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Illusion - Out Of The Mist CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

3.55 | 82 ratings

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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.

SteveG | 4/5 |


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