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



Prog Folk

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Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Gryphon's best record. Renaissance and classical influences are prominent in this entirely instrumental work. This is an absolute masterpiece, recommended to all lovers of instrumental prog (think of jethro tull's thick as a brick) crossed with renaissance music.
Report this review (#2995)
Posted Sunday, November 2, 2003 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars The definitive album from these lads, although I have a soft spot for the following Raindance. Start with this one (as there are no weak moments) and then proceed to later stuff if one is into Yes and the earlier stuff if one likes folk, pre-renaissance or medieval music. Some of the traditional/fundamentalist folkies must have really been disappointed with this one , but 25 years later , this seems like a logical successor to Midnight Mushrumps. Four tracks all around the 10 min area with diverse amount of rock instrument makes this almost a fusion album (not in jazz-rock terms , though) and greatly improved songwriting techniques are the main reasons for the vast improvement on their previous works.

Much recommended to anyone loving acoustic music , with a severely different feel than your average prog album.

Report this review (#2996)
Posted Monday, February 2, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Listener's discretion is advised.

If you thought that Gentle Giant were THE reference in multi-instrumentation frenzyness...Gryphon knocks 'em down for the count. Those guys are the crazyest perfectionists of the 70's. Such a level of song structure and complexity AND skillness has never been topped. Well, not in my humble knowledge. Nor Gentle Giant, Angalgard, Echolyn or even Yes cannot compete with the high craftyness of every song.

Every song is 10 minutes long and could be splitted into 40 littles songs easily. The pace is always changing, the tempo is jumping constantly from folk to soft rock. Folk prog has never been this challenging. Forget Jethro Tull or Amazing Blondel. This cannot be associated with anything you heard. Think very medieval and complex.

Complexity? Intelligence? Everest-like musicianship? Shouldn't you be mouth-watered by all those qualities? Yes, if sheperds in pantyhoses running happily on a green meadow is your cup of tea...go for it dude. By the way, Yes fans should be pleased. Did you know they did the first part of Yes on a full tour?

Without the shadow of a doubt those guys knew what they were doing and if not...send them to NASA 'cuz you got major brains in here.

A freaking monster record, thick, for mature ears.

Report this review (#3009)
Posted Wednesday, March 10, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars Rich in their renaissance'ish classical vein, GRYPHON's "Red Queen To Gryphon Three" is a superb instrumental album offering some lovely tones and atmospheres. For me one of the most striking aspects of this album is the unusual use of instrumentation including basoons, krumhorns and recorders mixed with guitars, keyboards and perucssion. Comprised of 4 long tracks each being given the space to explore some excellent progressive rock grooves. This album has many delicate musical moments while still offering some nice complex elements mixed throughout as well. For the progressive rock historians out there it was the success of this album which gave GRYPHON the opportunity to warm up YES on their USA tour back in '74. This is highly original and highly intellectual music which I would warmly recommend.

Report this review (#2997)
Posted Wednesday, March 17, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Woah! 4 prog folk songs with tons of well played instruments! You can hear singular wing instruments like bassoon and krumhorns. The percussions are really impressive. It almost sounds medieval.

Extremely complex music! very accoustic! The keyboards are excellent but they do not take all the room: this allows accoustic instruments to be appreciated in full! No progressive groups has this unique style!


Report this review (#2998)
Posted Friday, April 9, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is arguably Gryphons finest hour, a kind of 16th century YES album. the influences of renaissance, romantic and prog create an album that should impress anyone with an intelligent musical taste. SECOND SPASM, possiable the besat track features an unforgettable krumhorn duet by Harvey and Gulland
Report this review (#2999)
Posted Wednesday, April 28, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Their Masterpiece! and beesstt effort!!. Clearly, I agree...not a really weak point in the whole album.

Probably, without a doubt their most Symphonic. Less Folk overtones, and complex at times...I will placed them in this period, somewhere between the acustic side of Yes and the softer/more accessible side of GG.

IMHO, the best track "Lament" a 10+ minutes piece...that starts with wind instrumentation (like out of the vaults of GG), becoming progressively more acustic just to get back on track with the medieval feel that carry you over the entire album!!..Call me crazy, but I even hear some Mike Olfield mixed inn; however, bear in mind that this album was from, maybe MO had some Gryphon influence after all?!..:o).

A must for any prog lover, especially for those who are hunting for musical Gems for their collection.

Report this review (#3005)
Posted Monday, May 31, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I bought the LP of "Red Queen To Gryphon Three" in 1975 and liked the music. The years went by, I moved many times, my LPs were lost or sold and I completely forgot about the band and the album. A year ago I remembered the band, looked them up on the Internet, listened to a clip from 'Lament', and memories of GRYPHON's pleasant, unusual music came flooding back. So I bought the CD.

"Red Queen To Gryphon Three" is an instrumental album consisting of four long pieces apparently inspired by a game of chess. All the band members are consummate musicians, and the playing is faultless. The twist is that the music has medieval/Renaissance and folk influences, with the band using bassoon, crumhorn and recorders alongside keyboards (piano, organ and synth), electric and acoustic guitars, drums and other percussion. It's quite a unique sound: primarily lilting, very melodious and, even during the parts using synth and other modern instruments, retaining a medieval feel. Lest you feel this medieval influence would be too much to bear, we're not talking Greensleeves here. It's definitely Progressive Rock, albeit using some unusual instruments and themes in places. For those who like electronic keyboards, there are several bursts of synth.

All four tracks are good, each comprised of a variety of melodies, tempos and moods. I like very much the piano and tune in 'Opening Move', but 'Lament' is probably my favourite: it has as its core theme a very melodious tune which, amongst other things, shows how pleasing the recorder can be when in the hands of an expert. Mind you, the second and fourth tracks are also showcases for Richard Harvey's recorder playing: country folk music-like in the former and sea shanty-like in the latter.

This music works in two ways for me: I can listen to it intently or I can listen to it as background music. There's plenty of complexity in the music, lots of changes in tune, mood, tempo and instruments to keep you interested, but without vocals I find it can still be quite relaxing in the background.

Now, the fact that I completely forgot about the existence of the band and the album for nearly 30 years could be taken to mean that this album only deserves a 3-star rating (Good, but non-essential). However I did buy the album again after all those years, think it is well worth having and still enjoy listening to it very much. So I think it deserves 4 stars (Excellent addition to any prog rock collection). If you like not-too-heavy symphonic Progressive Rock then you should find this album not only eminently listenable but also interesting. I'm not going to say GRYPHON sound like YES, but I think that if you like the music of YES you could very well like this album. As it happens, GRYPHON did support YES in several concerts - I can't think of a better fit.

Report this review (#3006)
Posted Saturday, June 12, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Richard Harvey was one of the greatest virtuoso's of 70s progressive rock (forget Rick Wakeman, this guy was the real deal). The musicianship on this album is so good it defies belief. However, this album's not about flashy solos and meaningless noodling; it's about music and great composition. And what fascinating compositions they are: medieval and renaissance-type melodies and harmonies fuse with 20th century rhythms and harmonies. Complex fugal passages appear from nowhere. Beautiful melodies are subjected to ingenious "theme and variation" workouts, all infused with a great sense of humour. The instrumentation is also fascinating: Krumhorn duets; bassoon solos, stunning recorder passages (Harvey is probably one of the greatest recorder players of our time) all held together by Graeme Taylor's excellent guitar playing and, of course, Richard Harvey's consummate keyboard playing. Gryphon are one of the best examples of just how sophisticated, eclectic, subtle, informed, adventurous, witty and *un-pretentious* 70s rock music had become before the music industry took fright and closed it's doors to all but Disco music and the oh so pretentious Punk Rock movement. Astonishing stuff!!! I give it *****.
Report this review (#3007)
Posted Tuesday, July 13, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars And on the eighth day, God made Red Square To Gryphon Three.

OK, so I'm exaggerating. After all I don't even think Red Square To Gryphon Three is the greatest prog-rock album of all time (an honour that my rigid mind assigned to Genesis' Selling England By The Pound fifteen years ago). But I rate it among the greatest prog albums ever, and that alone represents a leap of miraculous proportions. When one considers its flawed predecessor Midnight Mushrumps, it's hard to believe just how majestic Red Queen To Gryphon Three is.

Augmented by bassist Philip Nestor, the original Gryphon quartet of Richard Harvey, Brian Gulland, Graeme Taylor and David Oberle plunged headfirst into hardcore progressive rock. Perhaps inspired by Rick Wakeman, the multi-talented Harvey swapped his krumhorn for a battery of keyboards and led his bandmates to the promised land. Based loosely on a game of chess, Red Queen To Gryphon Three is a wholly instrumental work divided into four pieces (ranging from 8 to 11 minutes long).

Opening Move is both otherworldly and regal, with a distinct sense of magic about it, as Harvey and co. show us instrumental chops that they always had but previously hadn't bothered with. Second Spasm harks back to Gryphon's Renaissance roots with some krumhorn (OK, so Harvey didn't give it up completely) and a lovely militaristic mid-section.

Lament? Well, Lament is something else. It has at its core two absolutely sumptous woodwind melodies. As beautiful as the first one is, it is the second, tragic bassoon melody that both won, and broke, my heart. Frankly, after the melody concludes I find myself just hanging on for dear life as Gryphon take flight, hoping against hope that I will hear it again. I don't.

The blistering concluding segment is of course titled Checkmate, and really that says it all. A mighty congregation of musicians firing on all cylinders, in a way that no other band seems to have done. ... 91% on the MPV scale

Report this review (#3010)
Posted Tuesday, February 15, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars I bought the LP when it was first released on Bell Records (a label that had been putting out poppy bubblegum acts!!). I knew nothing of the band, and thought that the cover art was pretty lame, but I was intrigued by the instrumentation listed on the back cover. My friends and I liked the album immediately, and I eventually tracked down the "Midnght Mushrumps" LP on import, as well as "Raindance" later. I do have a few "quibbles" with this album. It would've been nice if each track had been split up into the individual songs that make up each "medley", because it seems like each of the four tracks has parts that I really like and parts that I find just "okay". In some cases, there's even a space betweeen the songs that make up each track, so it could've been done. Also, there's the pesky issue that's been hanging over Gryphon since this album came out: some folks thought that they sounded so much like two particular progressive outfits that they nicknamed them "Gentle Jethro". I'm forced to agree, but these days there are so many prog bands that blatantly rip off the "old masters" that Gryphon seems positively original by comparison. Another minor complaint I have is with Richard Harvey's choices of synth sounds. All too often, he opts for the kinds of sounds that typify Styx and Kansas albums (in other words, cheesy). In addition, a vocal here and there would've helped this album's overall "interest level". Still, a solid effort. Three and a half stars, I guess.
Report this review (#3011)
Posted Thursday, March 31, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars composed of four instrumental masterpieces is the highest masterpiece of GRYPHON. It is as it were music in the present age in the Middle Ages at the time of which. Music is very friendly. The tone is variegated. It is fantastic. It is the world like to the work of MIKE OLDFIELD. On the performance side, YES that went with the tour at that time influences it strong. Theme of the third "Lament". It is a melody by which it impresses it. A mysterious tone of Krumhorn is wonderful. Album that can have dream of the world of old much.
Report this review (#44311)
Posted Friday, August 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars this album deserves top 20 in the all time list!!! 4 songs, all of them are gems. incredibly played and produced, i havent heard such a rich sound in a lot of albums. the music is catchy and melodic, yet complex and unique. a lot of old and new instruments are mixed here and merge into a strong and wondeful album which is a must have to any prog fan and especially those of you who tend to have a strong appeal to the classic and melodic sound.

please do yourselves a favour and go purchase this album (or download it if your'e already broke like me)


Report this review (#47256)
Posted Monday, September 19, 2005 | Review Permalink
Tony Fisher
5 stars All of Gryphon's 5 albums are worth buying, yet all are flawed to some extent - except this one. This is consistently excellent folk/mediaeval prog. 4 movements, loosely based on a game of chess, with a wide mixture of instruments and demonstrating musicianship of the highest order with lots of complex time changes and mood swings. Harvey's keyboards are comparable in quality to anyone in the genre and he THE acknowledged master of the recorder, Graeme Taylor is a superb acoustic guitarist and shows talent on the electric at times and Brian Gulland is a magnificent bassoon and krumhorn player. It's instrumental, so gone are the quirky vocals of the first album. They had toured with Yes around this time and, when I saw them, they blew Yes off stage. That is a measure of the band. This is their best album and deserves to be rated as a masterpiece and, if they were better known, it would be top 20 material. Buy it and enjoy it.
Report this review (#48594)
Posted Monday, September 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars RQtGT is such a treat to listen to because it is so precise and structured. Gryphon worked meticulously to produce such an album. Consequently listners can delve into the intracacies that only reveal themselves upon the 10th and 15th listen.

The two side starting tracks are the strongest on the album. In particular the bassoon and melody to begin 'Lament' are wonderful. My favorite segment of the album is the return to the opening melody at the end of this tune when it is carried and explored further.

RQtGT is one of the greatest prog folk albums.

Report this review (#54174)
Posted Monday, October 31, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars And when I thought that Frank Zappa and Gentle Giant made strange music I discover this guys who are playing some of the most strange sounds I have ever heard; try to imagine for a moment the famous Minstrel in the gallery on acid and you will have a glimpse of whats going on. This is an excellent record with tons of instrumentation and whimsical sounds of renaissance spirit and modern skill. Not for everyone, but you´ll find some hard rock seventies style on the second song. Very recommended if you are really into Progressive Rock.
Report this review (#60690)
Posted Sunday, December 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Album is great. Certainly one of the most sophisticated albums I've heard. And that's saying a lot for the proggresive genre. The inclusion of the bassoon as a central instrument is genius, and a favorite instrument of mine.

As for the tracks I enjoy all four composition. I especially like Lament, track 3. When Gryphon reprises the beginning of the song at the end with a fuller and more epic song it's great.

A truly great album.

Report this review (#67490)
Posted Monday, January 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
Andrea Cortese
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Gryphon is a very unlucky "prog beast" since their fine repertoire did not assure them enough popularity to continue releasing their own music. Once you listen to Red Queen... you won't believe your ears, as I did! How did is possible a band like this not to have gained a more wide success? We all progressive aficionados know well the circumstances involving bands that, despite, their impressice capability and performances too soo were out of games and, at the same moment, other bands (I won't name them, though...) that did establish their own market place during many years to come!

That's life, after all. And Gryphon is not an exception.

By the way, the structure and the conception of such a concept album, completely instrumental arranged, is really awesome. It could deserve its own place on the PA's top ten. Two impressive and elaborated tracks each side. It is lesser folkish than the previous works and more keyboard drenched.

P.S. It was a very strange thing to find that "Opening Move" reminds me of Locanda delle Fate's album (1977)!

No other words to say about it: 5 stars!

Report this review (#69750)
Posted Friday, February 17, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album is in my opinion, one of the greatest prog albums of all time. The musicians play an excellent brand of medieval folk prog using the basson, recorder and crumhorn to great effect. The compositions are very classically minded and of course very medieval at times. Overall i would say this is a great album and if you do not own it yet you should go out and buy it immediatly.
Report this review (#69879)
Posted Saturday, February 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars I usually avoid the "Prog Folk" subgenre, as I tend to associate it with rather dull and sometimes simplistic music. This is certainly not the case here, as "Red Queen to Gryphon Three" is one of the finest accomplishments of progressive rock and deserves a lot more than it's "cult" status. I think of "Red Queen." as a cross between Camel's famed "The Snow Goose" and the sheer complexity of Gentle Giant (and with some Genesis and Yes thrown in). The result is a record that's rich in beauty and elegance , at the same time being quite sophisticated and challenging. It's not hard at all to see why it got swept under the rug back then -was smart instrumental music ever commercially successful? Well, all the more reason to check out this highly impressive record.

"Opening Move" is masterful right from the start, but the true fun begins at the 3 minute mark, when the band embarks on an excellent musical theme full of hauntingly beautiful tonality changes (it also serves as the track's adventurous outro). Add to that lovely piano fills and intricate woodwind interludes, and you've got yourself a perfect opener and a pure prog classic.

I'm not too enthusiastic about "Second Spasm", however. It does possess some of the exquisite grace that sets this group apart from it's counterparts, and houses a couple of interesting spots (the krumhorn section, notably), but in general, it lacks the brilliant ideas that color the rest of the album. Nevertheless, I'm rarely anxious to skip it.

"Checkmate" finds the band back in shape, opening with a quirky keyboard motif soon replaced by interesting bassoon melodies. A number of slightly dull moments prevent it from being an absolute classic, but these don't do any significant damage and are easily made up for with lush ever-changing instrumental sections the band comes up with effortlessly.

However, it is "Lament" that steals the show. The opening theme is pure brilliance, from the strummed acoustic guitar that provides the backbone of the music, to the perfect recorder melodies gliding above. This section alone would qualify the track as a masterpiece, but there's more great stuff, as it's followed by another woodwind-driven part with complex counterpoint structures. More solid interludes follow, until the group returns to the main theme, this time enhanced by synthesizer. Anyway, the composition is available for streaming on this site, so be sure to check it out.

Overall, the shortcomings mentioned above lose this album the 'masterpiece' rating, but it remains a highly impressive and important prog entity that has rarely been matched, let alone surpassed.

Report this review (#72617)
Posted Thursday, March 23, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I was very surprised over Gryphon's ability to mix complex, challenging and very progressive music with light folk rock when I first heard them a few years ago. I got introduced to them with their "Raindance" album from 1975, which was a good album, though very uneven. I decided to check this band out more and heard this one a couple of weeks after. This one was MUCH more complex and progressive, and I liked it from the very first listen!

This album have 4 songs, all clocks in at 8-10 minutes, but they're never boring. "Opening Move" and "Checkmate" are my favorites on the album, both very enjoyable tracks with some really great parts spread around. The other two tracks on this album is nearly as good, but not quite up to pair with the two other ones. Still very good!

It's highly interesting to hear such original and creative folk-prog like this. Slightly uneven, but highly recommended if you like folk-prog (or prog generally). Give this one a listen! My Rating: 4.5/5 stars!

Report this review (#73595)
Posted Thursday, March 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars All time prog classic number #14 is arguably one of the most original recordings in rock , impossible to imitate and a true monument to progressive music. Firstly, this is as close to classical music played with modern instruments that you may get, more so than Gentle Giant, the Moodies or the other usual prog suspects (Floyd, Genesis, Tull, Yes and KC). Secondly, a rock band led by a Bassoonist (Brian Gulland) and a krumhornist (Richard Harvey) is rather rare, to say the least. Thirdly, a concept based on a medieval chessgame is daringly original. Put all this together in the hands of obviously highly talented instrumentalists and you get this timeless album that knows no rivals. This is complex only in the intricacy of the arrangements and the interplay between the woodwinds, the keyboard parts and the discreet yet brilliant guitar playing from Graeme Taylor (no rock star bluesy solos here ,though) . This is teamplay at its pinnacle , drummer Oberle working with bassist Nestor propelling the music forward and swerving on a dime when needed. Awesome stuff even/especially 30 years later! This is part of the package I put together when asked "Vas iz diss Progmuzik ?" with the likes of Nova-Wings of Love, DiMeola's Elegant Gypsy, Focus' Hamburger Concerto and Ange's Au Dela du Delire together with the more obviously famous big names . I have seen disbelief painted on more than one face when subjected to this magnificence. Respect comes immediatly especially from the snobbier jazzcats and the elitist Mozartists. This album , with Wakeman's monster "the 6 Wives of Henry VIII" really put them into place, once and for all. (God, I love doing that!!!). And befitting its uniqueness, this can be listened to only as a complete opus , showcasing the class, the ingenuity and sheer musical bliss emanating from theses grooves. As close to perfect you can hope for. 5 welsh birds
Report this review (#94863)
Posted Tuesday, October 17, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is one of the greatest prog folk albums, I garuntee you. It ranks up there with Thick as a Brick. I would concider it above Aqualung, easily, as well. With a wide array of instruments, a concept so original that it hurts, and great songwriting tagged with emotion, talent and technical skill, this is without a doubt a mini-masterpiece. I was instantly in love with 'Opening Move' and its great piano line, 'Lament' and its soothing guitar and keyboards. Perhaps its flaw lies in tracks 2 and 4, where things become a little transparent and liquid, or tedious and dreary, or repeatative and redundant. Regardless, 'tis a great album overall.
Report this review (#105087)
Posted Sunday, December 31, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars I'm really not as much in pseudo-mediaeval or pseudo-renaissance music as I used to; but this album is really a treat. First of all, the instrumentation is unique (bassoons and krumhorns are not commonly used in rock music, not even in prog). It seems that by now the band had taken influence from Yes and Genesis, and the first track indicates that. The absence of vocals really helps to digest the album, even as you might not remember most of it on first listen.

The chess game starts and you shall feel immersed into it; from "Opening Move", to the sweet tension in the players' concentration as portrayed in the initially cheerful "Second Spasm", to the more depressing yet beautiful "Lament", which builds the tension in the middle-end section until the coda suggests that the goal is about to be fulfilled in "Checkmate"; the tension still prolonges as the winner proceeds to overthrow the opponent's king.

All in all, there's no fault in this album; the musicianship is quite obvious, the arrangements are as complex as you might expect and yet it won't be the most you can say about this album and this band. Flawless... the "forgotten" masterpiece.

Report this review (#108406)
Posted Monday, January 22, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars This album has been in my collection for couple of years ago - long after this album was ever released. I was not aware at all about the band during my first years with rock music. I purchased it because my prog friends recommended me. I was not quite impressed at all with the music the first time I spun the CD. For me, at that time, the music of this album was just like a collection of bits and pieces without any direction, melody-wise, in which direction the music leads to. I gave up the CD and put it on shelf and never get spun again until recently when it was about time to review this album.

Honestly, until I spun it again this morning, I still don't get the idea what the band is trying to do, musically. It sounds to me that the melody was not crafted beautifully. One thing for sure, conceptually this was created for depicting a chess match. Considering this intention, this might be enough to say that all emotions, conditions and situations pertaining to any chess match are described or represented here. The next question is why must it be something as dark as this? Chess can be expressed in much more dynamic way by gearing a music which blends multitude of feelings: a feeling of struggle to find the best strategy to win the game, the feeling of accomplishment in conquering the enemy and a feeling of sadness from being conquered by the enemy. The problem with me is the composition of its music that sounds like disjointed parts. Oh yes, I agree that chess match creates emotional challenges to the player as every time we are challenged to decide the best move and anticipating what and how the enemy would react with our move. This is what I clearly do not understand.

I just want to make my point clear here. Yes, this is one of legendary albums of the 70s. Yes, it's definitely a prog album and it's not the bad one. The trouble I have is that (I have to honest) it's very hard for me to digest the music and for sure it's not the kind of music that fits my taste. My standpoint here is based on my efforts to enjoy this album but failed to give good credits musically. It's so many disjointed parts that do not connect one another smoothly. So, I conclude that this is for those collectors who appreciate the uniqueness of this album. Therefore I give it a two stars rating for this. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#121052)
Posted Monday, May 7, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Sheer brilliance.

The krumhorns are the signature to the album. fabulous. I almost can't believe I'm saying that: krumhorns were excellent: if my 15 year old me could hear me say that he'd crease himself laughing: "you pretentious w****r" would almost certainly have been mentioned in passing. But, hey I'm not 15, and even 30 seems a distant memory (single ... no kids...), time moves on so I can know listen to music which was old back when I was 15, and appreciate it.

Side One: Opening Move(superb) and Second Spasm (excellent) Side Two: Lament is just beautiful. I really have to get a better stereo, and the LP is starting to look a bit warped these days.

As someone who was weaned on irish folk (as well as Bessie Smith/Ma Rainey/Billie Holliday) (and only later exposed to english folk at university) I view this album as the pinnacle of the folk/medieval /prog blend.

It is quite simply a must have album.

Report this review (#137655)
Posted Monday, September 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is probably my favorite album of all time. The Gryphon boys, with their promising debut and oh-so-close to masterful Midnight Mushrumps, finally hit gold on their 3rd time around. There is no way this is anything less than blissful perfection, an amazing masterpiece of not only progressive rock but of all music of all time.

I don't make such grandiose statements lightly. This album is just THAT incredible. The band brings in a wide array of acoustic instruments, from recorders to krumhorns to bassoons to bass guitars, each one serving an incredible and worthwhile purpose, doing much more than meaninglessly spicing up the album's inside cover. No, each instrument's timbre and strength is duly noted and beautifully expressed throughout the record. The result is just incredible.

Again, the wide array of instruments are more than just flashy. Gryphon can compose some awesome music. Each of the four songs is incredible, going through meaningful progressions, time signiture changes, instrument changes, all the while maintaining instrumental themes which build up to amazing climaxes. By the 3rd or 4th listen, you begin to crave the ending of Opening Moves or that middle section from Lament. They are just too good.

Another remarkable thing about this album is just how different it is. There is no extensive soloing, no elements added "for prog's sake", and there is neither a sense of seriousness nor silliness. The music is just that - music. Music that can be appreciated AND enjoyed. Additionally, the music is set up so that you get different experiences listening on a song by song basis than the entire album. Whereas some discs are clearly meant to be listened to in its entirety (e.g. Camel's The Snow Goose), and others are just a collection of songs, this manages to be both. It is breathtaking as a whole, and breathtaking as individual songs.

This album receives my absolute highest recommendation, a must for any prog fan, even if you don't feel like it will be your "type" of music. I wouldn't change a thing on this album, it is simply incredible, perfect, bliss. The easiest 5 stars I'll ever give.

Report this review (#140412)
Posted Monday, September 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Get ready for the Renaissance ride of your life!

There is only one Gryphon, and although I don't need this kind of music very often, I certainly appreciate the creativity, musicianship, and energy that went into creating this unique piece. I'm not quite ready to grant this masterpiece status, because it often plays as a collection of melodies that sometimes seem to be rather haphazardly thrown together. There's no doubt that it sounds cool and is ALWAYS interesting, but a cohesiveness is sacrificed that I need for a true 5 star album.

Opening Move. Gryphon certainly draws the listener in, with a bouncy melody that leads to some truly incredible piano flourishes absolutely refreshing instrumentation. After changing melodies repeatedly for the first five minutes, they settle into a simple krummhorn tune that starts innocently and ends absolutely chaotically five minutes later. There really is no predicting these guys! Brilliant stuff!

Second Spasm. The craziness is maintained, but unfortunately the quality of the melodies is not. Here the music becomes so playful in places that it becomes a bit goofy to my ears (especially in the middle--the intro and outtro tunes are very good).

Lament. Gryphon wisely decide to include a thoughtful, poignant song, and they really pull it off well. The first five minutes are absolutely haunting and powerful mellow tunes, and the opening melody is revisited for a majestic finale. This is great songwriting and some welcome restraint from Gryphon.

Checkmate. Again the quality dips after preceeding greatness. Most of the song is too mellow and/or simplistically playful for my taste (though it's by no means bad). They attempt a classic Gryphon freakout for the finale, but they have done better elsewhere (on Opening Move and Heldenleben on the next album). It's just too anti-climactic for me.

I'm glad Gryphon put this out, and I'm proud to own it--I just don't think this has the substance throughout to be considered a masterpiece, though it definitely should be part of your prog collection.

Report this review (#140753)
Posted Thursday, September 27, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars A must have for all prog-heads. This album is a fantastic example of how amazing prog folk can be. A 38 minute instrumental album which I still listen to every once in a while. "Opening Move" starts off the album with upbeat and catchy folk tunes, which almost remind me of late 70's Jethro Tull. The piano work in this track is definately my favorite segment of music on the album. "Second Spasm" begins folky and remains that way until it ends. "Lament" brings the album to a more somber tone, although the melody is still fantastic and may be the best written track on the album. "Checkmate" wraps up the album and brings back similar riffs & melodies that were heard earlier in songs like "Opening Move" & "Second Spasm". It ends on a build up and sums up the album in a bash. A must have!!!
Report this review (#153020)
Posted Wednesday, November 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Complex and beautiful, an amazing work.

Someone mentioned that this band was nicknamed "Gentle Jethro" because of their supposed mimicry of Tull and Giant. I'll get controversial right off the bat and admit that I'll take this album over any album by Tull or Giant for a number of reasons. I love the fact that I can have this classy, complex, and incredibly performed music free from what I consider the occasionally obnoxious vocals of those two legendary bands. But Red Queen is so much more than just a good instrumental album. It is one of the most musically articulate and painstakingly arranged feasts ever assembled. It merges progressive folk and symphonic rock with both renaissance longings but also crisp modern chops and attitude. With long well-planned compositions and virtuoso performances taking the place of vocal distractions Red Queen is the perfect album for allowing yourself to be carried away to. Never listen to this album while distracted by other people or tasks. This is music that requires your full attention and should really be heard on headphones with eyes closed and mind engaged in listening mode. There is simply too much happening and changing too quickly to do a proper track by track description of the songs. Suffice to say that each song builds and winds back and forth through moments of symphonic and folk prog grandeur, lush keyboard and piano passages, elegant guitars and percussion, and of course we cannot forget the krumhorns and bassoon! The production is just outstanding and the sound quality of the Japanese remaster is breathtaking. The wonderful album cover art only adds to the completeness of what many consider a masterpiece of 1970s prog.

In his outstanding review at ProgressiveWorld, Tom Karr notes "This is intelligent art rock, with the group producing a work that is absent most of the clichés of the genre. Their affinity for the electric sound they had only recently added is nothing short of amazing, and their sound is exciting and blends their previous acoustic focus well with their new synthesizers and electric is the best example of this odd, eclectic style of mid 70s British folk/prog.. Bands like The Strawbs and Steeleye Span produced some interesting blends of early English music and rock, but no one came anywhere close to the mastery of Gryphon, and Gryphon made their premiere musical statement with this release." [Tom Karr]

An essential prog classic that should easily be on ones "desert island" album list. Recommended to anyone who loves complex music that is lively in nature and presented with great flair and superb artistry. I suggest that even Rio/Avant fans of things like Miasma or Gatto Marte try this out for size, it has the unique instruments, complexity, and sense of adventure that would appeal to those fans.

Report this review (#153987)
Posted Monday, December 3, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars 1972 was a watershed year for progressive rock epics. Supper's Ready stretched the limits on what could be accomplished with concepts and lyrics while Close to the Edge set a standard of musicianship and composition so high that few groups attempted to reach a similar attainment. One group that did attempt to scale the heights was Gryphon, and the musicianship and composition on Red Queen to Gryphon Three rivals that found on close to the edge. Thank God they didn't attempt to throw in lyrics or a concept, or they'd probably have knocked Supper's Ready off of it's podium too.

Anyhow, I'm quite serious about this record rivalling Close to the Edge. Until 1972, prog rock bands were writing epics based on the venerable Mellotron model that Fripp had pioneered back with In the Court of the Crimson King. With Close to the Edge, Yes broke away from that (after having first updated the sound of the original Mellotron epic with things like Yours is No Disgrace and Heart of the Sunrise.) A new complexity was introduced, and a few acts bravely followed Yes into the breach, most notably by our friends being discussed here, Gryphon.

Red Queen to Gryphon Three contains four approximately ten minute compositions of considerable complexity, exotic instrumentation, and extremely skilled musicianship. Gryphon's background in medieval and renaissance music hasn't entirely dissappeared, but it has become subservient to their understanding of how to play prog. The music is well written, interesting, and quite capable of carrying the listener through the album without any extraneous vocals. Listening to this makes me wish that Mike Oldfield had had a formal music background before he began work on Tubular Bells.

OK, I've told you all of the good things. Great and complex prog rock here, with a bit of folk influence and a lot of instrumental fun. So what are the bad parts?


Seriously, none.

And that's why I have to give this five stars. Not only is it great music, but there are no real flaws that the music has to overcome. So, if you like the best of symphonic prog and haven't yet heard this, you are missing something extremely important.

Report this review (#166557)
Posted Sunday, April 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars This was my introduction to Gryphon. Long had I hunted this particular album. It wasn't a disappointment. I haven't heard too much of Gryphon, but I really like this album. The Krumhörn and the bassoon are both great. These guys are great players, of various instruments. The album is very enjoyable to listen. Though it's an instrumental album. And those ones are usually pretty rough to listen. But Red Queen to Gryphon Three is not extremely long, just four massive tracks and it's not too short either. The length, it's perfect. I like all the songs. Opening Move and Second Spasm are very energetic songs with great, catchy parts. The best track is definitely Lament, which is this more calm, mellow track. The epic finisher, Checkmate is a very fine track also. This kind of folky rock jamming with exotic instruments is not a genre that you bumb into too often. Very refreshing experience. Altough there is one pretty confusing factor in this album. I don't know is it the sounds, the instruments, or just the composition, but when listening to this album, the music sometimes remind me of game music. Like Final Fantasy-stuff. Or the classic Space Invaders. I don't know is it a good or a bad thing, but at least it's a thing. I've listened Midnight Mushrumps, and this odd factor does not appear in that album. Weird.

Still, I love this album. I listen to it quite often and it makes me very happy. Very cheerful spin of great music. I recommend this album to any progfan. It's a pleasant change, no doubt. 4/5 stars.

Report this review (#169166)
Posted Wednesday, April 30, 2008 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars 3.5 stars. I have a real love / hate relationship with this album. Not being a fan of Folk or Classical music doesn't help when it comes to this record, and most of the flute led passages make me cringe. Having said that, the symphonic passages are excellent to say the least. I love the complexity and the way the instruments are arranged in the songs for the most part. Lets just say if this was Jazz flavoured like MOVING GELATINE PLATES or dark like UNIVERS ZERO my opinion would be much different. A matter of taste I suppose. There are two passages in each of the four songs that I wish wouldn't stop, but there are one or two passages in each song that I wish hadn't started except for in the song "Lament". Oh, and it has a chess theme. I hate chess. Surprised ? I didn't think so.

"Opening Move" is very impressive for the first minute with all the different sounds and the symphonic flavour. The piano that follows is excellent. The flute led passage with bassoon 4 minutes in I do not like at all. A fuller sound 7 1/2 minutes in. Overall a good opening track. "Second Spasm" is led by the flute (cringe) to begin with. Then we get a nice heavy sound a minute in. Some weird sounds honk then we get the krumhorn. Marching style drums follow. Classical keys 5 1/2 minutes in. The earlier heavier sound is back 7 1/2 minutes in. This is my least favourite song.

"Lament" opens with strummed guitar, bassoon and flute. Terrific sound. It changes 3 minutes in to a darker mood. Another change 5 1/2 minutes in to an uptempo horn led passage. The intro melody is back 7 1/2 minutes in. Nice. "Checkmate" is fantastic for the first two minutes then that flute leads the way. Bassoon with piano 4 1/2 minutes in as marching style drums come in before 6 minutes unfortunately. Piano takes over briefly. Very good section from 7 minutes to after 8 minutes. Flute is back 8 1/2 minutes in. Yikes.

A very highly rated album that wouldn't make my top 500. By the way i've played this to death lately thinking something would click, but as I said in the intro there are certain styles of music that I have difficulty enjoying, including this one.

Report this review (#173258)
Posted Sunday, June 8, 2008 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
2 stars Gryphon is surely a band that progressed in the sense that they developed their sound and approach with each subsequent album. They started out as a pure medieval Folk group playing traditional material on traditional instruments. Then they gradually started to incorporate some electric instruments into their music and attempted braver compositions. This third album is again an improvement over the second one. While the debut was basically pure medieval Folk music, this is much more eclectic and instrumentally more interesting. Keyboard instruments such as piano and Moog find their way into the music here, and augment the acoustic instruments. It is indeed an interesting and different wall of sound. However, I find some of the brass and wind instruments a bit annoying, to be honest. They make the music too cheerful and happy and, I would say, a bit shallow in some sense.

I hesitate to call this Prog rock. There is not much rock in it, even if much more so than the almost all acoustic debut, of course. The electric bass guitar is well played and sounds similar to many Symphonic Prog bands, but apart from that there is really nothing to put this in the same category as those bands. Unconventional? Surely! Progressive? In some sense, yes. But rock it is not, really. Though, the beginning of Checkmate sure sounds more than a bit like Gentle Giant.

While there is absolutely no doubt about their impressive instrumental prowess and their ability to spit out many fun musical ideas, they had a lot to learn about composition and arrangement. While much stronger compositionally than the Midnight Mushrumps track, the four compositions that make up Red Queen To Gryphon Three still have something of a Mike Oldfield structure; they jump from one theme to another, and then to another, and then to yet another - but they never really progress. They are full of interesting musical ideas, but they are still somewhat directionless. (Ein Klein) Heldenleben on their next album would further improve in this respect.

I can understand why many people like this, but I just cannot put this in the same division as other all instrumental albums like Rick Wakeman's Six Wives, Camel's Snowgoose or Return To Forever's Romantic Warrior. And it is absolutely not up there with Prog Folk masterpieces like Thick As A Brick and Hero And Heroine.

Not really my cup of tea, I'm afraid.

Report this review (#178166)
Posted Friday, July 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars The idea was very interesting - depicting of chess match... But unfortunately there is nothing interesting in that album, even for Jethro Tull fans. I like flute, but on this LP this instrument is used in awful way I think. It's boring. As the whole album. Even one of four compositions doesn't have spirit. You know what I mean. Wow, if that is their magnum opus, what kind of music and what kind of compositions is on the rest of their albums? Brrr, I don't want to think about it... They are light years away from Jethro Tull and Thick as a brick - thats brutal truth. I don't recommend it to anybody. Two stars for the way the instruments are arranged, for the production. PS. Awful cover....
Report this review (#185483)
Posted Monday, October 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album blew me away the first time I heard it. Every time I listen to it again I say to myself.... This is awesome! I'm not sure if Gryphon is a known band in Britain, but here in Canada nobody knows them at all. I have been a fan of Jethro Tull for more than 20 years and all that time there was another excellent Prog Folk band out there that I didn't even know about. Gryphon really isn't all that similar to Tull. They sort of sound like Focus to me, but with a lot more woodwind style instruments.. Anyways this album is one of THE major finds that this website has directed me to. Thank You P.A. !
Report this review (#186748)
Posted Thursday, October 23, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is one of the most overlooked masterpieces of progressive rock, a truly groundbreaking album of constantly intriguing and wonderful compositions, amazing musicianship, and perfect production.

1. Opening Move- Wow, what an opening move this is! The piano in the beginning is simply genius, and all the instruments fall into place with perfection. This song was responsible for my love with the bassoon. Every moment is magic and this song is so peaceful. Flawless. 10+/10

2. Second Spasm- All the instruments are amazingly played once again and the song is enjoyable. This one is not as serene and peaceful as the first song, but it still strikes me as being beautiful. I love the part about three minutes into the song where the bassoon and Krumhorns go solo. Outstanding! The folk feel is awesome. 10/10

3. Lament- Gryphon continues their brilliance, this time more in the vein of what the song title suggests. Who would have thought a lament could be so emotional yet uplifting simultaneously? The song structure is again meticulously crafted and all the instruments form a wonderful blend of medieval progressive music. The ending gets me every time. Fantastic. 10/10

4. Checkmate- The complex beauty ends on an interesting note with this last song, which tells you that it won't be a repeat of any of the previous songs simply from its ever-changing intro. At times this song has a march feel to it, signifying the last of the troops going out to battle (in the chess game). What else is there to say? They somehow manage to finish this album with another unique composition with wonderful composition and amazing instrumentation. 10/10

This is one of the most rewarding albums I own. Do yourself a favor and hear it for yourself!

Report this review (#191147)
Posted Sunday, November 30, 2008 | Review Permalink
Prog-Folk Team
2 stars If post-metal be music that used to be metal and post-rock be music that used to be rock, and I do state these definitions tongue in cheek, then surely Red Queen to Gryphon Three represents post folk. This is music partial to folk instrumentation that otherwise has nothing to do with folk music. I have listened numerous times to RQTGT over the years, and whether I am trying to discover good prog folk, good symphonic rock, or just good music, I have come up empty every time.

This is a decidedly over-produced album with plenty of juicy arrangements, good playing and promising segments, but, taken as a whole, as a voyage from A to Z, it seems to have become mired around D. Certain parts of each track grant small liberties to the prog folk that is trying desperately to emerge with a melody that might be remembered 5 seconds after it has played. The most of these parts occur on the original side 1 before they detour via fusion, and unfortunately Gryphon is not nearly as good a fusion band as a folk band. In fact the synthesizers in the more frenzied segments are pithy and utterly lacking in dynamics and warmth. This coldness is also at the heart of my problem with the album.

I admit that I like some folk with my prog folk and some melodic with my symphonic prog, so please consider that when comparing my review to the accolades generally presented on this page. For me, RQTGT is, and was from the first to the last time, a stale mate.

Report this review (#194987)
Posted Thursday, December 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars I have to say that I'm a bit disappointed with this one after hearing Gryphon's first self titled album from 1973 which I think is far superior to this. 'Red Queen...' just prances about like a big girls blouse. I really like the mediaeval parts of their tunes but that's not nearly so prevalent on this one. To my ears it just meanders about all over the place. Maybe I'm in the wrong mood while listening to this just now. It's a nice enough listen. It's colourful and plenty of instruments get twanged, pressed, strummed and thumped. All very acoustic sounding. It has a very nice front cover too. But a good front cover does not a good album make.

Not bad, but I much prefer the two earlier albums. At least this still sounds original and distinctive, unlike a lot of prog bands I could mention. Good, but nothing more than good, and I really don't see what all the fuss is about.

Report this review (#208848)
Posted Thursday, March 26, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Very Good Medieval Symphonic Prog

Gryphon's _Red Queen to Gryphon Three_ attracted me as it was one of the highest rated progressive folk albums on this site not by Jethro Tull. I picked up this album based on the sample here, and was a little surprised. Folk has a lot of definitions, and at first, this album didn't match mine at all. This is not acoustic strummy music, and it doesn't resemble 60's psychedelia either. What's more this album is all instrumental, so the deep lyric themes or storytelling one normally associates with American Folk are absent also.

So what does the uninitiated fan actually get? More than anything, this sounds like classic 70's symphonic prog, with the addition of the infamous krumhorn. More like Renaissance, Genesis, or Gentle Giant's medieval turns than Pentangle or Fairport Convention. The music is very classically inspired, with added rock instrumentation. Like GG, there can be rapid shifts between sections, though none of the dissonance. The performances are very good and the players skilled.

The album comes in four approximately ten minute sections.

Opening Move, is very classical in feel and composition. The horn plays a large part, and there is plenty of interplay and counterpoint between the various instruments. It comes to a climax with an increasingly chaotic cascade of sixteenths before a slow finish.

Second Spasm opens with pastoral whimsy with flute and guitar in a Celtic feel before classic prog sounding guitars take over the melodies. The themes repeat over with numerous variations and keyboard breaks, some humorous, others heavy.

Lament is more pastoral and sad in tone, again starting with strummy guitar and flute. Krumhorn takes the theme, and then the duo play in harmony. Three minutes in, a completely new movement starts in complex time, darker even than the beginning section, the horn at the low end of its range. At 5:28 another movement begins, much more rocking than anything we've seen before, with lots of cymbals and frolicking bass. This evolves into something actually resembling prog folk for a short while before the horns bring us back into symphonic territory, again reprising the main melodic themes.

Checkmate starts in fine classic prog keyboard fashion, very reminiscent of Gentle Giant. The flute gets an extended solo spot over only drums, and then we get a more composed section with classical counterpoint. It weaves from light to dark and ends with a series of solos including a Wakeman-esque key climax before the final reprise.

This listens like a piece of classical music. It requires attention, but the reward is certainly there. I've had this album for months now and only now feel like I can give it a fair review. It's pretty unassuming, and at first seemed somewhat unimpressive to me. But with time, I've grown to appreciate that it's a fairly unique true fusion of classical music with rock instruments. Though I would call this symphonic in the truest sense, it still would be an excellent part of any prog collection.

Report this review (#209319)
Posted Monday, March 30, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars I quite hard to get a vinyl version of this nowadays, but I was very lucky. But this is not just a collectersitem, it's a folkprog classic. I must admit I've never heard other Gryphon records, but this is an outstand, progressive folky record with only four ten minutes long compositions. There are no vocals, which isn't a problem. Gryphon uses bass, drum, guitar (mostly clean, sometimes destorted), Bassoons and Krumhorns (!) and Keys.

Because of the complexity of the medieval/classical/rock compositions there is no use of reverb and delays, it would have gotten to complex to listen to. In this musical element we can find the link to the often recalled Gentle Giant, a band that uses the same recording style for their complex music. Therefore, fans of GG don't want to miss this. Other then colleague folkprogbands this ain't chord-driven music, but based on folk melodies of different instruments played together. Though the music is intense in how much melodies are played together, it still can be called relaxing because of the lovely style and the classical correctness. The main words to describe the atmospheres of the album are 'gentle', 'elegant', 'symphonic', 'intelligent', 'classical' and 'warm'.

Essential for fans of folkprog, Gentle Giant and the like and symphonic prog. I haven't heard any folk record (except for Thick as a Brick) that is so well crafted as this one. I really enjoy this every time I listen to it! It's a true gem. Four stars, but actually 4.4 stars.

Try this!

Report this review (#231338)
Posted Thursday, August 13, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This is quite nice and very professional mixture of renaissance music and british folk. Played by professional musicians. Even with some warm (in English way) feeling.

So as a result we have enough static chamber music with some rock elements ( not too much).Fully instrumental album contains just four long compositions,complex enough to be placed under the "progresive rock" label.Music itself is pleasant, but not so bright to be attractive by itself too much.Nice acoustic atmosphere all around. Again, too long and too cold pieces to attract your attention for long.

You can be attracted by very balanced sound, high technigue of musicanship, nice melted baroque and English folk melodies, but ... not by album as piece of art. Possibly, very English album.

And I am affraid, folk-prog isn't my cup of tea.

Report this review (#244834)
Posted Friday, October 16, 2009 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
Errors and Omissions Team
5 stars Nothing is perfect, not even this album. However, some efforts has to earn masterpiece status, if only for how original their sound is (and still pleasant - am I right ? there's nothing ugly on this album, so this should be valued a lot). Cover perfectly describes the mood of this album, playful, colorful, fantasy-like and revoking medieval instruments (Crumhorn anybody?) with something I deeply admire, chess game. I though many times about name of this album, so twisting and interesting, really can occupy the mind for a while (I'll leave you with this statement). Multi-layered and multi-instrument using at once. Truly music, where you can close your eyes and feel the dreamy fantasy landscape, castles in the sky, sunny beaches, distant meadows (not fenced ones) and simply imagine all of this. You can do the same thing (sometimes) with post-rock too (most prominent genre), but that's not the same, as this is direct shortcut (repeating myself) to beautiful sounds. Just feel the harmony in it and you'll see.

5(+), but result may vary after some time, so expect editing, if necessary. I don't edit much, as I mostly review when I feel like I have heard enough. And with this music I'll never have enough. Hope their other albums are as good as this.

Report this review (#260055)
Posted Saturday, January 9, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Red Queen to Gryphon Three was my first Gryphon album. Ignorant to what any of their other work might have sounded like, I put on my headphones and dove in to this record full-force. The emotional results I emerged with after the journey were a mixed batch.

Let's the obvious out of the way: This is not Prog Folk music. It sounds like very well-played, well-composed Symphonic Rock. Nothing wrong with that, but don't go into this expecting Jethro Tull. Even Thick as a Brick wasn't as full-fledged Symphonic as this. I would say Red Queen to Gryphon Three is more along the lines of CttE-era Yes. Just not nearly as exciting.

That doesn't mean I don't like it, though. It just means that it will take longer to grow on you than other, more prominent Prog works. Yes. it's beautiful, complex and brilliant from a compositional standpoint, but how much fun will you have listening to it? Well, that really depends on how open-minded you are in your musical taste. Since you're on a Prog Rock site, I would assume that means you are more game than most to jump in to uncharted waters, but that still doesn't guarantee you'll actually enjoy this album.

On the one hand, you have a clear dedication to the music, and these guys were surely working hard at making a complex, all- instrumental album, and they certainly succeeded at that. But on the other hand, you have to wonder if the band were actually concerned with the album itself being listenable for long periods of time. I would say not, since this type of music is as far from Pop music as you can get. They knew they were making something not that easy to digest, and maybe they didn't even care about that much. But if you want to draw in a large audience, you need to make sure your music's complexity doesn't overshadow the music itself, if that makes sense.

I have grown to appreciate this album a lot more than I initially did, and I do think it's worth coming back to, because a lot of beautiful musical moments do begin to shine through after a while, but I do have some issues here, as well. Much of the more negative criticisms already present on this page are very true. A lot of the passages DO feel slapped together without any true structure, which causes the album to feel disjointed at times. The more frenzied sections DO lack warmth, in my opinion. But those moments are few, and you can still appreciate the bigger picture without focusing on the small and minute. My personal problem, however, is that the small and minute aspects of music are sometimes the most important parts to me. It's a shame that such good musicianship can be so aimless at times.

Ultimately, it comes down to this: If you're already a fan of this approach to music, you will most likely enjoy the record in any case. But if you don't typically go for this stuff, you're going to have to ask yourself a very simple question: are you willing to allow this type of music to grow on you, or not? If you give it time, this album may reveal itself over time as being one of your more intelligent records. If you don't want to give it a chance to grow on you, then you'll probably not ever appreciate it. It's a really tough call to make. Because of that, I don't think I'm going to recommend this. It's only for those listeners who willingly choose to seek this type of stuff out, and won't really appeal to a large amount of people-- even in Prog circles! At least, not right now. Maybe generations from now, Red Queen to Gryphon Three will be hailed as a masterpiece, but for now I wholeheartedly believe that it belongs exactly where it currently is-- just enough below the radar for its specific audience to discover and enjoy it. Everybody else should approach it with caution.

Beautiful at certain moments, but hard to digest the rest of the time. 3.5 stars.

Report this review (#269304)
Posted Tuesday, March 2, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars "Red Queen to Gryphon Three" is Gryphon's finest hour, and a true masterpiece of unique Progressive Rock genius. Each of the album's four instrumental compositions employ a mathematical precision that rivals even the best of Gentle Giant's output. A casual listener might be forgiven for suspecting a Gentle Giant influence. Research reveals, however, that one can independently trace the influences of both bands back to the same Renaissance, Medieval and English Folk roots. Gryphon began when musically educated multi-instrumentalists Richard Harvey and Brian Gulland teamed up to explore elements of historical folk music. It wasn't long, however, before a guitarist (Graeme Taylor) and percussion (Dave Oberle) were added and the band began to blend rock music influences into the mix. Fresh off the heels of the success of their extended album-long suite "Midnight Mushrumps", which had its genesis as music for a Shakespeare production at Britain's National Theatre, "Red Queen to Gryphon" features 4 instrumental compositions of Progressive chamber rock music.

Gryphon got noticed by many progrock fans when they opened for Yes during their North American Tour in 1975. They also performed on Steve Howe's solo album "Beginnings".

Subsequent albums would become increasingly commercial, straying from the instrumentation, arrangements and compositional style that make this album, and the band, so unique and vital.

Report this review (#280522)
Posted Tuesday, May 4, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars If You Like Medieval Prog GET THIS!!

Red Queen to Gryphon Three is a bit of an interesting case for me. Even though I'm usually not that interested in instrumental music, Gryphon's third album (often considered to be their masterpiece) was on very heavy rotation in my household slightly over a year ago. I absolutely loved the virtuosity of the musicians, the medieval tone, and the breathtaking beauty on some of the songs here.

Even though I can still appreciate most of the compositions and, of course, the fantastic musicianship, Red Queen to Gryphon Three has lost a bit of my interest and I rarely play it anymore. When I do hear the album, I'm usually entertained, but not quite blown away like I used to be. With that said, if you are a fan of medieval-sounding symphonic prog (like Anthony Phillips' The Geese and The Ghost or early Renaissance) and are alright with a 100% instrumental performance, this album will surely appeal to you. I am a fan of Anthony Phillips and Renaissance, and to some extent I am a fan of this album. As mentioned, I love a lot of aspects of Red Queen to Gryphon Tree, but a lot of the music simply fails to grab me, despite its obvious high quality.

As mentioned earlier, the music played here is medieval-sounding instrumental symphonic prog folk. If you like bands like Genesis, Renaissance, and Anthony Phillips mixed with the instrumental virtuosity of bands like Anglagard, this Gryphon album should appeal to you. Don't be fooled by the "prog folk" labeling this album often garners. This is pure symphonic prog with some folk and medieval influences, but it is first and foremost a symphonic album. Don't go in here expecting Jethro Tull or Comus (although the influence from these bands is evident at times).

The musicianship here is great. I assume that all of the musicians are classically trained, as there are evident influences from the renaissance and baroque eras of classical music. Brian Gulland's bassoon and Krumhörns is especially notable. The addition of generally unused instruments in prog rock really adds another dimension to Gryphon's music. And Brian sure as heck can play the bassoon!

The production is one of the best in the 70's. It's clean, dynamic, and the mixing is spot on. Nothing more I could ask from an organic seventies production.


Red Queen to Gryphon Three is a small classic in the seventies progressive rock scene, and is worth hearing at least once by any prog fan. Even though I don't enjoy this album as much as some other people do, it is hard to deny its quality and innovative nature. I'll give this album a confident 3.5 star rating. If I were to rate this album about a year ago, it would have been an easy 4. If you're interested in hearing what prog would've sounded like in 1300, this is definitely an album worth hearing.

Report this review (#282819)
Posted Thursday, May 20, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars One of the earlier reviewers of this album stated that if you gave this album a chance your appreciation could increase as a result. And I have to admit that's exactly what happened with me here. Not too long ago I was not yet familiar with this band let alone album but somehow I had the feeling this piece of prog art could be pretty essential if you want to call yourself a progger.

And so I had to go for it, right ? After first few listening sessions I wasn't really blown away or even impressed I must admit but this is indeed an album that has to grow on you although in my case I will hardly ever go from being underwhelmed to overwhelmed because one or two spins usually gives me a fairly good idea of what my connection to any album is. And also in the case of Gryphon's magnum opus my appreciation hasn't increased from low to very high but at least it went up so that's positive.

Another challenge for me was to find out which of the four pieces I liked best but that proved a bit too hard honestly. At first I thought second spasm was my favorite part, later on I favoured Lament but my next thought was: why is it actually better than the opening move or Checkmate ? Actually I haven't got a clue and in the end I feel all four parts are pretty equal. All four are a combination of ancient (medieval if you wish) and modern music and to be honest I don't think prog folk is the most accurate subgenre for this album. For the Gentle Giant similarity rather tends to eclectic prog, let's say 65 % eclectic prog and 35% prog folk.

My already mentioned increasing appreciation has led from a 3,25 score to a 3,75 after many more listenings. So I will round up after all because this is above all true prog that should be checked out by serious followers of our genre. Not a downright masterpiece though (imho).

Report this review (#357989)
Posted Monday, December 20, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Giving the Renaissance Fair a dose of electricity.

RED QUEEN TO GRYPHON THREE is wild, especially in the sense of what style it is. Any classic prog fan will be happy with the power, grandiosity and familiarity of the sound here as Gryphon courts Yes, Genesis, and Gentle Giant in influences, particularly the last one mentioned. But Gryphon are not about to clone anyone, for they have the bassoon and krumhorn at their will; in the bassoon's case, they chuck that instrument all over the album (not surprising since bassoonist Brian Gulland had a hand in writing all of the songs).

Not to flog a dead horse, but the compositions remind me of Gentle Giant with more Renaissance diversions, especially if you hear Phillip Nestor's bass figures. Again, the wind instruments put Gryphon in their own class, but Graeme Taylor's beautiful guitar characterisations are so poignant, yet uplifting that they are a quiet highlight.

The problem here is that the album tires by ''Lament''; the great run that ''Opening Move'' and ''Second Spasm'' take just sputter out leaving ''Checkmate'' as a rather familiar yet unfitting closing track. Gryphon's take on progressive rock is an odd one, but a take that symphonic lovers will enjoy and eclectic-minded fans can respectfully appreciate.

Report this review (#380177)
Posted Friday, January 14, 2011 | Review Permalink
Post/Math Rock Team
4 stars The third album from Gryphon shows them fully embracing the prog-rock style they hinted at on the previous album. While the debut was completely acoustic and based on Renaissance music, the second album added electric bass and some drums. Here they add electric keyboards and guitar, and the playing is much more "rock" oriented. Still lots of use of traditional instruments like Krumhorn, however. This is an instrumental concept album about chess, apparently. The music genrally changes a lot with some repeated sections. Great interplay between the instruments. You can hear some Gentle Giant and Yes influences here, Gryphon having toured with the latter at one point.

"Opening Move" has some great melodies. The piano playing here is really good. Love the fuzz guitar after 3 minutes. I like how the music builds up before 6 minutes. The tempo picks up later and things get more dissonant. Some backwards effects. Ends on a more symphonic note. "Second Spasm" starts out very folky and medieval sounding. Then goes into a rocking combination of Gentle Giant and Yes. Awesome bass sounds around 1 1/2 minutes. Later gets classical and then jazzy with no rhythm section. Afterwards an upbeat classical-rock section. Gets folky and medieval sounding again. Then the GG/Yes part is reprised.

You can listen to "Lament" here on PA. More great melodies in this song. The first three minutes are really nice with the mix of wind instruments, acoustic guitars and later glockenspiel or something similar. The music fades away and it gets replaced by a more moody section with drums. The music stops halfway and then goes into a folk-rock boogie. Changes to a few more different sections; earlier themes get reprised. Lots of drumming near the end and the synth plays some of the wind instruments melodies. "Checkmate" goes through a few sections, some of them Gentle Giant sounding. Before 2 minutes is some cool sounding electric percussion and a flute soloing. Goes through some more folky and classical sounding sections.

Gets very sad and classical in the middle before the music slowly cheers itself up. Then a great part with marching drums and organ. Gets more dissonant and jazzy for awhile. Love the cool sounding sequencers after 8 minutes. Earlier sections get reprised...I wish they had more original endings. The sound and production is great and the compositions are generally really good. Probably Gryphon at their most adventurous and consistent. Raindance will be similar to this but a bit more streamlined. Great album. 4 stars.

Report this review (#423217)
Posted Saturday, March 26, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is Gryphon's masterpiece and it's very original. It sounds different to the group's previous albums. All of the acoustic instruments are here in abundance, but the prevalence of synthesizers add more colour. Yet that doesn't detract from the pastoral feel. The strong renaissance style is retained throughout. The bass sound is more crisp and the soft-hearted riffage from the guitar is lovely as well. The full drumming kit also gives Red Queen to Gryphon Three plenty of bombast and energy.

The four fully instrumental tracks are complex, carefully-composed and arranged. My favourite tracks are "Opening Move" and "Lament", which begins with a quiet unassuming melody, goes off on various tangents, and then the opening melody returns in a sunny, triumphant blaze of glory at the end. One very loveable moment is the hint of the jokiness from the earlier albums with a brief whoopee-cushion noise in the "krumhorn choir" section of Second Spasm! This record is totally competent and unpretentious. I can't find a single album in my collection that comes close to sounding like this stuff. Such music needs a day in a sunny English garden to work best. However rare that setting might be! Four and a half stars for this unique experience!

Report this review (#452169)
Posted Thursday, May 26, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars It's a prog rock record with four songs, all ten minutes long. How bad can it be?

The answer in this case is, not bad at all. In fact, Gryphon's unique blend of folk and electric instruments, combined with some complex musicianship and intricate song structures that could put Gentle Giant to shame, happens to make this album damn near perfect.

First things first, this is an entirely instrumental record. There are no voices or lyrics of any kind here, but the music itself manages to carry the listener and their imagination for the duration of the album. In a sense, the 'no voices' policy gives this album a very 'pure' feel.

On the first listen, you're likely to think that each track sounds very similar, but over time, the tracks seperate out, and gain their own identity within the album. Opening Move is the natural choice for the beginning of the album, with it's majestic, anthemic sound. Second Spasm gives the group a chance to show off their folk rock skills. Lament is a longer, more thoughtful piece. Checkmate is a more mixed affair, with aggressive and restrained parts that flow together beautifully. If I have a single criticism, it's that Gryphon didn't do the trick of using the theme from Opening Move anywhere else in the album.

The album package itself is rather meagre, but the beautiful picture on the front is enough to satisfy. Apart from that, we are also greeted by pictures of our silent hosts, the band members themselves.

This album is a pure joy to listen to all the way through. There are no weak moments at all, so it's easy to put this album on from start to finish, and lap up the proggy goodness. The skill with which the group handle their instruments is uncanny. The tracks are all meticulously thought out, and each person plays his part perfectly. Needless to say, this is a must-have for any prog fan.

Report this review (#459619)
Posted Monday, June 13, 2011 | Review Permalink
Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars One of the things I love most about Prog Rock is the sheer audacity of some of the bands and their ridiculous ideas. What we have here is an entirely instrumental concept album about a game of chess prominently featuring the Krumhorn, an obscure Renaissance reed instrument that sounds a bit like a bassoon. You'd be hard pressed to find a modern band willing to embark on such a silly undertaking, and yet it works brilliantly.

The record is divided into four lengthy tracks, each supposedly representing a phase of gameplay. "Opening Move" begins with a peaceful and pleasant melody, painting a picture of a friendly game played outdoors on a warm summer day. The tension gradually increases as the "friendly game" turns into a heated battle of minds. The next track, "Second Spasm," starts as a lively dance tune in 6/8 time played on recorders. The music is relentless fun and cheerful, while maintaining a fast pace indicative of the fierce competition imagined to be happening on the chess board.

Side two opens with the more reserved "Lament," in which our protagonist mopes about his diminishing prospects of victory, before launching into the triumphant finale, "Checkmate." Throughout, the band do a nice job of developing their motifs in an almost symphonic fashion. Rather than simply stringing a collection of unrelated themes together, they reuse melodies within the individual movements, playing them in a variety of different ways and always maintaining the listener's interest.

It's hard not to love this record. It's so wonderfully idiosyncratic, with its Renaissance feel augmented by the modern flavor of keyboards and bass guitar. The melodies are catchy and very happy sounding. It's an album that makes me smile every time I hear it. Whether you're a fan of Prog Rock, Renaissance music, or just looking for something fun and uplifting, you're likely to find something to enjoy on "Red Queen to Gryphon Three."

Report this review (#477979)
Posted Thursday, July 7, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Emboldened by the positive reaction to the instrumental side-long suite on Midnight Mushrumps, Gryphon went all-instrumental for this concept album, which essentially presents a single cohesive composition structured around the ebb and flow of a game of chess. The loss of the vocals is something I suspect many listeners won't exactly be mourning, since I thought they were the weakest aspect of Mushrumps, and in their place comes complex and technically sophisticated prog compositions which challenge the listener. Comparing it to the title track from Mushrumps, there's not much between them - medieval compositional approaches and instrumentation (Krumhorn ahoy!) are still the name of the game, and the main difference between the two suites is that Red Queen is twice as long. I wouldn't put it in the absolute top rank of instrumental prog albums from the era - I'd say both Tubular Bells and Camel's The Snow Goose rank above it - but it is a fine album and probably the peak of Gryphon's career.
Report this review (#526841)
Posted Monday, September 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is definitely the album from "Gryphon" to start (and end) with. Their first two albums were too much filled with medieval / renaissance music to please my ears.

On this "Red Queen To Gryphon Three", the mood is much more truly prog folk. Long compositions, use of electric instruments combined with lots of specific folk ones allow for an enjoyable trip. I particularly like "Opening Move" which holds lots of keyboards, a powerful intro, and delicate (almost classic) piano.

At times this track sounds as a good ISP piece of music; while the complexity of the song writing also leans towards the eclectic genre. The whole is rather melodic and during almost ten minutes it is only a pleasure for the ears (even if you are not too much addicted to classic prog folk music). There is even a quite dark section featuring some Crimson filiations. It is an excellent song indeed and a highlight.

There are lighter moments available as well on this "Red Queen". The intro for the second track for instance. It sounds more in the vein of their previous releases, but quite soon the band shows again their new facet and the complex elements prevail again but it is less obvious during "Second Spam" to be honest. The pure folk and old traditional music are setting the mood even if the closing section is almost wild!

After this short frenzy, the listener is plunged into a sweet acoustic intro during "Lament" which is the longest track of this all instrumental album. The atmosphere is very much "Trespass" oriented and later acoustic albums from Steve or Anthony are not far away.

This long track sounds as a collage of several shorter parts and it lacks a bit in uniformity. Synths part towards the end is definitely a fine moment as well. It is another highlight which is available for your listening on this website.

Some jazz feel is noticeable while the closing number is being played. This is well organized though and rather symphonic (jazz I mean). As usual, different themes are filling "Checkmate" and inevitably the renaissance (the period ? not the band) atmosphere is conveyed by the use of some fine crumhorn as well as other wind instruments.

In all, this is a good album which should please symphonic or even eclectic lovers as well (but to a moderate degree ? let's say three stars). Prog folk fans are right while they raise their ratings to four or even five stars. I would say seven out of ten and I will upgrade this work to four stars as to salute this huge improvement.

Report this review (#531724)
Posted Saturday, September 24, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars My first review since joining this site, so I had to start somewhere familiar, comfortable and profoundly enjoyable!

This album delivers in many aspects what I look for in Prog rock: 1. At least one good lengthy piece (This has four!) 2. An unusual array of instruments (If I can't tell what it is that's a pretty good start, only from reading the sleeve notes have I discovered what a Krumhorn is.) 3. An unusual array of musicians!

'Red Queen to Gryphon Three' was Gryphon's third studio album and is proclaimed by the ratings here as their finest effort and I certainly agree with that. On other Gryphon albums they divulge in singing and to be frank their vocal chords aren't the best so since this album is vocals free that problem is eliminated. Also with the structure of the album, four 10 minuteish tracks, each one acts as a mini symphony which possess all the many quirks and somewhat spontaneous soloing they scatter about all of their albums but fused seamlessly to make a beautiful Baroque 'n' Roll quilt!

There is nothing I'd change about this album. Fantastic, tight musicianship throughout. Utterly unique. 5 stars.

Report this review (#583561)
Posted Tuesday, December 6, 2011 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars Gryphon's one and only triumph "Red Queen to Gryphon Three" is a chess game that has four lengthy instrumentals beginning with 'Opening Move' and ending with 'Checkmate'. The idea itself is worthwhile noting for its innovation and the album cover depicts the old sage in a medieval setting, poring over his next move on the chessboard, while a joust takes place below in the castle grounds. The music echoes this feeling from the outset with 'Opening Move', with long meandering passages of medieval music and courtly majestic excursions. One may be reminded of Gentle Giant at times with the intricate time sigs and Rick Wakeman with its unusual instrumental pageantry. The Renaissance period is captured on this album with strong English folk nuances and an emphasis on woodwind solos.

'Second Spasm' features the pied piper sounds of woodwind specialist Richard Harvey, also a marvel on keyboards and Krumhörn. Brian Gulland accompanies on bassoon and Krumhörns and is joined by the incomparable Graeme Taylor on guitars. This track features medieval noodling throughout, that may turn off some listeners, especially the Krumhörn solos and it sounds very whimsical and court jesterish, like the soundtrack to an old comedy in the Renaissance period. The music is certainly upbeat and positive, conjuring images of castles, knights in armour rescuing damsels and kings and queens making a procession to their royal palaces. The marching procession on percussion by David Oberlé is noteworthy also. Other musicians include Philip Nestor on bass, Ernest Hart on organ and Peter Redding plays acoustic bass.

'Lament' opens side 2 of the vinyl and it begins softly with Harvey's woodwind and Taylor's gentle acoustic. It fades slowly as the next movement fades up, a more solemn atmosphere with Gulland's low bassoon tones and guitar. The mood change is appropriate after all the whimsy on side 1 and this melody reflects the sound of an impending calamity. Soon some manic hi hat work ushers in a brand new day, and the music is bright and in quick cadence. The keyboard solo that follows is mesmerising along with the odd meter and pulsing bassline.

It ends with 'Checkmate', a rousing, rollicking piece that may remind one of medieval dancing around the maypole. The strange music locks into a time sig that is all over the place, and then is released with a drum heralding in the march and a recorder solo trills beautifully along. The woodwind solos are virtuoso and this is perhaps a much more progressive track in terms of sigs and building up of intensity. The keyboard solo towards the end is stellar along with the recorder solos and dramatic percussion. It ends with a finale and excellent pageantry.

The chamber music of the album is a compelling focus of Gryphon and at only 4 tracks the album never outstays its welcome. It is certainly worthy of recognition, though may be difficult for some listeners with all the medieval flavours. One thing is for certain there is nothing else like it and Gryphon are recognised primarily for this work alone. It is little wonder that Richard Harvey went on to produce some successful movie soundtracks in his later years.

Report this review (#613495)
Posted Thursday, January 19, 2012 | Review Permalink
Eclectic Prog Team
3 stars Baroque and folk ebb and flow. This is a much more eclectic than folk album, though, similar to the eccentric cheerfulness of Gentle Giant. The difficulty with this album is that it lacks coherency in the compositions, prancing and bobbing from one passage to the next without intelligible transitions. Red Queen to Gryphon Three is equal parts affable and harebrained- it is the unbalanced friend who will just as quickly laugh with you as laugh at you.

"Opening Move" The beginning of this quirky quartet starts off like a late 1970s Yes song, full of bombastic synthesizer and light guitar runs. It gives way to a Wakeman-like piano bit that launches back into that symphonic jauntiness. At that point, the bassoon lends Gryphon a more distinct sound. This is a very ambitious opus.

"Second Spasm" One would think one was entering a renaissance fair with the recorder and acoustic guitar dancing away. It morphs into something akin to a folky edition of "Sound Chaser." That section drops off unexpectedly for some sputtering reed instrumentation. The next passage is like a processional. After that, the music suddenly grows ominous, like a dark cloud has threatened the parade, but the minstrels soon carry on anyway.

"Lament" The most acoustic and accessible piece has quite a bit of acoustic guitar, bassoon, and easygoing drums and bass. The piece energizes halfway through, with tooting and upbeat rhythms.

"Checkmate" The final piece returns to the zany symphonic rock of the opening track. Soon, however, it takes on a military march feel with flighty recorder. The middle passage is reserved, but laden with organ and snare drum. The final segment takes throws everything at the listener in a gleeful symphonic folk fashion.

Report this review (#770030)
Posted Wednesday, June 13, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars Gryphon's earliest albums straddled the gulf between the 15th and 20th centuries with style and agility. But their popular 1974 LP, widely acclaimed on these pages (and just about everywhere else) found them losing that delicate balance, straying too far toward more lucrative but less distinctive musical territory better suited to veteran Symphonic Rockers like YES.

The classical underpinning was still secure, expressed in virtuoso bassoon and recorder turns from Brian Gulland and Richard Harvey. But the four long tracks (entirely instrumental, and dearly missing the dulcet voice of singer/drummer David Oberlé) seem more contrived than composed, all of them pieced together from unrelated themes and half-formed musical fragments, with little actual development or connection between them.

The Folk Rock simplicity of the original band was further compromised by modern instrumentation: more electric guitars (sounding as if played under duress), louder drums, and an over-reliance on souped-up synthesizer patches ŕ la Rick Wakeman. The latter gives the music real Prog Rock authority, but of course nowadays the sound of a mini-moog is even more anachronistic than those bleating medieval krumhorns.

The best moments of the album echo the band's earlier days: the rollicking courtly dance at the start of 'Second Spasm', and the bulk of 'Lament', featuring some gorgeous recorder runs over a suitably romantic acoustic guitar melody. It's a pity the former was too quickly sidetracked into yet another medley of random musical snippets, and the latter spoiled by an incredibly tacky whiz-bang synth solo at its climax.

From a purely Prog Rock vantage it's easy to understand the album's enduring popularity (although I suspect the colorful cover art has a lot to do with that). But let's face it, fellow Progheads: from a broader musical perspective 'RQ to G3' marked a willful diluting of the band's original vision, with more of the same (only worse) still to come.

Report this review (#815841)
Posted Thursday, September 6, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Gryphon and implicit their third album from 1974 Red queen to gryphon tree is one of the most intresting albums ever recorded from prog/folk rock zone in the ;70s. This is a complicated pieces of work with no weak moments. From the excellent cover art who goes hand in hand with the music, progressive folk with medieval touches, sometimes remind me of Gentle Giant in their most fascinating moments, but without that rockier sound. Many unusul instruments here like bassoon, Krumh'rns who gives a very special atmosphere, very folk but very progressive. Also in some parts the album sounds like a music with minstrels and all stuff from the court of a king in middle age, so medieval, intresting in the end. Only 4 pieces here, all long with complicated moves, this album is not easy to listen and is a definetly a grower. The first part with the first two pieces are little better the the B side, with excellent parts, all album is instrumental so another thing to get a carful listning. Opening Move and Second spasm are killer pieces to my ears, such beauty in such complex music is a wonderful thing to get. So, definetly one of the best albums from mid '70s and I think their best album overall, fascinating release coming from this little known band. 4 stars easy and recommended big time.
Report this review (#864505)
Posted Thursday, November 22, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars I bought Red Queen to Gryphon Three when it first came out back in the 70s. I thought it was a masterpiece then and it has continued to be one of my favorite albums of any style not just progressive rock. It puts all other Gryphon albums in the shade going well beyond the typical folk rock genre. It weaves in classical, folk and progressive themes without any noodling pretentiousness. I like all the tracks but the standouts for me are Opening Move and Lament. Why Gryphon aren't considered to be on a par with prog royalty is a mystery to me but perhaps it is because their other albums didn't have the stature of Red Queen. Thoroughly recommended.
Report this review (#917904)
Posted Saturday, February 23, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars I've always been amazed at the extensive range of genres prog rock can encompass. Gryphon's Red Queen to Gryphon Three is one of the most eclectic albums in this regard, tackling genres such as Baroque, Renaissance, and Folk, all while retaining that progressive rock sound.

Working with these "Classical" genres, the album has some instruments even most prog bands don't employ, such as the bassoon and crumhorn. These rarely used instruments, along with the classic keyboard and guitar creates an odd, but effective sonic landscape.

The music itself is very melodic, upbeat, and light, but there are plenty of tense moments to keep the album sounding dynamic. In fact, it would be an understatement to call the album dynamic, as there are an enormous number of tempo, meter, mood, and volume changes throughout each song. Add on to this the use of a classical technique in the form of development and repetition of themes, and you have a constantly evolving album.

However, on many listens I feel something falls just short. Perhaps it's the disjointed nature with which I label it, or maybe it's because I'm not an avid fan of music from the Renaissance/Baroque era. But for whatever reason i'm never as excited as I should be given the albums superb creativity and complexity.

Regardless, I believe this is an album that should be given a chance by anyone who likes a unique combination of Folk and older "classical" music, and carefully crafted and thoughtful compositions.


Report this review (#1137213)
Posted Tuesday, February 25, 2014 | Review Permalink
2 stars This is a record that always make me feel a bit stupid, because I just dont get it. No matter how many times I hear it I cant see whats so interesting about it. To my ears it sounds like someone done a whole album from the song 'Cans and Brahms' (from Yes classic album 'Fragile'), which is a terrible idea!

To be a bit fair the concept behind the album is very cool, it about a game of chess starting of with the song 'Opening Move' and ending with 'Checkmate'. Also the title of the album is really clever, considering this to be the band's third album. And of course, great art for the cover, it makes the record look beautiful and very classic prog.

So with all those things covered for, what could go wrong? Well, what if the band didn't really have any ideas for the music? That would ruin it, wouldn't it? Yes, and if you ask me, thats exactly what happens. I doesn't sound like chess (or any great progressive adventure, for that matter), it sounds more like five guys playing something they didn't have time to finish writing. Theres just a lot of playing around with half written ideas for some minutes, never leading into anything exciting, no climax, no dynamics, no ups and downs. It doesn't happen anything at all.

I guess its a question of preferences, I'm not a huge fan of Camel's 'Snow goose' ether, and I find the two albums to have quite a few things in common. To start with they are both instrumental, which apparently is hard music to write. Also they are so busy with trying to tell a story without using any words, they forget about the dynamics of a great song. Instead of building a mood or a groove, sticking to an idea long enough to make the listener involved and interested, they keep adding melodies to the song that just doesn't lead anywhere. Its too much going on without filling any purpose and the result is a complex song that does nothing but fall flat to the ground.

Report this review (#1161575)
Posted Tuesday, April 15, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars A true gem of symphonic progressive, maybe one of my top 10 favorites of the genre, it's a shame how much Gryphon have become a quite forgotten band, because to me they belong to a very small group of bands that constitute the very best of symph prog, along with Genesis, Yes, Anglagard, ELP, Camel, PFM, Banco, Le Orme, Harmonium and Renaissance (at least for that one album). They have been categorized here as Folk Prog, but in this case the term Symphonic is way more appropriate (which is a good example of why I think it would be much better to class every album by genre instead of whole discography of each artist.

There is truly not a single weak moment and while all four tracks are perfect in their own, I'd have to say "Opening move" is my personnal favorite, with its magnificient intro that immediatly sets the tone for the listener to know what to expect from this very unique journey. The whole thing has a very medieval feel to it, which works even better than in Gentle Giant IMO, though in a quite different way. The musicianship here is the best I've heard from any band, except maybe Yes, and the keyboard work from Richard Harvey especially is totally mind-blowing, while the ubiquitousness of the bassoon might be what makes this album so unique.

Totally a desert island pick for me, just as Close to the Edge, Selling England and Red.


Report this review (#1353329)
Posted Sunday, January 25, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album is what progressive rock was about back in its heyday. The drive to push rock music further afield and into other fields. What an exemplary album "Red Queen to Gryphon Three" is of that. Do I like it? Well, yes and... yeah, it's alright. But never mind that. Here are four musicians who really tried to create something original.

The album is loosely based on a game of chess. Sounds utterly boring, does it not? Thankfully, other than the track titles, there is no hint of chess being played and in fact it is rather difficult to continue imagining a game of chess being played to this music. It is lively, it is diverse, it is bold, it is entertaining. We have rock and renaissance, folk and classical. We have guitars and the whole rock band deal along with bassoons and krum horns and some other woodwind instruments. In "Second Spasm" we have something that sounds like a renaissance duck duo. "Lament" features some lovely pastoral passages. Each of the four compositions follows a different course, though you will notice that each piece weaves its own wild course through varying melodies and themes.

One thing that struck me was how blatantly obvious it became that the American prog band Yezda Urfa were inspired by Gryphon, particularly "Second Spasm". There are sections of the music with its speedy guitars and rapid fire rhythm (in odd meters of course) that sound like they came straight off "Sacred Baboon" except for that Gryphon did it first.

For another comparison, I find the music is as busy as that of Anglagard or Wobbler, who both introduce musical themes like runners coming across the finish line at a race. Gryphon, too, will give you some melody for 24 bars or maybe 32, and then that one is discarded and an entirely different melody and meter will abruptly take its place. Which means this is no slow and gently progressing set of instrumentals but rather a sometimes torpedic (is there such a word?) ride through a magical music landscape.

As for my personal opinion, I find the music on this album to be admirably bold and progressive and at times a tad over the hedge. I love some of the parts but not all. Too much renaissance bassoon and krum horn doesn't sound so cool in the car stereo, and the duck duo, though well executed, is not something to play when the wife is around. Once again I am reminded that listening to this kind of prog is sometimes a very private affair.

I would say it is a masterpiece and certainly essential if classic seventies prog in all its wondrous forms is your fancy. However, I am certain there are plenty of progheads out there who will find this a little too out there. I'll give it four stars.

Report this review (#1396274)
Posted Friday, April 10, 2015 | Review Permalink
Magnum Vaeltaja
Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars The third release from Gryphon brings their definitive release. "Red Queen To Gryphon Three" is a wholly instrumental offering, driven by intricate interplay between piano, keyboards, acoustic guitar and flute with other odd instruments thrown in to add their unique accents. The album is largely symphonic in nature, though the folk influence shines through strongly. In fact, this album is so symphonic that it actually follows the form of a classical symphony!

Each of the album's four compositions acts as a movement of the greater work, which is loosely based on the game of chess, hence the titles. The fanfare-like "Opening Move" gives way to the lively "Second Spasm" and the ballad "Lament" contrasts the rhythmically pulsing "Checkmate". None of the movements are weak and "Lament" stands out in particular as one of the stronger ones, with its beautiful pastoral guitar and flute duets and expansive, synth-led finale. While it may not offer quite the same drive as Gryphon's more rock-oriented contemporaries, the music throughout the entire album is very thoughtfully composed, well layered and intelligently written. This really is one that every fan of classic prog fan should at the very least check out. 4 stars.

Report this review (#1490967)
Posted Sunday, November 22, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars Gryphon was an English folk rock outfit created by Royal Academy Of Music graduates. Red Queen to Gryphon Three is their third release generally regarded as their best work and beloved by connoisseurs of prog rock and especially folk prog. Red Queeni s a concept telling a "story" of a chess match. This work of Gryphon (unlike their previous record Midnight Mushrumps) is entirely instrumental.

The album consists of four tracks, two for each side. "Opening Move" showcases the band members' outstanding musicianship since the very beggining. Drenched with dreamy synthesizers and loads of traditional folk instruments, this track features henomenal Chopin-influenced piano passages at one point. "Second Spasm" opens with a wonderful, medieval shanty theme, which resolves into a more rock-orientated part dominated by keyboard with a dynamic bass-line. The main theme returns exhibiting many interesting folk instrument sounds. "Lament", like its predecessors, it goes through numerous movements, which have a wide dynamic variation. "Checkmate" is probably the most "experimental" of the pieces.

The pieces give the impression of being well-thought and intricately composed throughout. Although it uses folk instrumentation, the folk influence of Gryphon's two previous works is much lower. Instead, the band's music on Red Queen To Gryphon Three owes a great deal to European art music of the middle ages and renaissance. Furthermmore, the pieces are composed in a similar fashion to classical music with themes, variations on themes, and different segments.

All in all, Red Queen to Gryphon Three belongs in every folk rock fan's collection, but is also a much needed-addition to that of a fan of a clasically-influenced symphonic rock and progressive rock in general. It is a timeless album with a distinct, unique sound that no other band had or managed to recreate. It might not be the most accessible album and not an easy one to get to, but once you do, this should provide a fantastic listening experience. Very highly recommended! A masterpiece of progressive rock music.

Report this review (#1533724)
Posted Sunday, February 28, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars Truly Unique and Innovative, and Musical.

This is Gryphon's masterpiece, the one that everyone should have in their collection. Indeed, this site almost needs a new category "progressive medieval" to classify it, or something, it is so unique. The basic medieval-influenced song structures are still there, as are the crumhorns etc, but now as the basis for a truly new sound. Taking a cue from their extended epic "Midnight Mushrumps" from the previous album, but clearly making a conscious decision to keep the pace up and the transitions between sections as seamless as possible, the band fashions four distinct roughly-10-minute tracks, each with an original and memorable main theme and various sub- themes. On this album, they add electric guitars and basses, and a full rock drummer, although the vast majority of the music is still written around acoustic guitar, piano, flutes and the horns. But the complexity is much higher, and the musicality is clear. The most medieval-sounding track is the second ("Second Spasm"), and for me this is the weaker one, although it is still very good with some excellent middle sections (on par with the best on Mushrumps). The first track ("Opening Move") has a very memorable melody, and the crumhorns here really add to the sonic feel. Really musical. The third and fourth tracks move around a lot, and have slower sections. I really like the middle section in the third track, with the droning organ and the slower horn lines ("Lament"). The fourth track ("Checkmate") contains probably the most progressive-rock-sounding music on the album, with prominent electric guitars, keyboards, drums and the like, and while it veers in and out of more medieval sounding themes, it is almost like math rock as it progresses through part of its middle section, but returning to the main theme for the ending. In terms of a rating, this album sits right on the 8.9/9.0 mark for me (on my 10-point scale). I will say 9.0 as there is really nothing like this album, and thus I would say it is essential. Thus, 5 PA stars.

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Posted Saturday, November 18, 2017 | Review Permalink

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