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




Prog Folk

4.15 | 631 ratings

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4 stars Gryphon are an example of true period specialists, virtuosi at their craft, and 1974's Red Queen is considered the pinnacle of this specialized form of prog folk. I happen to prefer the band's earlier release from the same year.

1. "Opening Move" (9:42) from the opening sounds of this song Gryphon lets you know that they're going to use more of the 20th Century options that electronics afford them. Even the kit drum play is far more rock/prog than anything on their previous album. Thick electric bass is prominent throughout despite use of horns and recorders. At the two minute mark the band falls away so that antique percussives and soprano recorder can have some time. Bass, electric guitar, organ, and drums soon join in. These are GENTLE GIANT proggers! Soprano recorder carries the lead into a slow dreamy section with slow strums from 12-string and piano before bassoon takes the lead with piano in lone accompaniment. At 5:10 an odd electronic keyboard enters before bassoon tries to take on a slowed-down variation of the opening melody. Snare, electric bass, piano and guitar take the next turn before high-pitched electronic keyboard spits out a few. A weave of drums, bass, synths, electric guitar and delay/echoed electric guitar enter before going totally synth-space cray-cray. The constructs are intricate and fast-changing as on the previous album but the electronic instruments and electronic effects are all new. I understand the desire to experiment and grow, but the "old" way was pretty cool. (18/20)

2. "Second Spasm" (8:15) opens with all acoustic, antiquated instruments (the OLD Gryphon!) guitar, recorders, harpsichord, bassoon and timpani and other percussives. At the 1:00 mark a chunky CHRIS SQUIRE-like bass and electric guitar enter with a fast-paced thread accompanied by drum kit and, later, clavinet. In the second verse of this movement some kind of synth is used to mirror and mimick the guitar and bass melody line. At the end of the third minute a rather silly crumhorn and kazoo section begins (including flatulence) before giving way to a very patriotic-sounding march section of rock instrumentation (electric guitar, piano, drums, bass, and, later, synths) all taking turns guarding the rhythm and melody. Then, at 5:10 a kind of muffled industrial gong "sounds" before another round of the antique instrument band plays takes their turn playing over harmonium and bass. Guitar and bassoon are the main leads until the chunky bass and "Wipe Out" drums drive them out, creating space for the synth and soprano flute to dominate the high end. (17.5/20)

3. "Lament" (10:45) carrying forward variations on two major melodic themes, this song is much more drawn out and sedate than the music of their previous album release from the same year, Midnight Mushrumps. So much so, that I find myself rather bored and put off--as if the band is purposely "dumbing down" their music in order to reach a broader audience. The music of this song is much more modernized, more simply woven and constructed, and more boring. Even the speeded up section in the sixth minute feels too contrived, too much a diversion intended purposely to dupe the listener into thinking that this is something new. (The guitar work is pretty cool, though.) (17.5/20)

4. "Checkmate" (9:50) opens with a very GG-sounding section--instruments, rhythms, constructs, and sound/instrument palette. Then bassoon enters and everything shifts to a softer, almost jazz march. The bass's counterpoint is so pinpoint to the lead melody-makers! Snare and soprano recorder take a turn in the third minute before guitar and bass join in the weave (the second movement's weave). Organ (Wurlitzer?) enters for a brief spell but then is pushed out by guitar, bass and recorder again. Another slowdown/standstill at 3:45 lets soprano recorder and echoed guitar strums bridge to a piano and bass crumhorn duet. Twinkle-synth enters briefly before horns take us into another march with pipe organ taking the lead (supported by strumming electric guitar). Piano and horn again as everything is happening, switching, very quickly, going from theme to them about every 20 to 40 seconds. So classical in its construction yet so eclectic and confusing in its instrumental representation. I'm almost tired from the constant handoffs and rotations of instruments. It's admirable but when are they going to present something hummable? The ninth minute! Synth and soprano flute on top, bass and horn and electric guitar beneath with guitar and piano (and saw-synth) in the middle. A masterpiece of Baroque classical music performed by a revolving door of modern and antique instruments. Each musician must have had three or four instruments beside them while playing in the round for this true "rondo"! (18/20)

Total Time: 38:32

The musicianship here is amazing (as always) but I'm not sure I like the new sound--the back and forth blending of old and new. Songs like the last one that are more purely classical I get but then there are the more obsequiating efforts of "Lament" and the show-off entertainent factor of the opener. I have to admit to feeling more drawn to Midnight Mushrumps for return listens.

4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive folk rock music.

BrufordFreak | 4/5 |


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