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Gnidrolog - In Spite Of Harry's Toenail CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

3.96 | 180 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
5 stars Out of the primeval ooze of the big bang of progressive rock in the early 70s emerged an astounding number of bands who were agglutinating hitherto unthinkable musical genres and ideas together in unique and fresh ways. Many of these bands were influenced by each other and those similarities can be quite derivative but every once in a while a group emerged that sounded absolutely unique and while GNIDROLOG were compared to bands like Gentle Giant and Van Der Graaf Generator, they truly were an odd duck of the day. Not only for their wild and outlandish musical compositions but also for the fact that they totally eschewed the use of the keyboard altogether in the days when it seemed like the only constant in prog was the use of healthy doses of synthesized sounds in the form of mellotrons or moog organs with Emerson inspired precision. Not only did the keys not dominate but really no instrument dominated in this band. This was truly a democratic version of a progressive rock band where every tiny detail was cleverly crafted to fit the larger artistic vision and any trace of one member dominating the scene was jettisoned into the musical trash bin.

The twin Goldring brothers Stewart and Colin were destined for an eclectic career after displaying their extrovert tendencies at a young age and gravitated towards music when they learned violin and trumpet however it was when they discovered folk music, that their realities were totally blown away and they would become obsessed with mastery of compositional lyrical content backed up by expressive musical accompaniment. In those days nobody could have predicted just how far they would take their passions including the twins, themselves. As luck would have it, the fertile English music scene was like a field of spring flowers blooming under the regalia of the bountiful sun's rays and the perfect place for the like minded to find synergy in their musical ambitions and talented musicians were creeping out of every nook and cranny of universities, music schools and many a London pub.

As their folk ambitions morphed into the rock arena, the adventurous twins hooked up with a couple classically trained musicians in 1969 to create their first true fledgling of band called GNIDROLOG which is an anagram of their surname plus an extra 'o'. While folk music had inspired them, the twins quickly outgrew it and found a new home in the burgeoning prog scene of the early 70s as the Goldrings (Colin on lead vocals, guitar, recorders, tenor sax, harmonica and Stewart on lead guitar and vocals) would hook up with bassist and cello master Peter Cowling and Nigel Pegrum who would contribute not only the fine tuned percussive section of the band but also delivered wild and virtuosic performances on flute and oboe and occasionally contributed the piano when it was needed. The fact that the members of the band were all multi-instrumentalists earned them comparisons with Gentle Giant with whom they even played however GNIDROLOG proved they were even more eclectic and daring than even the most adventurous prog masters of the days including Gentle Giant as heard on their first of two albums that would spring up in 1972.

IN SPITE OF HARRY'S TOENAIL is a title that tells you that this is going to be a very different listening experience and that's exactly what it turns out to be. While primarily based in English folk music, GNIDROLOG was all about taking simple melodies and eking out every possible way of making them more complex with unexpected deviations from the norm at any given moment making IN SPITE OF HARRY'S TOENAIL a very demanding experience that takes even the most hardened progger quite a few spins to get one's head around as this album throws every single prog trick in the book at the listener in ample unrelenting amounts. The very first track "Long Live Man Dead" begins the album with a near ten minute length track that consists of distinct sections that usher in dissonant distorted guitars and Colin's quite distinct vocal style followed by unusual polyrhythms primarily led by the extraordinary bass skills of Cowling that magically morph from one passage into another while the other band members perfectly synchronize and adapt their prog workouts to the overall sound.

The track "Peter" is the least adulterated on the album that exposes the progressive folk underpinnings of the compositions and the perfect stripped down sound to inure oneself to the idiosyncratic time signatures, twisted polyrhythmic counterpoints and excessively complex chord progressions all woven into somewhat traditionally sounding folk melodies. After this short track though things really get wild beginning with "Snails" which begins with a sultry oscillating rhythm that like a snail slowly creeps in and leaves a slime trail that slowly fades to black. This track really took progressive rock to bizarre new heights for the day with bizarre exchanges between the guitar lines, percussion and vocal delivery and for an unrelenting seven minute and counting straddles between the avant-garde and accessibly melodic. Although it begins as a slow creeper becomes increasingly more hostile and down right jarring with angry sax and oboes fighting it out towards the end until all totally melts down and dysrhythmically dissipates towards in the final moments. "Time And Space" likewise is based on a fairly accessible folk melody with sensual flutes that wouldn't sound out of place on a Jethro Tull album but more pastural and almost sounds like medieval fairytale music that slowly ups complexity and energy until a full progressive rock behemoth is unleashed which ultimately cedes into one of the trippiest bass meets flute segments ever heard. One of my favorite tracks on the album and most contrasting.

The tiny "Who Spoke" is more of a connecting link between the two prog behemoths around it and is a stripped down unaccompanied acoustic guitar folk track with vocals and barely lasts over two minutes. The album ends with the jaw-dropping antics of the near ten minute title track which consists of the two parts "Goodbye - Farewell - Adieu" and "Harry's Toenail." Despite the time length this track contains some of the easiest to digest melodies and find the band playing together like a "normal" folk rock band instead of merely dazzling with polyrhythms and time signatures freak outs. While the beginning sounds a bit like a depressive version of Fairport Convention or Steeleye Span, it picks up steam and enters bluesy rock territory which displays GNIDROLOG's ability to firmly grasp emotional heartwarming melodic prowess as gracefully as they do with their most complex and hard hitting progressive elements. The track continues down a groovy and melodic jam complete with heavy bass, harmonica sections and totally rocking guitar solos that would feel at home on any Led Zeppelin album but ultimately cedes to a crazy chaotic ending that ends as it strikes a single harmonic chord and successfully challenges the listener to question the music they have just experienced.

IN SPITE OF HARRY'S TOENAIL is a bonafide 10 on the progometer having taken me a ridiculous amount of listens to penetrate despite easily accessible melodies peeking around every corner. During the time of release this music went over most people's heads but was quite revered by musicians as this is very much the musical porn that ardent adventurous musicians crave to create. While i began as most do by appreciating the much more accessible "Lady Lake" somewhere along the line HARRY'S TOENAIL surpassed the second installment of 1972 as my GNIDROLOG album of choice and has even become one that makes the desert isle list as these tracks are so beautiful and delicately balanced with the perfect amount of melody, counterpoint, dissonance, tempo changes, thematic displays and lyrical delivery. I cannot think of prog much more complex than what GNIDROLOG created on this ambitious first release. While "Lady Lake" has the superior album cover, IN SPITE OF HARRY'S TOENAIL contains the true progressive gems of their career and one that requires a great deal of effort to truly comprehend. Beyond brilliant and a classic for the ages that was light years ahead of its time.

siLLy puPPy | 5/5 |


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