Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1977)
- Duffy Jackson -- drums, percussion
- Little Kenny -- percussion
- Charles Michael -- guitar
- Danny Ray -- keyboards, synthesizers
- Mike Pinera -- vocals
- Classic Rock All Stars (Mike Pinera)
- Iron Butterfly (Mike Pinera)
- New Cactus Band (Mike Pinera)
- Mike Pinera (solo efforts)
- Ramatam (Mike Pinera)
- Thee Image (Mike Pinera)
Rating: 2 stars **
Title: The Grand Illusion
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Catalog ID: 3518
Illusion was apparently a taxscam label started by former Blues Image singer/guitarist Mike Pinera. During the mid-'70s the label released a slew of Blues Image albums and an eclectic collection of material that focused on Southern Florida based groups like Charmer, Cutsie, and Sage.
The Fanz, was seemingly a real band featuring drummer Duffy Jackson , percussionist Little Kenny, guitarist Charles Michael, and keyboardist Danny Ray. That said, if you believe the brief liner notes, musically this was largely a Mike Pinera effort. Pinera produced the set in Miami's Lion Studios. He engineered the set; co-wrote all eight tracks with drummer Duffy Jackson, and handled the lead vocals. And in typical taxscam fashion, the results were all over the place. In terms of audio quality, much of this collection was sub-par. The opener 'What Is Real' was a decent rock-tinged jam, but the band sounded like they'd been recorded in a gym shower. Similarly, Pinera's vocal on 'Leaders of the World' had a strange, distant, echoic sound. Combined with abrupt starts and quick fade outs ('What Is Real'), Pinera wasn't about to win any awards for his engineering work. And then there was the material. Much of the album featured a live-in-the-studio feel with a focus on poorly structure rock and progressive-flavored jams. Pinera didn't seem to care much about the vocals which were poorly recorded and largely limited to repeating the song titles over and over and over with an occasional grunt. You couldn't help but feel the vocals were plopped on top of the instrumental tracks as an after-thought. Elsewhere 'Look To the Sky' and 'Peace Maker' were mindless, pedestrian blues jams. Your local Bach-To-Rock pre-teenage band was more entertaining than these tracks. Even worse was Danny Ray's keyboard and synthesizer powered instrumental 'Jail Bait'. If you're looking for a song to give the progressive genre a bad name, look no further than this one. Far from perfect, but if you had to pick a standout track it was probably the closing rocker 'Don't Hide It'. Far from a great track, but compared to how crappy the rest of the set was, it at least featured a conventional and recognizable song structure and melody.
Illusion" track listing:
1.) What Is Real (Mike Pinera - Duffy Jackson) - 5:35 rating: *** stars
I guess you could call 'What Is Real' a studio jam. In spite of the abrupt, mid-tape start (and an equally rough fade out), the track was actually kind of funky with a loose vibe that allowed each "band" member a chance to show off their chops. Guitarist Charles Michael stole the show with an overdose of voice box guitar. Shame the band sounded like they'd been recorded in a gym shower. Vocally there wasn't a great deal going on here with Pinera basically repeating the title a couple of times.
2.) Leaders of the World (Mike Pinera - Duffy Jackson) - 4:05 rating: *** stars
The slightly funky 'Leaders of the World' was a strange number that focused the spotlight of drummer Jackson. His work appeared way up front in the mix which was probably a bonus for drummers, but merely distracting for most listeners. No idea what Little Kenny's percussion touches were intended to add to the mix. Was he pounding on a trash can lid on this one? Once again the lyrics were a bit on the slim side with Pinera repeating the title track quite a bit. This time it was Pinera who sounded like he'd been recorded in a bathroom stall.
3.) Dead End Street (Mike Pinera - Duffy Jackson) - 3:45 rating: *** stars
Opening with another Jackson solo, 'Dead End Street' found Pinera and company steering in a slightly more commercial direction. Michael turned in a couple of nice solos on this one. Once again, the song just kind of abruptly fell apart at the end.
4.) Look To the Sky (Mike Pinera - Duffy Jackson) - 4:20 rating: ** stars
Mindless blues jam ... That's probably giving this one too much credit. With Pinera chanting "got a thing going on" over and over and over, this was nothing more than a snooze fest.
1.) Peace Maker (Mike Pinera - Duffy Jackson) - 1:25 rating: ** stars
Frankly I've never been able to tell where 'Look To the Sky' and 'Peace Maker' stopped and started. To me they were basically the same plodding tune with Pinera simply switching the lyric to a ponderous and repetitive 'Peace maker' over and over and over. At least this one was short.
2.) Jail Bait (instrumental) (Mike Pinera - Duffy Jackson)- 4:30 rating: * star
The hyper-speed instrumental 'Jail Bait' found the band taking a stab at keyboard and synthesizer powered progressive moves. Imagine Jan Hammer having written something for "Miami Vice" after suffering a stroke. Yeah, this may have been the album's creative nadir.
3.) Tired & Wired (instrumental) (Mike Pinera - Duffy Jackson) - 3:40 rating: ** stars
If you could overlook Ray's hideous synthesizers, the instrumental 'Tired & Wired' could have been a decent slice of atmospheric rock. Personally I couldn't overlook the synthesizers.
4.) Don't Hide It (Mike Pinera - Duffy Jackson)- 3:25 rating: **** stars
The closer 'Don't Hide It' found the band turning in what was the album's most conventional rocker. The song had nice melody, if slightly under-produced feel. It actually sounded a bit like an incomplete demo. Interestingly, based on the refrain, you would have thought the song title was 'Are You Taking To Me/'. I don't think the lyrics even included the phrase 'Don't Hide It'. Given the comparison to the rest of the album, I'd give this one an extra star for effort.
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