King Crimson: “Islands” – REVIEW

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            I’m a big fan of prog rock with a tinge of jazz and I’m used to listening / absorbing my music on many listens in order to understand and appreciate it for what it is.  Very often, I may listen to a disc for years before I ‘get’ it; this is not uncommon for me. However, somehow it was the right time and the right place to drop this gem into my hands … I still remember putting on this album for the first time and the brooding cello drawing my eager ear in from the very start.  Next came the mystical, gorgeous flute that enchanted me to listen further; as a flute player myself, this seemed the perfect album.

            It only got better from there.  “Formentera Lady” is ever more hauntingly beautiful as the piece continues, the smooth sax and the beautiful soprano voice creating a mixture of sounds at the end that almost sound random, yet somehow held together.  Next came “Sailor’s Tale”, a fast-paced fusion number that almost echoed the Crim debut, only instrumental with a positively sheet-metal slicing solo by Robert Fripp.  The best was the synths at the end of the solo, almost as if our ‘sailor’ had met the unfortunate encounter with a violent storm, the ending rising to a tense climax before calming to a once again, brooding mellotron sound.

“The Letters”, a chilling piece, continues the brooding intensity, before ripping the listeners head off with a sax sound so brutal that only Crim or their contemporaries (Henry Cow) could pull off, before calming to a gentle, almost ballad sound.  “Ladies of the Road”, with its Zappa-esque lyrics is absolutely hilarious, its music balancing between a heavy fusion jam and light vocal melody.  In essence, its undeniably original and the sax player ‘rips’ the solo in the outro; absolutely one of the finest solos I’ve ever heard.

Only Crimson could follow “Ladies” with something like “Prelude: The Song of the Gulls”.  Simply one of the most soaring melodies I’ve ever heard and is simply an oboe backed by some strings.  Truly amazing. The closer (the title track), is possibly the slowest and most beautiful songs on the record.  Opening with some of the most gorgeous bass flute work in my memory, it morphs slowly into a gentle jazz trumpet solo … a relaxing end to one of my favorite albums.

Overall a fine and eclectic record that offers a lot to the listener.  I suggest listening to it late at night, in headphones without any distractions.  You will not be disappointed.

You can purchase this album here:

http://www.amazon.com/Islands-30-Anniversary-ed-King-Crimson/dp/B00064WSNC/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

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About zombywoof92

Flute player, record collector, self-proclaimed prog rock enthusiast.
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