An overlooked progressive rock classic
E. Minkovitch | Montreal, Quebec | 05/01/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A fantastic, eclectic album with dark swirling mellotron sounds, gorgeous melancholic melodies, obscure lyrics ("...impaled on nails of ice..."), strangely beautiful impressionistic piano passages, delicate guitar argeggios (that's where Genesis got their early sound) and even a pizzicato string quartet. There is also a jazz element more present than on previous albums, at times Coltrane-esque and at times, free. Ladies of the Road is a little racy and Beatle-ish detour, but then early King Crimson were all about such detours, weren't they... There is a hint of experimentalism that is to define their subsequent releases, particularly on Sailor's Tale, where Fripp seems to bounce a bow across the strings of his heavily distorted guitar, producing a strange roaring wall of sound. There is an overall sense of mystery, sort of reminds me of the John Fowles novel, The Magus. Images of pagan gods and sun-dried Greek islands and wild herbs... If you have a long atention span and a vivid imagination, this music will fire it up like nothing else, I guarantee. This album is nothing if not a masterpiece of progressive rock."
Bill Your 'Free Form FM Handi Cyber | Mahwah, NJ USA | 10/25/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This album gets a bad rap even among Crimheads, and music people in general. Before going into the music on Islands, let's get a few things out of the way.
First, this is a big target for know it all music critics who think "progressive" is a dirty word and that the Velvet Underground were better than the Beatles. Play a medlodic scale or a Strawberry Alarm Clock song, and they sneer over their glasses at your musical illiteracy. Screw them.
Second, I realize this is by far the least musically capable line up of King Crimson. But fans of Humble Pie I know knock the playing on this album as not being technically good enough, and that does not make a lot of sense to me either.
And if you take the two best tracks on Islands, "Sailors Tale" and "Ladies Of The Road," you have two unqualified Crimso classics' Fripp's work on the former is the first time in the band he truely got to open up on a solo, and his dampered, choppy playing here is incredible, at least by the standards of his early work. He stops and starts at just the right point, and shows he is just as effective using meaty bar chords as he is the sustian solos he invented early on, or the dense accrobatics he did later.
"Ladies Of The Road" could be a Beatles track, a funk number, and a pop single. Boz's playing--the beat shifts in a beautifully snakey way--is excellent, and the tracking of his voice here makes this worth the price of the album
"Letters" is a great example of free jamming if overdramatic, and "Formantera Lady" is worth it for the opening cello line. And if there is a gripe to be made about the extra players here, it is that Fripp underutalizes them, not that the music is overdone.
Ok. The title track is a sleeper. I'll concede that much