Isotope were one of the major (and earliest) British jazz-rock bands of the 1970s, coming along chronologically only just behind Soft Machine and Nucleus, the two UK pioneer bands in the genre. Isotope was formed by guitarist Gary Boyle in 1972. After about a year, the band signed with a major U.K. management company who got the band signed to a independent label which was owned by a film company and things really took off. By the time of their second and best-known album, Illusion, the band consisted of Gary, ex-Soft Machine bassist Hugh Hopper keyboardist Laurence Scott and drummer Nigel Morris. This version of the band lasted nearly 2 years and played hundreds of shows……………
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…..by Sea Trane…………
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.
- Alexander Vogel
The year 1973 was a good time to launch a jazz-rock fusion band, both in America, where Return to Forever and Mahavishnu Orchestra were making waves, and in England, where the likes of Soft Machine and Ian Carr’s Nucleus had paved the way for a forward-looking foursome to form Isotope. The band’s leader was guitarist Gary Boyle, who had played with everyone from folk-rockers Eclection to U.K. jazzer Mike Westbrook, but eight out of nine tunes on the band’s self-titled debut album were composed by keyboardist Brian Miller. While Miller’s harmonic sensibilities consequently dominate the record, which was originally released by British indie label Gull, it’s the interplay between Boyle’s fiery fretwork and Miller’s hot-fingered licks that kicks up the most dust. Though Isotope had links to the Soft Machine-centric Canterbury scene, their music – especially on their maiden voyage – wasn’t as brainy/quirky as that might imply. If anything, their visceral approach, improv-heavy workouts, and funk-inflected grooves (the latter courtesy of bass man Jeff Clyne of Nucleus and drummer Nigel Morris) placed them in closer stylistic proximity to the aforementioned American acts. Barnstorming solos leap out of nearly every tune, even such downtempo tracks as “Retracing My Steps,” though the pastoral, acoustic-based “Windmills and Waterfalls” shows Isotope to be comfortable in more refined realms as well. The band’s sound would shift somewhat on each of their three albums, but their debut – reissued with improved sound and informative liner notes by Esoteric in 2011 – shows that they were one of the finer, if less heralded, British jazz-rock outfits from the start….by James Allen……
Isotope was a British jazz-rock band formed around guitarist Gary Boyle. He had been playing in Dusty Springfield’ s band for a couple of years before he was caught by the prog rock virus. While playing in Brian Auger & The Trinity he decided to go back to school to proceed with his musical studies. After leaving school he played with Keith Tippett and Mike Gibbs; being a member of Stomu Yamashta’s East West Band he met drummer Nigel Morris. The two formed Isotope in 1972 and soon they recruited bassist Jeff Clyne. Their first eponymous album appeared in 1974. The music on this album has been mainly composed by keyboardist Brian Miller. However, Miller and Clyne left in 1974 to be replaced by the late Hugh Hopper (ex- Soft Machine) on bass and Laurence Scott on keyboards. After touring, this new line-up recorded the second album Illusion (1975). The band’s final release Deep End (1976) featured two keyboardists: Zoe Kronberger and Frank Roberts. Hopper still played on one track and on the other tracks the bass was played by Dan K. Brown.
Struggles with their management, the record company and the rise of punk rock and new wave caused the band to break up in 1977. Boyle subsequently focused on a solo career. In 2004 the live album Live At The BBC was released. This album, recorded in 1973 and 1974, includes solo performances of Gary Boyle and some Isotope-sessions. Golden Section, recorded in 1974 and 1975, came out in 2008 and featured Hugh Hopper throughout the album on bass guitar. The above-mentioned studio albums by Isotope have been reissued lately. These albums are a real treat for people who enjoy both progressive rock music and a jazz-rock fusion style of music. Only Deep Ends contains some bonus tracks, but all of the albums contain fine liner notes from Mr. Boyle and the other musicians that were involved at the time. Moreover the music has been 24-bit digitally remastered and the booklet contains some exclusive archive pictures which excellently complete these releases.
While listening to the albums of Isotope I realized again why I’ve always liked the music of bands as Colosseum II and Greenslade in the seventies. The many jazz-rock elements and the way they improvised appealed to me a lot. I think these bands had one thing in common: drummer Jon Hiseman (Colosseum II) and keyboard player Dave Greenslade (Greenslade) had both played in Colosseum before they formed their own bands. Colosseum experimented a lot with jazz and rock music and blended these styles of music into a very pleasant kind of jazz-rock. It’s the same kind of jazz-rock you can hear on the three studio albums recorded by Isotope. In a way the albums resemble the music of bands as Brand X, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Soft Machine, Return To Forever and Weather Report.
Most songs were written during improvisations at live performances. Sometimes a band member came up with a tune and the others added fragments to it while improvising at rehearsals. On the band’s debut Isotope keyboard player Brian Miller wrote the bulk of the material. Boyle only wrote Honkey Donkey. The second album Illusion was more of a band effort since almost all musicians contributed to the compositions. However, bassist Hugh Hopper dominates with his style of playing. Opposed to Morris’ explicit funky drum grooves you’ll hear the roar of Hopper’s fuzz bass. Also the band’s swansong Deep End was a real band effort and this time all musicians were involved in the writing of the material. The twin-keyboard approach provided for a more intricate textured, melodic presence against too much funk driven arrangements. I guess producer Robin Lumley had an active part in the sound of this album, because at the time he was the well-respected keyboard player of Brand X, one of the most important British jazz-rock bands having once Phil Collins in the line-up.
It’s funny to read what has become of the members that once played in Isotope. Gary Boyle is already seventy years old and has become a well-respected player who’s still performing in the British jazz-scene. Dan K. Brown became a successful bass player with The Fixx, while drummer Nigel Morris became a pastor for the Los Angeles Police Department. Keyboardist Laurence Scott returned to his former profession as a dentist and Zoe Kronberger was successful as a painter in Paris. Both Hugh Hopper and Jeff Clyne deceased much too early in 2009.
People who enjoy strong instrumental jazz-rock with fine soloing on the guitars and the keyboards must certainly try out these three albums by Isotope. If you like the music of the bands mentioned in this review you will like the music created by one of England’s most dynamic jazz-rock outfits as well………….
Tracklist Then There Were Four Do The Business Oh Little Fat Man Sunshine Park Bite On This Upward Curve Retracing My Steps Windmills And Waterfalls Honkey Donkey
Björgvin Gíslason is an Icelandic guitarist, important local rock name in the 70s, when he played at several bands as Nattura, Pelican, Paradís and others. Born in 1951, Gíslason began his career in music in the late 60 in small beat groups of country. As a solo musician released four albums, the most recent being 2011 and is still in activity. Post here his first solo album, released in 1977. It consists of 11 short tracks that start in the line of progressive rock / fusion, mixing influences from Nordic and British bands, but in the following songs we hear more blues and classic rock. The lyrics are all in English, with some instrumental, though simple are very good with keyboards, piano, flute and guitar Björgvin. Emphasis on “Day”, “Doll In A Dream”, “Öræfarokk”, although few weak moments. Pearl recommended for progressive and classic rock fans……….
Bass – Sigurður Árnason Drums, Percussion – Ásgeir Óskarsson Guitar, Vocals, Piano – Björgvin Gíslason Keyboards – Pétur Hjastested Vocals – Albert Icefield, Finnur Johannsson, Jóhann G. Jóhannsson, Jóhann Helgason, Pétur Kristjánsson
Tracklist A1 Day A2 Og Svo Framvegis A3 Remain The Same A4 Doll In A Dream A5 Ef þu Getur B1 Could It Be Found B2 Hear Me B3 Öræfarokk B4 Ambrosia B5 Don’t Ever Go Down B6 It Makes Me Wonder
Tracklist A1 Fantasy Folk 2:45 A2 So I’m Down 2:38 A3 Reflecting 2:53 A4 Goin’ Back Written-By – Goffin And King 4:05 A5 Do You Believe In Magic Written-By – J. Sebastian* 2:14 B1 Photograph 3:37 B2 Stormy Sunday 3:05 B3 Everlasting Peace 2:48 B4 Desire But Not A Taste 3:00 B5 Autumn 3:58
Listen to (or rather, try to do it), “the Live 1970” compilation album, which depicted the fragments of two concerts BLUE SUN gave in 1970 … the first six (1-6) compositions - a record performance in Vejlby-Riisskovhallen of 2 September ; the second (7-12) six songs - a “live” on May 17, a concert recording in Poly-Joint Lundtofte. The sound quality is poor, are present all the “charms” of the classic bootleg. As for the music, my personal impression is just met and merged into a single shell halves - Jim Morrison and Peter Mamonov, and this same envelope tucked acid, and returned in such pridzhazovanny slightly The DOORS, where Manzarek and Krieger mostly play on wind, Manzarek - so certainly the saxophone, and Morrison-Mamonov, meanwhile, already pretty tired and occasionally forgets that in fact he had to sing, and so silently into the microphone, giving Manzarek, Krieger and Densmore complete freedom of improvisation. In short, my friends, you expect 62 minutes of complete removal of the brain and the mental hospital (but very simpatishnye). If this is written and spices in a good studio recording prices would not!……………
Bo Jacobsen drums Jan Kaspersen piano Niels Pontoppidan guitar Dale Smith vocals, percussion Jesper Zeuthen sax
Tracks Listing: Vejlby-Riisskovhallen 2. sept. ‘70 1 Katedralen 3.25 2 Aum 5.38 3 John Henry 5.26 4 Capetown 4.08 5 Festival 1.23 6 Vinden blaeser 3.00 Poly-Joint Lundtofte 17. maj '70 7 Tokalash 9:25 8 John Henry 10:28 9 Katedralen 4:37 10 Vinden blaser 3:00 11 Suset 7:23 12 Jord 5.18
2008 reissue of this album from the master percussionist who studied Jazz drumming at Berklee School of Jazz. In the 1970’s he recorded a string of innovative albums for Island records which utilized the talents of such leading musicians as Hugh Hopper, Maurice Pert, Steve Winwood, Michael Shrieve and Klaus Schulze, fusing his percussion talents with Jazz, Electronic and Classical music to create an ambient form of music all of his own. His music has been used by the Royal Ballet…………
Following the success of East Wind’s 1973 debut album Freedom Is Frightening, Stomu Yamashta was asked to score the music for the motor racing documentary One by One. Re-released in 1978 as The Quick and the Dead, the movie was a spectacular failure, but it is still remembered for its phenomenal soundtrack, released in 1974 as East Wind’s second album, One by One. The album’s grandly cinematic scope vies with its musical diversity for attention. Unlike its predecessor, One by One abounds in classical moments, notably on “Tangerine Beach,” its companion piece “At Tangerine Beach,” and, of course, the short reprise of Vivaldi’s “Seasons.” Latin beats patter down on “Rain Race” and the second half of “Superstar/Loxycycle,” while funk fusion (with soulful vocals from Sammi Abu) fires swathes of the rest of the set. And not only did the music mold seamlessly with the movie, it stands alone in its own right, as One by One showcased some of Yamashta’s career-best most inspired and accessible compositions…….. by Dave Thompson………
Second Stomu album under the East Wind group name, with almost the same line-up, this album has a striking artwork photo of Stomu shot by future famous Mick Rock. The m album is actually the soundtrack of a movie (I’ve never seen it) of the movie of the same name, which appears to be about motor racing. Most of the music comes in a continuous flow, but it can’t avoid the pitfall of soundtracks: like so many of those, the music serves the image and without the images, the music seems at times completely directionless, although One By One is not catastrophic in this regard.
The album starts (purposely?) on the 200 MPH title track suite (lasting almost 11 mins), which is a fast- driving jazz-rock, while the middle movement Hey Man is sung by percussionist/flutist Sami Abu, talking a sweet funk overtone, and the suite-closing Reprise sees Boyle’s guitar solo soaring like an eagle over Hopper’s superb bass work, which is quite different than what he had gotten used to on Soft Machine albums. The cosmic eerie opening Black Flame contrast with the solemnity of the rest of the track, a dramatic classical theme, played partly with classic instruments than with synthesizers. Rain race is is probably the best moment of the album with a superb Fender Rhodes over a string section, too bad its so short and followed by a fairly cheesy classical string closing Tangerine Beach, even if it had started well enough with a gloomy Moog trick.
The flipside attacks on a funk guitar over a square rhythm, and Yamashta’s brother’s violin and Abu’s vocals and congas. While the 12-mins+ Superstar/Loxycycle (the only track played by other musicians than East Wind) goes through many changes, the track veers towards a jazz-funk that had by now overtaken the previous jazz-rock in most of the international JR/F scene. Nurburgring (it was at the time the longest circuit in the world measuring some 23 km long) is a quite interesting track, probably the proggiest of the album, but it’s followed by a pointless Four Seasons passage (then again without the images of the movie, who says pointless) from Vivaldi. Accident is a wild musical free-for-all completely chaotic and followed by a cheesy mock chamber quartet piece to close the debate, echoing the other Tangerine track of the other side.
Yet another interesting album like Freedom, Floating Music and the Go project, OBO is certainly in Stomu’s best five albums, although for a better enjoyment of this album, I think it would certainly gain seeing the movie for which the music was composed………….by Sean Trane ………..
The second and last album of Stomu Yamashtas East Wind - “One By One” - is the soundtrack for a film of the same name. Obviously it is about authors. At least, blurred images of a Formula 1 Bolliden can be found on the back of the LP cover. Once again, Yamashta has assembled some of the musicians who are mainly known in Canterbury. Nigel Morris (Isotope) and Mike Travis (Gilgamesh) are now joined by Hopper and Boyle, who are already on “Freedom is frightening”. Travis is, however, only to be heard, together with Frank Tankowski and Bernie Holland, in the two plays “Superstar” and “Loxycycle”, in which they probably replace Morris and Boyle. “One by One” is, as far as I know, “Freedom is frightening”.
As a progressive-symphonic jazzrock with canterbury impact, I described the music of Yamashta, which was to be heard on “Freedom is frightening”. On the whole, this also applies to “One By One”, except that the music has now turned out to be somewhat more lightweight, funky, and occasionally more classic-symphonic. With the title, the album is still going very canterburesk-jazzig. Drifting bass, filigree electric guitars, flute, violin and a lot of percussion create music that is located somewhere between isotopes and the Mahavishnu Orchestra but nevertheless develops a very own character. The music rocks forward, suddenly, after a good five minutes, suddenly turn into a funky song (“Hey man”), with quite a lot of soulling vocals by Sammi Abu. After the short “One By One Reprise” it becomes bombastic-symphonic. Electronic Flirren introduces “Black Flame” before the violin cites a Bach sonata and uses powerful, mimic-sounding synthesizer sounds accompanied by timpani. The whole thing is still going on for a while, then to the easy-going pop jazz rocker “Rainrace”, with sugary strings and Bossa Nova atmosphere. The piece is fortunately soon dimmed to make Hugh Hopper’s growling bass, the “Tangerine Beach”. The number then evolves into a somewhat shallow film music classic simulations full of sweet string and spinet sounds.
The second LP page is the first 12 minutes long “Superstar” and “Loxycycle”, a fast-paced mixture of funky jazzrock, some soul singing and a lot of percussion. Then the short electro-symphonic “Nurburgring”, with quite interesting brass-brass (who can not be seen in the cover of the LP), bass and electronics in the middle. Electro-Symphonik, with Vivaldizitaten brings the music then à la Tomita to the end.
“One By One” is much more varied than “Freedom is frightening”, even offers some electronic-experimental moments, but as a whole, whether the funky alignment of large parts of the music and the shallow soundtracking, is clearly more commercial and smoother than the first one . Canterbury-Komplettisten can nevertheless still access because of the cooperation of Hugh Hopper. Otherwise, the disc is relatively unblemished, if not really bad. As an encore to “Freedom is frightening” in the context of a CD re-release, the material would however always be useful!…by… Achim Breiling………
- Stomu Yamash'ta / percussion - Hisako Yamash'ta / violin - Hugh Hopper / bass - Brian Gascoigne / keyboards and synthesizers - Sammi Abu / vocals, congas and flute - Gary Boyle / guitar - Nigel Morris / drum kit - Frank Tankowski / guitar (5) - Bernie Holland / guitar (5) - Mike Travis / drum kit (5)
01. One By One / Hey Man / One By One Reprise (10:43) 02. Black Flame (3:30) 03. Rain Race (1:30) 04. Tangerine Beach (3:25) 05. Superstar / Loxycycle (12:23) 06. Nurburgring (2:34) 07. Seasons (1:30) 08. Accident (1:40) 09. At Tangerine Beach (2:28)
Floating Music (1972, as Stomu Yamash'ta & Come to the Edge) LP: Island, HELP 12 (UK); King, SLC-423 (Japan) CD: Raven, RVCD 282 (with Man From the East; Australia, 2008); Esoteric, 2084 (UK, 2008); Universal Music, UICY-94102 (Japan, 2009)
Images (original soundtrack) (1972) LP: private pressing, no catalog number (US) CD: Prometheus, PCD 163 (Belgium)
Man from the East (1973, as Stomu Yamash'ta’s Red Buddha Theatre) LP: Island, ILPS 9228 (UK); Island, SMAS 9334 (US); Island, ILS-80215 (Japan) CD: Raven, RVCD 282 (with Floating Music; Australia, 2008); Esoteric, 2082 (UK); Universal Music, UICY-94103 (Japan, 2009)
Freedom is Frightening (1973, as Stomu Yamash'ta’s East Wind) LP: Island, ILPS 9242 (UK) CD: Esoteric, 2087 (UK, 2008); Universal Music, UICY-94104 (Japan, 2009)
One by One (1974, as Stomu Yamash'ta’s East Wind) LP: Island, ILPS 9269 (UK); Pathe Marconi, 2C 064-95688 (France); Toshiba-EMI, ILS-80630 (Japan) CD: Esoteric, 2083 (UK, 2008); Universal Music, UICY-94105 (Japan, 2009)
Go (1976, as Stomu Yamash'ta/Steve Winwood/Michael Shrieve) LP: Island, ILPS 9387 (UK); ILS-80601 (Japan) CD: Universal, UICY-9571 (Japan, 2005); in Complete Go Sessions 2CD on Raven, RVCD 182 (Australia); Esoteric, 2081 (UK, 2008); Universal Music, UICY-94107 (Japan, 2009)
Go Live from Paris (1976, as Go) 2LP: Island, ILS-50013/14 (Japan) CD: Universal, UICY-9572 (Japan, 2005); in Complete Go Sessions 2CD on Raven, RVCD 182 (Australia); Universal Music, UICY-94108 (Japan, 2009)
Go Too (1977, as Stomu Yamash'ta’s Go Too) LP: Arista, SPARTY 1011 (UK); Pathe Marconi, 2C 068 99228 (France); EMI Electrola, 1C 064-99 228 (Germany); Arista, AB-4138 (US); Arista, IES-80891 (Japan) CD: Universal, UICY-9573 (Japan, 2005); in Complete Go Sessions 2CD on Raven, RVCD 182 (Australia)
“Waza”/“Mujo” (soundtrack selections from Budo: The Art of Killing) 7": King, FMS-116 (Japan)