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Isotope - Isotope CD (album) cover




Jazz Rock/Fusion

2.97 | 56 ratings

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2 stars While the back cover notes make claims that the band never live up to, Isotope are the forgotten fusion act with good reason. They were never actually that good. On the back of the album, Melody Maker's Steve Lake noted, concerning the rock energy and musical intelligence, "...only two bands have ever achieved that balance. One was the Tony Williams Lifetime, the other is Isotope" Lake must have got well paid for that blurb but even he must have been somewhat embarrassed while alone and in front of his typewriter at the time. Strangely Lake never made any notice of John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra, an act who defined the whole fusion genre movement in my opinion. Isotope never come near the grace and sonic fire of that band, in fact they would hardly be fit to string McLaughlin's guitar! Such thoughtless remarks, in this case the afore mentioned notes, are only typical of such journalism. One wonders if Lake had not been asked to write the notes how he might have even reviewed the album. Comparisons with Tony Williams Lifetime would have been light years off I would think. But I am seriously digressing here.

From the go, Isotope is a headless union of very able musicians. The tunes come across as underdeveloped and loose, often dull, jams. Gary Boyle is a gifted guitarist, but besides the sporadic moment lighting up the album, he fails to stamp his authority on the music as if leaving the task to someone else, someone else who is hardly bothered by all accounts. Perhaps in the live situation this jazz rock wannabe act may have come across as electric and powerful but the album sounds poor and pretty much lifeless, a weak and very flat production hardly helps this albums cause. While at the same time the first two Tony Williams Lifetime albums had very raw productions yet there was an intensity which was blistering, those traits are missing here, and there is a feeling of conservatism in the pieces on Isotope, tight but methodical, interesting but never that exciting. Jeff Clanye's bass plods along ploddingly and only adds to the woes while Nigel Morris being a solid drummer is no Billy Cobham, and that's being very fair. Synth and keyboard player Brian Miller wrote everything here but "Honkey Donkey", and his "Upward Curve" could be the one highlight of the album, along with "Windmills And Waterfalls", which is an excellent acoustic track where Boyle does excel, while Boyle's own composition "Honkey Donkey" is a near runner up. I certainly expected more from the album, and after reading the notes I was even more expectant, but overall it is a good album. A group of session men trying their hand at jazz rock but not quite getting to grips with what it actually needs to be fused and dynamic. Nice try though.

Philo | 2/5 |


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