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Gryphon - Gryphon CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.37 | 257 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars A majority of Progheads obviously prefer the band's later, more electronic efforts, but Gryphon's self-titled 1973 debut is by far their best album, because it remains the most genuine of the bunch. Unlike the occasional Elizabethan eclecticism of rockers like GENTLE GIANT, or the more traditional post-60s Folk Music of bands like PENTANGLE, Gryphon was the real deal: a quartet of medieval troubadours transplanted to the late 20th century and let loose in a modern, multi-track recording studio.

The music wasn't Progressive Rock (at least not yet), but it wasn't really Folk Rock either. Authenticity was never Gryphon's goal, and yet their interpretation of traditional music (including one song here penned by the Tudor's own rock star, Henry VIII) remained true to their original era even when adapted to ours, circa 1973. The arrangements were honest, and typically very simple, but the sound throughout is discreetly modern.

It's a very short album (less than 37 total minutes), but in presentation and performance a near perfect one, although hard-line Progheads might beg to differ. The material is smartly arranged too, balancing unplugged period instrumentals alongside charming mock 15th century sing-a-longs. And all of it is played with disarming wit and ingenuity, from the haunted romance of 'The Unquiet Grave' (with its near ambient middle interlude) to the toe-tapping morality tale taught by 'The Astrologer', and finally to the ribald comedy of 'The Devil and the Farmer's Wife': Chaucer with krumhorns and cartoon demons.

And, lest you imagine a band of (mostly) unplugged ersatz Folkies unable to generate any musical heat without the friction of electronic instruments, lend an ear to the whirlwind of 'Estampie', propelled into overdrive on the virtuoso recorder trills of Richard Harvey, and David Oberl's manic drumming. There's even a brief quotation from 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow' hidden within the bassoon solo, yet another example of the band's playful iconoclasm.

Gryphon would later jump headlong onto the Symphonic Rock gravy train, just before it was rudely derailed at the end of the decade. But here at the start of their career the band's ambitions were still untarnished, and refreshingly modest for 1973. Compare this album to what the major Prog acts were playing that year, and maybe you'll agree: sometimes smaller is better.

Neu!mann | 5/5 |


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