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Isotope Illusion album cover
3.98 | 82 ratings | 12 reviews | 22% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Studio Album, released in 1974

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Illusion (3:54)
2. Rangoon Creeper (6:01)
3. Spanish Sun (7:50)
4. Edorian (2:01)
5. Frog (2:31)
6. Sliding Dogs / Lion Sandwich (5:58)
7. Golden Section (5:15)
8. Marin Country Girl (2:10)
9. Lily Kong (2:32)
10. Temper Tantrum (3:46)

Total Time 41:58

Line-up / Musicians

- Gary Boyle / guitars
- Nigel Morris / drums & percussion
- Laurence Scott / keyboards, synth
- Hugh Hopper / bass

Releases information

LP: 02 (1974) / Line 900402 (1997)

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ISOTOPE Illusion ratings distribution

(82 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(22%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(44%)
Good, but non-essential (30%)
Collectors/fans only (4%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

ISOTOPE Illusion reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
4 stars Isotope's second album is a fairly different beast than its predecessor, since half the group is gone, including the main songwriter, keyboardist Brian Miller. In to replace Jeff Clyne is Hugh Hopper fresh from Soft Machine (Boyle and Hopper had met on Yamashta's East Wind group), while the keys are taken by the relative unknown Lawrence Scott, while Boyle and Morris remain pat. Released still in 74 and again on Gull Record, with a stunning headphones artwork, hitting a bit pretentiously at how much of an earful the album is.

Needless to say that the line-up change totally changes the group's sound, definitely tilting the balance in Boyle's favour, newcoming Scott simply not able to fill Miller's shoes right from the bat. Songwriting-wise, Boyle and Hopper take the lion's share, while Scott gets two tracks in, and not exactly the weakest - there are none in this album.

What strikes with Illusion is the way the album is much more Mahavishnu-esque, most noticeable in Spanish Sun, but in the title track, or in short Boyle's songs. Boyle is obviously enamoured with McL's playing and tries to emulate it, and somehow manages it to his own credit and no ridicule, far from it. Hopper's tracks don't necessarily have the Soft machine edge you'd expect, but they do have that little rockier edge (as do Scott's two tracks) over Boyle's. Generally the album has its own red-hot sound, despite Boyle's MO influence, and Hopper's Sliding Dogs and Golden section are absolute corkers that deserves the album highlight. And just past Boyle's acoustic Marin Country Girl, Hopper's Lily Kong offers a last hurrah for Hugh, while Scott closes the album with the MO-influenced Temper Tantrum.

Family's Poli Palmer's is not exactly top notch though, thus stopping this album to get an even higher rating, but make no mistake, this is Isotope's best album with some margin. After Illusion's recording, the group would tour Western Europe, just as it had before it. Then an Ameruican tour came, some reinforcements (De Souza on percussion) brought in, Scott leaving just before financial problems forced Hopper to leave as well, leaving Morris and Boyle to rebuild once more

Review by tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Probably one of the finest examples of British jazz-rock ever recorded (with all due respect to the brilliant Soft Machine, a near cousin), Isotope reaches its peak with this seminal recording, wrapped in stunning artwork, luminous production, fabulous musicianship and quirky compositions. The Canterbury (Soft Machine) connection stems from the ubiquitous presence of basso profundo Hugh Hopper , the master of fuzzy-wuzzy bass rumbling, arguably one of the prime virtuoso innovators on the electric bass (along with the usual suspects: Squire, Pastorius, Levin, Karn , Percy Jones etc.). Irish guitarist Gary Boyle is a splendid craftsman with a unique sound, very different from similar cousins Holdsworth , Etheridge or Lozaga , whose solo album "The Dancer" is an awesome piece of music. Laurie Scott is a dentist who tickles ivories (no surprise there!) and complements the others perfectly while Nigel Morris retains the dubious honor of most underrated drummer in Prog. The first three songs, "Illusion", "Rangoon Creeper" (hints of future Brand X) and the imperial "Spanish Sun" simply put the listener into overdrive. I suggest listening to this album while concentrating on one instrument, alternatively. The interplay becomes even more exhilarating when focusing on each instrument and just like the sound emanating from Hopper 4 stringer, I get a "Buzz" each time. Everlasting classic this is and its no Illusion. 5 melting earphones
Review by Mellotron Storm
5 stars This is some of the best Jazz these ears have ever heard. I'm still shocked at how amazing this album is, as it seems to be one of those records that was made specifically for my tastes. I have to thank tszirmay who's constant praise of this album finally made me go out and get it. This is one of those recordings where I can't even point out one or two people as being the stars because all four of these guys impress me to no end.

"Illusion" features these intricate sounding drum patterns with lots of fuzz from Hopper in support. Nice. Guitar from Boyle before 3 minutes and a great sound follows. So much going on here, it's fantastic ! "Rangoon Creeper" has this catchy rhythm as Hopper's fuzzed out deep bass lines keep it from sounding anything close to being labeled commercial.The fuzz stops 3 minutes in and now I can hear the others. Haha.The intricate guitar melodies are outstanding. "Spanish Sun" is the longest track at almost 8 minutes. A Spanish atmosphere to this one for the first 3 minutes. Liquid keys 4 1/2 minutes in as the tempo picks up. Nice bass and drum work here as the guitar lays down some fire. "Edorian" is a Hopper composition and is very fuzzy and uptempo. "Frog" is such a great track with the fiery guitar and the fuzzed out bass lines. The keyboard work shines and the drumming is killer. This song was originally the first track on the second side of the LP.

"Sliding Dogs / Lion Sandwich" is darker to begin with. Nice. The tempo picks up after 2 minutes. The keys sound incredible,the guitar too. Ok they all do. What a song ! "Golden Section" sounds so good for the first 1 1/2 minutes and then it gets better. Haha. "Marin Country Girl" opens with intricate guitar and piano, but then it gets darker and more to my liking. Very cool. "Lily Kong" builds until they're cooking 1 1/2 minutes in. "Temper Tantrum" opens with a bass / keys combo that comes and goes until guitar and drums join in. The guitar starts to lead the way 1 1/2 minutes in and then Boyle hits us with a blistering attack a minute later. Incredible.

Without a doubt this will join my other Jazz favourites on that special place on the shelf.

Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars ISOTOPE were another major name of the UK jazz-rock scene,led by guitarist Gary Boyle.Some say they were formed in 1972,others in thing is for sure,ISOTOPE debuted with their eponymous first album in 1974,an album full of endless jamming and energy,but with a sound closer to jazz and rock than prog.Important changes to the band's line-up were rapid as original members Jeff Clyne and Brian Miller (who was also a main composer of the band)left to be replaced by Lawrence Scott on keys and superb bassist Hugh Cooper (ex-Soft Machine).This drastic changes had the same drastic impact on the band's sound,as it can be heard on the sophomore release ''Illusion'' from the same year.

The frenetic jams gave their place to a very elabarated,well-arranged and executed jazz/fusion progressive rock,characterized by the fantastic guitar work of Boyle,greatly inspired by JOHN MCLAUGHLIN and featuring some magnificent solos,changing climates and even some ethnic orientations.Hugh Cooper is there to fill the sound with his awesome bass lines,which contain a very psychedelic feeling and Lawrence Scoote proofs to be a very distinctive yet talented keyboardist with a number of excellent electric piano parts,not unlike what is heard by Chick Corea on RETURN TO FOREVER's albums.All compostions sound intense,rich,complicated and even melodic to my ears,covering a wide range of tempos and atmospheres...Another nice jazz-oriented release of the 70's,which undoubtfully deserves some of your time.

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Second album of very competent UK jazz-rock band. Founder -guitarist Gary Boyle has excellent guitar playing technique, and the only criticism there could come from him openly imitating McLaughlin guitar sound . But he does it with great musicianship level.

First Isotope album with ex-Soft Machine Hugh Hopper on bass, great improvement as well. Even if Isotope's sound never was Canterbury-like , Hopper added some psychedelic-rock scent to album's music.

Total sound is atmospheric, almost minimalistic in arrangements, but very complex and professional. Keyboardist is influenced by Chick Corea for sure. Possibly, album's music is a bit lightweight comparing with Canterbury scene, but they recorded there one of the greatest UK jazz fusion album of its time.

Review by Warthur
3 stars Isotope back in their day must have been radioactive, because their nucleus was decidedly unstable and prone to split - with only Gary Boyle and Nigel Morris returning from their debut album, Isotope found their sound highly dependent on the individuals they brought in to replace them. In particular, Hugh Hopper - who had recently jumped ship from Soft Machine - swings by to provide his distinctive, crunchy bass sound which, along with Laurence Scott's keyboards, often dominate the sound, though Gary's guitar contributions are decent in a sort of Allan Holdsworthy way. Far from top-tier Canterbury or jazz fusion material, but it's a fun listen if you like those subgenres.
Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Highly-acclaimed jazz-rock fusion from a British quartet of seasoned musicians--including Hugh Hopper.

1. "Illusion" (3:54) nicely-partitioned jazz-oriented rock music, drummer Nigel Morris and mutli-keyboard-playing Laurence Scott seem more deeply connected in keeping the rhythm track on a tightly-formed course while the disturbingly-distorted bass of Hugh Hopper and wah-wah-ed rhythmic guitar play of Gary Boyle seem to be the more adventurous and experimental explorers on top. I think I'm most impressed with Mr. Scott on this one. (8.875/10)

2. "Rangoon Creeper" (6:01) weird boring funk. Laurence Scott again gets the chance to show off his tow-handed skills. (8.5/10)

3. "Spanish Sun" (7:50) great display of Gary Boyle's technical skill on the John McLaughlin-like guitars (especially the electric). I like the minimal support from the other band members; the song could probably even exist without them but they add something (besides their solos). (13.5/15) 4. "Edorian" (2:01) seems like a reprise of the two opening songs--especially in the sound palette choices. I like the doubling up of the keys and guitars while Hugh Hopper just wanders off on his own--apparently as tripping and his fuzz-tone bass. (4.3333/5)

5. "Frog" (2:31) a MAHAVISHNU'/"Vashkar"-like song with more drugged-out bass but nice lead guitar over the tight rhythm section of Nigel and Laurence. (I guess I'd better get used to the fact that Hugh Hopper will never contribute to the rhythmic structure and linear pacing of any of these songs, that it is, in fact, keyboard player Laurence Scott that will be playing the role usually expected/relegated to the bass player in tandem/association with the drummer.) (8.75/10)

6. "Sliding Dogs / Lion Sandwich" (5:58) I can see the draw to this one: for the fine execution of its mathematical structure--especially as it gets complicated with multiple tracks moving in off-set rondo--but it's not my favorite style of jazz-rock fusion. (Plus, Hugh Hopper's bass sound is already driving me to distraction and dislike.) (9/10)

7. "Golden Section" (5:15) at least on this song Hugh Hopper is able to show off some skills despite his fuzz-tone bass as he mirrors Gary's melody lines over the opening 1:20. After that, there's really nothing very special here: just over extended Fender Rhodes play with some sometimes-interesting bass exploration beneath. Even the song's main theme is nothing to write home about. (8.75/10)

8. "Marin Country Girl "(2:10) delicate interplay between piano and guitar with minimal support from bass and drums. The bass play may even be a second guitar, not Hugh Hopper's bass (which is highly likely due to the fact that it is not electric). Very nice. (4.5/5)

9. "Lily Kong" (2:32) what starts out rather simply, as a fairly straightforward weave, turns more complex until it is rudely faded away from our listening capabilities. Foul! (4.5/5)

10. "Temper Tantrum" (3:46) two tracks dedicated to electric guitar, bass and drums mixed kind of to the rear, with panning/reverberating keys floating in the in-between, Gary establishes quite an awesome little duel/battle with himself--between the two guitars (one that reminds me quite a bit of the amazing future duel between Al Di Meola and Larry Coryell on Lenny White's "Prince of the Sea"). Now this is Jazz-Rock Fusion! Easily the best song on the album! (9.5/10)

Total Time: 51:58

The music here is definitely not connecting with me the way it has for many other music lovers. I am impressed with the sound and with the guitar playing of band leader Gary Boyle, but I do not find the compositions as substantive or dynamic as I like. And I absolutely do not understand the affinity to or allegiance to Hugh Hopper--whose obsession with the abhorrent sound created by the singular bass effect he seems so stubbornly attached to over the album's first seven songs is almost enough to drive me away; a keyboard could (and should) do the work that he is so praised for! Kudos to Laurence Scott for coming in from relative obscurity and holding his own next to these other giants.

B/four stars; an excellent if totally confusing and sometimes off-putting example of experimentation within the fairly- new Jazz-Rock Fusion genre of music.

Latest members reviews

5 stars This is an excellent but overlooked album that will appeal to those who like Quiet Sun or Mahavishnu Orchestra. How anyone interested in heavy fusion, who has listened to this particular album more than ten times, can not but consider it one of the greatest albums of what is a relatively small ... (read more)

Report this review (#1225287) | Posted by ariel666 | Sunday, July 27, 2014 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I really enjoyed listening to this recording. The musicians here are absolutely fabulous and do amazing things with their respective instruments. I have no doubt this was a good group to watch live. But You know what? I donīt like this kind of music, It has no effect on me whatsoever. I feel i ... (read more)

Report this review (#300627) | Posted by steelyhead | Sunday, September 26, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars A very good album of Jazz Rock Fusion. A band with a musician (Hugh Hopper), that play with another fusion bands (Soft Machine is one of then). Itīs a album with some psichedelic parts but with guitar improvisations that made a realystic context to music. The psichedelic bass word that Hopper ... (read more)

Report this review (#299856) | Posted by João Paulo | Monday, September 20, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars The second work released in 1974 "Illusion". There is no big change in the style of music. It becomes good at the performance as symbolized in the play of the guitar. However, it is not a little satisfactory in the latter half of the album compared with the first half of the album. By the way, ... (read more)

Report this review (#57251) | Posted by braindamage | Monday, November 21, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars A Good album but rather overproduced in my opinion. I prefer the rather more raw sound as they sounded on BBC In concert produced by Jeff Lycett. Gary Boyle is of course excellent and the bass sound (Hugh Hopper) is full of wah. Rangoon Creeper and Spanish Sun are my favorite tracks. But the ... (read more)

Report this review (#29450) | Posted by | Wednesday, December 1, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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