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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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Islands isn't exactly the people's favorite King Crimson album, with so many brilliant releases, it's inevitable that some get left behind. Another thing is that, after you've bought this you probably wont listen to this record too often.
However, when you are in the mood, this is a brilliant album, very spacey and slow paced with great flute and sax that really floats along beautifully.
On the heavier tracks, like 'Ladies of the Road,' there is a touch of the Schizoid Man/Pictures of a City style crimson fans have come to expect, however this album is mostly a kind of sprawling open minded cosmic jam.
The difference between the loose sprawling nature of Islands and the loose sprawling jams they play at other times, is that on Islands, they are great and beautiful, not just a mess of noise.
The two best racks are, in my opinion 'Sailors Tale,' (a brilliant building instrumental with a jazzy kick to it) and the title track 'Islands,' which is just plain wonderful.
Islands is a great record, that you deffinatly should buy, even if you don't listen to it every day.
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on 25 November 2004
Used to own this on vinyl but have recently re-puchased in CD format. It is truly timeless. The title track is immense and amongst my favourits of all time. The combination of the melotron and the vocals with mel collins sax are incredible. Sort of rock meets extemperised jazz! I think this album is KC's high point. A must for any serious collector of 70's prog rock!
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Another great re-master from King Crimson, `Islands' was King Crimsons forth album and was more of a transition album between King Crimson of `Court' and `Poseidon' and the later Seventies King Crimson of `Larks' and `Lizard' , The whole album has been re-mixed in 5.1 to stunning effect a great treat is `Formentera Lady' appearing on this release in many forms.
The 40th anniversary edition then comes with a CD and DVD and plenty of extras, a surround mix two stereo mixes in Hi resolution original and 2010 Fripp approved Steven Wilson Mix. This release marks the release of most if not all of the studio work of any worth for this period.
The contents then are as follows:
CD:

Original album 2010 mix:
With Bonus tracks:
Islands (studio run through with oboe prominent)
Formentera Lady (original recording sessions - take 2)
Sailor's Tale (original recording sessions - alternate mix/edit)
A Peacemaking Stint Unrolls (previously unreleased)
The Letters (rehearsal/outtake)
Ladies of the Road (Robert Fripp & David Singleton remix)

DVD:

MLP Lossless 5.1 Surround / DTS 5.1 Digital Surround:
MLP stereo / LPCM stereo - Original album 2010 stereo mix:
MLP stereo Original album 1971 mix,

Plus Bonus material
Islands: Alternative album:
1. Formentera Lady - Original recording sessions - take 2
2. Sailor's Tale - Original recording sessions - alternate mix/edit
3. The Letters - Rehearsal/outtake
4. Ladies of the Road - Rough mix
5. A Peacemaking Stint Unrolls - Previously unreleased
6. Islands - Studio run through with oboe prominent

Routes to Islands:

1. Pictures of a City - Early rehearsal by Islands lineup
2. Sailor's Tale - Early rehearsal by Islands lineup
3. Islands (fragment) - Robert Fripp reference cassette - mellotron on vibes setting
4. Formentera Lady - Rough mix from album recording sessions
5. Sailor's Tale - Rough mix from album recording sessions
6. Drop In - Early rehearsal by Islands lineup
7. The Letters - Live at Plymouth, mastered by David Singleton
8. Sailor's Tale - Live at the Zoom Club, mastered by David Singleton

Islands: Additional tracks: Assorted Ladies:

1. Ladies of the Road - Robert Fripp & David Singleton remix
2. Ladies of the Road - Original recording sessions - take 5
3. Formentera Lady - Original recording sessions - take 1
4. Formentera Lady - Original recording sessions - take 3
5. Formentera Lady - Original recording sessions - take 4

As you can see from the extras on the DVD this is a collectors dream of a release from a prog rock band that are now discovering a new way to play on each album driven mainly by line up changes. A worthy re-issue and a great album.
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on 7 November 2010
Islands is the last of four quite magical opening albums from King Crimson (after Crimson King, Poseidon, and Lizard). Produced in 1971, it features in the Sailor's Tale a wonderful jangling guitar solo that Robert Fripp recorded late at night in one take. The moment his guitar meets and surfs a tidal wave of mellotrons still - after 40 years listening - makes my hair stand on end. (David Bowie liked it: listen to Fripp's guitar on 'Fashion'). The final deep mellotron note sounds like a distant Tibetan horn... The music on Islands has for me the loosest, most relaxed feel of any KC album. In fact it has a quite radiant quality, a kind of last nod to Hippy culture before the next lineup heads into darker waters. This album Islands is launched by Formentera Lady, a largely improvised piece with rippling flute solos from Mel Collins, who later plays gut-churning sax on the fantastic Ladies of the Road. The title track Islands is a beautiful, gently lulling piece, a kind of Bridge over Troubled Water without the mush. Keith Tippett's dreamy piano is a million miles from the jagged runs and spiky chords he provided for Catfood on the Poseidon album, and Boz Burrell sings like an enraptured poet beside a shining sea...The occasional blemish has been left unedited which adds to the charm and keeps a live feel. The overall standard of musicianship is, as you'd expect with KC, fantastic. No wonder other prog rock bands held them in awe. While the Crimsos were recording in Picadilly, Pink Floyd were across Regent's Park at Abbey Road creating the equally wonderful Echoes. I gather (from Greig Lake on Youtube) that the original line-up has stayed good friends. What a reunion that would be! As for this album, it remains the KC album I listen to most (even if I do usually skip The Letter). The rest is marvellous.
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VINE VOICEon 7 November 2006
It is difficult to know if this or the previous album (Lizard) is the true end of the first incarnation of KC (first incarnation as far as style of music is concerned - not personnel). The soloists on this album (Fripp and Collins) are the same as the previous album but vocals and bass were now handled by Boz Burrell and drums by Ian Wallace.

The music is certainly different and if this is the end of the first incarnation it is a hell of a way to end. Do not expect easy listening but have no doubt that frequent listening, preferably on your own with no distractions, will be very rewarding.

The first track (Formentera Lady) builds brilliantly from quiet beginnings before is segues into 'Sailors Tale' - a truly innovative and top quality instrumental. Two vocal tracks 'Ladies of the Road' and 'The Letter' have original and interesting lyrics which are a million miles away from '21st Century Schizoid Man' and some superb instrumentation to take them home. 'Song of the Gulls' and the tital track are orchestral based and benefit from a number of guest musicians - just sit back and enjoy, fantastic.

Don't hesistate if you like truly original music played by top quality musicians
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Review of `Islands' 40th Anniversary CD plus MLP Lossless 5.1 & DTS digital surround DVD package.

***

`Islands' was released in December 1971, exactly one year after `Lizard'. This was the final studio release from the Fripp-Sinfield era, before Bob Fripp reconstituted the band in 1973 and ushered in the great Bruford-Wetton period.

For `Islands', Boz Burrell took over on bass and vocals; a gutsier & more powerful singer than Gordon Haskell, & adequate-but-not-great bass player who Fripp taught the entire KC repertoire note-for-note. Ian Wallace (suggested to Fripp by Keith Emerson in whose house Wallace was living at the time) played drums. Collins, Fripp & Sinfield formed the remainder of the line-up, unchanged since the `Poseidon' project. A number of other musicians join the party, including once again Keith Tippett on piano, plus Robin & Harry Miller & Mark Charig on various wind instruments.

The original album:

Overall `Islands' is more of a jazz-rock album than `Lizard' but with an odd mix of just 6 songs, 2 of them purely instrumental. The theme running through the album is of islands & the sea, kicking off with the laid-back `Formentera Lady' evoking a languid summer love affair on a Mediterranean island; a slow cello starts things off, over which flute & Tippett's piano cadences lead into the main theme with other instruments gradually joining the party. `Sailor's Tale' follows, purely instrumental with a jazz-fusion feel and the whole band on top form, a perennial live-gig favourite for the band during this era which builds from a quiet start to a crescendo climax. `The Letters' is a dark song about a betrayed wife being taunted by her husband's lover in poison-pen letters, with great musical dynamics, screeching electric guitar from Fripp & powerful singing from Boz. 'Ladies of the Road' is a funky-jazz number about life on the road with groupies, with what would now be seen as highly misogynistic lyrics, some great sax playing from Mel Collins and a hilarious `guitar orgasm' from Fripp! `Prelude - Song of the Gulls' is another instrumental number with the melody provided by a soprano sax over orchestral strings, and the closer `Islands' rounds off the album with a laid-back oboe over mellotron, great sax from Collins & another fine vocal line from Boz.

The 40th Anniversary offering.

As with other Steven Wilson KC releases in this series, a CD plus audio-only DVD are presented in a gatefold sleeve decorated with the original album cover artwork, radio-telescope images of the Crab Nebula (in a genuine crimson colour). A 16-page colour booklet with all song lyrics, archive photos & story behind the music, written by Bob Fripp and Crimson biographer Sid Smith, completes the package.

The DVD is the star of the show with the music offered in MLP Lossless 5.1 surround, DTS 5.1 digital surround, MLP Lossless stereo & PCM stereo 2.0. The DVD graphics are easy-on-the-eye & the menu easy to navigate. On the DVD you get:

* the 2010 stereo mix
* the original album
* a stereo 16/48 `Alternate Album' including previously unreleased `A Peacemaking Stint Unrolls'
* a section called `Routes to Islands' tracing the development of the music including the Islands line-up of the band rehearsing `Pictures of a City'
* Several additional studio takes of `Ladies of the Road' & `Formentera Lady'

Fripp and Wilson have once again produced a fine package, this time with even more extra material than usual. If you're a KC fan, buying this package should be a no-brainer: it will likely be the ultimate, all-time definitive `Islands.'
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on 13 June 2008
I first heard this album when I was in high school during the end of the '70s, and found it pleasant and intriguing but seldom placed it on my turntable. Then I grew accustomed to it along the years, and about a decade later all along the '80s it became my ONLY KC album constantly played. Nowdays about 20 years later, I still play it on a regular basis and enjoy all the "nuances" it can develop, all the reviews stating it as a fantastic album or as an average quality for KC (which anyway means stellar for other bands) or even as a poor and weak album, tell a part of the story, they are all true simultaneously, depending on your mood and inner state of mind. So this is the only recomendation I can make, this is no easy listening stuff, it is an album which is made to survive time and fashions, in a way it is a classic. If you want music made to endure get it, otherwise leave it.
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Released after "Lizard", founder Robert Fripp was said to have been exhausted and unsure whether he could carry on with another album. Indeed, "Islands" is one of the more fragmented, yet diverse albums to that date. The original six songs seem to be contradictory in their inclusion. From the start of "Formentera Lady", a laid back bluesy number to the final, beyond mellow extended title track. "Formentera Lady" seamlessly melds into "Sailor's Tale" through a simple edit of cymbals. On the album, you can hear the cymbal edit from one channel to both, but editor master Steven Wilson has crafted yet another masterpiece with this album. "Sailor's Tale" begins with an amazing guitar piece by Fripp which sounds as if the guitar is completely out of tune, sequencing into one of the fastest and manic instrumentals yet. The beat with the mellotron is urgently blasted forth with a wind down of Fripp's unique frazzled guitar sound.

"The Letters" is an odd song for King Crimson (is that possible?), with evil lyrics by Pete Sinfield and Fripp, which has a wild bridge blast of guitar and jazzy brass ending with a bold vocal. But it is "Ladies Of The Road" that sparks intense lyrics of misogyny. Often hilarious in its blatant rhyme, the song still bounces along with tongue in cheek sarcasm. "All of you that the girls of the road, are like apples we stole in our youth" and "Stone-headed Frisco spacer, ate all the meat I gave her, said would I like to taste hers, and even craved the flavour". The lyrics are just a side track for the bands free-style. The band has fun alternating between the vocals and the sultry, salacious jazz sections. It's actually a series of bridges with various moods and inventive solos.

What follows is one of King Crimson's most perplexing songs I can imagine. "Prelude: Song Of The Gulls" would seem out of place, if it were not King Crimson. This beautifully created instrumental chamber piece is actually a highlight and emphasizes the near schizophrenic collection of songs on the album. But it's the ten-minute title track that brings the album to a beautiful close. Slowly building from a calm, patient beginning, the song glides along with an amazing cornet solo. Pete Sinfield's lyrics are some of his best on this song. It's a fitting ending to an inventive, if uneven album.

Sid Smith sleeve notes reveal a great deal about the mood of the group at this time. There are also extra tracks and alternate versions. The CD presents a complete stereo remix by Steven Wilson & Robert Fripp alongside a group of additional tracks representing an almost complete alternate album of studio takes, run-throughs and mixes. The DVD-A presents a complete 5.1 surround sound mix by Steven Wilson, in which he sometimes isolates instruments to one channel bringing out the clarity and resonance. Also here is a hi-res stereo version of the 2010 mix, a hi-res stereo version of the original album mix taken from the 30th anniversary master source and almost 90 minutes of additional material. Most of this material has never been previously released, including many studio takes mixed from the original recording sessions specifically for this release. Once again, Steven Wilson and Robert Fripp have reproduced a remarkable series of sessions and brought "Islands" back to life.
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on 23 June 2002
I bought `Islands' on vinyl back in the dark ages when it came out and it remains my favourite King Crimson record, and they made a few good ones round then. Relistening to some after 15 years, what is impressive is the sheer variety and ambition. I stopped listening somewhere after Red or Starless maybe because they were becoming a bit guitar-bass-drunms dominated without the lovely otherworldiness of the flutes, reeds, mellotrons - which was THE attraction of progressive rock for me. King Crimson were in a different league than all other mellotron bands and Islands is the epitome of this sound - a beautiful haunting piece from start to finish, but barely classifiable as rock. It has the best mellotron track ever, A Sailor's Tale, and other aethereal materials - Islands, SOng of the Gulls, Formentera Lady. OK it gets a little modramatic in places but it's a beautiful rock symphony - though this termshas been greatly misused since. I like most of the other KC albums of the period (though Wake of Poseidon is just ITCOTCK duplicated in my view)- even a slight penchant for Earthbound though hardly the saem band or planet than Islands. But Islands is my choice to take to the desert island, Sue, where late 20th century rock tied up most loose strands to create an impresive new genre, derivatve - classical, jazz, folk - but fairly unique. Pity Robert Fripp seems such a prat, he did some magnificent compositions.
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on 26 September 2013
OK so I've had the vinyl of Islands (as with other KC albums) since it came out but years pass and it rather lapsed behind newer wonders; I never bothered to upgrade them to CD until the 40th CD+DVD series and the sonic revelations that ensued with 'In The Court...' 'Lark's tongues...' 'Red' and latterly 'In The Wake...'- so I got round to Islands eventually after these, to my mind, more seminal releases.
The surround 5.1 mix transforms the album relative to the vinyl - spacious, with all the quiet bits crystal clear and the loud bits splendid, an engrossing, open listening experience. This was never my preferred KC line up (I saw them in Hyde Park in 1971) and the truly dreadful rehearsal tracks here as DVD extras make it all the more remarkable that a passable album emerged at all. The plethora of extras are perhaps for KC academics (how many versions of a song do you need?) but 'A Peacemaking Stint Unrolls' (previously unreleased) featuring motifs that took a better KC band to realise later on is of interest along with live tracks 'The Letters' and 'Sailor's Tale' which show how far the Islands line up had progressed.
The CD is fine with some bonus tracks (including 'A Peacemaking Stint Unrolls') but as with other releases in the series the surround sound on the DVD is the main event, Steven Wilson again proving his credentials in the mixing
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