This unassuming, solid record closed the first period of the band's history.
"Formentera Lady" defines the tone of the album. Another unamazing lead vocalist (Boz Burrell), fluidly skillful drummer (Ian Wallace), and many instrumental accompanists are present. However, this is completely removed from the raucous jazz of 'Lizard'. This is expansive, psychological, often calm space music. A soprano and horn provide the improvisational energy for this song, but are kept tastefully in the background.
The instrumental "Sailor's Tale" also cruises at a leisurely pace but is driven into the red first by a horn solo, and then by a merciless, jangly Robert Fripp guitar solo that induces the big breakout.
"The Letters" is very deliberate in the successive emotions it portrays, both musically and in the uncharacteristically straightforward Peter Sinfield lyrics.
"Ladies of the Road" is an overtly, almost defiantly sexual rock song with outrageous lyrics and sleazy saxophones. The dissonant bridge riff and tasteful guitar work around the Beatles-esque chorus make the song hard to dismiss.
"Prelude: Song of the Gulls" represents a generally successful, if somewhat unincredible, attempt by Fripp to compose classical music. It's a nicely flowing arrangement for strings and wind that hints at the compositional talent that would blossom in combination with violent proto-metal on subsequent releases.
The title track is a wonderfully serene epic with some of Sinfield's best lyrics ever, set to a tasteful vocal melody and given carefully placed support by piano, horns, and increasingly as the song progresses, drums and Mellotron.
This is some of KC's "oldest" sounding music, with a strong early-'70s feel. The last two songs in particular make the album worthwhile, but it nonetheless lacks the timelessly relevant quality of the new King Crimson to appear two years later.
© 2001 j.s.