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ILLUSION

Eclectic Prog • United Kingdom


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Illusion biography
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 : : :

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Illusion - The Island RecordingsIllusion - The Island Recordings
Remastered
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ILLUSION discography


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

3.43 | 61 ratings
Out Of The Mist
1977
3.40 | 53 ratings
Illusion
1978
2.75 | 17 ratings
Enchanted Caress
1990
3.74 | 11 ratings
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
 Enchanted Caress by ILLUSION album cover Studio Album, 1990
2.75 | 17 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 sound's 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.

 Through The Fire by ILLUSION album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.74 | 11 ratings

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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. Cemanno 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.

 Out Of The Mist by ILLUSION album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.43 | 61 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 | 53 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
3.43 | 61 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 | 53 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

 Through The Fire by ILLUSION album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.74 | 11 ratings

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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.

 Out Of The Mist / Illusion by ILLUSION album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1994
4.01 | 10 ratings

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Out Of The Mist / Illusion
Illusion Eclectic Prog

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

4 stars 4.5 stars really!!! Un peu de Re(Co)naissance

An impeccable 2on1 reissue of Illusion's two great albums of the second part of the 70's, filled with pictures (nothing live) and respecting both the front original artworks (a rare occurrence in these kind of releases), plus a good historic of the band's second life

Both albums fit perfectly in the same single disc and we have the full musical spectrum of Illusion, which is certainly wider than of the Haslam Renaissance. If Out Of The Mist clearly oogles in the direction of Renaissance (but not as soporific), the second self-titled album is definitely taking a much more adventurous twist, although the softness of half its tracks will need you full attention and maybe a set of good headphones. Indeed Hawken's use of sequenced synths (ala Tangerine Dream) on a few tracks was quite refreshing in suc a flogged to death symphonic rock. This 2on1 release is all you'll need about Illusion and it's such a sad thing these guys didn't persevere, but it looks like they fell to punk hate-spitting rise.

See my individual reviews of both albums to get the full picture of this reincarnation of Renaissance's first line-up and just how good they'd matured in 77 & 78.

 Out Of The Mist by ILLUSION album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.43 | 61 ratings

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Out Of The Mist
Illusion Eclectic Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator 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
 Out Of The Mist by ILLUSION album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.43 | 61 ratings

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Out Of The Mist
Illusion Eclectic Prog

Review by toroddfuglesteg

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

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to easy livin for the last updates

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