Illusion-Out of the Mist (1977), Illusion (1978); Brit prog rock/...

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Quote:The original lineup of Renaissance split up after two albums. When they decided to get back together some years later, the name Renaissance was still in use, so they named themselves Illusion, the title of their second Renaissance album. Keith Relf, ex-Yardbirds, died before Illusion recorded anything. Drummer Jim McCarty, also ex-Yardbirds, moved up to front the band and share vocals with Relf's sister Jane. The band's sound was somewhere between folk and prog-rock, with the primary musicians being keyboardist John Hawken and bassist Louis Cennamo. Relf had a fine voice, while McCarty was good at sounding wistful. The music tended to sound a little melancholy even on the happier numbers. If you like Justin Hayward's "Forever Autumn", you will probably like Illusion. This CD includes both of Illusion's albums, 1977's phenomenal "Out of the Mist" and the lesser 1978 follow-up, "Illusion" (which at the time wasn't deemed worthy of release in the US). McCarty provides a history of the band in the liner notes.
"Out of the Mist" is the reason for the five-star review. Several of the songs have the timeless sound of Fairport Convention's best, joined to keyboard-based folk-rock music. "Face of Yesterday" is a work of jaw-dropping beauty, an old Renaissance song recorded much better here (I was lucky that my local radio station gave it some play in 1977). The parting-lovers tune "Candles Are Burning" starts with an energetic 12/8, then turns into a ballad that grows to a wall-of-sound finish. "Isadora" and "Beautiful Country" are also excellent songs, "Solo Flight" provides some harder rock for balance, and "Everywhere You Go" and "Roads to Freedom" have a Fleetwood Mac flavor.
The songwriting wasn't as consistent on "Illusion" (by McCarty's own admission on the CD liner notes), and the added strings sometimes overwhelm the band. There are still some strong songs, particularly "Madonna Blue" and "Cruising Nowhere". "Louis' Theme", on the other hand, would have been a pleasant three-minute song, but is dragged out for almost eight. (Amazon review) 

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