who really wants to get into KC's musical output, but I have to admit that it is one of the weakest links in their excellent production.

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Posted Saturday, November 05, 2005

Review by Zac M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is may be my favorite King Crimson album, but it is still not not a masterpiece in any sense. King Crimson changed music al direction on this album, for the better in my opinion. King Crimson became a vehicle for Fripp's ideas and compositions, although Sinfield is still there to create lyrics. Every time I listen to this album, I thoroughly enjoy every piece/song on it.

The album starts out with Formentera Lady, a Sinfield-penned ballad, sung by Boz Burrell. Many think that Burrell's voice and bass playing are inadequate on this album, but I have to disagree; he may not be the best, but his voice definitely fits the music. Harry Miller provides an excellent string bass part, while Mel Collins's flute flourishes throughout certain parts if the song. Formentera Lady bridges into the Sailor's Tale, a piece accentuated by Fripp's use of the mellotron and guitar. The Sailor's Tale starts out promising, but ends up going on longer than needed. The Letters is another Sinfield song with strange lyrics involving infidelity, and it contains chaotic instrumental passages; it's definitely a darker side of Crimson.

Side Two begins with Ladies of the Road, a definite Crimson classic, although still not my favorite on the album. Boz does an excellent job handling the vocals here. Prelude: Song of the Gulls is a classically-inspired piece composed by Fripp. It's one of the best pieces on the album, followed by Islands, the final and strongest track on the entire album. There is a great deal of emotional impact this song has on me. I love the beautiful Oboe and Cornet parts, the Cornet part performed by a member of Soft Machine and an excellent free-jazz musician. The instrumental passages and vocal textures are the main highlight of the album. Probably one of the greatest album closers in all of King Crimson's discography.

I highly recommend this album. Sure it's very different than every other release, but that is what makes it enjoyable. Every Crimsonite is already going to have it, and if they don't they need to go get it!!! Although this album still has minor flaws, I cannot stop myself from awarding it four stars; it's truly an excellent addition to any progger's collection.

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Posted Sunday, November 06, 2005

Review by Eclipse
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars A very moving album, and the closing chapter of the first Crimson King saga. Islands is definetely one of the most underrated works on prog, and while not a perfect masterpiece, it could be very well one if it weren't for the occasional lack of energy or variety of ideas, which are always present on KC albums, even on the mellower ones. There's a new bass player and vocalist, BOZ BURRE, who together with GORDON HASKELL could very well attend a competition of who is the most underrated vocal man on prog. Each one of those voices fitted very well on their respective albums. Lizard with an "old man voiced-like person" and Islands with a "soft and introspective" voice. On Islands the jazzy approach present on Lizard continues, but in a much softer way. While Lizard was epic and aggressive, Islands is dreamy and mellow, with some classic music influence glued together to make not a boring album, but a listenable and beautiful one. Each song here has an "appeal", no song overshadows the others, they are all in the same level, making this album very consistent.

"Formentera Lady" and "Sailor's Tale" are actually one long epic, the former being the first part of it, and the introduction to this oceanic world found on Islands. Many people think it is boring, but i consider it amazing. The first part is very quiet, setting the album's mood in a very adequate way. The second part, "Sailor's Tale", is the album's best number as it features a true progressive style, reaching its climax when FRIPP delivers his amazing mellotron playing in a hauting section. The whole song is chaotic in a mellow way, if such thing is possible. "The Letters" is melancholic, but when the sax solo enters it becomes schizophrenic. This song kind of reflects the sadness (vocal part) and anger caused due to sadness due to not having the expectations sattisfied (sax solo). "Ladies of the Road" is the more rocky one here, and it is very catchy. "Song of the Gulls" is an unique song on the CRIMSONian repertoire, as they'd never experiment again with such PURE classical music. The title track is reflective, and while many consider it overlong, i think it is great to absorb its essence. A very nice ending, but definetely not an epic, since it doesn't changes its face too much during its lenght. Still, a great and beautiful song.

Not only this album is forgotten and underrated, it is also the last one from the first KC era. From now on, there'll be more experimental works and a touch of "metal" which the band will make an excellent use of. I think the people who dismiss Island for its mellowness and lack of energy should give it some more tries, or listen to it with an open mind. It is an unique album on KC's career, and definetely one of my favourites.

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Posted Sunday, January 08, 2006

Review by FishyMonkey
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars It blows my mind how a band can release this after a masterpiece like Lizard and right before another masterpiece, LTIA. This album is by far my least favorite King Crimson album, and one of my least favorite albums I've ever heard in the symphonic prog category. I have to agree with Useful Idiot here that this is one of true missteps in King Crimson's wonderful career, and with James Lee when he compares this to Opeth's "Damnation" on how it focuses on the soft side of a usually loud band. However, while Damnation was still quite a good album, this borders on awful.

(Mostly) Gone are the hard-edged bursts of insanity, the screeching guitar of Fripp, and the wonderfully written and constantly changing songs. Instead, King Crimson seems to have decided to chill out and let the listener get deeply involved with the "soothing" calm of the album. Unfortunately, there's just not enough here to justify such lazy songwriting. Every song is pretty much slow, soft, and meandering with occassional bursts of good ol' King Crimson styled insanity that make you perk up and hope...and then it goes back to the plodding and neverending...nothingness. The only song that I really enjoyed was Sailor's Tale, a brisk jazzy song with some wonderful guitar work by Fripp in the middle. It starts out a vigorous pace and never really truly lets up all throughout. Nice!

Now, someone reading this might simply think...this kid just doesn't have the patience for slower and more thoughtful jazz prog, does he? On the contrary, I actually am an avid fan of Miles Davis, especially "Kind of Blue". I have the taste for well-done solos, and this album has that in heaps and mounds. However, the floaty and usually tasty solos are not enough to really redeem the boring and simple songwriting. Just take a look at the last six minutes or so of Formentera Lady. Tripe, with occassional snatches of good stuff, like acoustic fun from Fripp, and some nice sax and tons of other stuff going on, but it's done over the same plodding rhythm for six minutes...it hardly builds at all. Song of the Gulls and the title track are almost exactly the same. The title track nearly made me want to shut it off. IT NEVER CHANGED. This is not creative, nor overly pretty. Sure, there are some pretty melodies here and there, but after 10 minutes of it, it tends to wear thin.

I don't get why this album is loved at all. I'm sorry.

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Posted Monday, January 16, 2006

Review by Man With Hat
COLLABORATOR Jazz-Rock/Fusion Team
3 stars Islands. A strange album that causes the fans of this band to be argue over whether this is a gem or rubbish, with it split about fifty-fifty. Personally, i find portions of Islands fantastic (Islands) and some of it just not that good (Formentera Lady/Saliors Tail). Anyway, as usual for King Crimson, another line up change occured for this one. The most noticable (and the one people seem to complain about) is the addition of Boz on bass, and vocals. Granted he is not as skilled as Lake, Wetton, or Belew (i put him on the same level as haskell) he isn't that bad, and his vocal style fits the album pretty well.

The songs: Formentera Lady. I find this song to go nowhere and not that fast. Definitely the low point of the album. Next comes Sailors Tale. In the same vein as FL, but IMO better. Starts off with a nice cymbol "riff" and also has some nice sax parts. Not as bad as the first track, but not overly fantastic. The Letters come next. Awesome sax part to this one! Also the first time we hear Boz chime in in the vocal department. Nice lyrics top off this very solid track. After that is Ladies Of The Road. A great little catchy song reminiscent, at times, to the british pop bands of the sixties. Great instramental work throught this song (not to mention the album). Prelude: Song Of The Gulls is great if you like classical. A very unexpected turn for KC with this song. Not to say its a perfect classical composition, but very nice and a lovely way to introduce the next song, Islands. This is a masterpiece of a song. Brilliant lyrics, awesome mood creating atmosphere, and one of the best trumpet solos i've ever heard. Such meloncholy is created by this song, truely wonderful! Unfortunatly, for whatever reason, they included a long pause and some studio ramblings at the end. Luckily it is at the end and doesn't ruin the song. Overall, an absolute masterpiece of a song.

All in all this album is uneven. It isn't all that coherant and the songs don't flow as they did in previous albums. Instrumentally there is no complaints, with tons of sax, mellotron, and guitar to satisfy that need. Definitely not KC's highest point, but an album that King Crimson fans should own, but not all of the prog community. Somewhat reccomended (even if its just for Islands).

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Posted Saturday, February 18, 2006

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars It's funny enough that this album was the second album that I listened to after my brother Jokky (he is now a businessman and no longer prog!) introduced me to King Crimson "In The Court of The Crimson King". The first time I listened to "Islands" was in the cassette format and the song truly haunted me especially "Formentera Lady". But I really enjoyed it. When couple of years ago the 30th anniversary remaster edition was released I upgraded into CD format. It's a very informative CD sleeve notes with all old days news with respect to King Crimson. It's wonderful package!

The album is pastoral, orchestral as you might hear from songs like "Formentera Lady", "Song of the Gulls" and the title track. "Sailor's Tale" gives a good transition between early KC sound and the mid 70s. "The Letters" reminds me to one of the early albums. "Ladies of the Road" which I knew from another compilation cassette that my friend lent me at the time, is a bluesy number. For those of you who love King Crimson, it's a must having this album. But if you are new to KC, you'd better start with "In The Court of The Crimson King" and "In The Wake of Poseidon". It's an excellent addition to any prog music collection. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

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Posted Friday, April 21, 2006

Review by Alucard
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars 'Islands' was released in 1971 and was King Crimson's fourth studio record. The band has changed a lot in the meantime and left only Robert Fripp and Pete Sinfield as original members, who signed all the tracks, but the two instrumentals together.From the more Symphonic metal outfit of the beginnigs,the band moved into Jazz Rock with Mel Collins on sax, Boz Borrell on bass and lead vocals and Ian Wallace on drumsplus some guest artists from the Jazz-Rock field like Keith Tippet and Marc Charig.The overall athmosphere is the typical Frippish one of tension, threat and danger which he supports all through the record with his trashing biting guitar play, alternating with some sweeter passages.

'Formentera Lady' starts of slowly with a bowed bass, flute, piano and chimes and a first beautiful theme, alternating with a second theme over a funky ostinato bass line, that will later on be elaborated by guitar, mellotron, a sax solo and soprano vocallizes blending into....

'Sailor's Tale', a syncopated up-tempo Jazz instrumental with flute and sax , giving way to a slower heavy funk rhythm change over which Fripp plays thrashing razor blade chords and a threatening mellotron .

'The Letters' starts with a delicate guitar, a mournful melody, before the brass section and distorted guitar come crashing in, followed by a baritone sax solo and a second part with angry desperate vocals ponctuated by the guitar and an A Capella outro.

'Ladies Of The Road' starts a as a slow blues with guitar and tambourine, followed by a howling tenor sax and heavy drums until the chorus gives place to a Beatles like Barbershop vocal arrangement and a sax solo.

'Gulls' is a classical elegy for strings and oboe, a sweet melody played by the oboe over pizzicato strings, a track that does not really fit in the overall athmosphere and which is far too long.

'Islands' the title song presents a perfect balance of lyrics and music a masterpice of Fripp and Sinfield. A beautiful melody accompagnated by piano and flute and leaving place to a second theme played by cornet and a harmonium and then by mellotron and oboe. All the second half of the long track functions as a long outro over a distant and discret rhythm a cornet solo, harmonium and mellotron chords fading slowly out, a masterpiece of chamber rock.

'Islands' is a Prog masterpiece and the achievement of the first King Crimson period.

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Send comments to Alucard (BETA) | Report this review (#80126) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, June 02, 2006

Review by 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.

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Send comments to Cygnus X-2 (BETA) | Report this review (#81832) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, June 23, 2006

Review by Queen By-Tor
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I've been looking at this album in shops for almost a year now, trying to decide whether I should buy it or not. A couple of weeks ago, despite all the mixed reviews I read I finally bought it, and I must say I was pleasantly surprised! Granted, I didn't "get it" right off the bat, in fact, I almost cursed myself for buying it, but after giving it a second chance I finally discovered the genious behind the works!

This is likely Crimson's hardest album to get into, and for that reason it gets bashed a lot (like Floyd's "Animals" album). This happens because A) it's mellower than the first 3 crimson albums, B) Boz is on vocals and C) people expect something ballsier. All that aside, if you discard everything you know about King Crimson and listen to this album with a completely open mind you'll find it's quite the experience.

Formentera Lady - The opening track is nothing like "21st Century Schizoid man", but that doesn't mean it should be dismissed as bad. This is a brilliant, mellow, 10 minute long track that really has a lot of offer if you listen to it just right. This song has quickly become a Crimson Favorite for me.

The Salior's Tale - A nice, heavy instrumental that would later give way to works like Larks' Tongues in Aspic. It opens nicely, progresses nicely and finishes nicely. This song should catch your interest even if you don't like mellow albums.

The Letters - Actually a fairly dark, eerie track reminicent of Epitaph from "...Court Of The Crimson King". This one flows right out of Sailor's Tale and take the smae musical direction, a bit mellower, but still pretty dark.

Ladies Of The Road - Quite the track. Opens up side 2 with a bang if I do say so myself. A bit quiet in some parts, but hey, no complaints here.

Song Of The Gulls - This (dare I say) pretty song opens up the title track of the album. This is a great song to get lost in, and it's a great beginning to the title track.

Islands - This song is the epitome of the album itself. Everything this album stands for is in this track. It's a mellow, melodic track that is easy to keep pace to and once again, easy to lose yourself in. This, however, cannot be listened to like The debut's title track which was cataclysmic, powerful and raw (as much as Crimson can be). Instead, Islands should be taken in stride, this is a song you can get lost in instead of trying to run from it in the fear that it will and can eat you.

Again, people just need to give this album a second chance without expecting an album like "in The Court Of The Crimson King". This is a great piece of work and it's too bad many people simply toss it aside.

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Send comments to Queen By-Tor (BETA) | Report this review (#89682) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, September 14, 2006

Review by Melomaniac
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Of all the KC albums I have heard (note that I have yet to listen to their 80's trilogy), 'Islands' is my least favorite. Truth be told, this line-up just didn't work together. How Fripp accepted to even release this album after three amazing records is beyond me. The first three songs I find to be plain boring, definitely nothing to write home about, while the last three songs are much better. 'Ladies of the Road' has a Beatlesque approach to it (especially the vocals in the chorus) and Prelude : Song of the Gulls and Islands are beautiful pieces of classic inspired music. Very good melodies and well written songs.

Half a good album is not much, especially from the Crimson King. Good thing the line-up changed for Lark's Tongues, with which Fripp came back from the nether.

Not completely bad, but in my opinion, not essential.

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Send comments to Melomaniac (BETA) | Report this review (#90278) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Review by Sagichim
COLLABORATOR Eclectic Prog Team
5 stars definately an underrated album , fans of the " king " must own this. i agree it's not the best and the ideas are not at peak , but what about the good moments! this cd has them, track no. 2 is one of the best tracks in the crimson history , it has the most original guitar solo iv'e heard in my life, so cool!! another thing is boz ( the singer ) vocals are perfect! he blends in the atmosphere so well. another highlight for me is the last track , so gentle and beautiful outstanding horn through out the track! in general the album is on the mellow side and has its good moments, not for starters like i said its not the best but for those pure crimson moments i cant but give this one less then 4.5 STARS!!

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Send comments to Sagichim (BETA) | Report this review (#108136) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, January 20, 2007

Review by Seyo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Islands" stands as a controversial album and the first serious sign of the band's crisis. Boz Burrell was not the best replacement of Haskell and Lake and it is obvious his vocals did not fit into the music. Musically, there are several uninspired, boring and dull moments, especially "Letters" and the rediculously long title track, which I could never really stand to finish listening. "Ladies of the Road" tries to sound as pop as CRIMSON would allow and is the most accessable song on the album. On the other hand, "Formentera Lady" with beautiful double bass and female vocals paired with frenzy guitar of "Sailor's Tale" are amazing moments and could easily rank among the band's best. On top of this, "Song of the Seagulls" is a gentle classical music piece with strings and horns, faraway from any "prog rock" instruments and sounding like it just fell down from another world. Summa sumarum, "Islands" is not an essential record by any means, still it has enough good moments to be recommended.

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Send comments to Seyo (BETA) | Report this review (#111151) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, February 09, 2007

Review by OpethGuitarist
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars The Calm before the Storm.

First things first. This isn't a bad album, but it is however, Crimson at their softest, most gentile, and least edgy. The title track is still quite good, as well as the brass play in The Letters, however, the vocals are at their most plain.

The lineup problems didn't particularly hamper the creativity of Fripp and Co., but just changed much of the bands style. Out of all the KC records, this one stands out as being one of the most different because it wasn't off the wall crazy. The jazzy sections are intriguing and neat, but at this point hardly revolutionary. Their is much classical representation and a variety of instruments used to varying effect. Islands is a somber track with some very nice, if not depressing melodies.

If ever there were a progressive KC album (excuse the 80's albums) that someone should get into without much of the edgier feel that is found on almost all their works, one should take a look at Islands. The vocals are not near as creative or inspiring as other KC vocalists, but the music is very soothing and pleasant. It still makes for a quality record.

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Send comments to OpethGuitarist (BETA) | Report this review (#112223) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, February 15, 2007

Review by Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Gordon Haskell has left the band so Boz Burrell is brought in to sing and play bass (which he just learned). This would be Peter Sinfeld's last album with the band. Ian Wallace is on drums and Mel Collins takes care of the flute and sax. Keith Tippet guests on piano and Mark Charig on cornet. Man this one surprised me but then again maybe it sets up the next album to some degree with how experimental it is. I have to give Fripp credit for trying different things and always pushing the envelope. He was a trail blazer no doubt about it.

"Formentera Lady" is experimental sounding with violin, piano and flute coming and going. Not really any sort of melody happening here. Lots of great ideas though. Drums come in around the 3 minute mark changing the sound somewhat. Some good sax late in the song as well as a great vocal melody from a lady named Paulina. "Sailor's Tale" is my favourite. Kind of jazzy sounding. The drums pound away crisply as Fripp plays along. Mellotron comes in as drums speed up creating a fuller sound. Just one glorious track. "The Letters" is reserved with vocals, until a heavy soundscape arrives briefly. There is a sax solo followed by some experimental sounds. Nasty stuff and i love it.

"Ladies Of The Road' features provocative lyrics, an explosive sax solo, and a BEATLES-like melody that comes after 2 minutes. More amazing sax and mellotron later as well. "Prelude-Song Of The Gulls" is an instrumental with some orchestration and beautiful aboe melodies. Gorgeous track. "Islands" is almost 12 minutes long. Vocals, piano, flute and a melancholic sax solo before mellotron comes in as the song seems to wake up a bit after 7 minutes.

You know Mel Collins seems to be the main focus on this record even more than he was on the "Lizard" record. That would change on the next one "Larks' Tongues In Aspic".

Edit(July 2011) : I've bumped this up to 4 stars. I read recently where this man who bought this when it came out still finds things he didn't hear earlier on.This after 40 years. Well I couldn't agree more. I've grown to love this album and rate it 4.5 stars.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#117445) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, April 06, 2007

Review by ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars KC fourth album within two years...This band brings me either pure joy or pure boredom. This album will not be different than the others since both feelings prevail as well here.

The long opener "Formentera Lady" is a dull song (?), with no rythm nor flavour. Here and there some nice piano touch but globally it is boring to death. Sounds avant- garde / improv all the way through.

"Sailor's Tale" is pure jazz-rock essay in its first part. The second half though is far much better : mellotron comes in and the drumming is great. The finale is quite hectic and incoherent again.

To hear a bit of the intro from "The Letters", you have to turn your volume at the maximum. After 1'30", the cacophony wakes you up for about two minutes. Mel is then playing some good sax with a structureless backing band. The insipid vocal section at the end won't do much to save this track from misery I'm afraid.

"Ladies of the Road" is a jazz rock-opera on his own : mellow moments, tempo changes and good sax playing : not too bad a song but not very accessible for non KC fans.

"Prelude Song of the Gulls" is a very symphonic and wonderful track : by far the most melodious and bearable of the album (more in the vein of "In The Court"). Very nice break in this overall chaos and my preferred song here by far. Almost classical and peaceful music. Rather different from KC standards (that's probably why I like it).

The closing and longest number is also a good one : it starts promisingly with a good vocal and quiet intro. The overall ambience is really (too) soft (very much "Moonchild" oriented) and melodious.

I guess this song is perfect when you go to bed at night to fall asleep. The last four minutes are quite nice and symphonic and builts a bit crescendo (time to wake up) for about two minutes. Then you get a blank (for about a minute) then some noises for another minute. This song should have ended after 9'15" : it would have been a great one.

So, here and there some good (but no great) moments on this album, but too scarce. Mel Collins does an overall great job and increase the quality level substantially. Two stars.

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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#118315) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, April 13, 2007

Review by febus
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam
4 stars DEPRESSION MADE BEAUTIFUL!!

This is an album which has a few detractors. Some reviewers think it has a lot of dull songs, others see it as a masterpiece. This is a very sad, depressing and melancholic album. King Crimson was never known for its ''Joie de Vivre'' anyway, but sure they went on Prozac on this one.

There is another element adding to this gloom is the fact that today ,year 2007, 2 of the 4 musicians implicated in the recording on this album just passed away months apart. King CRIMSON once again has a new line-up with the arrivals of IAN WALLACE behind the drums and BOZ BURELL (later of Bad Company fame) on bass and Vocals. Sadly, they left us both of them a few months ago. So it doesn't help now to elevate your mood when you listen to ISLANDS.

This is a very peaceful album, maybe too much for some , you can listen for example to the title track like a funeral procession march. It is that uplifting!! but if you love melancholic melodies, you are served greatly with ISLANDS. There are not too many ''crazy'' moments like on the first 3 albums, just a little bit on ''the letters '' where MEL COLLINS tries to have some fun, at least a little bit.

The hard- edged side that makes King Crimson unique is not present on this album, the most ''dynamic'' track being ''Ladies of the Road'' with its Beatles-esque vocals. We even have a beautiful piece of complete classical music ''Song of the Gulls'' which is a real treat.

I understand not everyone can enjoy this albumm but i do.It's beautiful sound to my ears.

4 stars well deserved Thanks to IAN W. and BOZ B. for the memories.

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Send comments to febus (BETA) | Report this review (#119105) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, April 20, 2007

Review by Andrea Cortese
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars King Crimson. What an inventive and influent band! A chamaleon that has always something new to offer, always dressed in a different suite.

So does Island with its experimental-avantguardist feel, so much different from their usual outputs. Very suggestive, strange, "schizoid" if you want with string bass in evidence, sparse sax and repetitive guitar's patterns. The opener "Formentera Lady" is strangely calm. It seems it's going to explode at each second but the sad vocalises alternating with sax go on and on for over 10 minutes. Excellent the contrast between the anguishing music and the mellow sung parts.

"Sailor's Tale" (7,29 mns) is structured in a more traditional Crimso' mood with catchy fast drumming introduction, eletcric guitar and sax. Then some distorted sax and evocative jazzy-avantguard sounds and guitar's noises until a general slowdown thought to give the opportunity to mr. Fripp to play a noisy electric guitar solo. Them finally, some powerful mellotron's eruption come with all its dramatic and gloomy atmosphere.

"The Letters" (4,29 mns) opens with sad sung part. Boz vocals sound good to me. Suddenly, the slow rythm passes on and strong sax sound blended with electric guitar enter the scenes. Then, as suddenly as it came it fades away. A gentle sax solo by Mel Collins becomes schizofrenic again until it stops giving the possibily to Boz' vocals to softly fade out.

"Ladies of the Road" (5,34 mns) is another curious track blending the typical Crimson's sound with a bluesy pattern. It reminds me of Beatles' "Come Together".

"Prelude: Song of the Gulls" (4,14 mns) starts off in a more classical suite: string, oboe and flute. A more reassuring music with more than a baroque touch. Well, an excellent break.

With "Islands" (11,51 mns) the album continue the formula of the previous track with only a a touch of sadness more. It's gently introduced by warm vocals and piano part. Then strings again and also cornet, the surprise. Not bad at all. Thanks also to mellotron.

This is one of the most difficult album by mr. Fripp. Generally it's hard to digest for the lack of those typical "exciting interludes". Notwithstanding it stands as one of the most progressive work of the period. Really King Crimson were free to experiment and to put in music their own and most deep ideas. I wonder if it could be possible today.

3,5: different (and difficult to get into) but very good!

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Send comments to Andrea Cortese (BETA) | Report this review (#130973) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Review by Prog-jester
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars You know what? I have NO reviews on KING CRIMSON yet! Unlike others who start to review all Top 100 albums right after registering, I spent these two years on PA without a single KC/PF/YES/ELP/you-continue review. A flaw or a merit? Or a chance to make again?

Here we go. This was my first KC album that I really loved. I listened to them chronologically, but anyway when ITCOTCK, ITWOP and “Lizard” were still “out of my book”, “Islands” already occupied a special place in my heart. I love the whole pastoral nature of the album; when I began to listen to Post-Rock bands, I found many similarities between them and that special KC album. Another obviously influenced band was AFTER CRYING in their early era. To be short, I fell in love with that kind of music and still enjoy it immensely (recent discovery is COMUS’ debut). How can you dare not to love the title track (one of the best from KC) with its magical slow climax nature? What about biting “Ladies of the Road” and tragic “Letters”? And opening mellow “Formentera Lady” has its own special vibe. ”Song of the Gulls” even featured in a Spanish drama movie as the main theme! Underrated and rather obscured comparing to other KC albums, “Islands” has unique mood which I never heard anywhere else (aforementioned bands come close, but not that much). If you consider KC to be a noisy Avant/Math band only, you must try this one – symphonic, pastoral, dark and mellow.

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Send comments to Prog-jester (BETA) | Report this review (#132623) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, August 11, 2007

Review by Prog Leviathan
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Another symphonic piece of jazzy-rock which is much more approachable and in my opinion more enjoyable than the very complex "Lizard". The songs on "Islands" are a good mix of groovy/airy jams and sweeping mellotron crescendos, with comprehendible melodies and much better vocals than the last time around (although not much when compared to Lake's work on the first two release). The instrumentation on "Islands" is one of the albums highlights, featuring delicate flute work throughout the opening track, sleazy sax solos here and there, and textural string/woodwinds for a nice added touch; the trumpet player, however, lets out one too many clams to fully max the symphonic appeal of this album. Fripp himself stoops to playing an occasional solo as well, giving a memorable touch to a unique album in a unique band's lineup. They never did anything quite like this again, and after listening I think you'll agree it was a smart move, but you'll likely find yourself enjoying it none the less.

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Send comments to Prog Leviathan (BETA) | Report this review (#138848) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, September 17, 2007

Review by jammun
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars If you thought Lizard was a departure from the standard KC groove, just wait until you get a listen to Islands. If there was any question that Fripp was going to follow his muse vs. taking the commercial-success road, this one settled it.

Formentera Lady has to be one of the all-time oddest choices for a lead-off track, in any genre. It takes forever to gather steam, though there's eventually a previously unheard Eastern influence displayed, but it seems to be designed as mainly a long, atmospheric intro to Sailors Tale, which is the best song on the album. I can't say enough about Sailor's Tale; it's up there with Crimson's best.

But things go a bit downhill from there. The Letter is unintentionally hilarious due to the absurd lyrics; this is as lame a song as KC has ever recorded. "Impaled on nails of ice." Gimme a break! Ladies of the Road is a lascivious take on the groupie scene, with Revolver-era Beatle-esque horns, and is a decent enough cut. Prelude is almost Baroque and is beautiful, but it's more like an intermission piece than anything substantial. The title track is also very good, but never really goes anywhere.

Given the jazz influence, this is a decent follow up to Lizard, and it's well worth a listen, but KC listeners at the time were used to albums being coherent wholes. This is more like a collection of out-takes. But some fans, myself included, eventually come to view this as a damn near essential addition to any KC collection, though Sailors Tale is the only must-have track.

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Send comments to jammun (BETA) | Report this review (#143220) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Review by rushfan4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars For some reason, I had thought I had the complete King Crimson studio discography, for which I had always thought that it was funny that I saved the best for last, since In the Court of the Crimson King was my last King Crimson purchase. I decided to prepare reviews for King Crimson's studio albums on a chronological order and it turned out that I didn't have Islands. I have remedied that situation and I am now the proud owner of a 30th Anniversary addition of King Crimson's 4th album, Islands. It is their 4th album with their 4th lineup. Boz Burrell is now the singer and Ian Wallace is now the drummer. This would be the last album in which Peter Sinfield would contribute the words to their albums. A good change for me because I have never been too fond of his abstract lyrics.

The first track, Formentera Lady is a jazz rock song with a bit of a Latin feel to it. Instrumentally, it is a melodic piece featuring Keith Tippett (I think) on piano and Mel Collins on flute and starts out with what I believe is Peter Sinfield on violin. It is a good song. My one complaint which might appeal to some but didn't appeal to me is the use of Paulina Lucas as a soprano wailing like a banshee through the last portion of the song. I suppose that this could possibly have been the inspiration to Pink Floyd's The Great Gig in the Sky, which is my only must skip tune from the Dark Side of the Moon.

The second track, Sailor's Tale, is an excellent instrumental featuring some superb drum work by Ian Wallace and capable bass playing by Boz Burrell. There is also some nice saxophone playing along the way by Mel Collins. Robert Fripp's guitar and mellotron playing are OK but kind of distract from the rest of the playing.

The third track, The Letters, starts out as an acoustic ballad with the first two stanzas until Mel Collins interrupts with some heavy metal saxophones. After this saxophone interlude Boz Burrell comes back to sing the last two stanzas with the final stanza being unaccompanied by instruments. This song tells the story of a man's mistress revealing their affair to the man's wife via a letter. The wife then responds with a letter in which it appears that she might have killed herself out of the despair of finding out that her husband was cheating on her.

The fourth track, Ladies on the Road, is the heaviest track of this album with some of its roots probably coming from a track like Cat Food from their previous output. The chorus borrows from the Beatles sound. The song is a track about groupies and sex on the road. There is a very nice bass and drum rhythm line throughout the track. The first two stanzas are accompanied by Robert Fripp playing a mellow blues line, and then Mel Collins kicks in some heavy saxophones. The track ends with a nice saxophone and blues guitar jam.

The fifth track, Prelude: Sound of the Gulls, is a beautiful classical music based instrumental track.

The final track is the title song Islands. It is a mellow piece featuring Boz on vocals only accompanied by Keith Tippett (again I think it is him) on Piano, and Robert Fripp on the mellotron. After the first two verses, Mel Collins comes in with some saxophone. The last 4 or 5 minutes is instrumental featuring piano and saxophone with some mellow percussion accompaniment.

This is a good album, but not essential. Robert Fripp's guitar playing is largely absent from this album, and Mel Collins seems to be the featured musician on sax and flute. This is a much mellower album than any other in King Crimson's discography. Following this album, the entire band would be gone, and Robert Fripp's next KC output would add two of the classic Crimson lineup with John Wetton and Bill Bruford along for Larks' Tongue in Aspic.

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Send comments to rushfan4 (BETA) | Report this review (#147480) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, October 27, 2007

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars King Crimson´s fourth album Islands was the only album from King Crimson that I had never listened to prior to visiting Prog Archives. A couple of months ago I purchased Islands because I had a King Crimson revival where I listened to all King Crimson album from an end and ups there was a hole in the discography. To be quite honest I didn´t know Islands existed as I have never been a devoted fan of King Crimson. I must say though that it is an error on my part that I haven´t purchased Island before as it is a really excellent album.

The music is generally a bit softer than on the previous album Lizard, and the sound is very different. Islands has a much softer sound and the music is nice and subtle most of the time. Formentera Lady which starts the album is not my favorite as I think it is too long and that there are too much trivial noodling that closes the song. There are some good parts in the song though. Sailor's Tale is a much better song with nice instrumentation and The Letters is also a good song. But it´s with the last three songs that Islands go from 3 stars to 4 stars. Ladies Of The Road is a great humorous song with some almost Beatesque harmony vocals. It´s a unique song in King Crimson´s discography and a real treat.

Prelude: Song Of The Gulls is a classical and pleasant intro to the title track which is the best song here. Really melodic and beautiful. It´s not very complex but symphonic in a subtle way. So you can say Islands starts a bit weak and ends with a bang.

The musicians play some great things and especially Mel Collins gets to show of his skills. Boz is a new vocalist and he does a fine job without ever reaching excellent. His voice is too generic for that.

The production has an earthy sound and I picture the colour brown every time I listen to Islands. I realize this is a very subjective view but lets just say the production is very organic.

I think Islands is a good album that has excellent moments and I think a 3 star rating is too little but the 4 star rating I´m gonna give is a small 4 star rating. After Islands King Crimson didn´t release a studio album for 2 years and at that time their style and approach had changed radically. Islands is the end of phase one for King Crimson.

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Send comments to UMUR (BETA) | Report this review (#168277) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, April 21, 2008

Review by TGM: Orb
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Review 22, Islands, King Crimson, 1971

StarStarStarStarStar

The word for this album is indeed mostly 'relaxed', as many other reviewers have noted with an air of negativity. However, relaxed is not a bad thing. All of the instruments flow in and out of the superb compositions very neatly, creating unusual, edgy and hazy atmospheres and textures, and being generally bizarre and genuinely progressive throughout without actually trying too hard. Another superb effort from Fripp and Crimson, and joint second in my Crimson list. It should be noted that this is as much Mel Collins' album as Fripp's, given how much and how consistently both of them shine throughout.

After another extreme line-up turnover, King Crimson has morphed again. The excellent Andy McCulloch is replaced on drums by the more exotic Ian Wallace (who seems to me a precursor to the inclusion of the bizarre Jamie Muir for Larks' Tongues In Aspic), Gordon Haskell (bass, vocals) is replaced by Boz, whose vocals are slightly more aesthetic and suit the more relaxed atmosphere of the album. While not a great bassist (understandably, given the circumstances), he does hold the fort. The various jazz-men again contribute, and Robert Fripp and Mel Collins (who has certainly improved) remain from the previous line-up. Pete Sinfield throws in strong lyrics throughout, linked together by a vague concept.

Biting strings give way to the opening chaotic flute solos, twisting inter-weaving instruments and swirling Tippet piano. Boz comes in with a haunting, yet undemanding, vocal. A thick bass part and tingling percussion lead into the uplifting 'chorus' section, which is later repeated with some gentle acoustic Fripp additions and an oriental feel, and then into a fairly chaotic section where just about everyone is contributing to the mix. Echoey vocals (including soprano from Paulina Lucas) and a mixture of flute, saxes, Ian Wallace tinglings and oboes sustain the song over a stable, gentle bass part. These various instruments create an ethereal, exotic atmosphere with a very interesting decadent edge, assisted by Pete Sinfield's excellent lyrics. The especial standouts on this track are Ian Wallace with his various percussion ideas and Keith Tippet's piano. A perfect introduction to the album: progressive, yet unimposing, and relaxed, yet both interesting and moving.

Tapping percussion and bass introduce The Sailor's Tale, while a strained sax and strings add an unusual, almost awkward, feel to the beat. You need to listen quite hard to hear the opening of the superb Fripp-Collins duet of doom, with sax and guitar exchanging ideas and textures. In the background, a mellotron slowly throbs while the rhythm section provides another riff and Fripp continues in a chaotic cascade of sounds which I've yet to hear from another guitar, with occasional creaking sounds on the 'tron leading to a powerful Mellotron burst and twisted ideas and the rhythm section getting a little more leeway (that Ian Wallace makes good use of). Fripp ascends into the picture again with another strong solo before the mellotron humming brings the song to its conclusion. Again, something that I initially didn't quite get, but I've grown to love it, and I'm certain that this is essential for any Crimson fan.

The Letters, a rather melodramatic lyrics-driven song, showcases Boz' vocals and developing Fripp gentle acoustics, before launching off dramatically into punchy sax-driven chaos with frantic guitar from Fripp, and a variety of vicious and heavily distorted percussion. After this has moved through chaos and a gentle aftermath, the biting second part with distorted vocals, interesting bass and percussion and weird background flute soloing begins. Superb song.

Ladies Of The Road begins with an individual acoustic and vocals, before thudding drums and bass slide in with a monstrous sax solo. Fripp's acoustics, along with the rest of the musicians, continues to develop throughout the song, emphasised a little by the moments of VCS-3. The harmonies are perfect, and Boz's vocals and lyrics are amusing, mild sexism aside. The concluding instrumental section includes a bit of high electric guitar, a superb sax duet, a walking, effective rhythm section. Nothing out of place, another great song.

The gentle, pastoral Song Of The Gulls is delightful and emotional, with oboe and strings fusing together into a cheerful classical composition with an astral and a rather separated feel. I don't know enough classical music of this kind to really comment with anything except 'I love it'.

Islands begins with Tippet's soft piano supporting a calming vocal and a gentle low flute part, and is very much carried by Tippet throughout, since he is responsible for most of the mood changes. Fripp (on both mellotron and guitar) occasionally turns up alongside Tippet. Mark Charig provides a wonderful cornet solo, while Robin Miller's oboe glides along with the vocals, sustaining the vaguely classical feel of the piece. Subtleties lurk everywhere within the gentle, uplifting piece until the gentle humming end (presumably 'Peter's Pedal Accordion'). I don't know why the end (waiting silently for a minute or two then cutting to the rehearsal room and random noise) doesn't annoy me, as it's the sort of thing that usually would, but I think it has the pleasant effect of bringing me back down to earth after that trip without grating too viciously or launching into another song.

If you love softer music, this album is essential. If you love music that has interesting genuine progressive features without trying too hard, this album is essential. If you love explosive moments, this album is essential. If you have a morbid fascination with unusual 'tron, guitar, percussion and sax parts, this album is essential. If you're a fan of King Crimson, this album is essential. If you want to see some of the proto-phase of Larks' Tongues In Aspic, this album is essential. I'm in all of those categories, and award Islands a fully-merited five-star rating. Not to be overlooked.

Rating: Five Stars

Favourite Track: Can't decide. I love every track on here. If pressed, Islands or Letters.

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Send comments to TGM: Orb (BETA) | Report this review (#169748) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, May 03, 2008

Review by ExittheLemming
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars And there was a beautiful view, but nobody could see, Cause everybody on the island was saying, Look at me! Look at me! (Laurie Anderson)

'Formentera Lady' - Is what happens when you stretch a good tune so far that the elastic snaps, leaving just a construction that conspires to be both stiff and flaccid simultaneously. It seems astonishing that the normally vigilant Fripp had fallen through the huge and creaky trapdoor of Moonchild a second time. Not as soporific as the latter but one of the very few Crimson tracks that I am at pains to concede to the bands detractors, is nothing more than stoned hippy nonsense.

'Sailors Tale' - Shiver me timbers! this is the proverbial bee's reinforced knee-pads to be sure. The late Ian Wallace cooks up a molten percussion broth that is guaranteed to 'stick to yer ribs' while Bluebeard Bob sets sail on a fiery reign of fretboard terror plundering and laying waste to all that musical convention can put in his way. Breathtaking. The sound of conformity being forced to walk the plank.

Very few bands use the Mellotron as imaginatively as Crimson have done, and these 'icy shafts of sunlight' that uncloak the sulpherous interior of Sailor's Tale contributes a glacial diffidence that is both unsentimental and beautiful.

The 'solo' guitar section is quite probably one of Robert Fripp's finest recorded moments, and I am still unsure if the effect he conjures here is achieved by some inspired 'detuning' of his guitar to facilitate these huge and gorgeous resonating chords. The source of the ominous subterranean bass drone at the end I cannot identify, but there is surely no finer equivalent even 37 years later?

'The Letters' - Sinfield's habitually arcane and portentous lyrics may have been the midwife in the tortuous birth of rock's 'Gothic Ballad' as sung here by a clearly uncomfortable Burrell. If Lord Byron had penned a rock opera it may not have been even as overblown as this. Frustratingly, both the melody and accompaniment are very good but this verbiage should really give the Crimson King an even redder face.

'Ladies of the Road' - This is great fun and breathes some new life into that flagging old 'promiscuity' warhorse as perceived by denizens of the backstage debauch. The band seem only too keen to take the mickey out of themselves and even if the marvelous chorus is Chim Chim Cheree lifted straight from 'Mary Poppins' it hardly really matters. Boz Burrell sounds suitably lecherous on the verses and the music mimics very well the dissolution it is attempting to illustrate.

'Prelude - Song of the Gulls' - Comes across as a rather short-handed attempt by the Lower School Fiddle Ensemble to premiere their first composition on Parents Night during a particularly virulent strain of flu. Pleasant enough but incongruously bland and 'safe' for a Crimson experience.

'Islands' - It seems to take a hell of a long time for this song to finally make its point and although sung beautifully and arranged well with careful use of dynamics, timbre and pace, it really should have been at least 5 minutes shorter. As betrayed later on his debut solo album Exposure, Fripp appears unable to resist the overriding temptation to remind us what an incredibly erudite chap he is by including some pointless banter he has with the orchestral players at the end.

I don't want to hear about the cutlery Robert, when you recommend a restaurant to eat.

Like many of the King Crimson albums up until the stylistic leap initiated by Larks Tongues, this record suffers from a maddening inconsistency. Boz Burrell escapes any blame however, as his bass and vocals certainly lend a bit of bluesy grunt to some of Fripp's otherwise dry and cerebral creations. Mel Collins also gets a clean bill of health and let's face it, the man has never emitted a spurious or tasteless note in his life.

Therefore I think the increasing frisson between Fripp and Sinfield may have been the source of some of the shortcomings that manifest themselves on Islands and they were to part company forever soon after.

If only Robert had recruited Jerry Seinfeld instead...

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Send comments to ExittheLemming (BETA) | Report this review (#169908) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, May 05, 2008

Review by Guillermo
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars This is the last album that I have listened from KING CRIMSON in their best period which is from 1969 to 1974, in my opinion. The Adrian Belew`s King Crimson line-ups have composed and played music which is very different from the band`s music style of their 1969-74 period. Even if "Islands" is considered by many people to be their worst album from the seventies, I still think that this album is by far more interesting than any of the albums that the Belew`s line-ups have released (and I say this even if I have not yet listened to most of the Belew`s line-ups albums, and I think that I`m not going to bother to listen to them anyway). In the eighties, nineties and in the present century, there has been a KING CRIMSON band which is very far in musical style to the original very good Progressive Rock music style that this band had between 1969-74. I still don`t understand why Fripp chose to name the Belew`s line-ups as KING CRIMSON, but that is another history.

I agree with some of the previous reviewers: this is their less interesting album from their 1969-74 period. It is mostly a "tranquility" album with some moments when the music changes to heavy sounds. "Formentera Lady" has very few participations from Boz on bass guitar and Ian Wallace on drums. "Sailor`s Tale" is more heavy with the use of the mellotron, Fripp`s lead guitar and Mel Collins`s sax playing. "Ladies of the Road" is the most "rocker" in this album. "Prelude: Song of the Gulls" is a musical piece played with an uncredited strings section. "Islands" is another relaxed musical piece on which Fripp plays a bit in an Harmonium, and there is a bit of piano playing too.

Maybe the line-up in this album was considered as the less interesting and maybe the worst from the seventies. But Burell, Collins and Walllace were good musicians. Maybe Burrell wasn`t considered as a good bassist in comparison to others that the band had in those years, but his lead vocals are good, sounding similar to Gordon Haskell`s and Greg Lake`s in style. So, him being chosen by Fripp as lead singer was a good decision. I really expected worst things from Boz`s vocals after reading some reviews! Ian Wallace was also a good drummer, more in the style of previous drummers of the band (Michael Giles, Andy McCulloch) than in Bill Bruford`s style. A curious thing about Wallace and Bruford was that Wallace was one of the drummers who replaced Bruford in YES (for only one gig) when Bruford left the band for some weeks to go to the University, in the early days of the band in 1968! It is curious that Brufod replaced Wallace in KING CRIMSON in 1972! Mel Collins was maybe the musician in this line-up who was more close to Fripp`s musical ideas for the band. His participations are very good in general.

In conclusion, this is a good album from the band which was recorded by their most underrated line-up from the seventies, but this album still has some very enjoyable moments. This album also was the last album of the band on which lyricist Peter Sinfield participated. With him out of the band, the music of KING CRIMSON became more heavy in their last years as a band in the seventies.

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Send comments to Guillermo (BETA) | Report this review (#171899) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Review by Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Probably King Crimson´s weakest release during their Golden Era (I mean, the 70´s). The frequently line up changes from album to album had a price on the final product, I guess. After the jazzy (and brilliant) Lizard, here comes Islands. A good LP, which I heard a lot at the time, but although it has many fine moments, it did not produce any classic sutff. Formentera Lady is the closest any song here came to that. Also there are the beautiful instrumental Prelude: Song Of The Gulls, which I love.

Boz Burrell was not even a bass player himself, being a sutdio singer. Legend goes that Robert ?Fripp taught him to play the bass. If he did so he was an excellent teacher, since Boz went on to become Bad Company´s original bass player (in which he did a fine job). Anyway, the other musicians are as skillful as anyone who played in the Crimson fold up to then, which is: brilliant or above that. Unfortunatly the songwriting partnership fo Fripp/Sinfield seemed cracked (they would parted ways, not long after Islands was released). The record is rather patchy and lacks focus. The muddy production also did not help matters much.

On the whole I must say I still like this CD a lot. Even at their lowest point so far, KC could deliver something quite superior to much of his competitors (and the competition was usually very strong in the 70´s). the band was clearly reaching crisis status (refelected on their chaotic and badly recorded Earthbond live LP) and it affected the music. Thus this is not the best CD to hear if you are new to King Crimson. But if you liked the previous works, Island s worth having, even if it lacks the strong sense of direction from Lizard. 3 stars.

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Send comments to Tarcisio Moura (BETA) | Report this review (#172237) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, May 26, 2008

Review by ghost_of_morphy
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Islands is one of those rare albums where Fripp and company are swept along with the wave instead of riding the crest. KC introduced jazz and heavy rock elements back in 1969, and they had ridden those ideas through the next two albums, with mixed results. Islands represents a return to a more mellow, symphonic style, picking up where they left off with Epitaph and Court.

The second half of this album (the prelude and Islands) goes a long way towards justifying the change of course. This is a beautiful piece of music in the symphonic style, and the world would be poorer without it. It is not, however, a rival to what KC had put on vinyl earlier. Sure it's pleasant, but just compare the creativity and the musical ideas packed into Lizard with this epic, and Islands will come out far worse.

The first half of Islands is markedly inferior to the second (as coincidentally the first half of Lizard falls far below the second.) Formentara Lady and Sailor's Tale are competent but hardly exceptional or compelling songs (well, Sailor's Tale has a couple of moments that sparks some interest, but once you've got the first two minutes of Formentara Lady, the other eight are pretty much wasted.) The Letters is not memorable at all and Ladies of the Road is frankly bad once you get what meagre amusement you can get out of the risque lyrical content.

In short, I'll give this two stars. It's for fans, not for the general public. The only excuse to use this to introduce someone to King Crimson would be that the only other album you have is Lizard (which is actually a better, but far less accessible production.) Islands showcases all of the flaws of the first era of King Crimson with precious few of the brilliancies.

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Send comments to ghost_of_morphy (BETA) | Report this review (#172246) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, May 26, 2008

Review by LiquidEternity
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars We should have known by this point that King Crimson would not play to our expectations.

Islands hit the band's fanbase a bit sideways, confusing many and turning a few off. For the most part, the aggression and wildness of the previous three albums are gone. If you want the hard hitting King Crimson sound, you probably should bypass this album for a while, as this is probably their most passive and gentle release ever. Someone else in their review described it as relaxed, and that's a perfect term for it. The songwriting quality is just as high. The music is just as well constructed as we have found on other King Crimson releases. It's almost like the band came off of Lizard and thought, Hey, maybe we should settle this next one down a bit. The end result is a splendid release, but not one that will grab your attention very quickly--it's an album made to be a grower, made to be one you can put on if you're in the mood for Crimson but you don't want to have to rock out.

The first track, Formentera Lady, is a slow grower with some creepy instrumental bits towards the end. The bass holds down a steady pulse, giving the saxophone room to play. It's a hard one to describe. However, flowing right out of the end of that song is the next tune, the instrumental Sailor's Tale. This is the only true aggression anywhere on the album, featuring a quick bass riff and some neat brass harmonies. In the vein of Van der Graaf Generator, the listeners are gifted with one of those sax solos where it sounds like the player is strangling the thing--very entertaining. The intensity suddenly cuts out about two and a half minutes in, giving the guitar room for Fripp's first wild solo ever, featuring his now-famous power drill technique. I personally find this guitar solo the highlight of this album, but then, I'm one of those fans that enjoy this release while still wishing it got more aggressive and energetic. The song then fills out with classic Crimson mellotron walls, a neat and powerful tool that vanishes once more, leaving the guitar to blast the end of the song out of existence. The Letters is mostly very quiet (simple vocals), but a little ways into the song the band kicks into aggressive gear with a neat saxophone riff and guitar solo behind it. The song then peters out of existence from there.

Side two begins with Ladies of the Road, a silly-lyricked tune about roadies. Again, we have more saxophone driving this tune, making you wonder who is really writing all these songs: the guitarist or the saxophonist? The vocal line is a bit obnoxious at times. The chorus, however, sounds wonderful and complicated while still being very gentle and quiet. Like The Letters, this song has some good points, but is mostly only an okay tune. Prelude: Song of the Gulls is a very orchestral bit with violins and no vocals, setting a soft stage for the title track. Islands is a slowly building song, but one with a strong melody and some really neat piano work. For the first half, the song stays consistently soft and slow, but it begins picking up speed halfway through (though there is a terrible high pitched noise on the remaster during the speeding up section that really bothers my ears). This song is a lesson in patience, as it climaxes in an absolutely lovely and unique way under beautiful walls of keyboards, piano, and that saxophone finally fitting the music just right.

In all, this is not a bad King Crimson release, just a very different one and a very much less energetic one. So if you've come to love the band through Red or anything more recent than that, be careful, as it's much different from all that. Fans of King Crimson should approach this with an open mind, however, as it is a much better album that it is often slated as.

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Send comments to LiquidEternity (BETA) | Report this review (#185128) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, October 09, 2008

Review by ProgBagel
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars King Crimson - 'Islands' 3.5 stars

Good album, but fails compared to the early Crimson catalogue.

What is good about this album is the string arrangements compiled with the horns to give each and every song a diverse feel. The problems that occurred dealt with drawing out some of the songs way too long, the worst being the title track. The vocals were nothing to brag about either, they just seemed so lifeless. I didn't find any of the songs to be memorable besides the opening number, but none of them were necessarily bad in any way, just average.

The fans of the band and people into prog with some strings would be interested. The casual's might not find promise in this.

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Send comments to ProgBagel (BETA) | Report this review (#190361) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, November 24, 2008

Review by The Quiet One
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Depressing and Beautiful Islands

Islands is King Crimson's 4th studio album, this surged after another disliked by the majority of the fans, Lizard, a quirkier and jazzier album. With Islands, King Crimson moved to a softer and less complex sound, though still maintaining the dark aura, with a bit less of the extravagant(for some) jazz roots from Lizard, however this album can easily be differentiated from the rest because of its depressing and melancholic mood overall.

Anyway, the everlasting change of line-up also ocurrs here; Boz Burrell and Ian Wallace join the group, supporting vocals/bass and drums, respectively. These two new musicians while they weren't as capable as the previous drummer and bassist, one of the factors why people don't like the album, still were decent enough so as to not ruin the music. Besides the ''negative'' addition, there's a very good addition of wind instruments, giving it a unique touch, which no other Crimson album has. Now to the songs:

The album starts with Formentera Lady, which it begins with a wonderful blend of wind instruments to Boz's soft, yet with a dark feel, voice. The song evolves constantly but very subtley, which slowly more instruments are added to this incredible piece, Mel's great saxophone or Robert's acoustic guitar, even some scary voices giving it a unique dark mood to the song.

The following song is called Sailor's Tale. The song opens in a fast tempo drumming, with a decent, yet entertaining, bass line, and soon the sax to come to give a give a typical KC feel to the song. At a certain point, the sax and Robert's guitar reaches a climax in which soon fades, and a new rhythm to the song appears, this time a slower one, yet incredible. The main protagonist here is Robert with his amazing guitar solo, with a sound that reminds me to tin. After this incredible guitar show, the song reaches to another climax, and soon an odd sound blasts, leaving a dramatic mellotron to guide the song to the end.

The album continues with The Letters, a much softer song compared to the strength of it's previous. Boz' voice is similar to the one he delivers in Formentera Lady, soft and depressing, with Robert's acoustic guitar. But if you thought the song would be gentle all the time, you are wrong, an unexpected and frantic appearance of the sax with Robert's subtle, yet powerful guitar destroys that soft and depressing tenderness completely. That won't last long however, since the song recovers from that mind-blowing blast, but not completely, now the melody is led by Mel's saxophone, which won't lead to soft paths for so long. The song recovers once again to the rhythm of the intro, but with a bit more of energy delivered by Boz's voice, till it finishes with just Boz's depressing voice.

Want a rest? Well, you'll have to wait, because now comes the powerful, yet slow tempo, Ladies of the Road. The song has a slow rhythm, as mentioned before, created by the drums and bass, quite well performed both got to admit. Yet, the song will have it's jumps and lay downs; the jumping blast of the beginning with Mel's immpecable sax or Robert's guitar solo near the end, as well as the final sax solo with Boz' great powerful voice; the lay downs would be the very soft and gentle ''chorus' ''.

If you want to rest now, I'll give you my word to do that. Because know comes a ''classical'' song, Prelude: Song Of The Gulls, a beautiful and delicate piece performed by strings and some wind instruments. A delightness which with not many bands you can experience.

Islands finishes with the depressing title track. A song compromised by flute, piano and Boz' delightful voice. The song moves into more depressing fields when Mel's saxophone is heard. Finalising the song, the melody is made by a cheerful, though oddly enough depressing, cornet accompanied with a melodic piano and a sad mellotron and a calm drum pattern. Truly emotional this final song is, with the last section, given to cry.

To make it short, it's a wonderful depressing work of art. Gives you the classic power of KC with Robert's guitar and Mel's saxophone in songs as Sailor's Tale or The Letters, as well as the unique touch of this album which is to enjoy the beauty of songs like Islands or Prelude: Song of the Gulls. There's no other album like this in KC's catalogue, which I must insist you to admire it's uniqueness and further more give it some more spins before giving up.

5 stars. Don't buy this album expecting complexity or virtuosity on the rhythm section as in Lark's Tongue in Aspic, I recomend this album for all the aspects I named in the previous paragraph.

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Send comments to The Quiet One (BETA) | Report this review (#196136) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, December 29, 2008

Review by crimson87
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars One of the most unique pieces of music you will find on this site.

This album is often overlooked by King Crimson fans and some even say is their worst release. One thing is certain , Islands is not an easy listening album. It may take several listens before it starts to grow on you , but once it does , it's one of the most valuable experiences you are likely to face in your musical yourney. This album feels like a big piece of music. One can not tell when a piece begins and one ends. In that aspect , Islands may be similar to Miles Davis On the Corner for you to compare somehow. Another peculiarity of this record is that there aren't mindblowing solos or incredible performances , well maybe Sailor's Tale is the exception to the rule.

The album uses quite unusual instrumentation even for a prog album including an oboe , a cornet and diferent wind instruments. The athmospthere on this record is incredibly calm , but this is an aspect of Islands you will have to deal with in order to fully appreciate it. A proof of this fact is the opener Fomentera Lady that relies on wind instruments and the ethereal scat of the soprano Paulina Lucas seems music written in another realm , and believe me I am not exagerating. This piece is connected with the ferocius Sailor's tale , this is quite a change from the mood of the opener! Bob Fripp plays an overwhelming guitar solo on this track , but there are also lots of sax and Mellotron interplay here , the good ol' mellie is often remembered by it's mellow sound but on this track it sounds like a person suffering in pain. The next number , The letters is probably the weakest track on this record because it's quite inconsistent. It has good lyrics though. Boz saves us from sleeping by screaming suddenly : Impaled in nails of ice!

The next track is the one that may resemble an actual song in structure. Ladies of the Road features a beautiful Beatles sounding chorus and some hilarious lines by Peter Sinfileld , those are not really poetical , he goes straight to the matter here: Said , please no surrender , just love to feel your Fender. Now if you have found that line grotesque , the next song is sublime. Song of the gulls , features classical instrumentation , it could be a perfect wedding march! This song has nothing to do with prog , rock or any of the genres described on the site , it's beyond all that. Truly one of a kind

This record closes in the same mood it started with the title song Islands. Boz wasn't the finest bass player Fripp has found but his voice really suited this record and this track in particular. Melancholic enough to bring tears out of your eyes , whatever island this guys are describing I just want to get stranded there. Musically the song is really simple. Boz's voice is accompanied by a subtle piano , some wind instruments , a little buildup at the end of the tune... after the song finally vanishes out of your speakers and you are left in awe with the fourth King Crimson album.

Not for every listener for sure , but it may be a really good choice for the adventorous ones.

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Send comments to crimson87 (BETA) | Report this review (#200723) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, January 26, 2009

Review by The Sleepwalker
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars I really like most of King Crimson's albums in the 70's, their music was very epic and (even the improvs) had something that made them very enjoyable. This album however, is kind of dissapointing compared to ITCOTCK or Larks' Tongues In Aspic.

The album starts out pretty good with the quite gentle "Formantera Lady", a ten minute long song which starts out very soft and mellow, lovely flute, piano and gentle vocals make it a pleasant experience. After a while a smooth bassline joins the song and the song gets more bombastic. After about seven minutes some sort of jazzy jam comes in, this is the King Crimson I like, it's a really good opener for this album.

"Sailor Tale" is next, an up-tempo song with a pretty nice bass riff and saxophone playing. The first two minutes are basiccaly a jazzy jam, after a while Robert Fripp's growling guitar takes the leading role, mellotron comes in and the song reaches it's climax. Though not really being a bad song, the song isn't able to touch me, it feels kind of unfinished.

"The Letters" is worse, it starts out very soft with really quiet vocals. Eventually guitar comes in, which is compared to the vocals extremely loud, the song turns into a not very enjoyable jam and sometimes the very quiet vocals return, not a good song at all.

"Ladies Of The Road" is a more decent song than "The Letters", it's kind of funky and the vocals are much better than on the previous song. The song has several guitar and saxophone solo's, but the song lacks power, and just like most of the songs on this album, feels like it could have been much better.

Next is "Prelude: Song Of Gulls", a mellotron driven song. This song is very much influenced by classical music and sounds pretty fun, nothing more than just fun, though. The song is not very diverse, but can be quite a nice listen.

"Islands" is the final track of the song, it also is the lengthiest track. The vocals sound very melancholic and they are driven by nice piano. This soft music goes on for a couple minutes, a couple minutes too much maybe, and they lead to a very short climax, a very short jazzy jam. After a minute of total silence we get to hear some talking and improvising, maybe this is added as some sort of hidden track, but I'm not sure. "Islands" could have been an amazing song, I'm sure of that, I don't understand why the climax couldn't be more powerful and lengthier and why the song didn't have a little more diversity, it now is a mediocore song instead of a KC classic.

Islands really lacks the feeling most other King Crimson albums have, it's not diverse at all, which doesn't have to be bad, but in this case, it is. Only "Formantera Lady" can maybe be called a KC classic, though it isn't as good as any track on ITCOTCK, the rest of the tracks all are dissapointing. I really think this album could be much better, I can't enjoy this album so I'll give it just two stars.

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Send comments to The Sleepwalker (BETA) | Report this review (#213466) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, May 03, 2009

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I found there plenty of reviews from site collaborators with very different opinions - and marks from 1 to 5 as well. So, is this album so different or strange? No way,I think.

I have it for years and like it. I think many listeners are expected from any KC album some sound explosions, energy peaks and slow moments, contrasts, saying in one word. You can't find too much of them there on this album.

All music is based on Fripp's mellotron and guitar sound with many brass additions from Mel Collins and guest musicians, incl. Mark Charig and Robin Miller. Boz Burrel, lead vocalist,is good enough for singing, but very average as bass player. So, we have slow,mellow and often sad album without contrasts but with nice melodies, long compositions and very classic feel. There are plenty of bras arrangements, incl. superb sax solos long "Sailor's Tale". We have there some sounds coming from great avant-jazz piano player Keith Tippeth and some clasic Paulina Lucas soprano voice on back-singing. We have light jazzy and bluesy feel as well.

Differently from some other KC albums, no surprices,no explosions, but just good down tempo music of high viscosity. And it is enough for good album!

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Send comments to snobb (BETA) | Report this review (#244724) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, October 15, 2009

Review by kenethlevine
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog-Folk Team
3 stars If "Lizard" dipped its toes into the vast cool ocean of modern jazz, "Islands" submerged itself. Only Fripp, Sinfield and Collins remain, with Collins having the greatest impact on the sound via woodwinds and brass. It's almost as if Robert Fripp tried out a variety of ensemble concepts during the initial run of the group, before settling on the violin led final trio of disks that many regard as the group's best.

The new bassist, and I do mean new, as he only learned the instrument prior to the recording of the album, plays loudly to compensate for questionable ability. One of my problems with KC from here on out as that they seem to have only two volumes - not loud enough no matter how high you turn it up, and too loud no matter how low you turn it down. So most of "Formentera Lady" falls into the fomer category and the "Sailor's Tale" the latter. Both have real highlights, with the gentle melody of "Formentera Lady" carried well by Boz and improvised later by Collins, and the closing mellotron-led passages of "Sailor's Tale" reminding us of the power of the orchestral prog introduced waaaaaaaay back on ITCOCK just 3 years prior.

"Ladies of the Road" marks a low point for the album - a kinky retelling of the groupies' story from the innocent band member's perspective....please. Gimmickry laden, it must have been equally unimpressive in its day, but is now wholly irrelevant and not even worth the curiosity. But "Prelude/Song of the Gulls" is perhaps the group's most fully classical moment ever, from the meters down to the instrumentation, and it provides a gorgeous intro to the album's title track. Though the decidedly mellow "Islands" is a bit overlong, it does epitomize Fripp's ongoing knack for avant garde romanticism that would permeate some of the more accessible tracks on the remaining albums.

While alienating to fans, flawed in direction and production, and definitely not a desert island disk, this album proved that, at least in the 70s, Robert Fripp possessed an uncanny knack of making a minor treasure out of a major shipwreck.

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Send comments to kenethlevine (BETA) | Report this review (#256692) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, December 18, 2009

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Metal Team
2 stars There's not much on this album that sounds like a regular King Crimson work. It's very soft and mellow. No wonder it attracts people that are not in KC normally, and disagrees with devoted fans.

The diversity of King Crimson is one of the reasons why I love them so much, and while Island may not be an album that I pick up a lot, I think it's still a decent accomplishment, especially the first side. Formentary Lady burns with a very subdued fire; the known loudness of Crimson is entirely absent. By contrast this is almost pastoral in nature, with very unusual and experimental harmonies, especially at the end. In fact it rather sounds like kraut rock then like King Crimson. Anyway, a stash of dope comes recommended to fully appreciate this.

The 7 minute Sailor's Tale is a nice jazz rock improvisation that treads more familiar water. Excellent piece. The Letters is almost drowsy, but gets really loud after a minute or two. It brings back the atmosphere of the previous album but the song doesn't captivate me equally.

With the next track, Ladies of the Road, the album fades out for me. I am not much of a Beatles fan so that might explain why I don't like the schoolboy harmonies here. But I think that also Beatles fans would find this substandard. Song of the Gulls is a surprisingly inadequate orchestral piece and only makes me further loose my interest. The closing track Island brings the album's momentum back, at least for a while. It has a nice soothing atmosphere and would have been great for just 4 minutes, but it lacks the material necessary to last for 12 minutes.

Even with all the energy I put in this album, I can only appreciate the first 2 tracks. Therefore it looks highly unlikely I will ever replace my vinyl copy for a CD, unless I really can't think of anything else to buy, which - says my scraggy wallet - won't be anytime soon...

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Send comments to Bonnek (BETA) | Report this review (#257295) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams
2 stars Between two of their most amazing albums (Lizard and Larks' Tongues In Aspic), King Crimson released this piece of proto-new age drivel. Sure, as is often the case with Crimson, most of the band members on the previous album are gone, but this album doesn't come close to the standards we had come to expect from Fripp & company.

First, the good points. Boz Burrell had a great voice. Possibly the best of any incarnation of Crimson. Sailor's Tale, once it gets up to speed, has some fine moments, particularly in the interplay between Fripp's guitar and Mel Collins' sax. And Ladies Of The Road, although simple compared to most King Crimson songs, is quite nice.

But the rest of the album ranges from completely forgettable to downright bad. Formantera Lady, with asian motifs, is the best of that bunch. It takes too long to get going, and never rises above it's simplicity. The Letters, Prelude: Song Of The Gulls and Islands are all extremely yawn inducing, and the closer, Islands, is just painful to listen to. Mark Charig's cornet solo is one of the worst horn solos I've ever heard.

Some of the live recordings of this group released by DGM has given me a little more respect for this lineup, but this album has always been nearly unlistenable to me.

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Send comments to Evolver (BETA) | Report this review (#285507) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, June 07, 2010

Review by tarkus1980
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars King Crimson's slide towards irrelevancy continues with this album (not that they ever reached that point, of course, but they were sure on that path in 1971), but strangely this a good deal better than Lizard. The lineup changed once more, as future Bad Company bassist Boz Burrell took over Haskell's bass and vocal duties (and believe me, he may not be any sort of brilliant singer, but he's miles above Haskell), and one Ian Wallace (who also later played on live tours with Bob Dylan - is there any band more useful for six degrees of separation games?) took over the drum duties. Fripp remained the primary songwriter, and while some of the material on here is worse than anything on Lizard, a good deal of it also shows that Robert was really getting the hang of this whole songwriting thing.

The bad news of the album comes in the form of the first seventeen minutes, a combination of two tracks, "Formentera Lady" and "Sailor's Tale." The actual song isn't that bad - after pointless instrumental wanking for about two minutes, we're greeted with a pleasant late-60's-style easterny psychedelic ballad (with prog lyrics, of course), and while it's nothing genial, it's still a nice escape from stuff like "Happy Family" off the last album. Unfortunately, Fripp just couldn't let a good thing go undisturbed - over the next seven minutes or so, he goes for discord overload, throwing in choirs purposefully singing off key and various instruments just playing whatever. Then the band breaks into "The Sailor's Tale," and while Fripp gets a lengthy guitar solo that might seem alright in its bizarreness, it pales to any number of his efforts before and after. And the rest of the music, well, it's basically just more of the same - instrumental noise taking the place of good ideas and cohesion. I will admit that some bits and pieces of the jamming are interesting on a purely technical level, but once again, I've heard much much better in my life.

Amazingly, though, the rest of the album is totally unlike that seventeen minute waste. The next two tracks are, like, actual songs! With real melodies, real dynamics, real riffs, you name it. Just as well, Sinfield all of a sudden develops a decent talent for lyric-writing - "The Letter" is clear, concise and non-cliched in its tale of one man and two women, "Ladies of the Road" is filled with puns about screwing groupies, and the closing title track provides nice imagery of floating on your own private island. Nothing pretentious, nothing meaningless, just some nice texts allowing for actual resonance with the listener. So hats off to our favorite lyrical dork.

But back to the music. The opening melody of "The Letter" is quietly eerie, with Boz setting the scene of the first two verses, and then out of nowhere comes this GREAT mellotron/brass riff with Fripp doing some of his stuff over it. Then there's some slight sax noodling to build up the tension further, with Fripp adding some guitar coloring once more, and following that Boz starts screaming the "IMPALED ON NAILS OF ICE" part in a way that really conveys the hurt and frustration of the wife, before going back to the quiet eerie melody that goes with the wife killing herself. Now don't get me wrong, this isn't the greatest rock song of all time or anything like that, but it's just such a nice pleasant surprise to discover that Fripp could, in fact, pen a solid rock song, albeit with some necessary Crimson twisting.

Then of course there's "Ladies of the Road," with naughty music to go with the naughty lyrics. The verse melody drips with subtle sleaze, the instrumental breaks are bass heavy with great sleazy sax parts, there's bits and pieces of typical Fripp guitar, and there's even an ultra-charming Beatlesesque chorus to match! WHERE WERE YOU ON LIZARD??!!!

Now the next two tracks are a bit more "pretentious," but in a good way. "Prelude: Song of the Gulls" is a 100% classical composition by Fripp, who takes full advantage of the presence of all the instrumentalists available to him in the studio. It doesn't break any ground in classical music, of course, but I don't really mind that - the era of classical music he's trying to model this after was characterized by rigid rules and standards, after all, and this is just another quality composition following those rules. Besides, Fripp is one person I'd much prefer to stick to "regular" classical than modern classical - if ever there was a creative person who could afford some (not total, but some) "rigidity," it's Fripp.

Then there's the title track, a pleasant nine-minute ballad driven by keyboards and Mark Charig's (one of the album's featured players) cornet. Whatever be, the music creates a really beautiful atmosphere - I really feel like I'm on a sea floating towards an island, except that for me, the sea I'm on is in outer space, and the island is somewhere in the middle of the gorgeous album cover. Major kudos go to Fripp for the restraint shown in this composition - the Fripp of the previous year would have tried to make the last six minutes of this into "The Battle of Glass Tears," after all. Here, though, Fripp managed to create one of the ideal songs for listening to just before it's time to go to bed, and that's a compliment. Of course, for whatever reason, after the track ends, there's silence, and then a tape of Fripp giving some direction in the studio, followed by strings tuning up. Fripp's voice is neat, that's all I can say about that.

Overall, I can see how many KC fans could end up disliking this - the second half of the album isn't really "progressive" at all, and the first half, in my opinion, gives a bad name to experimentation in rock music. However, as one who judges music by its quality and not by how many points on the "progressive checklist" it matches, I can tell you that the second half of this album is very very enjoyable. Don't overspend on the album, but don't avoid it either.

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Send comments to tarkus1980 (BETA) | Report this review (#293313) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Review by thehallway
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars The general consensus on the four albums of the first era of King Crimson seem to adhere to the following rules: overrated, non-rated, underrated, and aptly rated. While some individuals may disagree about a couple of these, there are apparently very few who would feel the need to dispute the response to 'Islands', the fourth album from the Fripp/Sinfield line-ups.

And aptly rated it is indeed; no lover of prog would readily criticise this record, yet its minor weak points are equally obvious and agreed upon. Finally there is peace among the Crimso-critics, and this is very fitting with the mood of 'Islands'. It is a modest and tranquil album, but not with its chaotic moments.

'Formentera Lady' opens, with some simple but melodic themes and a nice whimsical B-section (I won't say chorus, 'cos... what's a chorus?). It soon turns into a trippy improv-jam, utilising a soprano and a variety of orchestral instruments, who spiral around on those kind of eastern scales you hear on early Floyd records. It's nice mood-music but 6 or 7 minutes would suffice. 'Sailor's Tale' is a really grooving ABA instrumental with the principle section reminiscent of the speedy 6/8 interludes from 'Schizoid Man'. It features some truly explosive guitar work from Fripp, and Mel's sax sounds like a horse! The repeating bass riff holds things down though, and it's only the unnecessary mellotron coda that slightly ruins things. The first side ends on a bit of a low-point with the confusing, dark tale that is 'The Letters'. I guess the lyrics prevail here, but the totally random (and far too loud) middle section just sounds like an introduction to a much better song.

'Ladies of the Road' fulfils the role of the obligatory 'light-hearted song' on this Crimso album. But just like the others in the 'Cat Food' series, it's a really great tune. It's already been pointed out that the harmony-fuelled choruses are Beatle- esque, and I believe the bluesy verses too, are reminiscent of something like 'Come Together'. With the majority of this piece in 7/8, it will never lose its originality, which is lucky because it loses most of its groove under such a time signature. In contrast, the misplaced 'Prelude: Song of the Gulls' has no groove to begin with, because it is entirely of a classical style and instrumentation. Although not strictly unpleasant, I feel that Fripp was perhaps out of his depth attempting to write classically and, in any case, was wrong to include this piece of music on a rock album. It kind of reminds me of a primary school performance, where the parents politely clap afterwards so as not to offend... 'Islands' ends this album on a peaceful high. I think this song is one of Crimson's most emotional outputs, certainly THE most from the first set of albums. The muted trumpet solo is particularly moving. And like many King Crimson songs it builds into a crescendo, but unlike most, it doesn't become cacophonous; as it should, 'Islands' finishes with the same beauty with which it begins.

Yes, this record is great. It has some less memorable moments, and one truly naff piece, but overall it is a great way to end an era. The general feel is softer (hell, even Keith Tippet has calmed down) and this compliments the artwork greatly. In some ways, 'Islands' brings together all the best parts of the previous three efforts, but just like those it could never be perfect. That would come later...

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Send comments to thehallway (BETA) | Report this review (#295618) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, August 21, 2010

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Metal Team
4 stars Before listening to Islands I've been subjected to both the positive and the negative opinions of this album from both friends and professional online reviewers so I knew that it wouldn't be an easy to get into. My initial reaction reminded me of all of the negative comments that it has received over the years. It might be a completely different album than the one you might expect to fill in the gap between Lizard and Larks' Tongues In Aspic, which made many people question it as a legitimate King Crimson release and I can understand that. Still, there was something in this material that made me want to revisit it on many more occasions since then and now my opinion has completely reversed into a positive such!

Please note that I rarely make myself listen to music that I didn't initially enjoy, i.e. there has to be something there to begin with that sparked my interest and this was definitely the case with Islands. I might not have originally gasped at compositions like Formentera Lady or the completely gorgeous arrangement of Prelude: Song Of The Gulls that sounds like nothing King Crimson have ever released even to this day. Still, I clearly remember liking the very raw sound of Mel Collins' saxophone on Ladies Of The Road and the melodic arrangement of the title track. Eventually I would go on to appreciate other sections like the wonderful instrumental Sailor's Tale where Robert Fripp finally takes his rightful place in the spotlight and the highly underrated The Letters, which to me sounds like the main inspiration for Anekdoten's sound.

Today I consider Islands to be a worthy addition to the King Crimson discography because, just like its predecessor, it offers another completely unique record experience that the band would never try to replicate again. If you've already covered the basics like King Crimson's debut album and Red and Larks' Tongues In Aspic then you can safely put Islands on your purchase list. Just remember to be open-minded about the initial experience and the music will handle the rest.

***** star songs: Sailor's Tale (7:21) Prelude: Song Of The Gulls (4:14)

**** star songs: Formentera Lady (10:14) The Letters (4:26) Ladies Of The Road (5:28) Islands (11:51)

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Send comments to Rune2000 (BETA) | Report this review (#298844) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, September 12, 2010

Review by stefro
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars You can roughly group King Crimson's 1969-1974 era albums into two distinct groups; firstly, you have the stone-cold classics, the two albums that bookend this collection, '69's seminal debut 'In The Court Of The Crimson King' and the dark, bass-heavy closer 'Red' from '74. Then you have all the rest. 'Islands', from 1971, with it's freaky, jazz-natured riffs and ghostly ambience, is one of the rest. There are only so many 'classic' albums a band can produce in their lifetime and these usually come at career beginnings. As most of you will know, King Crimson split after releasing 'Red'(thanks to leader Bob Fripp). However, Fripp resumed band activities eight years later in 1982 with the post-punky 'Disicpline' album, which came complete with a fresh new-line up. King Crimson would make many more albums post 'Discipline', but none to match any of the wonderfully inventive albums that characterized then group's early burst of activity. 'In The Court...' and 'Red' were the two stand-outs; others, such as 'Lizard' and 'Larks Tongues In Aspic' still broke conventions and dazzled with their artistic flair, but they somehow failed to re-invite the pure brilliance of the classic two. 'Islands' is pretty much King Crimson doing jazz, just within an avant-garde/prog-rock framework. It lacks the timeless melodies or iconic themes of Kin Crimson's very best, but you have to remember to take this jugdement in context. Most King Crimson albums feature more musical innovation that most of band's careers. 'Islands' is by no means a great Crimson album, but only in the context of what it has to live upto. If 10cc or George Michael had released 'Islands', they'd be hailed as genius'. Just remember the context of it all. STEFAN TURNER, LONDON, 2010

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Send comments to stefro (BETA) | Report this review (#306966) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Review by friso
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars King Crimson - Islands (1971)

The '71 King Crimson effort shows a small regression. The debut and 'Poseidon' had both been great symphonic/eclectic prog albums and the even more interesting 'Lizard' can be seen as an artistic peak of the progressive movement in general. Successfulness in innovation under the flag of guitarist/mellotron-player Robert Fripp didn't mean having a steady band and thus the poorly formed version of '71 Crimson fails to impress me. The lack of a good bass-player, some good composition skills and a vision does this album much harm.

The style of this album is different from all other King Crimson albums, though it relates a bit with the jazzy/avant Lizard. Instead of a 'full' sound, the band has an 'empty' sound with many low-volume or fragmentary themes. The wind-section is often disturbing. The jazz influences just don't work to well on this album in my opinion.

Still, this album has a lot of beautiful moments. The opening section, Formentera Lady, has it's moments (though it's too long and a bit boring). Sailor's Tale has a great ending section with an intense King Crimson sound, but is bothered by a lack of cohesiveness and direction. The Letters and Ladies on the Road both suffer from fragmentary song-writing but do have their catchy moments. The refrein of Ladies on the Road is very Beatlesque, which is quite strange after the harsh criticism on the Lizard song 'Happy Family'.

The real attraction is the surprisingly acoustic, harmonic and accessible 'Prelude: Song Of The Gulls' and 'Islands' ending section of the album. Song of Gulls is a fully acoustic, almost classical, piece with a great string-section. A total surprise, but it's a relaxing piece of music. The epic, Island, is just great. A warm piano, a good wind-section and devoted vocals by Boz. The piece is best described as beautiful. Not very progressive, not confronting, just beautiful. I wished they had played more of these songs in their later days.

Conclusion. I won't consider this an essential King Crimson release. The band sound disjointed and the album lacks cohesion. The only essential piece is the title track. Some tracks bore me and some of wind-sections irritate me. Fans of the band could carefully try to get into this album, but if you don't have that King Crimson-urge you'd better spent your money elsewhere. For those who embrace the digital era I would recommend the song Island, one of the few tracks your girlfriend/wife will also like. Three stars.

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Send comments to friso (BETA) | Report this review (#324206) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Review by zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Post/Math Rock Team
2 stars Fripp got a touring band together before this album was recorded. There was no tour for Lizard. Islands is the last KC album to feature the lyrics of Peter Sinfield. It would be the last appearance of flautist/sax player Mel Collins until he briefly showed up on Red. New drummer Ian Wallace was probably the best drummer KC had after Giles and Bruford. Fripp personally taught singer Boz Burrell how to play bass. After this album he would go on to join Bad Company. Keith Tippett, guest pianist for the last two albums, would leave after this. Islands was the worst album Crimson made until Beat.

"Formentera Lady" starts with string bass, then flute and piano. Boz starts singing. Later bass, bass drum and hi-hat and some more flute. Vocals mimic the flute playing. If you listen closely you can hear some of Fripp's acoustic guitar. Later on some sax. Near the end is some soprano female vocals. A hi-hat pattern seques into..."A Sailor's Tale", the best song here. Based around a repeated bass line. Guitar and sax play in unison. Later a dissonant sax solo. After the song changes to a beat with snare rim sound. Fripp changes his guitar tone and Mellotron comes in. Guitar gets more banjo-sounding with stronger snare hits now. The music as a whole is now more intense and dramatic. Drums stop and Fripp plays some fast banjo- like guitar.

"The Letters" is the worst song. Starts with guitar and vocals, then sax and drums. Best part of the song is when Boz yells "impaled on nails of ice!". "Ladies Of The Road" is a blues-rock song about groupies. Has lines like: "stone-headed Frisco spacer / ate all the meat I gave her". Wallace came up with the drum pattern. The chorus sounds like the Beatles and has backwards guitar. Lots of good sleazy sax in this song.

"Prelude: Song Of The Gulls" does not feature a single member of the band. Only classical session musicians. Supposedly Fripp conducted the orchestra using a pencil. A nice piece of music. The title track starts with piano, vocals and bass flute. Later music changes to the main part of the song. After cornet and harmonium came in. Halfway the drums come in but they are mixed low. Then some Mellotron and more cornet.

There really is not another album like this in the Crimson discography. Fripp clearly had to reinvent his band after this. This is good for hearing "Sailor's Tale", and maybe "Ladies". The rest is some of the worst stuff this band ever came up with. I think this was the last album where Fripp wrote all the music. 2 stars.

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Send comments to zravkapt (BETA) | Report this review (#351704) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, December 13, 2010

Review by thellama73
COLLABORATOR Eclectic Prog Team
5 stars "Islands" is the most heavily maligned of all of King Crimson's 70's studio albums, and based on its reputation, I took my time in acquiring it. When the fortieth anniversary remaster of it was released, I saw it as an opportunity to complete my collection and boy am I glad that I did! It has since become one of my very favorite records from the group, second only to their debut and maybe "Lizard."

"Islands" is the fourth studio album from the continually disintegrating band headed by Robert Fripp. Given the fact that the personnel vary so frequently, it's remarkable that Fripp was able to get anything at all recorded, let alone something of such high quality. The album consists of six generally lengthy songs and maintains a somewhat more laid back atmosphere than King Crimson is known for, but the record is not without its intense moments. I find both the title and the cover art to be extremely appropriate; the theme of little spots of color surrounded by emptiness is embodied perfectly in the music here.

The opening track, "Formentera Lady," begins with brooding cellos which gradually give way to a rather pastoral song without much drama. This all changes with "A Sailor's Tale," an energetic and orginal piece recalling the bombast of "21st Century Schizoid Man." However, unlike King Crimson's second album, "In The Wake of Poseidon," "Islands" avoids simply rehashing earlier material and all of the songs have a personailty of their own. "The Letters" is extremely powerful both musically and lyrically and "Ladies of the Road," while admittedly somewhat crass, is saved by the Beatles-esque vocal harmonies in the chorus. Finally, we are treated to an orchestral piece and the expansive melancholy of the title track.

The musicianship is excellent all around, especially considering that Fripp, lacking a bass player, had to teach all the parts to the singer note for note. Fripp's banjo influenced solo on "A Sailor's Tale" is unlike anything I've ever heard on an electric guitar. The drumming is universally great.

With regard to the remixing and remastering on the fortieth anniversary edition, it seems to me to be very fine. Stephen Wilson of Porcupine Tree has handled all of the engineering here and while I am no fan of his music, his capacities as a technician are impressive. Graciously, the previous thirtieth anniversary version (as well as numerous bonus tracks) has been included in its entirety for comparison and the new version is much more dynamic and engaging.

I am not sure what has prmpted listeners to reject "Isalnds" over the years, but as far as I am concerned it is one of King Crimson's finest works and deserves more recognition than it gets. Any fan of the group owes it to themselves to pick up a copy at their earliest convenience.

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Send comments to thellama73 (BETA) | Report this review (#378431) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Review by colorofmoney91
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Whereas Lizard was King Crimson's jazziest album, Islands is arguably King Crimson's most classically influenced album, utilizing cellos, flutes, and other instruments of that sort. The music on this album is actually very lush and atmospheric, especially in the opener song "Formentera Lady", though the vocals often sound a bit off, and "Song of the Gulls" is entirely a classical composition. Also noticeable on this album is a profound folk influence which comes through greatly and combines fluidly with the classical influences. This album is usually regarded as unimportant in the early King Crimson catalog, but I think the sound on this album is great and I recommend it highly.

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Posted Friday, April 08, 2011

Review by 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.

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Send comments to Anthony H. (BETA) | Report this review (#439881) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Review by Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Another somewhat muddled album from the chaos that engulfed the band following In the Court of the Crimson King, Islands features yet another almost entirely new lineup coalescing about the core of Robert Fripp and soon-to-be-released lyricist Peter Sinfield. The album includes some fine tracks like the gentle and haunting title track or Formentera Lady, or the riotous and dark Sailor's Tale (which prefigures the musical direction which the band would soon embrace with Lark's Tongues, Starless and Red phase of their career).

The other three tracks all have issues. Song of the Gulls is a classical piece which is pleasant enough but really doesn't fit in context, even as the prelude to Islands it supposedly is; it just comes across as filler intended to push the idea that Crimson was competing with the likes of ELP and other bands infusing heavy doses of classical music into rock. The Letters is an unexceptional effort, proof positive that the songwriting approach that had sustained the band for the last three albums was beginning to run dry. And as for Ladies of the Road... well, you may or may not consider it sexist (I personally do), but it's hard to deny that it's incredibly cliched, the lyrical subject matter tackling the tired-out old subject of groupie sex (Zappa and the Mothers did it better on Fillmore East) and the musical backing being completely forgettable.

Ultimately, Islands is a set of decent three-to-four star songs dragged down by two-star material. I can't recommend it to anyone who isn't a fanatical supporter of the early, symphonic phase of the band's career. The next studio album would see Fripp abandon all efforts to recreate the success of In the Court of the Crimson King and abandon the symphonic prog field entirely, pioneering a new, angular, heavy direction in progressive music and finally regaining the status of creative visionary and spawner of genres that he briefly attained in 1969.

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Posted Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Review by EatThatPhonebook
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars 6/10

'Islands' is a mellow ride that shouldn't be negatively compared with the other KC works.

King Crimson give with 'Islands' an album that is not disappointing, it actually is quite enjoyable, but nothing that really impressed anybody: it was and still is an adventurous, emotional, and quite experimental album, however it was greatly shadowed by all the great KC releases prior to this one ('In the Court of the Crimson King' in primis): the same story will apply with many other Crimson albums, however some managed to be so fiercely creative that comparisons to the debut were brought up ('Larks Tounges In Aspic').

'Islands' has a very mellow feeling to it compared to other releases: it is a relatively more peaceful, relaxing work that even when it has cheerfulness, it is toned down nevertheless. The musicianship as a result is also a little quiet, never going over the top, however silently going towards new small horizons. It is a bit adventurous in some points, but never to the point where anything sounds epic. The instrumentation is anyway much broader, where there is featured not only tons of violin, one of the main traits of the album's sound, but also flutes (as always), interesting bass lines, good vocals by Boz Burrell, and of course Robert Fripp is still playing guitar and mellotron played by Mel Collins or Robert Fripp himself. Together, along with lyricist Peter Seinfeld, they produce this nice little gem that is too many times under appreciated.

On the lyrical point of view, the lyrics seem to be about women and love, whether it be a romantic type of love, or more sexual ('Ladies On The Road' perhaps?), or simply a hymn to a Muse-like woman. In this way the atmosphere of the album is extremely accurate, and along with the music these songs have a fascinating mood that no other King Crimson album has.

There are the extremely mellow and relaxing songs here that almost have a New Age feel, like the opening ten minute track 'Formentera Lady' in all it's beauty, or the more minimalistic 'A Letter'. 'Prelude: Song Of The Gulls' is a beautiful instrumental that features as it's main attraction this gorgeous violin that makes the track possibly the most touching of the LP. The more enlivened moments are not absent: 'A Sailor's Tail' is much more active and presents great musicianship, just like 'Ladies Of The Road' is a cheerful, fun song that is always enjoyable. The title track is a sort of mix between slight agitation and complete mellowness: this proves how all the songs are covered by the same veil, as there is never any moment that is completely out there, everything is sort of safe, even though the boundaries are very wide.

An album not everybody would like immediately because possibly of it's negative comparisons with other KC work. If seen independently, though, this is a great little piece of art that shouldn't be judged as negatively as it is. It's mellow nature can easily bring the listener into another, beautiful world, and for those 43 minutes, it's not a bad ride.

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Send comments to EatThatPhonebook (BETA) | Report this review (#594655) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, December 23, 2011

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Symphonic Team
3 stars King Crimson's "Islands" was an album sandwiched in between "Lizard" and "Lark's Tongues In Aspic", both excellent examples of eclectic prog with the band at their best. "Islands" did not have that big an impact on me for some reason, and I think it is mainly down to the very ambient and dreamy atmosphere that pervades the album. It is so tranquil it could put one to sleep. There is little diversity and it is frustrating as the band meander and fiddle about lost in their own musical world. It has none of the dissonant atonal jazz spasms of previous albums, and even Fripp's guitar work is not outstanding or memorable.

King Crimson are always capable of incredible musicianship and there are passages of brilliance on the album as always but it is uneven, very inconsistent and some of the tracks are far too long and drawn out for their own good. The highlights are undoubtedly parts of 'Formentera Lady', 'Sailor's Tale' and 'Ladies of the Road', despite the bombastic approach to the lyrics, based on the exploits of the roadies. These tracks have wound up on compilations over the years and have rather catchy melodies and some very good musicianship.

Some of the lowlights for me are the forgettable 'The Letters', and the flute drenched dreamscapes of 'Prelude: Song Of The Gulls' which is pretty and sweet but after a few listens sounds more like a flute concerto at a recital and I have never been interested in this style. Likewise, the mini epic 'Islands' is very slow and meandering and did not jump out as a King Crimson classic. The band feel more restrained and have removed the heaviness of the sound to replace it with a very temperate tranquil atmosphere. It feels more like background music than essential prog. it was an endurance test to get through it and I could not wait till it was over. The tacked on musical rehearsal banter at the end though was quite amusing.

This was a disappointing album in every respect, and very forgettable by the Crims standards. I have every thing King Crimson recorded in the studio, and this is their lowest point. Certainly it is the least rewarding with tepid diluted soft music that never builds into anything dynamic or innovative. The music is well-played but it simply is not the wild erratic style that drew me to the band who can produce excellent musicality. 'Islands' has its fans of course but it does not hold a candle to their other masterpieces and newcomers to the group should try this only after hearing at least the first 3 albums. Nevertheless, due to the pleasant virtuoso musicianship, "Islands" still deserves at least 3 stars to be fair.

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Send comments to AtomicCrimsonRush (BETA) | Report this review (#605485) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, January 08, 2012

Review by VanVanVan
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars It was always a point of some concern for me that I was not as familiar with King Crimson's discography as I was with some of the other so called "classic" bands of progressive rock. About a year ago, I set out slowly collecting and listening to their albums, and while that undertaking is far from complete, there was one album that almost from the first listen lodged itself firmly in my musical consciousness.

Surprisngly, though, it wasn't Red or Lark's Tongues In Aspic or even In the Court of the Crimson King. While those are all of course excellent albums, none of them grabbed me in the way that this one did. Islands sounds tremendously different to me than most other Crimson albums, with a restrained, jazzy sound that I haven't again encountered in my voyages through their discography. Furthermore, despite the rather mixed response that this album has received (especially in comparison to many of those above), it is my opinion that this album is no less than a masterpiece, with the drastic differentness in style serving only as a boon to its charm. Every moment of this album feels perfectly put together, with nary a note out of place or a flaw in composition or performance. Islands is a stellar album that shows a side of King Crimson which was never fully realized before this release and was (unfortunately, in my opinion) never seen again after.

Before I go further, I'll note that I have the 40th anniversary edition. I don't have the original so I can't compare, but I'll certainly say that I have no complaints about the sound of this version of the album.

"Formentera Lady" begins the album with some low, rumbling, almost grating strings before delicate piano and flute enter as well. As album introductions go, this is about as far from the crashing of "21st Century Schizoid Man" as you can get, but it's equally effective in establishing an idea of what the album is going to sound like: where In The Court surged forward, brash and bold and ignoring consequences, Islands will be a more meditative affair, soft and deliberate and far more content to sit back and let the music develop rather than let it all burst forth at once. The vocals show this distinction as well; rather than distorted wails courtesy of Greg Lake, we get the far more restrained croonings of Boz Burrell. In fact, everything about the song feels restrained-but certainly not in a bad way. Melodies intertwine and develop in a way that feels incredibly organic while at the same time pain- stakingly deliberate. Of course, the quirkiness of playing that always appears on King Crimson albums is available here in spades; with a huge variety of instruments and of course stellar performances on all backing up the lyrics. An amazing composition and a great opener.

The instrumental "Sailor's Tale" starts with some minimalistic percussion before an extremely jazzy bass and horn line enter. Mel Collins demonstrates his amazing chops on the saxophone, freaking out on his instrument like a madman before the track falls into a different theme, this time dominated by Fripp's guitar. There's a bit of jazzy jamming (if you can even call something this tight jamming) before the track again changes course, launching into a heavier, darker section dominated by string sounds and some furious bass and percussion. Intensity builds going into the last minute before falling off to an ominous, low rumble that slowly fades out as the track concludes.

"The Letters" is, in my opinion, one of King Crimson's most intense songs. This intensity, however, comes not from any kind of sheer driving force such as could be found on "21st Century Schizoid Man." Rather, it explores the vein that Crimson would return to on "Starless," creating a somber, menacing atmosphere over which restrained but powerful vocals are free to lurk. This atmosphere is juxtaposed with a definitely jazzy section in the middle of the track, with more stellar Sax playing courtesy of Mr. Collins and of course stellar support by everyone else as well. The song returns to its original mode with the (perhaps infamous) wailed lyric "Impaled on nails of ice" which manages to come off sounding appropriately sinister but manages to toe the fine line between drama and melodrama, coming off fortunately on the side of the former. From there the track fades out to nothing, leaving the listener with a sense of mystery and unease that works brilliantly within the flow of the album.

"Ladies of the Road" again allows vocals to come to center stage, with a slinky, bass-driven melody and perfect lyrical delivery. The saxophone is again a highlight, laying down some wonderfully raw solos and managing to drive itself into the listener's memory despite its relatively spare use. Interestingly, all of this is contrasted against the chorus, which makes use of a much lighter atmosphere and almost Beatles-esque vocal harmonies. A stellar guitar solo from Fripp followed by an equally blistering sax outing by Collins are the final pieces in the puzzle, and "Ladies of the Road," if not an epic like the opener or closer, ends up being a remarkably satisfying, eclectic track that only adds to the album.

"Prelude: Song of the Gulls" is the album's second instrumental, and it sees the group trying out a much more classical style, with orchestral strings and airy flute weaving wonderful melodies together. It's really very impressive how many different styles the band was able to put together on this album without losing any sense of cohesion, and "Song of the Gulls" certainly serves to highlight that fact. Besides that, of course, it's very beautiful in its own right, and it serves as a wonderful prelude to the album's final track.

That is, of course, the titular closer, and what a closer it is. I would argue that "Islands" is one of if not the most beautiful King Crimson songs ever written, with emotive vocals and a plaintive piano part that all but tears your heart out as you listen to it. There are no instrumental gymnastics here, but the song is no way lacking for it: despite the fact that it makes use of more or less the same motif throughout its 10 minute length, it's developed so beautifully that it's impossible to find a dull moment in the song. I really can't stress enough just how "put-together" everything sounds-"Islands" finds King Crimson more nuanced then they've ever been before. Though "Starless" may be held up as the quintessential Crimson song, in my mind this one is just as good, and it's an amazing closer to what has become my favorite King Crimson album.

I don't know if there's much more I can say about the album other than what's written above, but I really just want to stress the near-perfect cohesion of this release. There is not one single moment that feels forced or out of place, not a single decision that makes me think "I wish they had done that differently." This is one of those rare albums that seems to me to be perfect exactly as it is, and if that's not deserving of a perfect rating then I don't know what is.

5/5

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Send comments to VanVanVan (BETA) | Report this review (#753758) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Review by GruvanDahlman
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars "Islands" was my second King Crimson album. Being a mere teenager I felt both terrified and confused when I put it on. The music was nothing like I had expected, being a huge fan of their debut. The cover of "Islands" is and was stunning in it's simplicity, yet the music seemed disconnected and everywhere. The only thing I truly enjoyed was the singer screaming "Impaled on nails of ice...". Being a fan of Sabbath I thought it to be kind of cool lyrics. I put the album on hold, discarding it everytime I talked of Crimson, even wondering why anyone would be so stupid as to buy the bloody thing at all. Years later I came crawling back, with my head hanging from shame and publically announcing my arrogant ignorance of the yesteryears.

Actually, "Islands" is on of my favorite Crimson albums. I find it to be both inspired and a progression from the previous efforts. One thing I have to admit is that I am really only a fan of Crimson's first four or five albums, due to it's dreamy, fairytale atmospheres. The remaining albums I dig, but not to that extent as with the first, say, five efforts. "Islands" is as far as I'm concerned the last gasp of the debut and the sound of the first phase of the band. The fairytale dreaminess is still there but the music is somewhat edgier, harder and different than before. I am not saying that previous albums lacked the hard rock influence, because I don't. It was always evident, still it comes to the fore in a different way on "Islands", though in a more disjointed fashion.

Apart from "Ladies of the road" (which is good but really nothing more) the tracks are really enthralling and captivating. The british prog sound is there, along with the dreamy textures and spaciuos atmosphere. The music captivates my imagination and flows like a river through my body, producing pictures and emotions like all the best of Crimson's music. It is magical in places. The crown jewels of the album is "Prelude: Song of the gulls" and "Islands". These two tracks (really one massive piece) ranks among the best Crimson ever made. They are pure magic. The music is so relaxing it is ridiciolous and without ever becoming a kind of noodling new age-nonsense which goes nowhere. Brilliance!

"Islands" is a great album and one of Crimson's best, maybe only surpassed by the debut and "In the wake of Poseidon".

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Send comments to GruvanDahlman (BETA) | Report this review (#951308) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, April 29, 2013

Latest members reviews

4 stars Another year, another line-up, another album, another style for Robert Fripp and King Crimson to tinker with. After the Lizard lineup fizzled with the departure of Gordon Haskell and Andy McCulloch, Boz Burrell and Ian Wallace were brought in to fill in on bass/vocals and drums respectivel ... (read more)

Report this review (#1218980) | Posted by KingCrInuYasha | Monday, July 21, 2014 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Peter Sinfield is a misogynist ? With Gordon Haskell and Andy McCullogh gone, the consistant trio has to find two more members. They are Boz Burrell (future Bad Company ? bassist) and Ian Wallace. This results in an non- organized mish-mash that if it wasn't for the two last tracks, I would've ... (read more)

Report this review (#950814) | Posted by geneyesontle | Saturday, April 27, 2013 | Review Permanlink

2 stars For Crimheads only and i know Crimheads that have avoided this album. I love Crimson but this album is weak. This this the fourth album and the fourth line-up of Crimson.The constant changes really start to wear thin on this album as Robert Fripp was desperately trying to recapture the glory o ... (read more)

Report this review (#912764) | Posted by ster | Tuesday, February 12, 2013 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Here is the fourth studio album by the greats known as the Crimson King it is entitled "Islands". I will again point what I like and don't like about it, here is the track listing and the pieces of music that it contains. I will talk about all of these songs individually and dissect the mother o ... (read more)

Report this review (#885291) | Posted by ProgMetaller2112 | Monday, December 31, 2012 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This is one of those few albums that represent music in a way that cannot be surpassed. This is not only a prog-rock album, it is a masterpiece, musically, lyrically and hermeneutically. The coherence of this album, coupled with the very-human approach of creating music, give us one of the mo ... (read more)

Report this review (#748948) | Posted by aSimionescu | Saturday, May 05, 2012 | Review Permanlink

3 stars "Islands" is one of the most polarizing and esoteric KC albums for sure. I found it to reveal its strengths after repeated listens. The sounds throughout are often soft and reflective. "Formentera Lady" for instance, starts off beautifully with interesting flute, piano and string flourishes. The ... (read more)

Report this review (#669232) | Posted by Frankie Flowers | Tuesday, March 20, 2012 | Review Permanlink

3 stars One more shot from an ever changing King Crimson line-up, before Robert Fripp finally decided to blow the whole thing up, and start from scratch. It was far from the end for KC, but maybe the reason the quality of music on their first four albums never seemed have much consistency, is due to th ... (read more)

Report this review (#615262) | Posted by Tombo2 | Saturday, January 21, 2012 | Review Permanlink

3 stars There is a lot of fine mighty prog rock energy and dreaminess throughout the record. 'Sailor's Tale' is really impressive, with that solid tacky groove that feels very natural, the electrifying and elaborate guitar work, and the thing that I usually would expect from the Mellotron - the storm-like s ... (read more)

Report this review (#613951) | Posted by Dayvenkirq | Friday, January 20, 2012 | Review Permanlink

4 stars In 1971, King Crimson finally got it together and had another touring band. Fripp, Collins, Sinfield return with newbies Boz Burrell and Ian Wallace and guests Keith Tippet, Paulina Lucas, Harry and Robin Miller and Mark Charig This resulted in their only album together Islands. This is a very ... (read more)

Report this review (#604005) | Posted by criticdrummer94 | Friday, January 06, 2012 | Review Permanlink

3 stars One of the albums I have been struggling like mad with. I am both truly and duly frustrated by Islands. Robert Fripp and his incantation of King Crimson has gone down the pastoral route on Islands. Or perhaps I should call King Crimson a chamber orchestra on Islands. That is what they feels like ... (read more)

Report this review (#600587) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Saturday, December 31, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This one gets five stars. It's flawed but essential for fans of "prog" rock; I believe the theme of the album is human flaw. Islands is flawed by pretention, mostly due to the words, as all Crimson records are; Crimson have made it their stock in trade. But Islands spirit of adventure, truly inn ... (read more)

Report this review (#521768) | Posted by charlesives | Monday, September 12, 2011 | Review Permanlink

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 r ... (read more)

Report this review (#460974) | Posted by elcaballodecaligula | Tuesday, June 14, 2011 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Islands ? 1971 (2.5/5) 9 ? Best Song: Don't ask me! I like King Crimson. That's not any statement of deep, revelatory meaning. I just like them, as opposed to saying how much I like Pet Sounds, but lament the existence of Surfin' USA. I don't 'like' the Beach Boys. What I mean to say is that ... (read more)

Report this review (#441700) | Posted by Alitare | Monday, May 02, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The most underrated album of King Crimson Frankly I prefer "Islands" to their previous two, "In the Wake of Poseidon"(which is virtually a photocopy of the first album at all, even the title) and "Lizards". It's an album very symphonic and lethargic in contrast to madness and aggression of th ... (read more)

Report this review (#412802) | Posted by voliveira | Tuesday, March 08, 2011 | Review Permanlink

3 stars OVERLOOKED GEM, SOME WEAK SOME STRONG SONGS BACKGROUND: King Crimson gained attnetion as a forerunner of progressive rock in 1969 with the release of their first album. It was powerful symphonic prog with jazz/rock fusion and a lot of originality, such as lengthy pieces with bizarre lyrics a ... (read more)

Report this review (#359342) | Posted by Brendan | Tuesday, December 21, 2010 | Review Permanlink

2 stars One of my least favorite of King Crimson's albums. By far the lowest of their "classical" period. This is amazingly quiet and has some downright boring parts such as "Islands" which never falls to make me yawn. KC always seemed to provide a wide range of styles on their releases but on ISLANDS ... (read more)

Report this review (#307063) | Posted by mohaveman | Thursday, October 28, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Here we have "Islands" another King Crimson album with an almost completely different lineup than the last one. So once again sounds nothing alike the last album. This one to me is more melody based than jazzy/experimental. So it's a little more acsesable as well. Islands might be a good album to ... (read more)

Report this review (#306812) | Posted by Billy Pilgrim | Wednesday, October 27, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars "Islands" is the quitest "King Crimson" - album in history. Don't compare it to any other album from those guys, it's not as bombastic as "In the Court of the Crimson King", not as atmospheric as "In the Wake of Poseidon" or not as eclectic as "Lizard". But "Islands" is nevertheless a very good al ... (read more)

Report this review (#295731) | Posted by Elveeye | Sunday, August 22, 2010 | Review Permanlink

1 stars A savagely crushing blow after the fantastic "Lizard" one year earlier. I guess it may have had something to do with the continually changing lineup. Either that - or the fact that Mr Fripp couldn't hold a steady band down for more than one year - so I guess that says a lot more about him than the ... (read more)

Report this review (#287512) | Posted by Dobermensch | Sunday, June 20, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars "islands join hands 'neath heaven's sea" Another winner from King Crimson, though this album stands out in the band's discography for its lack of heavy music, precise technical playing, and unconventional time signatures, usually defining features of the Crimson sound. Bandleader Robert Fripp k ... (read more)

Report this review (#280864) | Posted by thesameoldfears | Friday, May 07, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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