Islands (King Crimson album)

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Islands - Original Cropped Cover.jpeg
Studio album by
Released3 December 1971
Recorded22 July–3 October 1971
StudioCommand, London
ProducerKing Crimson
King Crimson chronology
King Crimson studio chronology
Larks' Tongues in Aspic
Peter Sinfield chronology

Islands is the fourth studio album by English band King Crimson, released in December 1971 on the record label Island. Islands is the only studio album to feature the 1971–1972 touring line-up of Robert Fripp, Mel Collins, Boz Burrell and Ian Wallace. This would be the last album before an entirely new group (except for Fripp) would record the trilogy of Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Starless and Bible Black and Red between 1973 and 1974. This is also the last album to feature the lyrics of co-founding member Peter Sinfield.

Musically, the album expands on the improvisational jazz leanings of King Crimson's previous album, Lizard. It received a mixed response from critics and fans.


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.[4] 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 lyrics to "Ladies of the Road" are a series of male sexual fantasies revolving around "girls of the road", i.e. groupies. Lyricist Peter Sinfield later commented on the song: "... everybody writes at least one groupie song. We shouldn't. But we do. It is the ultimate sexist lyric of all time. I couldn't imagine anyone taking it too seriously, because in those days you were still able to say things like 'my lady' with a capital M and a capital L." [emphasis in original][5]

The original basis for the song "Prelude: Song of the Gulls" is derived from the Giles, Giles and Fripp song "Suite No. 1".[4]

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, and has been used as "walk on" music for all shows starting in 2014.

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 worldwide.


Released on 3 December 1971, Islands reached number 30 in the UK Albums Chart.[6]

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 extra tracks and alternative versions. The DVD-A presents a 5.1 surround sound mix by 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 previously unreleased material, including studio takes mixed from the original recording sessions.[7][8]


Professional ratings
Review scores
All About Jazz[9]
Christgau's Record GuideC[10]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music[11]
The Great Rock Discography7/10[12]
Rolling Stonemixed[15]

Retrospective reviews have been mixed, with critics generally praising the band's performances while finding the compositions and album structure aimless. 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."[4] Conversely, All About Jazz described the album as a "well-conceived, tremendously executed and perfectly sequenced collection", and complimented Fripp's use of "a more sophisticated jazz vernacular" in a rock context.[9]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Robert Fripp and Peter Sinfield, except where noted.

Side A
1."Formentera Lady"10:18
2."Sailor's Tale" (Fripp)7:29
3."The Letters"4:28
Side B
4."Ladies of the Road"5:31
5."Prelude: Song of the Gulls" (Fripp)4:14
6."Islands" (includes minute of silence and hidden track)11:51


King Crimson
Additional personnel
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


Chart (1971) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[18] 49
Canada Top Albums/CDs (RPM)[19] 52
Finnish Albums (The Official Finnish Charts)[20] 21
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[21] 35
Italian Albums (Musica e Dischi)[22] 21
Japanese Albums (Oricon)[23] 61
UK Albums (OCC)[24] 30
US Billboard 200[25] 76


  1. ^ Holm-Hudson, Kevin (2013). Progressive Rock Reconsidered. Routledge. p. 215. ISBN 978-1-13571-022-4.
  2. ^ Holmes, Thom (1985). Electronic and experimental music. Scribner's. p. 204. ISBN 978-0-68418-395-4. By the time Islands was released, the group had shifted from the sophomoric karma that characterized their earlier records to a more artsy attempt at jazz fusion.
  3. ^ Sodomsky, Sam (20 June 2019). "Where to Start With King Crimson, Prog's Most Inventive Band". Pitchfork. Retrieved 29 June 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d Eder, B. (2011). "Islands – King Crimson |". AllMusic. Retrieved 25 July 2011.
  5. ^ Stump, Paul (1997). The Music's All that Matters: A History of Progressive Rock. Quartet Books Limited. p. 133. ISBN 0-7043-8036-6.
  6. ^ "King Crimson | Full Official Chart History | Official Charts Company". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  7. ^ "40th Anniversary Edition Information". Archived from the original on 3 August 2010. Retrieved 30 July 2010.
  8. ^ "King Crimson – Islands". Archived from the original on 25 November 2010. Retrieved 19 October 2010.
  9. ^ a b John Kelman (4 October 2010). "King Crimson: Islands (40th Anniversary Series)". All About Jazz. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  10. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: K". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved 28 February 2019 – via
  11. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0-85712-595-8.
  12. ^ Martin C. Strong (1998). The Great Rock Discography (1st ed.). Canongate Books. ISBN 978-0-86241-827-4.
  13. ^ Mike Barnes. "The Crown Jewels". Mojo. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  14. ^ Gary Graff, ed. (1996). MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide (1st ed.). London: Visible Ink Press. ISBN 978-0-7876-1037-1.
  15. ^ Bangs, L. (2011). "King Crimson: Islands : Music Reviews : Rolling Stone". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 28 October 2007. Retrieved 25 July 2011.
  16. ^ Aaron W. (5 May 2013). "Review: King Crimson – Islands | Sputnikmusic". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  17. ^ "King Crimson – Formentera Lady (Instrumental Edit)". YouTube. 2 November 2020. Although his work on the album is uncredited, Wilf [...] was the leader for the small string orchestra that appeared on Prelude Of The Gulls.
  18. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 167. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  19. ^ "Top RPM Albums: Issue 7734". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  20. ^ Pennanen, Timo (2006). Sisältää hitin – levyt ja esittäjät Suomen musiikkilistoilla vuodesta 1972 (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Helsinki: Kustannusosakeyhtiö Otava. ISBN 978-951-1-21053-5.
  21. ^ " – King Crimson – Islands" (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  22. ^ "Classifiche". Musica e Dischi (in Italian). Retrieved 27 May 2022. Set "Tipo" on "Album". Then, in the "Artista" field, search "King Crimson".
  23. ^ Oricon Album Chart Book: Complete Edition 1970–2005 (in Japanese). Roppongi, Tokyo: Oricon Entertainment. 2006. ISBN 4-87131-077-9.
  24. ^ "King Crimson | Artist | Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  25. ^ "King Crimson Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved 23 February 2016.

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