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Gryphon - Red Queen To Gryphon Three CD (album) cover

RED QUEEN TO GRYPHON THREE

Gryphon

 

Prog Folk

4.15 | 583 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
5 stars GRYPHON was one the more unique bands to have emerged from the classic prog era of the 1970s. While initially dazzling audiences on their self-titled debut with their neo-medieval folk revival that sounded like it was recorded in the days of Henry VIII and one of the few acts of the era who dabbled with the use of bassoon, crumhorns and recorders in a progressive context, the band began to add rock instrumentation on their second album "Midnight Mushrumps" which got them noticed in prog rock circles. While the debut was completely devoid of rock elements and completely emerged in unadulterated medieval folk, the sophomore album added elements of progressive rock which dabbled rather equally in both arenas but it wasn't until a tour with Yes, that this London based quintet would really open the floodgates on the progressive rock side of the equation and let out the most lauded album of their career RED QUEEN TO GRYPHON THREE.

These were busy times for GRYPHON and this third offering was actually the second album in the year 1974 and shows the band maturing significantly over what had come before. Not only are the progressive aspects turned up to eleven but the album displays the full pomp and awe of the peak years of prog with a lofty concept album about playing the game of chess laid out in four tracks ranging from the eight to eleven minute timespan. RED QUEEN TO GRYPHON THREE mastered the art of hybridization of musical genres as it successfully integrated the medieval folk of their previous two albums in the context of progressive rock intricacies such as brutal time signature workouts that also incorporated English folk, Baroque and progressive rock that were laid out in a typical classical musical formula where the moods alternate and recurring melodies wax and wane with unfaltering brilliant resolution.

Like a good chess game, the all-instrumental RED QUEEN TO GRYPHON THREE evokes the mood of a strategic set of thought processes in competition as the medieval Renaissance, English folk and progressive rock aspects seem to make their moves and allows the other genre swings to adapt to the motifs offered only instead of simply copying each other in an identical fashion, the different styles stay in character and allow a unifying, yet distinct dramatic set of events to unfold. Understanding the Yes connection makes it easier to pick out some of the time signature bombast that GRYPHON unleash on this album as they not only chug along with off-kilter time signatures like a "Relayer" album on steroids during the heavier rock parts of RED QUEEN TO GRYPHON THREE but they also find a way to create a harsh tension even in the most subdued and airy moments of the album.

The four tracks are titled in relation to the moods they set during this thirty-eight and a half minute soundtrack to the ancient game believe to have originated in India. "Opening Move" provides an airy introduction to the progressive medieval folk aspects and then begins to shape shift into the more progressive rock and as "Second Spasm" gets under way, the mood is more aggressive as if the battle has begun while a rather heavy rhythm section displays a new aspect of GRYPHON absent on their earlier works, namely a harder rock approach in their delivery. "Lament" is more contemplative as it seems unsure how to proceed with different musical moods alternating in an almost seemingly random manner much like the middle of a chess game can offer the frustrations of the complexities at hand. "Checkmate" is the dramatic ending that offers the most progressive rock track with Richard Harvey showing off some amazing classical piano and organ chops as well as Graeme Taylor's guitars following suit.

RED QUEEN TO GRYPHON THREE is by far the best of GRYPHON's initial five album run. It is not only the most complex and most interesting but also ranks as one of the most distinct sounding examples of the entire classic prog era. Nobody else dared to include such wild instrumentation as recorders and crumhorns into their rock paradigm. The musicianship on this album is impeccable with the five main musicians and two session musicians in perfect unison as they create an intricate network of difficult music that in the end still comes off as lighthearted and totally uplifting. There's something about the Medieval Renaissance folk that just makes this very special. The tracks are dramatically paced with softer passages allowing the proper emotional developments to build while the more bombastic faster tempos allow a fully satisfying crescendo to bring it all to a close. This is indeed complex music despite that it's somewhat easy on the ears. This is one of prog's greatest moments as GRYPHON hit their stride but woefully the band would fall from grace after this one and become irrelevant in a very short time. For this one, however, they will be remembered for time immemorial.

siLLy puPPy | 5/5 |

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