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King Crimson - Islands CD (album) cover

ISLANDS

King Crimson

 

Eclectic Prog

3.81 | 1691 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

charlesives
5 stars This one gets five stars. It's flawed but essential for fans of "prog" rock; I believe the theme of the album is human flaw. Islands is flawed by pretention, mostly due to the words, as all Crimson records are; Crimson have made it their stock in trade. But Islands spirit of adventure, truly innovative moments and cloudy, depressive mood make it a very unique, daring and evocative record. It's my favorite for it's lonely vibe and humanity. It's mostly acoustic, but not what one would normally associate with "acoustic" music, no folksy strumming or horrid Riverdance jive. Crimson took a left turn with Islands and rabid fans of the first album were thrown for a loop as the album starts with a squeaky bowed acoustic bass solo, something you might hear in the middle of Pharoah Sanders' Thembi, lots of bells, shakers and ostinato bass figures. Lester Bangs said King Crimson wants you to think they're strange, but not as weird as their fans would like to think. Yes, they do insist on being far-out at all times, but these tendencies are part of the charm and force them into unchartered territory. This record has a relentlessly dark mood. New Crimson vocalist and bassist Boz sings softly of Spanish women and crusty old Moorish casas. Fripp's oddball acoustic guitar rhythm comping and Paula Lucas' meandering female soprano make a strange brew on this opener, Formentera Lady. Lady segues into Sailor's Tale, featuring another ostinato bass figure with Fripp's blistering guitar tone and squalling, consistently fabulous sax playing by the swinging and fluent Mel Collins. (I hear much Pharoah Sanders influence here, although this is intellectual white Englishman's music without the swing of American jazz like Coltane and Sanders) Tale's middle section features a chewy, jazzy all-chord rhythym solo that sounds like an electric rubber banjo. The Letter, marred by a pretentious lyric but balanced by pretentious but interesting music that somehow seems right, has a successful free jazz midsection that starts lyrically and builds to a frenzy. Ladies of the Road is a sleazy slowburn rocker with great sounding Beatle-ish vocal harmonies and bawdy strip-lounge tenor sax, and yes, pretentious lyrics, well sung. Prelude: Song of the Gulls is an authentic small chamber piece with oboe, no guitar, bass, drums or sax. It's a waltz, played well by studio players, slightly banal but it does indeed conjure the rugged feel of the cliffs on the English Channel. The lengthy last song, Islands, has slow building distant drums, a raw, medieval pump organ, slighly out of tune piano and speech-like cornet phrases. The song is about distance and isolation, learing to accept loneliness and craziness. Keith Tippett's piano is lovely throughout the album, his ripples and blocky phrasing always adding a human element to Crimson. Islands is the antithesis to the later Belew Crimson that was "danceable" and processed, now with the date stamp, "best if consumed before 1984." Islands is an odd and human record but it's the one that has lasted. Buy it and play it a few times. It may take a while to appreciate as do most good things that resist one's instant grasp.
charlesives | 5/5 |

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