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Isotope - Deep End CD (album) cover



Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars I'm not sure how solid a line-up was the one that recorded Deep end, but it sounded like a group out for its last tragic effort, one for the glory, a sort of swansong. Indeed the group was in financial troubles that caused Hopper to leave and the situation was probably no better by the time of recording this album. I'm not even sure there was enough money to finish an entire album, as the group included Fonebone, a leftover from the Illusion sessions where both Scott and Hopper (he's the author) were present. So with Boyle and Morris again rebuilding the group, in came Dan Brown on bass (not spectacular) and Zoe Kronberger on keys and voices , but apparently Frank Roberts too on the pianos; most likely the two shared the playing time instead of playing double keyboards. Produced by Brand X's Lumley and released in mid 76, Deep End came with a variation of the diver hitting the water surface for artwork.

If you thought there was a huge difference between the debut and Illusion, just wait until you get your ears on this one. Many of Deep end's tracks have a profound jazz-funk groove, and when not they're closer to early Brand X, which is by no doubt courtesy of Lumley. Starting tediously on Picture with Zoe's bad synth, then on the boring ultra-funky Crunch Cake (Isotope aren't Head Hunters) and on the much slower Another Side (where Zoe tries some vocalizing, not strong enough in the mix, though), the album has us wait until Blacksand for a bit of excitement. The lengthy Pipe Dreams is another funky track that will make you think of the Head-Hunting Herbie Hancock (stuck in one groove and content staying in it), while Attila delivers many moods, but the production fails to be clearer in setting instruments apart. The album ends in better fashion than it started with Fonebone (mentioned from the previous album's sessions) and the album-longest title track are easily the best two tracks of the album, the first for reminding us of Illusion, and the latter for being the most-inspired song on the present album.

Please note that the label Line Records has reissued in the early 90's all three Isotope albums, and unlike some tenacious rumour, they're fine in terms sound, but on this last album, the label returns to their detestable habit of announcing the tracks on the back cover un-sequentially or non-chronologically, habit which they'd abstained for the previous two albums, so why do it here!?! Outside of that remark, even if the weakest of the three, Deep End is still quite a good album, coming in fairly late in the genre's history, and it was certainly bringing nothing new to it. So if you have the other two albums, I can't picture you without this one.

Report this review (#29451)
Posted Thursday, April 15, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars Third album in and finally Isotope look to be putting some sort of shape and form to their music, but by no means does this actually mean they are pulling together and creating sublime magic! Far from it. But I will say this. The tunes on the album have structure, so rather than just jam out an albums worth of worthless music it looks as if Gary Boyle and company actually plundered some formation together for some of the pieces, but again, the production values are rather dubious to say the least. Like the previous Isotope efforts there is a lacking of a convicting group dynamic due to the muted and extremely dull production, and if Deep End had gotten a tight cohesive production this truly could have been a fine piece of jazz rock fusion. But still, despite the cheap production, from the off Deep End is a better release than previous Isotope efforts. "Mr. M's Picture" is a good tune with a quirky title while and rocking "Crunch Cake" sounds as if guitarist Gary Boyle was listening and borrowing ideas from Miles Davis Jack Johnson album, and where I thought John McLaughlin was lacking inspiration on that album, Boyle actually sounds impressive here! But comparing both these guys is not my aim here and never would be. Though I would suggest that Boyle took inspiration from McLaughlin and at least some of his work on that album, but hey, prove me wrong! Former Soft Machine bassist Hugh Hooper had departed by the time this album was released to be replaced by the less inventive - Dan K. Brown, but he, Hopper, left his mark behind big time in the shape of the silky cool and raw "Fonebone" one of Deep End's highlights. The rest of this album is typical jazz rock fusion, good musicianship all round but the ideas needed top be stretched out here and there. A little like this review.
Report this review (#56172)
Posted Sunday, November 13, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars The third work of ISOTOPE released in 1976 "Deep End". It is a last album. It is a guitar jazz-rock it is technical and with the tension feeling. It is the best album in their works. The guitar of Gary Boyle is wonderful. The performance of the whole body is moving. It is "Isotope" to set foot on from rock to jazz.
Report this review (#57266)
Posted Monday, November 21, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Here we have some middle-of-the-road jazz-rock instrumentals. The playing is respectable but nothing jaw-dropping to be sure. You mind will drift in places as it becomes background music for a while, then you'll hit some great patches that will pull you back in. Frankly I've been more blown away by some of the jamming on Steely Dan albums than what I've heard here, although with Isotope you don't have to deal with vocals which is preferable to many of us. I guess I would call this smooth jazz/rock perfect for chilling without having to think about it too much.

Hard for me to recommend enthusiastically with so much other great music out there, but I don't want to rip it either because it is good in spots. If you are a jazz rock fan you may want to sample this. The mini-lp CD gives you some bonus tracks which are nice.

Report this review (#118337)
Posted Saturday, April 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Nice album of this Englisn band. A sound of seventies in a instrumental work with quality and not comercial music. We can found some space and psichedelic parts but most of this album is a shinphonic with some fusion parts. Only instrumental, with very good players, some good improvisations in guitar but keiboards are the pricipal music instrument. Good bass and drums work. We can find some differents tracks with different music contexts and give a unusual music treatment in this work. Good sound of seventies decade. A band that most of people don't now but a good band that deserve one listen by the progressive lovers. I like this album with a fresh sound and i give 4 stars
Report this review (#298376)
Posted Friday, September 10, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is the third and final Isotope installment, not as strong overall as their unique "Illusion" album which thrilled prog mostly due to the presence of the amazing Hugh Hopper from the Soft Machine. There is something inherently charming about Isotope's music, a unique style that does not necessarily leap out at the listener but leaves quite a positive impression. Besides the Soft comparison, there are also some strident similarities to Brand X or its suburban cousin Wilding-Bonus, playing a very British form of jazz-rock, slightly funky, quirky and humorous, proven by the presence of Robin Lumley at the control board.

The sheer technical prowess of Irish master guitarist Gary Boyle (easily among the leaders in the most underrated musician category) rivals the pedigree of such illustrious players as John MacLaughlin or Allan Holdsworth while drummer Nigel Morris is in the same drummer class as other Brit luminaries Jon Hiseman or John Marshall.. Previous keyboardist /dentist Laurie Scott is replaced by the groovier duo of Zoe Kronenberg and Frank Roberts, thus emitting a cooler style to the proceedings. Lots of groovy Fender Rhodes electric piano (a glorious instrument severely lacking in today's scene!) of which I am an unashamed addict, some occasional clavinet and some chirpy synthesizers are strewn throughout the disc to complement the swirling and ultra-busy Boyle fretboard . Some may complain that this music seems outdated by today's muddled standards but may I remind you all that prog (as well as good jazz, Beethoven, Mozart and Bartok!) is essentially timeless while being a symbol of its times. All the tracks are of interest such as the choppy "Pipe Dream", the suave "Black Sand" , the rumbling "Mr.M's Picture", the "Crunch Cake" funk ride, the lovely "Another Side" with loads of Spanish guitar, the Asian-tinged "Attila" , the Hopper penned and played "Fonebone" and the sultry title track, an 8 minute+ sonic ride that enthralls completely . 4 of these tracks have a 2001 remix version that only increases the pleasure. Admittedly this is not for everyone but if you like massive doses of e-piano, fabulous guitar and prolific drumming, this is definitely for you. I adore my 3 Isotope albums, precious additions that simply transcend the prog norm.

4.5 Rhodes

Report this review (#620171)
Posted Thursday, January 26, 2012 | Review Permalink

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