Friday, May 20, 2016

Isotope - 1974 - Isotope


01. Then There Were Four (4:09)
02. Do The Business (4:42)
03. Oh Little Fat Man (5:20)
04. Sunshine Park (3:57)
05. Bite On This (2:21)
06. Upward Curve (5:43)
07. Retracing My Steps (4:58)
08. Windmills And Waterfalls (3:30)
09. Honkey Donkey (6:07)

- Gary Boyle / guitars
- Nigel Morris / drums
- Brian Miller / keyboards, synthesizers
- Jeff Clyne / bass

ISOTOPE are Jazz-Rock British based quartet formed in 1973 by guitarist, Gary Boyle with Nigel Morris (drummer), bass player Jeff Clyne (bass) (Jeff previously was a member of Ian Carr's Jazz-Rock group: NUCLEUS) and Brian Miller (keyboards). The band soon signed with Gull Records in England and Motown in the USA, and started touring colleges and clubs around Britain, as well as touring on the continent such as: France, Germany and Scandinavia.

In 1974, they release their debut album, which is self-titled in 1974 & become quite critically acclaimed & fortunately, the band gained equal acclaim for their live performances. Even guitarist Gary Boyle was voted top 3 guitarist in Britain during the time due to a poll in Melody Maker magazine. In the same poll ISOTOPE picked up fourth place in both LP of the year. Due to their success, it seemed that Brian Miller & Jeff Clyne were unable to handle the success, so they left in March of 1974. They were replaced by Laurence Scott, a semi-pro keyboard player, and Hugh Hopper (formerly of SOFT MACHINE), whom Boyle had met while working with STOMU YAMASH'TA (Japanesse fusion band). The new line-up embarked on a UK tour in June and July, followed by dates in Germany and the Netherlands in August. They then entered the studio, with Poli Palmer (ex-ECLECTION and FAMILY) producing, to record "Illusion". The writing was now shared equally between Boyle, Scott and Hopper.

Intensive touring in Britain followed, and a US tour was undertaken in March and April 1975. Percussionist Aureo DeSouza was then added to the line-up for a European tour, and drummer Jeff Seopardie also reinforced the band for British dates later that year. In December 1975, Scott left and was replaced by Frank Roberts. At that point, management problems resulted in a very difficult financial situation and Hugh Hopper decided to leave. In March 1976, a third album, "Deep End", was recorded (production duties were handled by BRAND X's Robin Lumley), with Hopper playing on only his own composition "Fonebone". Bassist Dan K. Brown and second keyboardist Zoe Kronberger were added at that point, but gigs became sparser. There was one last line-up change in 1977, with only Boyle surviving from previous personifications, alongside Geoff Downes on keyboards (later in YES and ASIA), Steve Shone on bass and Colin Wilkinson on drums, but this new ISOTOPE never went beyond the rehearsal stage, only recording a couple of radio sessions. The band split as a result of management problems and the demise of British Lion Music, an offshoot of British Lion Films. Boyle recorded two solo albums for Gull Records, "The Dancer" and "Electric Glide". He then ventured north, recorded three further albums "Step Out!", "Friday Night Again" (released in Denmark) and "Triple Echo" and mixed teaching with regular gigging around the region.

ISOTOPE is a strong fusion band with all the characteristics of a fusion band. Gary Boyle's guitar style is among the style of John Mclaughlin & the technique of Sonny Sharock. Their first album which is self-titled release & "Illusion" are the two high pinnacles & define ISOTOPE as a great un-sung Fusion band.

Debut album of this JR/F quartet that recorded three albums in the mid-70's and somewhat related to the Canterbury scene (via Hopper) but also to Brand X (via Pert) on the later albums. But this unit is first the union of guitarist Gary Boyle (ex-Auger's Trinity), bassist Jeff Clyne (ex-Nucleus), drummer Nigel Morris and keyboardist and main songwriter Brian Miller (no relation to Canterbury scene's Steve & Phil Miller >> they are brothers). Their debut album received a release on Gull records (label mates were Judas Priest) in early 74 and sported a very scientific artwork. And while I agree somewhat with Philo's opening statement on the liner note of this album, Isotope is still a good band in the JR/F genre, even if they brought absolutely nothing new to it, and were never groundbreaking, but more like those that helped consolidate the genre.
Musically speaking, it appears that there is no real leader despite the songwriting credits and both Miller and Boyle share lead about equally and provide plenty of rhythmic support while the other soloes away. Right from the opening Then There Were Four, the tone is set, a wild instrumental JR/F living in the fast lane, cruising at speeds nearing the 100 MPH, where even a short drum solo appears. The very problem with this kind of quartet of single instrumentalist is that repetition will appear very quickly and the jams appear quickly, but this won't do much for variety. If Miller had played something else than the electric piano (outside a few rarely noticeable synths), if Boyle had toyed with some acoustic guitar (he does, but in the most boring Waterfall track), if Clyne had put a bow to the contrabass and if Morris played congas, that might have changed the scope and spectrum of the music, although soon or later the problem would've surfaced anyway. Hiring a wind instrument player might have helped a great deal.

Anyway the tracks succeeds at a furious rate, with some (Little Fat Man, Bite on This, Upward Curve, Retracing My Steps) retaining much more attention than others (Do The Business, Sunshine Park), while the only non-Miller penned track Honkey Donkey shows more diversity and finally some synths. At times Boyle appears to take charge (Little Fat Man and the Honkey track), but it's obvious he can't do it all of the time, Miller never really coming through (especially on the album-low and slow Windmills & Waterfalls), and the cause of this album is not helped by a fairly flat production, but nothing shameful as some of you would have you believe.

Despite the negative elements I just finished giving you, Isotope's debut album gained some critical and artistic recognition in its homeland, along with some sales, but apparently this scared Brian Miller and Jeff Clyne, both returning to the straight jazz scene. Still a worthy album to hear, but I suggest you start with the much better Illusion album.



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