King Crimson
Islands


2.5
average

Review

by Thomas Bambaataa Ghidrah Towers USER (67 Reviews)
January 31st, 2006 | 178 replies


Release Date: 1971 | Tracklist


See, back in the day bands didn't need a solid line up. If a band were recording an album and the bassist/vocalist decides to leave for whatever reasons, he thinks he's too cute for progressive rock and the Bay City Rollers need a new band mate, or the drummer insists on being a control freak, no problem! They'll just go grab that guy they saw at the pub last night, the one who chucked beer bottles at other people all night long and resulted in a bar brawl. If he can play bass as good as he can fight, and sing as good as he can drink, they're set. And there's no need for really good vocalist.

Well that might not have been exactly what happened to King Crimson, but it's understandable if it did. For their fourth album King Crimson once again had a rather big line up change, after Lizard's roster proved to be unstable, but managed to make a great album, albeit very much a change from their first two. Only woodwinds man Mel Collins, the indispensable Robert Fripp and Peter Sinfield, the guy who wrote the 'words' for the band, remained of the original line up by this point. The line up would only get wackier from Islands, but it never got much worse.

Known for their booming, menacing Mellotron, manic guitar playing and drumming, and an overall darker sound than their progressive cohorts of the time for In the Court of the Crimson King, King Crimson took a turn at 1970's Lizard that drastically changed their sound, but maintained their trademarks. On this album, however, the Crimsons took another turn, one that lost their dark sound, and twisted instrumentation. This of course, is due to the line up change, most noticeably Boz Burrell, the new vocalist/bassist (the band never maintained one for more than two albums in the seventies.) Boz's voice is laid back and weak, lacking the intensity and personality of previous vocalists, and his bass playing nothing more than average. Ian Wallace proves to be a good drummer, but rarely gets a chance to flex his chops.

Islands keeps a slow pace with its classical influence, Fripp making 'that old people music' with his Mellotron, rarely leaving the lumbering keyboard to contribute guitar to the album. From the beginning track Formentera Lady, the influence is strong as the song begins slowly with the flute, piano and string bass playing aimlessly but subtly forming a melody to mix classical with jazz. Prelude: Song of the Gulls shows the most classically influenced, and is also the most coherent song. Its tightly-knit arrangement dominated by the Mellotron, it sounds like the only song that was composed fully beforehand and doesn't lead off into rather poorly planned improvisations.

In songs like The Letters, and not necessarily restricted to the more jazz driven songs, the instrumentals are drawn out, as if meant for filling up space. They go nowhere, improvisation really isn't a problem, but it sounds like a bunch of jazz musicians just gathered up and started playing pointlessly for a long time. After a while of jamming they all scramble to get the song back on track, to get back to a rambling and slow one. Even more unfortunate is for fans of Robert Fripp's guitar improv, as mentioned before, doesn't make much of a dent into the album, letting the Mellotron, horns, and strings attempt to create spontaneous mania.

Sailor's Tale is the only song that creates a coherent instrumental through a series of quirky rhythms and has Fripp's guitar jamming out. Sounding much like 21st Century Schizoid Man, it's a fast paced jam with swift, jazz infused drumming, and horns that almost take over the song until the guitar bursts in with a unique tone. Going into a bluesy guitar breakout then an epic sounding Mellotron ending like the closing track on In the Court of the Crimson King, Sailor's Tale is the only song to incorporate a idiosyncratic, tough edge, like Crimson's earlier work.

The result of it all is an awkward, uneven sounding album. Half of the album is split between well-crafted, innovative, yet somewhat restrained, and the other tracks (the bigger half unfortunately) are sprawled, half-baked and awkwardly pretentious works. Because of the original three remaining members, it's considered as one of the albums in the Kings' first era. It's certainly the worst too, and one of the worst in the whole discography. Its sound like an attempt to make a dark, edgy band soft, and the natural feel of the band bursting out at strange moments. Because of its bi-polar-like inequalities, the album isn't really a good jazz album, neo-classical album, or progressive, and can't blend the three well. Like the last few minutes of Islands, the music building up and up and abruptly stopping, it sounds like a wasted effort. Islands is hard to enjoy at first or in its entirety, and it's certainly an acquired taste, if other King Crimson isn't.



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user ratings (638)
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3.5
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other reviews of this album
Aaron CONTRIBUTOR (4)
While "Islands" isn't the strongest effort by King Crimson, it is one of their most underrated recor...

Matthijs van der Lee (2)
An unworthy closer of an era......


Comments:Add a Comment 
ocelot-05
January 31st 2006


807 Comments


Great, but you need to insert the word "have" in the first sentence.

pulseczar
January 31st 2006


2385 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Strange, I had it there before :confused:

Spectrum
January 31st 2006


347 Comments


Very nice review! Good overall analysis, and I liked the commentary on 70's band lineups. Good stuff. I'll probably avoid this one now, thanks.

Zebra
Moderator
January 31st 2006


2647 Comments


Nice review, very detailed.
I can't comment on the album, but I am a casual King Crimson fan as of now. I think I'll have to pass this one up, just by the looks of this review and other opinions.

DesolationRow
January 31st 2006


833 Comments


Nice review, and your introduction paragraph is awesome. Good work.

FeralCats
February 3rd 2006


9 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

This is one of the only Crimson albums I loved at first listen.



This is an incredible album. So, while I disagree with your opinons, the review itself is FANTASTIC. Applause for you.

kaztor
August 31st 2006


7 Comments


Altough I like the review I think there's no need to bash the album even further because I think it's worthy to check out if you like King Crimson.

pfloydfan
October 7th 2006


4 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i dissagree with your opinions. I accept the fact that Boz isn't Lake nor Wetton, but is a nice album, one of my favourites of KC first era.

FR33L0RD
September 28th 2007


1472 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

I really dislike this album with passion.

--------------------------------------------------

The following album list from King Crimson are my favorites:

The Power To Believe (4/5)

The ConstruKction of Light (4/5)

Discipline (4/5)

Red (4/5)

Larsk Tongue In Aspic (4/5)<

In The Court Of The Crimson King (5/5)This Message Edited On 09.28.07This Message Edited On 09.29.07

shindip
October 14th 2009


3536 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

man, this is one mightily retarded album. im listening through discography now and im pretty confident this has got to be the worst of em all

eggsvonsatan
July 28th 2011


1087 Comments


I really like Ladies on the Road, but the version on Cirkus Volume 2 is so much better. This is definitely not their worst album, by any means.

Riano
December 29th 2011


16 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Just fell in love with Prelude and the Title Track again. This is so underrated.

SuicideVeil90
February 12th 2012


44 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

The title track is one of the greatest songs ever.

KILL
February 21st 2012


80846 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

underrated

GregLake
February 21st 2012


84 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

hard

NeutralThunder12
February 21st 2012


8742 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

this is mostly poop on a stick

GregLake
February 21st 2012


84 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

this is mostly excellence in a can

plane
Emeritus
March 18th 2012


6766 Comments


Whoa, a lot of hate here. I find this very pleasant. Doesn't hold up much to the other albums (many of which are masterpieces) but I like having that "King Crimson sound" on an album of lush, classical pieces.

Parallels
June 7th 2012


8858 Comments


bad but still good

Weesnaw
August 2nd 2012


450 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

not bad, just a pretty jumbled album. song of the gulls is beautiful though



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