Illusion

Illusion were an English folk-rock band that released two albums on Island during the late 1970s. The band comprised four-fifths of the original late-’60s lineup of Renaissance, which had entirely changed personnel by 1972.

Members: John Hawken (Fender Rhodes, MiniMoog, Mellotron, organ), Louis Cennamo (bass), Jane Relf (vocals), Jim McCarty (vocals, acoustic guitar, percussion), John Knightsbridge (guitar), Eddie McNeil (percussion, drums)

In 1976, former members of the original Renaissance — John Hawken, Louis Cennamo, Jane Relf, and Jim McCarty — were in talks about reforming when their frontman, Keith Relf, died from electrocution at age 33. (The ex-Yardbirds vocalist had recently fronted the project Armageddon with Cennamo and it’s unclear whether he would have been available for this reunion.)

Since the reformed lineup no longer held rights to the Renaissance nameplate — which was now thriving under its “mainstream” lineup of Michael Dunford, Jon Camp, Annie Haslam, John Tout, and Terrence Sullivan — Hawken, McCarty and co. decided to name themselves after the last Renaissance album on which they had played, 1971’s Illusion.

Updating the classically-imbued folk rock of the first two Renaissance albums with a lavish production sense reflective of the Parsons school, Illusion released Out of the Mist (1977), highlighted by a retake of the lithely sung, maj7 ballad “Face of Yesterday” — an earlier version of which appeared on the 1971 Illusion LP — and the epic album-closer “Candles Are Burning.” In 1978, the band released a self-titled followup with tighter material and a modernist technological embrace on select tracks, such as on the electro-currents of “Cruising Nowhere” and the ambient glimmer of “Man of Miracles.”

Material was demoed for a third album, but the project never materialized and Illusion folded soon thereafter.

Between her time in Renaissance and Illusion, Jane Relf cut a 1971 solo single for Decca — “Without a Song From You” / “Make My Time Pass By” — and appeared with an all-star cast of vocalists — including Alan Hull, Jon Anderson, Linda Hoyle, Peter Gabriel, Peter Hammill, and Phil Collins — behind singer/songwriter Colin Scot on his debut album. Meanwhile, Jim McCarty fronted the four-piece one-off Shoot for a 1973 self-titled album on EMI. John Hawken did stints with Third World War and Strawbs whilst appearing on records by Claire Hamill and the Sutherland Brothers.

Discography:

  • Out of the Mist (1977)
  • Illusion (1978)*

*Not to be confused with the 1971 Illusion album that most of the same musicians appeared on under the Renaissance nameplate.

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