King Crimson - Islands

Album cover

  1. Formentera Lady (5:20)
  2. Sailor's Tale (12:29)
  3. The Letters (4:32)
  4. Ladies of the Road (5:34)
  5. Prelude-Song Of The Gulls (4:15)
  6. Islands (11:53)

Virgin, 1971

also by King Crimson:

see also... Robert Fripp, Van Der Graaf Generator

This is from what is usually seen as King Crimson's "dodgy" period. After their successful first album they seemed lost for ideas, so just made their first album again. Then there was the over-wacky and incoherent "Lizard". Out of all these early albums, "Islands" is the most chilled and hippyish. Their tendencies for random improvisation are mostly restrained here, so it's listenable, if not very inspired.

"Formentera Lady" is based on a simple undulating tune, with piano and woodwinds weaving in and out. "Sailor's Tale" is a fairly decent twelve-minute instrumental jam, which starts serenely by playing around with the "Formentera Lady" tune. In the middle they again return to re-hashing the spiky rhythms of "21st Century Schizoid Man", but it soon gets more exciting towards the end with some relentless drumming from Ian Wallace and Fripp's mellotron and guitar work.

The sleazy groupie-pulling song "Ladies of the Road" has a good John Lennon-style bluesy tune, but we could do without Pete Sinfield's bizarre "sex" lyrics. I mean, who sings about "suspenders" these days! It even has that obvious "raunchy" distorted sax sound over the words "I smiled and just unzipped her". "Prelude - Song of the Gulls" is a simple classical instrumental, in the style that Penguin Cafe Orchestra would eventually do much better. It would get good marks as a composition for a school music exam, but sounds out of place here.

The album ends as it began, in mellow fashion, with the title track. This pleasing, romantic tune is decorated simply with woodwinds and piano. Eventually the whole band joins in gradually, over a cornet solo, and it just floats serenely away.

February 1, 2004

6 out of 10

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