KING CRIMSON — Islands — the ultimate metal music online community, from the creators of

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3.43 | 32 ratings | 2 reviews
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Album · 1971

Filed under Proto-Metal


1. Formentera Lady (10:15)
2. Sailor's Tale (7:34)
3. The Letters (4:32)
4. Ladies Of The Road (5:35)
5. Prelude: Song Of The Gulls (4:14)
6. Islands (11:54)

Total Time 44:06


- Robert Fripp / guitar, mellotron, harmonium , sundry implements
- Mel Collins / flute, bass flute, saxophone, vocals
- Boz Burrell / vocals, bass guitar
- Ian Wallace / drums, percussion, vocals

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

About this release

December 3, 1971
Island, Atlantic, Polydor, Virgin

Reissued as 40th Anniverdary Edition with the following tracklist:

Disc 1: Cd

1. Formentera Lady (2010 Stereo Mix) (10:15)
2. Sailor's Tale (2010 Stereo Mix) (7:34)
3. The Letters (2010 Stereo Mix) (4:32)
4. Ladies Of The Road (2010 Stereo Mix) (5:35)
5. Prelude: Song Of The Gulls (2010 Stereo Mix) (4:14)
6. Islands (2010 Stereo Mix) (11:54)
7. Islands (Studio Run Through With Oboe Prominent) (2:02)
8. Formentera Lady (Take 2) (2:23)
9. Sailor's Tale (Alternate Mix / Edit) (3:37)
10. A Peacemaking Stint Unrolls (Previously Unreleased) (3:55)
11. The Letters (Rehearsal / Outtake) (2:43)
12. Ladies Of The Road (Robert Fripp & David Singleton Remix) (5:43)

Disc 2: Dvd-Audio

Original Album 5.1 Remix

1. Formentera Lady (10:15)
2. Sailor's Tale (7:34)
3. The Letters (4:32)
4. Ladies Of The Road (5:35)
5. Prelude: Song Of The Gulls (4:14)
6. Islands (11:54)

2010 Stereo Mix

7. Formentera Lady (10:15)
8. Sailor's Tale (7:34)
9. The Letters (4:32)
10. Ladies Of The Road (5:35)
11. Prelude: Song Of The Gulls (4:14)
12. Islands (11:54)

Original Album Mix Remaster, 2004

13. Formentera Lady (10:15)
14. Sailor's Tale (7:34)
15. The Letters (4:32)
16. Ladies Of The Road (5:35)
17. Prelude: Song Of The Gulls (4:14)
18. Islands (11:54)

Islands: The Alternate Album

19. Formentera Lady (Take 2) (2:23)
20. Sailor's Tale (Alternate Mix / Edit) (3:37)
21. The Letters (Rehearsal / Outtake) (2:43)
22. Ladies Of The Road (Rough Mix))
23. A Peacemaking Stint Unrolls (Previously Unreleased) (3:55)
24. Islands (Studio Run Through With Oboe Prominent) (2:02)

Routes To Islands

25. Pictures Of A City (Islands Lineup Rehearsal)
26. Sailor's Tale (Islands Lineup Rehearsal)
27. Islands (Fragment: Robert Fripp Reference Cassette)
28. Formentera Lady (Rough Mix)
29. Sailor's Tale (Rough Mix)
30. Drop In (Early Rehearsal By Islands Lineup)
31. The Letters (Live At Plymouth)
32. Sailor's Tale (Live At The Zoom Club)

Additional Tracks: Assorted Ladies

33. Ladies Of The Road (Robet Fripp & David Singleton Remix)
34. Ladies Of The Road (Take 5)
35. Formentera Lady (Take 1)
36. Formentera Lady (Take 3)
37. Formentera Lady (Take 4)

Thanks to andyman1125, Pekka, Lynx33, adg211288 for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

siLLy puPPy


KING CRIMSON took the world by storm by unleashing an upgraded form of art rock that would be penned progressive rock and would forever change the coarse of rock music while launching an arms race of rock music that quickly increased the sophistication, however the band despite its brilliant debut “In The Court Of The Crimson King” was not only prolifically eclectic but quite volatile. It wouldn’t take long for various members to butt heads about which particular style to emphasize and which direction the band should steer towards. While the band had only released the debut in October 1969, a restless ambitiousness possessed those who stuck around and 1970 saw two more albums, “In The Wake Of Poseidon” and “Lizard” which explored even more eclectic sounds. It was at this point that bassist Gordon Haskell and drummer Andy McCulloch were finding Robert Fripp’s avant-garde tastes too much to handle and were more interested in remaining in a more focused blues rock arena, but Fripp was having none of it and after an acrimonious kerfuffle, the two split and a new version of KING CRIMSON arose from the ashes.


Despite a burgeoning prog rock scene just two years after it all began, Fripp was having trouble finding suitable replacements as many of his picks were in other commitments. John Wetton had joined Family, Bryan Ferry was off to Roxy Music. After the monumental task of filling the slots, the role of new lead vocalist and bassist was awarded to Raymond “Boz” Burrell who ironically didn’t even know how to play bass at the time and learned how in order to join the band based on his skills as a rhythm guitarist. He wouldn’t last long in KC and would go on to join Bad Company. The position of drummer was given to a relative unknown named Ian Wallace and then KING CRIMSON spent 1971 recording their fourth album ISLANDS which was released in December on Island Records. Another feature of this new lineup was that they were capable of playing live which KC hadn’t done since the short-lived first lineup after the debut. The band spent 1971 touring and recording before the new albums even released.


ISLANDS is the oddball in the already eclectic canon of this hard to categorize musical entity. With the new members on board, so too came their musical sensibilities but the main drive was the differences in musical tastes that founding members Robert Fripp and Peter Sinfield were undergoing. Fripp was moving to a harsher dissonant sound that would peak on the future “Red” whereas Sinfiled was more interested in the softer orchestral jazz collaborations that Miles Davis performed with artists such as Gil Evans, thus making ISLANDS the most overtly jazzy album of KC’s career. In fact ISLANDS has many unique qualities absent from other KC albums. Not only does it feature the only foray into the world of chamber rock string ensembles on “Prelude: Song Of The Gulls” but finds an overall more atmospheric approach that in some ways is an early example of what post-rock would eventually become, namely a chamber rock plethora of instrumentation that creates non-rock music in atmospheric textures.


Clearly a mellower affair than the previous heavier rockers, ISLANDS finds a tug-of-war in action where Fripp’s heavy guitar antics flare up in tracks like “Sailor’s Tale” but find themselves subdued beneath an airy-fairy gentleness of a totally relaxed vocal style of Burrell whose hypnotic bass playing surely giving rise to this proto-post rock effect. Once again the five official band members were joined by a few extra session musicians including the ferocious piano attack of Keith Tippett as well as a more pronounced use of the cornet and oboe. Given that the jazz elements are the main focus, the squawking saxophone is ubiquitous and the under represented bass flute finds some key moments on ISLANDS as well. All in all, the strange elements vying for control make this totally unique as the different instruments find themselves performing unconventional roles but somehow create a larger sum of the parts that takes the listener to some journey into the heavens above as displayed by the album cover art of the Trifid Nebula in Sagittarius.


“Formentera Lady” kicks off the album in a near ten minute hypnotic groove of a repetitive bass line and avant-garde backing of the callithump of various instruments that freely float around but the following “Sailor’s Tale” provides the closest thing to a true rocker with a boisterous attempt by Fripp to deliver some angular guitar workouts as well as a more energized Ornette Coleman styled saxophone workout. The album teeters on the precipice of order and chaos with moody melodies struggling to find full fruition and extreme bouts into noisy angularity at its most delicate balance on “The Letters.” The most cheery and melodic track comes in the form of the Beatles-esque “Ladies Of The Road” which delivers a rather catchy ear hook and even culminates in some amazing vocal harmonies but not without a hypnotic bass groove that ushers a frenetic sax and irritable guitar along the way. This is probably the track where all the styles on board coalesce the most sublimely.


After the chamber rock string ensemble fluffer of “Prelude” Song Of Gulls,” the album ends with the vocal jazz title track that begins with a gentle piano and almost sedate bass flute as it slowly drifts into higher gear but never really sets the world on fire but still finds away to drift on for over nine minutes as it engages in a rather cyclical melodic flow much like modern post-rock with a jazzy talking sax that punctuates the otherwise serene and hypnotic atmospheric haze. There is also a hidden track after a few seconds of silence that simply finds the band in the studio practicing. ISLANDS was probably the toughest nuts to crack of the early KC albums as it took a long time for it to sink in. While still not my preferred album of choice when rocking to the Crimson ones, it is nevertheless an interesting specimen of progressive rock that tackles jazz-fusion, symphonic chamber music and twisted illogical art rock all rolled up into one. It’s almost as if this was a precursor of what Talk Talk would conjure up in the late 80s with albums like “Spirit Of Eden,” a bold musical statement that allowed the textures and ambience of the instruments paint an impressionist aural experience.


This is one of those divisive albums where some claim it to be the pinnacle of the KC sound and others the exact opposite calling ti the biggest disappointment. I started out as the former but have come to terms with this interesting musical spectacle, that is understanding it on its own terms and not imposing my will of what it should’ve been. This is a subtly beautiful album that admittedly takes a lot more time to warm up to but seems to make more sense with a fair amount of listens. Once again, the turmoil that was KING CRIMSON would find band members not seeing eye to eye and the lifestyle choices of drug using band members led the sober Robert Fripp to drift away into his own world which caused the band to break up but as is well known, Fripp would regroup in a couple years and deliver a completely new third major lineup of the band and release the completely different “Lark’s Tongues In Aspic” which would allow much of the rock aspects to once again reign. While it took some time, warm up to ISLANDS i did and once i did, it shed a new light on its place in the rock history books.
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.

Members reviews

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