Islands (King Crimson album)

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Islands - Original Cropped Cover.jpeg
Studio album by King Crimson
Released 3 December 1971
Recorded October 1971
Studio Command Studios, Piccadilly, London, England
Length 43:49
Producer King Crimson
King Crimson chronology

Islands is the fourth studio album by English band King Crimson, released in December 1971 on record label Island. Islands would be the last King Crimson studio album before the group's trilogy of Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Starless and Bible Black and Red. It's also the last to feature the lyrics of founder member Peter Sinfield.

The album received a mixed response from critics.


The harmonic basis for the tune "The Letters" is derived from the Giles, Giles and Fripp song "Why Don't You Just Drop In", available on The Brondesbury Tapes compilation.[1] The bridge section is also taken from the King Crimson version of the song, performed by the original line-up, titled simply "Drop In" and later released on the live-album Epitaph.

The original basis for the song "Prelude: Song of the Gulls" is derived from the Giles, Giles and Fripp song "Suite No. 1".[1]

The first vinyl release of the album features a hidden track. At the end of side two there is a recording of studio chatter followed by Fripp saying, among other things, "...What we're going to do, umm... do it twice more, once with the oboe, once without it, and then... we finish." This was included on the initial CD release but was accidentally left off the first pressings of the 1989 Definitive Edition CD remaster. It was restored on all subsequent reissues.

Album cover[edit]

The original United Kingdom and European cover depicts the Trifid Nebula in Sagittarius and displays neither the name of the band nor the title. The original United States and Canadian album cover (as released by Atlantic) was a Peter Sinfield painting of off-white with coloured "islands". This was used as an internal gatefold sleeve in the UK. When the King Crimson catalogue was re-issued by EG, they standardised on the "Trifid Nebula" cover world-wide.


Released on 3 December 1971, Islands reached number 30 in the UK Albums Chart.[2]

The album was re-released in 2010 as the fifth release in King Crimson's 40th Anniversary series, featuring new stereo and 5.1 surround mixes (by Steven Wilson and Robert Fripp), Sid Smith sleeve notes and copious extra tracks and alternative versions. The CD presents a complete stereo remix by Steven Wilson and Robert Fripp alongside a group of additional tracks representing a near complete alternative album of studio takes, run-throughs and mixes. The DVD-A presents a complete 5.1 surround sound mix by Steven Wilson, 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, the vast majority of it previously unreleased, including many studio takes mixed from the original recording sessions specifically for this release. The material covers everything from early rehearsals of "Pictures of a City" (one of the final new songs performed by the 1969 lineup) to the previously unheard "A Peacemaking Stint Unrolls" (showcasing early ideas and elements that would appear in fully realised form on later KC albums), a fragment of Fripp playing the tune of "Islands" on a mellotron, a blistering live "Sailor's Tale" from the Zoom Club and much more.[3][4]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 2.5/5 stars[1]
Robert Christgau C[5]
Rolling Stone mixed[6]

In its contemporary review, AllMusic called it "the weakest Crimson studio album from their first era" that "is only a real disappointment in relation to the extraordinarily high quality of the group's earlier efforts."[1]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Robert Fripp, all lyrics written by Peter Sinfield.

Side A
No. Title Length
1. "Formentera Lady"   10:18
2. "Sailor's Tale" (instrumental) 7:29
3. "The Letters"   4:28
Side B
No. Title Length
4. "Ladies of the Road"   5:31
5. "Prelude: Song of the Gulls" (instrumental) 4:14
6. "Islands"   9:15
7. Untitled (hidden track, begins one minute after Islands ends) 1:36


King Crimson
Additional personnel
  • Paulina Lucas – soprano vocals (1)
  • Keith Tippett – piano
  • Robin Miller – oboe
  • Mark Charig – cornet
  • Harry Miller – double bass (1, 6)
  • Uncredited musicians – strings (5, 6)
  • Andy Hendrikson – recording, engineering
  • Tony Arnold – mastering
  • Vick & Mike – equipment
  • Robert Ellis – photography
2009 40th Anniversary Series re-issue personnel
  • Steven Wilson – mixing, production, compilation and coordination input and suggestions
  • Simon Heyworth (Super Audio Mastering) – stereo file preparation, 5.1 mastering
  • Claire Bidwell (Opus Productions) – DVD design and layout
  • Neil Wilkes (Opus Productions) – DVD authoring and assembly
  • Jon Urban, Bob Romano, Bob Squires, Patrick Cleasby, Tim McDonnell & Chris Gerhard – DVD QC testing
  • Kevin Vanbergen (FX Copyroom) – multitrack tape restoration and transfers
  • Alex R. Mundy – DGM tape archiving
  • Hugh O'Donnell – package art and design
  • Declan Colgan (DGM) – compilation, coordination
  • Sid Smith – liner notes, compilation and coordination input and suggestions
  • John Kimber – US vinyl record sleeve scan


  1. ^ a b c d Eder, B. (2011). "Islands – King Crimson | AllMusic". Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  2. ^ "King Crimson | Full Official Chart History | Official Charts Company". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 6 August 2016. 
  3. ^ "40th Anniversary Edition Information". Retrieved 2010-07-30. 
  4. ^ "King Crimson – Islands". Retrieved 2010-10-19. 
  5. ^ Christgau, R. (2011). "Robert Christgau: CG: king crimson". Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  6. ^ Bangs, L. (2011). "King Crimson: Islands : Music Reviews : Rolling Stone". Archived from the original on 28 October 2007. Retrieved 25 July 2011. 

External links[edit]