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Gryphon - ReInvention CD (album) cover

REINVENTION

Gryphon

 

Prog Folk

3.89 | 110 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

siLLy puPPy
4 stars The 2010s has been a great decade for classic prog rock acts of the 70s riding the new wave of popularity that the genre has been experiencing. These bands emerge seemingly from out of nowhere after finding a few classic heyday members who round up a bunch of newbies for the team and then secretly head into the studios unbeknownst to the world and then ultimately deliver a slice of good old fashioned classic prog tailored for the 21st century. Camel re-recorded their classic "The Snow Goose," Maxophone, Osanna, Comus and Bubu made a comeback after woefully brief careers in the 70s and even Soft Machine has completely rebooted with some of the band's former glory day members coming to the forefront in 2018. Add to that list, a band i would've never expected to hear from again and that's GRYPHON who hasn't been heard from since 1977's "Treason."

The release of their sixth album REINVENTION marks a whopping 41 year absence since their last album hit the market. It's hard to believe that this band that took the world by storm in 1973 with their unique Renaissance medieval folk only to catch the prog rock bug shortly thereafter and fizzle out a mere five years later has found a second wind by releasing a more than competent companion piece to their unique five album run of the 70s. While a shock to some, those who have kept up with the band on their website have been eagerly waiting for some new form of product after GRYPHON announced all the way back in 2007 that they decided to produce a new album after 31 years of silence. For those aware way back then, it must've been quite a nail biter as the years trickled along and no new album. Well that wait has come to an end and GRYPHON have finally released a very worthy album to fit within their short but interestingly diverse canon.

Unlike some bands that own a particular band name and return with a whole new cast of members, GRYPHON returns with three of the classic team. Brian Gulland is back with his famous bassoon, bass crumhorn, recorders, and harmonium playing, Graeme Taylor likewise makes a reprise on guitars and vocals and Dave Oberlé has returned on drums and vocals as well. While the band had traditionally been a quintet even on their most ambitious effort "Red Queen To Gryphon Three," REINVENTION finds three new members joining the Medieveal folk ranks with Graham Preset on violin, mandolin and keyboards; Andy Finds on flute, soprano crumhorn, soprano sax and clarinet; as well as Rory McFarlane on bass. Just like "Treason," the band has opted to reform as a sextet and all the better for it as the newly updated musical journey benefits from the expanded musical mojo from these seasoned veterans.

With five fairly different albums in their 70s heyday which took GRYPHON through three distinct musical styles and two albums that provided the bridge between, the obvious first question for anyone familiar with the complete GRYPHON canon is where exactly would they go after so much time away from their medieval playgrounds. Those questions are answered fairly abruptly as the opening "Pipe Up Downsland Derry Dell Danko" starts off with dueling recorders and engages in an engaging menagerie of progressive folk acoustic guitar that falls somewhere in between the band's eponymous debut and the ambitious jittery folk of Jethro Tull's "Song From The Wood." The track prances around like a proper pony at a medieval wedding ceremony with after more than three minutes offers some vocals bringing more of a "Raindance" vibe to the stage. There is also much more of a presence of acoustic classical guitar glory.

After an initial listen, it seems only "Treason" hasn't been represented on this one as the medieval folk timbres follow the debut, the semi-rock passages of the sophomore "Midnight Mushrumps" and the complexity of the proggy time signature workouts, the "Red Queen" influences come through. Add the vocals and shorter tracks present on "Raindance" and it's a veritable tribute to the past, yet REINVENTION sounds like none of the albums that came before. Since GRYPHON has always had a rather strange anachronistic sound that evades the time from when it was created, so too does this 21st century undertaking embark on a medieval tinged journey into the progressive rock paradigm that utterly eschews the decade from which it emerged. In fact the whole thing is sort of a mindf.u.ck since it clearly is inspired by Renaissance folk but engages the most modern 21st production technology making it a crystal clear listening experience yet implements a clear progressive rock compositional prowess that the 70s excelled in which makes this one sound as eternal as its predecessors.

GRYPHON obviously spent years crafting this new assemblage of material and it shows. Every track is well crafted as it emphasizes the medieval folk values from their past teased out into progressive rock fantasy worlds. The musical flow is impeccable as the medieval melodies are as infectious as ever and the arrangements of the many instruments are perfectly executed. Perhaps the weakest aspect of REINVENTION is that of the vocal parts which clearly show strained and aging throats not hitting their stride which belie the triumphant return of the instrumental aspects. No worries as this is primarily an instrumental album that emphasizes those characteristics with only a few vocal parts finding their way into the mix. While many elements of yore have been resurrected, there are a few new things going on as well. There is a clear Celtic folk vibe on some tracks especially on "Sailor V," but interwoven throughout which honestly brings a Mike Oldfield feel to certain parts and transitions as well as more classical guitar runs. There's even an extraordinarily awesome keyboard run on "The Euphrates Connection" which finds GRYPHON tackling new progressive territories.

All i can say is - wow! REINVENTION is more than i ever could've hoped for from an old timer band like GRYPHON. It never even crossed my mind that this band would ever release a new album and now that it has arrived i'm utterly shocked as to how well this album sounds. I predict the consensus will be that REINVENTION will in no way usurp the throne as the band's best album which is pretty much universally accepted as their prog rock masterpiece "Red Queen To Gryphon Three," however this album is just as consistent and entertaining as any of the other four albums from their initial 70s run and much preferable to yours truly than their lackluster "Raindance." Add to that a warm and sensual production that is absolutely perfectly executed and you have one of the best prog albums of 2018. Whether this album is a fluke or a return to form from a classic 70s band remains to be seen but REINVENTION proves itself as one of the best modern examples of progressive folk with rock elements that i've heard. In case you need it spelled out in emphatic terms, THIS ALBUM IS AWESOME TO THE MAX!!!!

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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