Classic fusion fans are in for an absolute treat here with Cuneiform's release of Golden Section, a collection of live recordings from Isotope, one of the finest British jazz-fusion acts ever to grace the scene. Along with Nucleus and Soft Machine, Isotope bust into the public's eye in the early 1970's, creating some fiery music that combined both jazz and rock, rivaling what was coming out of the Return to Forever, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Lifetime, and Weather Report camps in both intensity and complexity. These recordings here feature excperpts from three shows-Bremen, Germany in 1975 (tracks 1-6), New York City in 1975 (tracks 7 & 8), and London in 1974 (tracks 9-13). The line-up at the time featured guitarist Gary Boyle, Hugh Hopper on bass, Nigel Morris on drums, and keyboard player Laurence Scott, with percussionist Aureao de Souza appearing on the Bremen cuts.
The fist thing that strikes you about these recordings is just how fiery Boyle's guitar playing is. Really, the fact that this guy never gets mentioned along with the likes of John McLaughlin, Al DiMeola, Billy Connors, etc., is a real shame. His jagged, speedy solos on tunes such as "Attila" and "Illusion" are just marvelous, flowing with technique and passion. He goes for a Latin flavor on "Spanish Sun", an atmospheric number that also has plenty of manic bursts, reminding very much of the material of the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Scott's spacey keys add great effect, and the textured drum work of Morris is the icing on the cake on this lengthy and very exciting piece. The band tackles some funkier fare on "Crunch Cake", Boyle's wah-wah guitar licks meshing with Hopper's deep grooves and Morris' tricky drum fills, and "Mr. M's Picture" is just fantastic, complex fusion, dramatic and full of power.
On to the New York pieces, you get another version of "Attila", as well as the busy "Frog", this one a great vehicle for Scott's tasty electric piano and plenty of tricky rhythms. At around the mid-section Boyle launches into a scorching extended solo that will raise the hairs on your neck for sure! Hugh Hopper has some fun with his fuzz pedal on "Edorian", one of the London numbers, a real heavy piece that is much more rock than jazz, and "Golden Section" is a masterful slice of classy fusion, Boyle's shimmering lines doing battle with Hopper's beefy bass grooves and Scott's tasty electric piano.
There you have it, a 'must have' treasure chest of vintage live material from Isotope. The folks at Cuneiform Records have done a wonderful job with this one-not only is the sound very good, but they've put together a beautiful booklet featuring an interview with the band and some great live photos.
Absolutely essential on all levels.
2. Rangoon Creeper
4. Spanish Sun
5. Crunch Cake
6. Mr. M's Picture
9. Spanish Sun
10. Lily Kong
12. Golden Section