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ILLUSION

Eclectic Prog • United Kingdom


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Illusion biography
Founded in 1976 - Disbanded in 1979 - Reformed briefly in 2001 as "Renaissance Illusion"

As the YARDBIRDS were disintegrating, most of the attention was focused on their guitarists Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page and the what lay in the future for them. But for progressive rock fans, the real interest will be what the remaining members would do. Singer Keith Relf and drummer Jim McCarty will assemble a new group - RENAISSANCE - and make drastically changed musical orientation mixing folk influences with rock and classical music. Another ex-YARDBIRDS bassist Paul Samwell-Smith will produce the band.

Their first album called "Island" will create the mould for all succeeding record that band will make. The group will also comprise Jane Relf (Keith's sister) John Hawken and Louis Cennamo. They will disband after a second album that only got released at the time in Germany. Relf will then join MEDECINE HEAD, Cennamo will join STEAMHAMMER then Both will form ARMAGEDDON for one album. Then in 76 , most of the original line-up of RENAISSANCE will regroup to attempt to pick-up where they had left off in 71 but Keith died electrocuted while rehearsal. The remaining members carried on, managing to find the same spirit of those earlier RENAISSANCE days but they did add an electric guitarist. By that time the second RENAISSANCE line-up had done six or seven albums and the two groups sounded much alike, but the public did not pay much attention to the newcomers. So they folded after two albums. Recently, ILLUSION released a new record.

: : : Hugues Chantraine, BELGIUM : : :

See also: WiKi

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ILLUSION discography


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ILLUSION top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.53 | 72 ratings
Out Of The Mist
1977
3.40 | 63 ratings
Illusion
1978
2.75 | 19 ratings
Enchanted Caress
1989
3.68 | 13 ratings
Renaissance Illusion: Through The Fire
2001

ILLUSION Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

ILLUSION Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

ILLUSION Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.01 | 10 ratings
Out Of The Mist / Illusion
1994

ILLUSION Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

ILLUSION Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Out Of The Mist by ILLUSION album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.53 | 72 ratings

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Out Of The Mist
Illusion Eclectic Prog

Review by Psychedelic Paul

5 stars Illusion were an English band whose line-up was mainly a reunion of the original members of the band Renaissance from their first two albums, Renaissance (1969) and Illusion (1971). The original Renaissance line-up consisted of Jane Relf (vocals), Keith Relf (electric guitar and vocals), John Hawken (piano, synthesisers, Hammond organ & Mellotron), Louis Cennamo (bass guitar) & Jim McCarty (drums). Jane Relf, Jim McCarty, John Hawken and Louis Cennamo all featured again on this Illusion "Out of the Blue" album. Jim McCarty and Keith Relf were former members of The Yardbirds. Sadly, Keith Relf (brother of Jane Relf) was killed in a tragic accident in 1976 shortly before he was due to have played on this album when he was electrocuted by his electric guitar at the tender age of 33. John Knightsbridge was brought in as a replacement for Keith Relf on guitar. The superb "Out of the Blue" album was the first Illusion album featuring the reconstituted original Renaissance line-up. They followed it up swiftly with a good second album, self-titled "Illusion" (1978). A rare third album "Enchanted Caress" was intended for release in 1979 but it wouldn't see the light of day until 1990. An equally rare fourth album "Through the Fire" followed in 2001, which was released under the band name of Renaissance Illusion. For fans of Jane Relf, there's also a special 2-CD collectors edition available of all her work with Renaissance, Illusion and the New Age band Stairway, titled "Jane's Renaissance - The Complete Jane Relf Collection 1969-1995", which includes a rare radio ad she recorded for Findus fish fingers!

The sound of Illusion's "Out of the Blue" album is as quintessentially English as a game of cricket with a cream tea and a scone on a pleasant English summer's day. The album opens in magnificent style with "Isadora", a beautiful, yet hauntingly- atmospheric 7-minute-long song of love. Jim McCarty is on lead vocals with Jane Relf providing sweet harmonies on backing vocals. There are some lovely long classical motifs from classically-trained pianist John Hawken and the song features a nice electric guitar break in the middle section. The song concludes in fine style as the vocal harmonies and gentle piano drift away into the distance in the fade-out. The second song "Roads To Freedom" is a bright and breezy up-tempo number with the melodious honeyed voice of Jane Relf on lead vocals. There's some charming classical-style piano playing again from John Hawken on this lively and uplifting song with Jim McCarty harmonising beautifully with Jane Relf as the song plays out. The next song "Beautiful Country" is a real highlight of the album. This lovely song features these charming lyrics:- "Beautiful country, Your mountains of heaven, Your glistening rivers a twisting away, Beautiful givers of summer's white kisses, Boldly for winter we want you to stay, I well lay me down upon the soft solid ground of this land." ........ It's an enchantingly beautiful melody which leaves one feeling spellbound and captivated with delight. There are Jane Relf's marvellous vocals at the forefront with the haunting sound of the tinkling piano and the ghostly Mellotron in the background. This is gorgeous music to drift away to at night underneath the bedcovers with the lights turned down low, where you can forget your cares and worries for a brief time. In complete contrast, the next song on the album "Solo Flight" is a real fast-paced rocker featuring Jim McCarty on vocals. In fact, the contrasting styles of the album are part of what gives the album its lasting appeal. Side Two opens with "Everywhere You Go", a bright and lively up-tempo song with the adorable voice of Jane Relf on lead vocals again and featuring superb piano accompaniment and orchestration. "Face of Yesterday" opens with a classical solo piano piece in the style of J.S. Bach. The song is another stunningly beautiful melody, full of charming English splendour, as Jane Relf carries you away to a warm and pleasant place with a voice as sweet as sugar. The album concludes in suitably exuberant and lively fashion with the 7-minute-long all-out rocker, "Candles Are Burning". The song features a grand finale with a full orchestra and choir to round off this superb album in grand and spectacular style.

An essential album for fans of early-era Renaissance which has stood the test of time.

 Illusion by ILLUSION album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.40 | 63 ratings

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Illusion
Illusion Eclectic Prog

Review by SteveG

3 stars Following the positive reception of Illusion's Out Of the Mist album form 1977, 1978's eponymous follow up is slightly disappointing. But the album is worth checking out for it's high points. In an effort, I assume, to branch out and evolve, the music found on this disc eschews the group's stranglehold on baroque piano led songs found on Out Of the Mist and sounds a bit more electric. John Hawken breaks out his full arsenal of Mellotron, Mini Moog synth, Poly Moog synth, harpsichord, Fender Rhodes and Hammond organ to supplement his piano and all are used to good effect without the music sounding too overdubed.

Starting with "Madonna Blue", this song, mostly sung by it's composer Jim McCarty, could be considered the quintessential Illusion song with it's dramatic verse and chorus and stunning instrumental coda. It's a song right out of prog heaven, with it's washes of Hawken's piano complementing his dreamy melodies of synth and mellotron. The song also boasts some stellar guitar work from John Knightsbridge and wonderful pounding bass drums and tom tom fills from Eddie McNeil.

The spell is broken somehow by the group's attempt at a pop song with the folky "Never Be The Same" but it doesn't quite work. Fortunately the song is kept a bit quirky with it's verses sung in a minor key by McCarty's minor key vocals before a CS&N like chorus explodes out from McCarty, Jane Relf and producer and former Yarbird Paul Samwell-Smith. "Louis Theme" is a slow paced atmospheric number sung by Jane Relf with some disturbing synth played in the song's bridge by Hawken. it's an "either you like it or hate it" song, I'm afraid and I'm in the latter camp. "Wings Across the Sea" is a ballad of longing for one's loved ones while being far away. Something that a touring band is well antiquated with and McCarty and Relf nail the vocal beautifully even if the band sounds somewhat pedestrian and lackluster.

"Cruising Nowhere" is more of a chant then a song with it's driving bass and drums and helps to shake up the mood before Jane's take on her late brother Keith's song "Man Of Miracles". A moody introspective song, with only accompaniment from Hawken, "Man Of Miracles" succeeds on many levels and sadly illustrates the lyrical dynamics that were lost with keith Relf's death in 1976. The album closes with more multi keyboard work on the driving "The Revolutionary" which sounds, frankly, like a sub par Strawbs' song both musically and lyrically and is a very weak track to close the album with. Perhaps the group just started to run out of steam, which is all well and good, as I don't feel that Illusion would have moved forward musically from this self tilted album had they continued. 3.5 stars as the band's playing sounds a bit forced on several of the tracks. Another malady of a constantly touring band that stops to record a new album instead of taking a break in order to replenish themselves.

 Out Of The Mist by ILLUSION album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.53 | 72 ratings

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Out Of The Mist
Illusion Eclectic Prog

Review by SteveG

4 stars Quick, think of a drummer of a prog group that gave up the drums, stepped up front and starting singing. No, not Phil Collins, I'm thinking of former Yardbird and original Renaissance drummer James (Jim) McCarty, as that's what he did when he co-founded and fronted the band called Illusion. This was after vocalist/guitarist Keith Relf accidentally electrocuted himself just prior to recording their first album titled Out Of the Mist.

McCarty and Relf were part of the first incarnation of Renaissance where Keith's sister Jane handled the female vocal duties. The band was fleshed out by keyboardist extraordinaire John Hawken and bassist Louis Cennano. After recording two critically received albums, this mark 1 version of Renaissance folded and gave way for Annie Haslam and co. to take over the reigns and become one of prog's best loved symphonic prog acts. But while Annie and co. were becoming something of a cult favorite, especially in America, McCarty and Relf wanted to reform and pick up where they left off. As McCarty was quickly becoming the group's main songwriter, his decision to replace Keith Relf on vocals seemed sensible. So with the original remaining members and two new additions on guitar (John Knightbridge) and drums (Eddie McNeil), Illusion was born and Out Of The Mist was the result.

Sticking to their penchant for romantic songs based around a rhythm of bass, drums and gorgeous piano, Illusion picked up where mark 1 Renaissance left off. Track one titled "Isadora" is just such a hauntingly melodic concoction with an inviting call and response vocal from McCarty and Jane Relf in the song's bridge. "Roads to Freedom" has a bit of sixties era idealism infused in this subtle but still anthemic song. The group seemed to hit it's melodic stride with the slow and atmospheric "Beautiful Country" which could be the modern equivalent of "Beautiful Dreamer" without the hooky-ness. It is one of Jane's most engaging vocals and Hawken, again, adds all the subtext with his amazing piano playing. Indeed, it seems that ol' John might have been too constrained during his tenure with the Strawbs (playing on both the lauded Ghosts and Hero and Heroine albums!) in terms of his Bach based trills not being given a license to run as free as his playing on Out Of The Mist.

"Solo Flight" is a good hard rocking electric prog song, sung mostly by McCarty, that breaks up the dreamy atmosphere and is a perfect set up for the folky "Everywhere You Go", which is a song that sounds most like any found on contemporary Renaissance albums. It gives the listener an insight as to how Jane Relf may have handled Annie's songs if history had never taken such turns. Jane reprises her showcase song from her mark 1 lineup's second album which was named Illusion. "Face Of Yesterday" is performed without Keith Relf's liquid lead guitar and male backing vocals from Keith and McCarty and is no better for it. Even Hawken's subtle use of Mellotron strings fails to add drama to such a dramatic song. Never fear, as the album's prog showcase closes the set. "Candles Are Burning" is another quintessential Renaissance-like dramatic epic that soars with all manner of keyboards and stabs of crystalline electric guitar and is the album's high point.

My only critique of Out Of The Mist is that it offers nothing new to the Renaissance/Illusion musical template, but any prog foundation as assured as the one found on this album probably didn't need any reinvention. 4 stars.

 Enchanted Caress by ILLUSION album cover Studio Album, 1989
2.75 | 19 ratings

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Enchanted Caress
Illusion Eclectic Prog

Review by SteveG

2 stars "Enchanted Caress" was supposed to be Illusion's third album of the late seventies. Alas, it shows all the signs of a prog group trying to come up with a radio hit, as pushed by their record company. The demos, recorded in 1979, that make up this album are not terribly bad. They're just not terribly good either.

Sole songwriter and vocalist Jim McCarty tries in vain to bridge the gap between commercial concerns and artistic validation. It seems to succeed until listening to the late Keith Relf's lone demo titled, chillingly, "All The Fallen Angels", which was recorded, presumably, sometime in the early seventies, as Relf died in 1976 prior to Illusion officially forming and recording their first album in 1977. Even with it's hippy overtones, Relf's one demo sounds sincere as compared to McCarty's demos.

Uber keyboardist John Hawken, from the Strawbs' Hero and Heroine fame, is almost completely muted, and makes "Enchanted Caress" all the more harder to endure. Fortunately, his classical piano motifs would return on McCarty's excellent but tongue twisting "Renaissance illusion: Through The Fire" solo/reunion (?!) album released in 2001.

 Renaissance Illusion: Through The Fire by ILLUSION album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.68 | 13 ratings

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Renaissance Illusion: Through The Fire
Illusion Eclectic Prog

Review by SteveG

5 stars A wonderful little known album that should be in the possession of every fan of the Mach 1 Renaissance, and band Illusion, featuring Jane Relf as the female voice. This lineup also featured ex Yardbirds Keith Relf (Jane's brother) on guitar and vocals and Jim McCarty on drums and vocals. Filling out this early Renaissance line up was Louis Cennamo on bass and the great John Hawken on piano and keyboards.

All have returned in 2001, save the departed Keith Relf, to help Jim McCarty flesh out this wonderful material that has a deep Renaissance/Illusion spiritual vibe both musically and lyrically. McCarty is the sole songwriter and chief vocalist, with Jane singing warm emotive backing vocals. The star of this album is once again Hawken, who's seems to channel some of the late John Tout's regal touch and excels on piano on every track that features him. Even the two tracks that don't feature Hawkin showoff McCarty's growing skills as pianist, along with his drumming and percussion work on all but one track on this album. Cennamo demonstrates why the Mach 2 Annie Haslam fronted lineup had to be as good or better than the original. The depth of talent, even minus Keith Relf, is so staggering that it makes me wonder why the Mach 1 line up never hit it big in their short time as classical/symphonic proggers.

Guest players handle the mostly acoustic guitar parts admirably and the stand out songs are "One More Turn Of The Wheel" (which probably could have been the title track if it was not so similar sounding tho the Mach 2 group's album tilted Turn Of The Cards), "Good Heart", "Glorious One", "Mystery Of Being", and the album's title track "Through The Fire."

McCarty was an early songwriter for the Mach 2 Renaissance that followed him with songs like "Kiev", "On The Frontier" and "Bound For Infinity", so have no doubts that this album is a must have for fans of both Renaissance and Illusion. McCarty has crafted a fine album that elegantly bridges the gap between both of those groups, and ironically, produced the best Illusion album ever committed to vinyl. 5 stars for McCarty's masterpiece as it's truly the result of a labor of love on so many diverse levels.

 Out Of The Mist by ILLUSION album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.53 | 72 ratings

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Out Of The Mist
Illusion Eclectic Prog

Review by fudgenuts64

4 stars I'm writing this review mainly for the purpose of potentially getting some people to check this out. If Renaissance is your thing you'll love this. I'm not going into the history of this group in depth, but it comprises of most of the original members from Renaissance mk1. Anyway...

Illusion's first (third?) record, Out of the Mist, is a great late 70s folk prog record. It starts off with Isadora, a haunting track that has has an atmosphere for the ages, and this is something this record REALLY excels out. Atmosphere. It conveys moods so well. The song itself has a vocal duet with Jim McCarty and Jane Relf, and it works wonderfully. It might sound like it came out of the early 70s, but that's okay in my book. Next up is Roads to Freedom, probably a weaker track on the album. This one, along with "Solo Flight" doesn't have the atmosphere I discussed earlier, but it's pleasant enough. Beautiful Country is a fantastic folk ballad, with ominous lyrics and the great harmonies from McCarty and Jane Relf. Mentioned earlier, Solo Flight is a rockier track that, to my ears, falls flat. Thankfully it's over pretty fast. Everywhere You Go is a nice little pop ditty, but nothing remarkable. Now for the last two tracks. Face of Yesterday is a rerecording of the same song on the Illusion album from 1971. This version is much more polished and is as good as the original, keeping the mellow mood intact just fine. Finally, the big one at the end. If Isadora isn't enough to warrant having the record, Candles Are Burning is a tour de force of prog. In seven minutes, you get blazing synths, vocal harmonies at every corner, a hellish guitar solo, and at the end, one of the most powerful uses of the Mellotron I've ever heard by John Hawken which makes the song perfect. An absolute hidden gem of a song.

All and all, aside from a few forgettable tunes, this albums frequent atmospheric moods and attention to melody, vocal harmonies, and it's balancing between light and dark moods make it a nice record to own if you love 70s prog folk albums. While I wouldn't call the entire record "folky" it definitely feels that way most of time, with some obvious symphonic elements. Four folky stars.

 Illusion by ILLUSION album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.40 | 63 ratings

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Illusion
Illusion Eclectic Prog

Review by Evolver
Special Collaborator Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

2 stars I understand this band's importance in the history of the major prog act Renaissance (they were Renaissance in the beginning), but honestly, there is little if any prog in the music they made since becoming Illusion (maybe that's what the name implies).

This album I find to be slightly more cohesive than their previous album (the first under the new name). But like "Out Of The Mist", this album lacks John Hawken's classical inspired piano that made their debut album as Renaissance such a treat. In fact this album seems to be more of a throwback to the psychedelic pop of the late sixties. There are hints of The Mamas & The Papas, Crosby Stills & Nash, and of course The Yardbirds.

It's pleasant enough as it is, but not terribly interesting, and certainly not memorable.

 Out Of The Mist by ILLUSION album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.53 | 72 ratings

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Out Of The Mist
Illusion Eclectic Prog

Review by Evolver
Special Collaborator Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

2 stars The original lineup made one strong album before they dissolve, and strangely turned into a different band, which became far more popular. In 1977, probably seeing the success that the new band enjoyed, most of the original members regrouped as Illusion.

Keith Relf, the original guitarist, was going to be in this band, but somehow electrocuted himself before they got into the studio. I wonder if this album would have been better had he lived to perform on it.

The debut Renaissance album had strong classical influenced piano playing by Jon Hawken, which led into psychedelic jams. On this album, Hawken rarely stands out. The psychedelic influence is there, and the band sounds like it's trying, especially singer Jane Relf, but the music rarely rises above drab.

The only song that comes close is Candles Are Burning, where Hawken finally shows some of that spirit that he had in 1969.

 Illusion by ILLUSION album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.40 | 63 ratings

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Illusion
Illusion Eclectic Prog

Review by toroddfuglesteg

3 stars The second album from this pre-Renaissance band. The band with Jane Relf as the vocalist. John Hawken did the tangents here too. See the interview.

This album builds neatly on their first album. But the songs here are a bit more varied and a bit more accessible too. The sound is a bit more folk rock too. Jane Relf sings beautifully here too.

Although a different entity, this band called Illusion has a lot of common with Renaissance, sounds wise. This album though is slightly more songs and folk rock focused than the outputs from Renaissance in the same period. The songs on this album is also a great deal shorter too. The best song on this album, The Revolutionary, just clocking in at six minutes. Another song is clocking in at seven minutes and that is as long as it gets.

There is no real weak tracks on this album and the overall quality is really good. With the exceptions of the two closing tracks The Revolutionary and Man of Miracles, there is no real great tracks too. There is some commercial light weighters here too which I don''t think really works out. But this is still a good album and essential for Renaissance fans.

3 stars

 Renaissance Illusion: Through The Fire by ILLUSION album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.68 | 13 ratings

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Renaissance Illusion: Through The Fire
Illusion Eclectic Prog

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

4 stars Silent meditation poses a problem for our constantly plugged in society, since it requires tuning out external stimuli and heeding one's inner voice for a change. One may not always like what one hears, but guided meditation and imagery can be an effective alternative that suffuses the yielding participant. Of course, as in any inward pursuit, that rare commodity of patience is essential, but the potential rewards are worth the sacrifice. Such is the case with this reunion, er- solo , ay - RENAISSANCE ILLUSION disk.

"Through the Fire" is essentially a JIM MCCARTY album consistent with his brilliant "Out of the Dark" (1991), meaning it amply retains the core values of the original RENAISSANCE albums and those of ILLUSION in the late 70s merged with his own tender idealism and spirituality. The main difference from his official solo albums is the presence of most of the contingent from those 70s bands as backing musicians. While JANE RELF sings backup, the main benefit of this reunion is in JOHN HAWKEN's mellifluous keyboards, chiefly piano. These elevate the effects of every song and impose a progressive footprint on what is otherwise a melodic soft rock album.

The most progressive piece here is the opener, the sprawling "Another Turn of the Wheel", which might be considered an alternate title, or at least theme track. Both "Good Heart" and "Glorious One" are solid uplifting songs with appealing blends of electric and acoustic guitars and McCarty's surprisingly mature and soothing self-taught vocals. "Mystery of Being" represents a cross fertilization with the more Native American sounding work of one of McCarty's other involvements, the band PILGRIM, which is recommended if you like the concept of BLACKMORE'S NIGHT but find you need lactaid pills to digest their kitsch. One of the biggest surprises is how much "Beat of the Earth" sounds like REM, even down to McCarty's MIchael Stipes impersonation, but musically as well. Not that there is absolutely anything wrong with that!

The consistency of McCarty's vision is beguiling, as he tenderly imparts every message in a manner that bears consistent rewards every time one listens, whether actively or passively, with headphones while drifting off to sleep, or perhaps with someone special. This is a man who has passed through the fire and come out stronger, and is generously sharing his experience to those of us who not only listen, but hear.

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