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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars
Islands: 40th Anniversary Series (CD + DVD-A)
Format: DVD Audio|Change
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on 7 November 2010
Islands was the last of the four magical King Crimson albums that preceded the arrival of Bill Bruford and John Wetton. The band then developed the more settled line-up that led to 1974's Red. But before that the Crimsos were evolving and changing continuously, with some very gifted jazz/fusion musicians also getting involved from the British jazz-rock scene that included Soft Machine: Mark Charig, Keith Tippett..). They feature wonderfully here on Islands, but the passage that makes the album unforgettable is the Sailor's Tale which includes a fantastic jangling guitar solo that Robert Fripp recorded late at night in one take (David Bowie later used the Fripp jangle on 'Fashion'), The effect as his guitar surfs a tidal wave of mellotrons is electrifying.
The music on Islands has on the whole the loosest, most relaxed, improvised feel of any early KC album, a kind of last nod to Hippy culture. The first track Formentera Lady lopes along with rippling flute solos from Mel Collins, who later plays gut-churning sax on Ladies of the Road. The title track Islands is a beautiful, gently lulling piece with Robin Miller's oboe and Mark Charig's trumpet drifting like seagulls over the oceanic mellotron sound. There's much improvising on Islands, as on the previous KC album 'Lizard'. Keith Tippett's dreamy piano is a million miles, though, 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 Letters' is a short, melodramatic track that doesn't do it for me but otherwise this album is a gem, with wonderful playing from all, and particularly Fripp and Mel Collins. Highly recommended in either the 30th or 40th anniversary editions (I bought both). There's added definition on the 40th. On the other hand, the 30th has more punch. For instance the wonderful moment when the mellotrons hurtle in like a giant wave at the end of Fripp's Sailor's Tail solo is fantastic on the 30th but has been watered down to a kind of background bleat on the 40th...So maybe that can be fixed for the 50th.. ;)
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 3 January 2013
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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I have never heard this album before bying this. I now own all the Re-mastered CD/DVDs. Islands starts very strangly, like an orchestra warming up, growing into some of the most beautiful music I have heard in a long time.
It's a very calming CD with some beautiful guitar work from Fripp and as always great bass work as all Crimson albums have.
The vocals and musicianship is magnificent.

I have played this CD a lot since I received it from Amazon UK and have found this to be the most rewarding of all the King Crimson Re-Master issues.
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on 16 March 2017
Islands is one of the best albums from KC. When you here this album you are already in peace
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on 29 July 2003
An oft overlooked offering from KC from 1971, and a bit of a shame as it contains two absolute masterpieces in the title track and The Sailors Tale. It also boasts (almost) the only decent set of lyrics Peter Sinfield presented to the band. For once Sinfield chose to write with his heart rather than his head; prefering to make us feel as opposed to trying to impress us. This is particularly true on the the title track where his island/nautical images delightfully convey the message of loneliness and a desire for love. No Man is an Island, indeed. Robert Fripp's guitar is all but absent from this track, and the song is driven by Keith Tippet's sublime piano work. Fellow jazzers Robin Miller (oboe) and Mark Charig (cornet) wonderfully understated contributions combine to make this arguably KC's finest work.
Fripp's guitar is very much to the fore in the album's other tour-de-force The Sailor's Tale - an instrumental in three main parts. Fripp's clanking metallic gutar solo in the middle section still astounds after thirty years.
Of the other tracks Prelude and Formentera Lady slip by pleasantly enough, but the best of the rest is The Letters. Although the poison pen letters do seem rather too polite to truly convey what is passing between the two ladies concerned, not a word is wasted by Sinfield in the 16 lines of lyrics.
Which brings us to Ladies of the Road - the fly in the ointment. Even if Mr Sinfield's tongue was in his cheek when he penned this lot, it still comes across as misogynistic twaddle and like the music itself appears out of place on this (or indeed any KC) album.
Nevertheless, buy Islands now and be prepared to be delighted.
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on 18 March 2003
The fourth release in two years proved to be a mellow break from the usually tight and frantic King Crimson heard previously. This change is due mostly to a strong change of band personnel and the lyrics of Pete Sinfield. Many of the songs rely more on said lyrics than before and there is more of a jazz influence, accentuated by frequent use of a saxaphone.
The first two songs are a mix of or a collage of songs crafted around a simple beat. Mixing a high vocal solo with saxaphone, the second song skips along until it breaks into a faster paced saxaphone laced race. Note that Fripp uses an 'out-of-tune' guitar to produce just one of his most unique sounds. "The Letters" and "Ladies Of The Road" rely more on shocking and salacious lyrics that can produce an adolescent giggle.
"Prelude: Songs Of The Gulls" is a curious break from form and is simply a quartet of violins and cellos for a completely subdued prelude to "Islands". This last song is one of King Crimson's most beautiful compositions and builds slowly with thoughtful lyrics and a solo cornet that accompanies a playful piano. It's so contemplative that you'll find yourself meditating into a peaceful trance.
This is not classic King Crimson, but an attestment to their striking ability to play anything they want extremely well.
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on 4 December 2010
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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VINE VOICEon 18 November 2011
Wow!!!! I have owned this album for years on cd and would have to confess that this new 40th Ann issue is the first time I have "heard" the album. Steven Wilson and Robert Frip have been able to eek out detail from the master tapes that just astounds. The sonic improvement between this and the 30th Ann version is hard to credit.

The nature and materials used to make the acoustic instruments is clearly audible, the metals in the cymbals, the shakers in the tambourine are all audible, the wooden hollow body in the string bass on Formentera Lady can be heard-amazing as I had hardly even noticed its existence on the 30th Ann edition, and so on to hyperbole overkill.

Lyrics that just were on the wrong side of legibility for me(whazzat hes singing?????Rewind and further frustration at not being able to make it out) have now been rescued and brought right out so that I can figure out what Boz was going on about.

The string section sounds fabulous, on a sonic par with Peter Gabriels New Blood album. An incredible feat considering Islands was recorded in, to paraphrase the sleeve notes, a guerilla hit and run method using the Command Studios, an establishment not commonly regarded as the pinnacle of hifi recording studios, almost 40 years ago. Prelude; Song of the Gulls is an utterly splendid mellow and warming track, now that everything sounds the way it ought to. I have to confess skipping this one on previous occasions because it just did nothing for me at all, sounding like a second rate small orchestral piece(how wrong!).

Sailors Tale remains the killer locomotive all powerful track that is always was, only better. Fripps guitar werning in the right speaker and Mel Collins wehoo-ing in the left whilst Ian Wallace strikes out in the middle shifting all over Boz's steady pulse. The Mellotron brass blast introducing the last section of the piece sounds like it is the voice of some sort of space god calling down onto the earth. Magnificent!

In short, all of the reissues that I have heard in this 40th Anniversary run of remasters set a standard that others rarely attain, although Pink Floyds come very close, and are well worth the dosh if you are more than just a casual King Crimson fan.
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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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