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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars Last Illusions??

After the encouraging results of their debut album, Illusion went back the following year to record their second effort, the self-titled album that came with a superb artwork, much reminiscent of the Renaissance debut album and we also see the return of another ex-Yardbirds, Paul Samwell-Smith on production. One of the main difference between the rival line-ups is that Illusion has a real electric guitarist, even if his presence is less felt in this album than on Out Of The Mist.

Opening on the superb almost 7-mins Madonna Blue, with its absolutely fabulous instrumental second part and a superb guitar solo, the album is off to a great start. McCarthy sings the following the west-coast CSN&Y-ish Never Be The Same track, while the soft-spoken Wings Across The Sea is a double vocal effort and is right in the usual target's bull's eye. Starting almost like a Tangerine Dream track, Cruising Nowhere is a splendid track that could've been a future avenue to venture on, showing that Illusion had indeed more songwriting tricks and talent in their bag than their rivals did.

There is quite a difference in the with Louis's Theme - a very mellow/soft and lengthy track, somewhat even quieter than any then-contemporary Renaissance track- and Man of Miracle that could've hinted to what a third album might have sounded but Punk killed that idea. Man Of Miracles (a track going back to the early Renaissance days) is again starting on unusual synth sounds and is again superbly soft-spoken, much like Louis' Theme. The closing 8-mis+ Revolutionary is another escape into a different symphonic realm, and a rather successful one, even if you have to raise the volume to get most of its beauty

If their debut OOTM was definitely ogling in the Renaissance direction, this second self-titled album is definitely aiming well beyond that restricted spectrum that their rivals were trapping themselves in. Indeed Illusion's second album is anything but soporific, despite having half of its album in a very quiet and soft atmosphere that requires full attention and a good set of headphones. Renaissance fans might prefer the Mist album, but this one is definitely more adventurous.

Report this review (#28959)
Posted Tuesday, March 23, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is in my opinion Great.Great melodies vocal harmonies,mellotrons...I can hear the great vocals of Jane Relf (much-much better than the two first reneissanse albums).Nice drums and bass also some synths and a lot of piano.They are very typical in the Reneissance mood.Folk-prog-classicall music-acoustic songs e.t.c.But this album includes also an absolute masterpiece:Louis'Theme.One of my best prog songs ever.Fantastic mood and great melodies.I love this album and also their previous.4/5
Report this review (#48212)
Posted Saturday, September 24, 2005 | Review Permalink
erik neuteboom
4 stars This band has a strong link with Renaissance featuring Jim McCarthy and Keith Relf. The sound is often similar (harmonic, lots of piano and acoustic guitar and warm vocals) to that legendary band. You can dream away on "Louis theme" and Man of miracles" but Illusion has a more lush symphonic sound due to the wide range of keyboards: clavinet, Mellotron, Fender Rhodes, Minimoog, ARP and Hammond organ, this can be heard on "Wings across the sea" and "The revolutionary" and especially on my highlight "Madonna blue": splendid interplay between sparkling piano and majestic choir-Mellotron and a wondeful grand finale delivering a compelling guitarsolo and sumptuous keyboards, EXCELLENT!
Report this review (#49710)
Posted Sunday, October 2, 2005 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars It's a beautiful. . . album

Illusion's name was taken from Renaissance second album, thus confusingly we have two different albums called "Illusion" featuring the same lead singer, Jane Relf.

Illusion's second album is very much a continuation of their first, both in terms of quality and style. The songs on both albums are entirely interchangeable, as they are indeed with the music of Renaissance at that time. (Far from implying any sort of criticism, this is very much a recommendation). That said, the tracks here are a bit longer than this on "Out of the mist", allowing the band to explore slightly more complex, indeed progressive, structures.

The opening track, "Madonna Blue" seems at first to be a melodic but simple piece, but has a song symphonic coda where John Hawken's piano work is a particular feature. "Louis' Theme" is much sparser, even allowing for the orchestration. Relf's vocals here have a haunting quality. "Man of miracles" and "Wings across the sea" also maintain the soft reflective mood.

"Cruising nowhere" is reminiscent of IT'S A BEAUTIFUL DAY's "White Bird", moving at times toward almost trance like territory. The closing track "The revolutionary" is one of the band's most adventurous, starting with a Moody Blues ("Question") like intro prior to some dramatic story telling and a softer middle section. The high pitched male vocal lead can be quite disconcerting at first, but the song weaves its historical tale in a Strawbs (Dave Cousins) like way. (Hawken would in fact later go on to join the Strawbs.)

Those who enjoy the music of Renaissance will find much to appeal the them here. This is a fine melodic album, which features talented musicians at their best. Unfortunately, after this album was released, the band ceased to exist (apart from a brief belated reformation), otherwise they could well have gone on to enjoy the same level of success as Renaissance, Curved Air etc.

The "Out of the mist" CD by Illusion features that album plus this one in full.

Report this review (#69262)
Posted Monday, February 13, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This was one of classic album that colored my teenage period. I was not quite sure on how to classify this kind of music at that time. For sure, I did not consider this as rock music, rather was like symphonic folk music with great melody. Why did I term it as symphonic? Because the background music has a very strong nuance of symphonic music through the use of string arrangement using synthesizers and mellotron as appear under the opening track "Madonna Blue" (6:46) fronting Jane Relf as lead vocalist. The piano work also is a nice thing to enjoy from this album especially when it's combined with guitar solo at later part of this opening track.

"Never Be The Same" (3:18) is completely a pop song with rhythm section that sounds like a folk song enriched with piano work. Jim McCarty plays lead singer role in addition to song author (including the opening track "Madonna Blue" as well). Nothing special about this song; it's a good easy listening track, I would say. "Louis' Theme" (7:41) features Jane Relf back as lead singer with an ambient intro part combining piano work and bass as main rhythm section. As the title implies this song was written by Louis Cennamo (bass player). This mellow track is quite dark and it has good melody. For some people, this track might be boring as it has a very little variation in terms of style. "Wings Across the Sea" (4:49) might remind you to early King Crimson in a lighter way with the sounds of female vocal. "Cruising Nowhere" is a song with different style than other songs in this album with a kind like Sally Oldfield music combining the percusiion style that reminds me to world music. The guitar solo is stunning with some influences from Santana.

Overall, this is a good album with some symphonic and psychedelic touches and most of songs are easy listening style that can be accepted by wider listeners. This can be a must for those who really want to track the vintage music at times when rock music experienced its glory days in the seventies.

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#121035)
Posted Monday, May 7, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Compared to the preceding Out Of The Mist album, the record here has some more accessible songs, better suited for easy listening. The omnipresent piano is more simple, not really Baroque, and there is the presence of acoustic guitar. The music is not really progressive except for one or two tracks; the songs are not complex, but it is not a simple music though. There are still many pleasant lead & backing vocals. There are some good mellotron parts, but there are also a few artificial keyboards parts that do not fit very well with the musical genre of the band, like on the slightly psychedelic "Cruising Nowhere". Jane Relf's super soothing lead vocals will definitely transport you on "Man Of Miracles": it sounds like a pleasant & desired lullaby. The last track "The Revolutionary" is the most progressive one: it sounds a bit like The Strawbs. For those who, like me, love Jane Relf's lead vocals, she appears on the beautiful New Age album with Jim McCarthy, on the "Stairway" artist name: the album is called Moonstone.
Report this review (#125118)
Posted Friday, June 8, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars This is a kind a mellow album, harmonies and vocals are very mellow, only very rare they has some vein on the pieces, the record here has some more accessible songs, better suited for easy listening then on previous one. I be short here, the best track is Madonna Blue, the rest in my opinion is almost average. 2 stars for this one, in some places is very boring and without any enthusiasm from musicians. They were not even close to Renaissance same period, maybe this album sounds like Novella, the worst Renaissance album from the '70's. Collectors only.
Report this review (#147760)
Posted Sunday, October 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
3 stars Illusion´s second album was done in a kind of rush according to an interview with Jim McCarty. They were not able to finish it was they wanted probably. Still the record has some fine moments: Madonna Blue is a very strong song, one of their best, with Hawken providing great piano runs while McCarty and Jane Relf share some stunning, emotional lead vocals here. Really beautiful. The rest of the album is not that powerful, but still is good: Wings Across The Sea is a mellow number with some fine flute-like mellotron, Cruising Nowhere has a fierce melody and the closing number, The Revolutionary is another highlight (fantastic mellotron choir here!). Ironic, the producer was McCarty´s old chum from the Yardbirds, Paul Samwell-Smith (who did a good job, by the way).

It was obvious that the band had more to give than a softer version of the 70´s Renaissance we all know and love. With time they could evolve into something of their very own. Unfortunalty the times were not for this kind of music and recording labels were placing all their bets now in punk or disco (they would lose, of course). So a lot of groups were just dropped like dead fish.

If you liked Illusion´s first album, this one is will please you too. It is a little more experimental in some parts and less inspired but still was a valid and interesting prog album in a period when most prog bands were stuck in a rut (and I have to agree with the reviewer who said it is better than Renaissance´s Azzure D´or). Recommended.

Report this review (#192546)
Posted Wednesday, December 10, 2008 | Review Permalink
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

Report this review (#562669)
Posted Saturday, November 5, 2011 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#726406)
Posted Friday, April 13, 2012 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#1976356)
Posted Thursday, August 9, 2018 | Review Permalink

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