Islands is an odd release for King Crimson because of the classical and jazz themes used. There’s still some dissonant songs of the album as well as some soft songs like “Prelude: The Gulls“ (4:17) and the title track “Islands“ (12:02). Both of these songs have, dare I say a romantic leaning. Not in a love song but in period piece of the days of old.
King Crimson had another line-up change since the last album. The line-up here is: Robert Fripp (guitar, Mellotron, Peter’s Pedal harmonium, sundry implements), Peter Sinfield (words, sounds and visions), Boz Burrell (lead vocals, bass), Mel Collins (saxophones, flutes, Mellotron) and Ian Wallace (drums, percussion). Joining the new version of the Crims are Paulina (soprano vocals), Keith Tippett (piano), Robin Miller (Oboe), Mark Chang (cornet) and Harry Miller (double bass). [I think this album contains the most musicians of any Crimso album].
One of my favorites of the album is “Ladies O The Road” (5:34) which contains some of the wildest piano playing I ever hear. There’s also a faint Beatles vibe.
Now ending the album are the bonus tracks. “Islands” (Studio Run Through With Oboe Prominent), “Formentera Lady” (Original Recording Sessions - Take #2), “Sailor's Tale” (Original Recordings Sessions - Alternate Mix/Edit) , “A Peacemaking Stint Unrolls” (Previously Unreleased) “The Letters” (Rehearsal/Outtake) and “Ladies Of The Road” (Robert Fripp & David Singleton Remix). All of these give an insight into the world of Crimso at this point in their career.
On the second disc, the DVD-A contains the Original Album And Selected bonus tracks in MLP Lossless Stereo, PCM Stereo 2.0 MLP Lossless 5.1 surround and DTS 5.1 Digital Surround For those of you that have stereo systems, this disc will prove to be something fun.
In closing, Islands isn’t one of the more popular albums, it contained some elements of the past and showed some elements of the future, and served as a transitional release between the previous three and the next three albums. Fans of chamber rock will especially enjoy this album as well as fans such as myself that have grown to enjoy the music over time. So a verdict of a strong recommendation is in order.
Reviewed by Ron Fuchs on July 13th, 2011