In 1971, King Crimson were once again disintegrating from within after the release of their third album Lizard, with Robert Fripp, lyricist Peter Sinfield, & flute/sax player Mel Collins left trying to put the pieces together and assemble a new band. Into the band arrives vocalist Boz Burrell (who Fripp taught how to play bass for the gig), and drummer Ian Wallace, plus guest support from Keith Tippett (piano), Paulina Lucas (vocals), Robin Miller (oboe), Mark Charig (cornet), and Harry Miller (string bass). The end result is a Crimson album that is almost overlooked in their discography, but actually holds up quite well 40 years after its original release. Filled with more jazz influences than earlier releases, Islands is somewhat of an oddity but still filled with powerful performances that show the talents of the musicians and the strong compositional skills of Fripp.
"Formentera Lady" kicks things off, a 10-minute jazz-rock number with plenty of atmosphere, thanks to Collins' dreamy flute & sax, and Wallace's waves of percussion. On "Sailors Tale", Fripp launches into a sizzling guitar solo over frenzied sax, drums, and waves of Mellotron. Progressive rock meets jazz? Certainly. "The Letters" starts off quite serene and tranquil, before a monstrous Fripp solo and Collins sax squeal bursts through the speakers, and the bluesy, jazzy, funky, "Ladies of the Road" provides the albums most direct arrangement, a rocking piece with a sleazy vocal from Boz and tasty solo from Fripp, who gives it up to Collins to finish out the piece. There's a strong classical/chamber feel to "Prelude: Song of the Gulls", before the ominous 12 minute epic "Islands". Boz kicks it off with a gentle vocal alongside Tippett's lush piano strains, eventually giving way to haunting Mellotron, oboe, cornet, and full band ensemble before quietly fading away. The bonus version of the title track with mostly oboe as the lead instrument is actually quite nice as well. Also includes are some early takes of "Formentara Lady", "Ladies of the Road", "The Letters", and "Sailor's Tale", plus a rousing " A Peacemaking Stint Unrolls", a never before released track that is total jazz-fusion, and sounds almost like Crimson doing their best Mahavishnu Orchestra impression. Once again, as with the other recent King Crimson reissues, this one has been mixed by Fripp and Steven Wilson, and sounds spectacular.
The DVD features the album in 5.1 Surround Sound & the original mix in High Resolution Stereo, which will be a real treat for your home theater set-up, but the real surprise here are the wealth of bonus cuts, including an early 'alternate' Islands album, rehearsal versions of songs, demo takes, and a few live cuts. The live versions of "Sailor's Tale" and "The Letter" show a band really finding themselves on the road, and will be a revelation for die hard fans. There's also a great booklet with photos from the studio sessions and tour, plus an essay and breakdown of all the tracks on the two discs.
History showed that the Islands line-up didn't last any longer than the previous versions of King Crimson, and only served to bridge the gap to the 'definitive' KC line-up, which included Bill Bruford, John Wetton, David Cross, and Fripp. Boz was obviously not the greatest vocalist, and his bass skills were limited to say the least (he joined Bad Company shortly after), but Wallce and Collins were both highly respected musicians who sadly weren't in for the long haul either despite their talents. Regardless, Islands is still a monumental release of early 70's progressive rock that's aged well all these years. This reissue is a testament to its greatness.
Disc: 1 (CD)
1. Formentera Lady
2. Sailor s Tale
3. The Letters
4. Ladies of the Road
5. Prelude: Song of the Gulls
7. Islands (Studio Run Through -Bonus Track)
8. Formentera Lady (Take 2 - Bonus Track)
9. Sailor's Tale (Bonus Alternate Mix/Edit)
10. A Peacemaking Stint Unrolls (Bonus Track)
11. The Letters (Bonus Rehearsal/Outtake)
12. Ladies of the Road (Bonus Remix)
Disc: 2 (DVD)
1. Islands Album DVD-A Lossless Surround Sound, DTS 5.1 Surround Sound
2. Islands Album original mix - High Resolution Stereo
3. Islands Album new mix High Resolution Stereo
4. Almost 90 minutes of bonus material mostly unreleased including a full Alternate Album , rehearsal takes, live material, studio sessions & material mixed for the first time for this release.