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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars Out Of The Blue

In the later 70's, when Haslam's Renaissance had made its place in the sun, the ex-Yardbirds McCarthy and Relf and originator of the concept probably regretted having given up their project, but reformed to have a second go at it, using the name of their second album, Illusion. But in the re-building phase, the singer/guitarist Keith Relf electrocuted himself plugging in his equipment, thus forcing the group to search a replacement, which came in the person of Knightsbrige who plays on electric guitars (this will make quite a difference), the other change being the drum stool occupied by newcomer McNeil, since McCarthy had decided to sing and play acoustic guitar, an instrument he used for his songwriting, being almost alone in that task now, Hawken being a distant second. Funnily enough their label is the Island label that had released the first two Renaissance album, but dropped the new Haslam line-up group from their roster.

Opening on the superb Isadora, you'd swear that almost nothing has changed from these early Renaissance days. In the same realm, Beautiful Country and the ultra-melodic (and a bit cheesy) Everywhere You Go, the obvious Face Of Yesterday (a calmer rework of that second Renaissance album), and a very Renaiisance-claiming Candles Are Burning (not Ashes ;o))) are all quite pleasant and obviously hint at the Renaissance sound. The album has rockier-than Renaissance tracks like Roads To Freedom, the enthralling Solo Flight and if these tracks are only moderately progressive, at least they shake you up and avoid their albums to become soporific like Renaissance's Novella, etc?.

By the time this came out, I thought that this Illusion album was quite superior to the Renaissance of the times as Scherazade, Azure D'Or or Novella were very much yawners (IMHO), as this album had much more energy. Although one has to wonder why they did come back , other than for financial reasons that is, it's still McCarty and Jane Relf and they still sound great and so does Hawken behind his not-yet vintage keyboards. I have yet to find how the two groups co-existed or if te Haslam Renaissance even noticed the competition in commercial terms, but I'm sure there must've been frictions. Prefer this album to the now-cruise-controlling Renaissance.

Report this review (#28957)
Posted Tuesday, March 23, 2004 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars The renaissance of the first Renaissance.

Think of Illusion, think of Renaissance. The history of the two bands is very much intertwined, and while the band bearing the name Renaissance came out on top in terms of success and longevity, the quality of Illusion's output should not be underestimated. Of the Renaissance line up which recorded the confusingly titled "Illusion" album and which subsequently disbanded, only the late Keith Relf is missing here. Pre-Annie Haslam vocalist Jane Relf has a fine voice not unlike Haslam's, further emphasising the similarities between the two bands.

The emphasis here is very much on strong melodies, the songs being generally straight forward yet sophisticated, with pop influences and symphonic overtones. The opening track, "Isadora" is a strong lead off piece with hints of prog, male/female vocal harmonies, and a very appealing tune. Keyboard player John Hawken provides some excellent piano here as he does throughout the album, his quasi-classical style coming through predominantly.

Elsewhere, "Everywhere you go" and "Face of yesterday" prolong the highly melodic aspect of the album, the former being a particularly uplifting song, while the latter is more in the vein of the title track from Renaissance's "Prologue" album, especially in the non-lyrical vocal sections. The closing track "Candles are burning" has obvious similarities with the title track from the previously released Renaissance album "Ashes are burning". It is by far the most progressive track, running to over 7 minutes, with a driving rhythm and soaring synthesisers, behind a Curved Air like composition. The vocals are particularly powerful here, the track making for a wonderful climax to the album.

There are a mere seven tracks in total, the second side of the LP being particularly short. The three tracks I have not mentioned continue the melodic theme, "Solo flight" being notable for its 60's West Coast pop feel.

In all, a highly enjoyable collection which will naturally appeal to those who enjoy the 70's music of Renaissance.

Report this review (#64730)
Posted Saturday, January 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This was one of bands that colored my teenage period. I was not quite sure on how to classify the band who played this kind of music at that time. For sure, I did not consider this as rock music, rather was like symphonic folk or (probably) psychedelic music with great melody. Why did I term it as symphonic? It's because the background music has a very strong nuance of symphonic music through the use of string arrangement using synthesizers and mellotron.

I first knew this band when I heard "Isadora" (6:58) was featured in Yess Heavy Slow cassette collection and the song really blew me away at first listen! The vocal quality of Jane Relf was really clear, transparent and powerful. The vocal quality drives everuthing the song needs to be an excellent song. The intro part with piano work accompanied with acoustic guitar, bass as rhythm section is really beautiful! The notes created from piano work remind me to local traditional music in my country that uses pentatonic system. The intro part contributes great composition this track has. I really love it and it became my "melody of the day" when I was teenager. It really BLEW away. That's only the opening part of the song, and my admiration went into deep when the vocal of Jane Relf entered into the scheme backed with nice piano-heavy rhythm section. "Oh Isadora . and you're still there ." oh . man it's a great song, I tell you!

The other track that kills me due to its great melody and composition is "Beautiful Country" (4:21) which flows in similar vein like "Isadora". The song was written carefully by McCarty to create great combination of notes and chords which result in great composition. It has mellow tempo with bluesy style. The intro part features great solo mini moog and piano work backed with tight bass lines. The melody as showcased by vocal work is really touchy and memorable. The good thing also is that this melody is not boring at all even after decades I have listened to this song. The interlude part with flute-like solo reminds me to early King Crimson tunes.

Well, I think with great songs like "Isadora" and "Beautiful Country" would make the purchase of this album worthwile. In fact, I also like "Solo Flight" and "Candles Are Burning". Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#121036)
Posted Monday, May 7, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars It is always very exciting to anticipate the output of a very talented progressive band having suave female lead vocals and being absent from the scene during 7 years. Renaissance version 1 here are faithful to their Baroque romantic style. Jane Relf's lead vocals are still irreproachable, unique and really addictive.

The album starts with a killer song "Isadora", a very catchy romantic song full of typical Baroque rhythmic piano. Actually, the omnipresent piano constantly flirts with Baroque, catchy & sophisticated airs, like during their early career. I cannot stop to like to be transported by Jane's pleasant & reassuring vocals on "Beautiful Country". The very bottom bass on "Solo Flight" remind you that it is Renaissance that is playing, despite the Yes-Drama like lead vocals.

On side 2, "Everywhere You Go" sounds more acoustic due to the miscellaneous high frequency percussions; it contains some good background orchestral arrangements reminding a bit Renaissance with Annie Haslam. "Face Of Yesterday" is a reprise from their Illusion album made in 1970: it has a richer sound and it is globally more fluid: needless to say I prefer it to the original version. The a bit unexpected last track, "Candles Are Burning", contains a good progressive part full of rhythmic piano and electric guitar solos: unlike the other tracks, it is not really romantic, except for its beautiful & majestic finale: what a great manner to end an album!

Report this review (#125116)
Posted Friday, June 8, 2007 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
3 stars With the success of the mark II line up of Renaissance, it was only logical that the original members of that band reunite for another shot. Under the name of their second album (Illusion) the group rehearsed some new stuff. Unfortunatly singer and guitarrist Keith Relf died, eletrocuted by his own guitar, before any recording was made. The solution was simple: original drummer Jim McCarty assumed Relf´s role and they contracted two new members: electric guitarrist John Knightsbridge and drummer Eddie McNeill. As for the others, the personel remained the same: keyboardist John Hawken (ex-Strawbs), bassist Louis Cennamo and singer Jane Relf. In 1977 the ´new´ band released its first album called Out Of The Mist.

As anyone might have guessed, they sound a lot like Renaissance. Not as much as their first, self titled album, but more in the vein of the Renaissance of the Annie Haslam´s fame. The main diference was the fact they had an electric guitar and Jane Relf sharing lead vocals duties with McCarty. The music is really beautiful, soft and very well done. Certainly they had the chops (especially Hawken and Cennamo), and Jim McCarty did a fine job replacing Relf, although the lacking of a strong songwriter was clear (McCarty is certainly no Michael Dunford). The tunes are simpler than what Renaissance was doing at the time, much less symphonic and quite softer. But there are some fine stuff here like the opener Isadora, the haunting Face Of Yesterday (a re-recording of a track included on Renaissance´s second LP Illusion) and the epic suite Candles Are Burning.

Actually I like this album very much: there are no fillers and although their sound is not very outstanding, it is truly nice and interesting. I found this CD to be quite promising. If you´re a fan of the softer, simpler side Renaissance or like melodic music in general, then you should try this album. 3,5 stars.

Report this review (#192540)
Posted Wednesday, December 10, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars I have to say that the biography just serves to confuse me. As far as I have made out, Yardbirds splintered into two camps; Eric Clapton and some guys who went on to form Renaissance. The latter band released some albums, including some of my alltime favorite albums. Somehow, the original Renaissance setup splintered away again from Renaissance and formed Illusion. One of the members then got electrocuted and died. Confusing ? Holy camel, I am confused. But I think I got this one right.

Annie Haslam is not here so Jane Relf got the microphone. Although Jane Relf is a very good vocalist, it is absolute impossible to better Annie Haslam. The music here is too different from Renaissance to really give Jane Relf any chance to outshine Annie Haslam anyway. So I have not a bad word to say about Jane Relf. She does an excellent job here.

The album, Illusions career no less, starts with a very good song called Isadore. This is very much in the Renaissance mould. The album more or less follows this road...... with some important detours. One of them is a big look back at Yardbirds and the pinching of their clothes on more than one occasions. There is also a lot of elements from the San Fransisco hippie music scene on this album. Those are the differences from the Renaissance sound. The similarities are far greater though. The piano and the use of keyboards is the same. The closing song Candles Are Burning is a great song which could had been done by Renaissance.

I really like this album, although it has some major flaws. The hippie and the Yardbirds elements being the most serious of those flaws. The lack of any real killer tracks is another flaw. But as a Renaissance fan, I treasure this album. Three stars it is.

3 stars

Report this review (#258950)
Posted Saturday, January 2, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Each prog fan has a selection of singular songs that somehow affect them in a long term way, sometimes upfront (like "the Knife"), sometimes obscure little gems that go sadly unnoticed. This Renaissance offshoot was a short lived "Illusion" that issued a few albums and suddenly exploded into tattered shreds. That keyboardist (and one of my favorites) John Hawken went to huge fame and small fortune with the suave the Strawbs, decorating their proggiest albums with sublime grace and elegance is a known fact, but Eddie McNeil on drums , guitarist Knightsbridge and bassist Louis Cennamo sort of vanished in the meantime. Both leaders Jane Relf and Jim McCarty went on to lead their lives away from the rock limelight. "Isadora" is that song, a magnificent ode to bizarre but innovative dancer Isadora Duncan I presume, a miraculous melody that is very British, a heavenly concoction of pastoral beauty, where Hawken's fluid piano introduces a massive lyrical theme first sung by James and then blended in with wife Jane's crystalline voice. The electric guitar shrug is first utterly affecting and later dejectedly delirious in expressing the somber melancholy of this colossal piece, just enough to titillate, leaving the keys and the duet vocals do the real damage. The extended outro is the icing on the cake, a ambient, gentle refrain of the theme, fragile, limpid and delicate. A true quiet classic! "Beautiful Country "is the other stellar anthem, featuring another virtuoso performance from Hawken's piano, rippling along redolently in abating the delicious voice of Jane Relf, a haunty hushing version of Annie Haslam , expressing with conviction of a melody to expunge for. "Solo Flight" is not as the title implies the soloing spot but a faster-paced rocker that has a decidedly West Coast/ Jefferson Airplane feel, slightly psychedelic but accessible at the same time. "Everyway You Go" is more like British country, a slight folk, sing along at the pub feel (without the superlative playing though) that is quite pleasing. "Candles Are Burning" is a second mini-epic, though not as successful as the masterful first, it still has its merits supported by achingly effortless vocals, massive blasts of fabled mellotron. By the end, the consensus is obvious on a good album, with a couple of superb tracks. One in particular, that Bugatti-scarfed Isadora. 3.5 optical chimeras
Report this review (#273629)
Posted Tuesday, March 23, 2010 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#710156)
Posted Thursday, April 5, 2012 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#1479331)
Posted Monday, October 26, 2015 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#1976165)
Posted Wednesday, August 8, 2018 | Review Permalink

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