King Crimson
Islands


4.0
excellent

Review

by e210013 USER (137 Reviews)
January 7th, 2020 | 98 replies


Release Date: 1971 | Tracklist

Review Summary: This is a unique album in King Crimson’s discography. Maybe their weakest work in the 70’s, still a great album.

“Islands” is the fourth studio album of King Crimson and was released in 1971. The line up on the album is Robert Fripp, Peter Sinfield, Mel Collins, Boz Burrell and Ian Wallace. The album had also the participation of Paulina Lucas, Keith Tippett, Robin Miller, Mark Charig, Harry Miller and some unaccredited string musicians as guests.


King Crimson was born on January 13th 1969 in the Fulham Palace Cafe, London with Robert Fripp, Ian McDonald, Greg Lake, Michael Giles and Peter Sinfield, coming to prominence after supporting The Rolling Stones at Hyde Park. Their ground-breaking debut album, “In The Court Of The Crimson King” of 1969, was described by Pete Townshend as “an uncanny masterpiece”. With that album, they began a career that has spanned for decades and influenced many bands.

King Crimson is one of the most unstable, yet durable bands in the prog rock scene. Despite long breaks and changing occupations, the group under the leadership of Robert Fripp has constantly reinvented itself without losing its identity. In 1971, King Crimson was again disintegrating from within after the release of “Lizard”, with Fripp, Sinfield and Collins left trying to put the pieces together and assemble a new band. Into the band arrived some new fresh names. The result is a King Crimson’s album that is almost overlooked in their discography, but actually holds up quite well almost fifty years after its release. Filled with more jazz influences than earlier releases, “Islands” is somewhat of an oddity, but still filled with powerful performances that show the talents of the musicians and the strong compositional skills of Fripp.

In all the years of its existence, in all its changes and with all their releases, this formation around the guitarist Robert Fripp represents, for me, the Progressive Rock Band par excellence. Again and again, new paths were entered here, something new tried out, independently of the prevailing musical taste of the wide mass. There are many “islands” that you can navigate with the music of King Crimson. And “Islands” has become a true island in the history of the band. “Islands” is, for me, one of their catchiest albums, although the album can also be disturbing to the listener. This fact, however, makes this album released exactly to the exciting album, which it has become in the end. Maybe “Islands” is the “black sheep” of the all discography of King Crimson in the 70’s, but it remains an amazing and surprising work.

About the tracks, “Formentera Lady” is a beautiful track that kicks things off, a ten minute jazz rock number with plenty of atmosphere, thanks to Collins’ dreamy flute and sax, and Wallace’s waves of percussion. On “Sailors Tale”, Fripp launches into a sizzling guitar solo over frenzied sax, drums, and waves of Mellotron. This is a notable piece of music, one of my favourites on the album. “The Letters” starts off quite serene and tranquil, before a monstrous Fripp solo and a Collins sax squeal bursts through the speakers. It’s a melancholic ballad pretty dark, which reflects the sadness and anger. The bluesy, jazzy, funky, “Ladies Of The Road” provides the album’s most direct arrangement, a rocking piece with a sleazy vocal from Boz and a tasty solo from Fripp, who gives it up to Collins to finish out the piece. There’s a strong classical chamber feel to “Prelude: Song Of The Gulls”. This is a notable piece of symphonic and classical music, one of the best pieces I’ve ever heard. On the twelve minute epic “Islands”, Boz kicks it off with a gentle vocal alongside Tippett’s lush piano strains, eventually giving way to haunting Mellotron, oboe, cornet, and full band ensemble before quietly fading away. It’s a calm and beautiful song with great arrangements and with some nice solos.

King Crimson releases are renowned for their artwork. “Islands” features the Trifid Nebula situated in the Sagittarius constellation which is represented as a Centaur drawing a bow, mythical creatures that were half human, half horse and often treated as liminal beings. Liminal beings are ambiguous, and challenge cultural paths of social classification, caught between two natures, embodied in myth and untamed nature. This statement may baffle, but on deeper reflection, it basically sums “Islands”, but if we extrapolate further, the whole ethos of King Crimson’s artistic creativity.


Conclusion: As I wrote above, maybe “Islands” can be the “black sheep”, the less interesting work and the album with the weakest line up in all history of King Crimson. Maybe it’s all that. But it’s also, for me, a fascinating and charming album, a unique piece, a true island in all King Crimson’s discography. So, many have seen “Islands” as the weakest of all King Crimson’s albums released in the 70’s, the less innovative, somewhat restrained and uneven sounding, and awkwardly a pretentious work. I really can’t agree with that. “Islands” is an album with many facets. It’s a laid back album that reveals its charm gradually and only occasionally decides that the listener needs to be beaten over the head, with the full power of the group. “Islands” was one of my first vinyl purchases. I always loved it. It remains as one of the lost classic albums of the 70’s. This is a quiet, beauty and elegant work, which you can appreciate the more you hear it.


Music was my first love.
John Miles (Rebel)



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Comments:Add a Comment 
e210013
January 7th 2020


2823 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

After Christmas time, it's time to return to my reviews. I decided to bring here in this month three albums of three classic prog bands as I did in the end of the last year. But this time, I'm going to bring here three albums that are great but that somehow never were consensual to fans and critics. They aren't masterpieces but they aren't bad either.

So, as I did with my last review of the previous year, I decided to start this new year with another King Crimson's work. This is probably their less loved and maibe also their weakest work in the 70's, but it still is, for me, great and very special too. I think it deserves be more known, respected and checked.

Your comments are always welcome.

DDDeftoneDDD
January 7th 2020


11141 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I like the cover! Parabéns e! I'll read it asap!

Digging: Spectral Lore - III

e210013
January 7th 2020


2823 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nice and thanks. Yeah, the cover is awesome, one of the great things of the album. When you read the review you'll see that I mentioned the art cover on it.

DDDeftoneDDD
January 7th 2020


11141 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

How does this sit on someone who faves Red, loves and respect Court and not so much Poseidon, also respect Discpline but not great fan of overall aesthetics on that one?

e210013
January 7th 2020


2823 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is a very different album. This is KC. This is a jazzier album and a calm album. KC always was a chameleon band. With the exception of their first two albums, they never did the same from album to album.

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
January 7th 2020


19303 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

because a majority of the ratings are from like 10+ years ago

this era is only just now getting a major reevaluation

DDDeftoneDDD
January 7th 2020


11141 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I dig jazzy KC

e210013
January 7th 2020


2823 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, it's true Fripp.

TheNotrap
January 7th 2020


13504 Comments


Good work e210013.

My dad really liked this album.

Digging: Skam - Sounds of a Disease

e210013
January 7th 2020


2823 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks Notrap. It seems your dad has a good music taste.

TheNotrap
January 7th 2020


13504 Comments


Yes he had. He introduced me to hard rock and prog rock when I was just about 3 years old. Purple, Floyd, Zeppelin, ELP, Colosseum II, Genesis, etc, were my kid jams ;)

e210013
January 7th 2020


2823 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nice, I could see that. To like of "Islands" isn't a common thing. It isn't an album to everyone.

DDDeftoneDDD
January 7th 2020


11141 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Marillion...hope we don't share the same dad Notrap! ahahahaha

TheNotrap
January 7th 2020


13504 Comments


Hahah I found Marillion by my own, after listening to Kayleigh and Lavender back in 85

e210013
January 7th 2020


2823 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I hope it's not me, lol. Seriously, in the next month I'll bring here some Marillion and Fish.

TheNotrap
January 7th 2020


13504 Comments


That's great, I'm looking forward to read your thoughts. The Fish-era is amazing

e210013
January 7th 2020


2823 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Absolutelly, it's my favourite.

DDDeftoneDDD
January 7th 2020


11141 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

dad?...



(would be something to acknowledge dad was a prog sput master m/)

e210013
January 7th 2020


2823 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Ha,ah.

Confessed2005
January 7th 2020


5166 Comments


Marillion rule. My friend's dad (whom unfortunately overdosed a while back, on xmas eve in 2017 RIP) introduced me to them and I shared a few similar artists of the modern era whom were obviously influenced by that sort of music in general. I felt really sorry for him. Imagine waking up on xmas day to find your only son dead.

Fuck sake.



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