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Gryphon - Treason CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.45 | 159 ratings

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3 stars In 1977 it probably wasn't the best idea for an erstwhile Prog band like Gryphon to name their new album "Treason". Fans of Progressive Rock were suffering enough persecution at the time, without the added betrayal of their favorite medieval troubadours presenting themselves as mainstream commercial pop stars.

That wasn't quite what happened, obviously. But I can still recall my disappointment after first hearing the album, fresh off the record store shelves. The emphatic cover art promised a heavier, more aggressive experience, not the cloying high-calorie sweetness of Prog-Pop ballads like "Round & Round", "Fall of the Leaf", and the too-aptly titled "Major Disaster".

The line-up of the band had been drastically reshuffled too, with original guitarist Graeme Taylor quitting and David Oberlé leaving his drum kit to focus strictly on singing duties, both moves oddly mirroring similar cataclysms within GENESIS at around the same time (but with far less profitable results). And the antique Elizabethan whimsy of earlier albums, already in jeopardy, was almost completely eradicated. No more krumhorns, alas, and Richard Harvey's signature recorder runs were conspicuously missing, until a too-brief, token appearance in the album's final moments.

Treason, indeed, but that was then. Fast-forward to the early 21st century...

Revisiting the LP for the first time in many decades, I was pleasantly surprised by how well it's aged. The social context of the later 1970s is long gone of course, so now it's possible to enjoy the album on its own merits, slim and superficial though they may be. The album may have been a sell-out, but it was hardly a sudden one; the process had been evolving ever since the band's self-titled first album in 1973 (a still underrated effort, in these pages).

And, if nothing else, it was at least a well-produced and thoroughly professional sell-out. In retrospect the album was much stronger than their previous "Raindance", and arguably more cohesive than the fan favorite "Red Queen to Gryphon Three", despite having far less interesting material. There's a stronger overall sense of purpose here, even if that same purpose was fast becoming desperately unfashionable with every passing hour.

To their credit the band had enough forethought to call it quits soon afterward, instead of dragging their heels into terminal redundancy like so many other Proggers at the end of the decade. The sad example of their tour mates and mentors in YES springs immediately to mind, as well as the waning GENTLE GIANT, Gryphon's closest stylistic competitor and fellow casualties of changing times.

Karma can indeed be a bitch, and the penalty for this particular "Treason" was a quick and premature oblivion. But try listening to the album again, this time with unblemished ears. It's lightweight stuff, sure, but you might just catch yourself tapping your toes to the playfully spastic rhythms of "Falero Lady", or joining in the upbeat chorus of the optimistic "Spring Song".

Neu!mann | 3/5 |


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