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KING CRIMSON - Islands cover
3.52 | 25 ratings | 4 reviews
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Album · 1971


A1 Formentera Lady 9:55
A2 Sailor's Tale 7:20
A3 The Letters 4:25
B1 Ladies Of The Road 5:29
B2 Prelude: Song Of The Gulls 4:14
B3 Islands 9:14

CD (40 Anniversary Edition) bonus tracks:
CD-7 Islands (studio run through with oboe prominent)
CD-8 Formentera Lady (original recording sessions - take 2)
CD-9 Sailor's Tale (original recording sessions - alternate mix/edit)
CD-10 A Peacemaking Stint Unrolls (previously unreleased)
CD-11 The Letters (rehearsal/outtake)
CD-12 Ladies of the Road (Robert Fripp & David Singleton remix)


Bass Guitar, Lead Vocals, Other [Choreography] – Boz
Cornet – Mark Charig
Double Bass [String Bass] – Harry Miller
Drums, Percussion, Vocals – Ian Wallace
Flute, Flute [Bass], Saxophone, Vocals – Mel Collins
Guitar, Mellotron, Harmonium [Peter's Pedal], Effects [Sundry Implements] – Robert Fripp
Oboe – Robin Miller
Piano – Keith Tippett
Soprano Vocals – Paulina Lucas
Words By, Sounds, Other [Vision] – Peter Sinfield

About this release

Island Records – ILPS 9175 (UK)

Thanks to snobb for the addition


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

- 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 aimless 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 kneepads 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...

Members reviews

In 1971, King Crimson reformed for a second time, adding Boz Burrell and Ian Wallace to replace Gordon Haskell and Andy McCulloch, respectively. Islands would be the only album this lineup would release. Like all other King Crimson albums, Islands is very experimental and unique. The album beings with Formenta Lady, which starts off with a slow, kind of mystifying tune, played out by double bassist Harry Miller and Mel Collins on his flute. Boz then joins in with his hautingly beautiful voice. After a verse, the song transforms into a folksy ballad for the chorus, but then goes back to the Bass-Flute section for another verse. After another chorus the song ends with the band jamming on the folksy chorus, joined by Paulina Lucas, singing a melody over the band. Next is Sailor's Tale, a great, jazzy instrumental, and then The Letters, which starts out soft, and ballad-like, but then we get a jazzy, explorative instrumental break. Then another emotionaly charged verse. Next is Ladies of the Road. Very jazzy, pretty hard, except for the chorus, which is signifgantly soft compared to the rest of the song. This is followed by Song of the Gulls, a lovely piece played by a string ensemble. The album is finished with the amazing title track, which is one of my favorite songs of all time. It is amazingly beautiful, beyond expression. I love it. It's hard to explain how great this song is. As always, Peter Sinfield's lyrics are very well written, but out of the four King Crimson albums he's written for, Islands is definetly the least exceptional. Especially Ladies of the Road, which is boarderline misogonist. So, yeah. This album has it's fair share of ups and downs. But I like it. If anything, it's extremly insteresting. 3/5
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.
Sean Trane
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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