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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Report this review (#2037030)
Posted Thursday, September 20, 2018 | Review Permalink
3 stars After a hiatus of 40 years folk prog rock icons Gryphon rose, phoenix like, from the flames to give us their eagerly awaited new album, ReInvention.

The line up of musicians includes Gryphon stalwarts Brian Gulland, Dave Oberle, and Graeme Taylor, and they are joined by new recruits Rory McFarlane on bass, Graham Preskett on keyboards and strings, and Andy Findon on woodwind.

I was delighted that Gryphon reformed and even more delighted when they announced a new album. I so wanted to give this album a high 4 star rating, but after much deliberation, I feel that 3 stars is more appropriate.

This is a very enjoyable album with good tracks throughout and no weak track on the album.

The problem is that there is no truly stand out track on the album. No track that you can point to as a 5 star track that draws you back to the album again and again.

All of Gryphon's previous albums had a standout track: The debut album had "Juniper Suite", Midnight Mushrumps had "Ethelion", Red Queen to Gryphon Three was excellent throughout, Raindance had "(Ein Klein) Heldenleben", and even the disappointingly pop effort Treason had "Spring Song".

I have played this album over and over for many months trying to find the star track, but I have had to accept that this album just does not have one.

The two longer tracks "Haddocks' Eyes" and "Sailor V" come close, but they are just not quite able to generate (for me) the same emotional connection to the music that tracks like "Ethelion" and "Heldenleben" were able to achieve.

After their ill advised foray into pop rock on their final album of the 1970's, "Treason", the band, fortunately, get back to their roots on this album, with a folk rock fusion which shows off their diverse range of instrumental talents. What's more there are lots of crumhorns on the album, with Brian Gulland on bass crumhorn and new band member Andy Findon taking up the soprano krumhorn (which Brian told us in concert had to be specially made before the album could be completed).

However, fans hoping for an album with a strong medieval flavour are likely to be disappointed, as the album ranges over a variety of musical styles, including more contemporary folk influences and even, on "Sailor V", a celtic folk inspired piece.

Surprisingly, there are rather more vocals on this album that you might expect for a Gryphon album. Whilst, for me, vocals were never one of Gryphon's strong suits, the vocals on this album are, on the whole, marginally better than on some of their other albums. The lyrics are playful in typical Gryphon style, although sometimes rather twee.

My favourite track on this album is actually the unusual and interesting "Hampton Caught" by Graham Preskett, with its use of harpsichord and church organ and strange but interesting rhythms. It's also the most medieval sounding track on the album, which also draws me to it.

ReInvention is absolutely a worthy addition to the Gryphon canon and very much recommended to Gryphon fans and also to fans of folk prog alike, but it will not displace "Red Queen to Gryphon Three" or "Midnight Mushrumps" in my estimation of the very best Gryphon albums.

Report this review (#2112752)
Posted Sunday, December 30, 2018 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
5 stars When Gryphon were first started by Richard Harvey (recorder, keys) and Brian Gulland (bassoon, crumhorn) back in 1973 it was obvious they weren't going to sound like anyone else, and the albums they released were a strange amalgam of medieval and progressive music, with some element of folk for good measure. The strong use of different styles of woodwind also assisted in giving their music a distinct presence, and although all five of their albums are worth investigating, the two 1974 albums 'Midnight Mushrumps' and 'Red Queen To Gryphon Three' are undoubted classics. But after 1977's 'Treason' the band were no more, and Harvey made quite a name for himself firstly as a session musician before composing for theatre, TV and films.

What no-one ever expected, that after a small gap of some forty years, three of the founding musicians, Graeme Taylor (acoustic and electric guitars), Dave Oberlé (drums, percussion, vocals) and Brian Gulland (bassoon, bass crumhorn, baritone sax, recorders, piano, vocalisations) would feel the urge to again join together and release a brand new album. They have been joined by Graham Preskett (violin, mandolin, keyboards, harmonica), Andrew Findon (flute, piccolo, fife, soprano crumhorn, soprano sax, clarinet) and Rory McFarlane (electric and double basses) to create an album which has absolutely no right at all to be released in the 21st century, and is all the better for it. This feels more like a sequel to the classics, as opposed to something from guys who are very much older and longer in the tooth.

Few progheads these days have ever experienced the delights of Gryphon, which shows just how much is lacking from their musical education, as I have loved the band for years, and a quick check of my iPhone allows me to say that I do indeed have all their albums loaded for my listening pleasure. I was in conversation with Olav one day and said I was currently listening to 'Mushrumps' and he was the one who told me there was a new album out, which I could hardly fathom! Mostly instrumental, Gryphon still sound just like Gryphon and like no one else at all. Progressive, medieval, folky, if nothing else this will increase the musical education of many who (like me) didn't even realise there were both bass and soprano versions of crumhorns available! Here is a band who have stepped back onto their singular path as if they have never been away, and to say this is a delight is something of a massive understatement.

I can listen to this all day and have found myself doing just that. Easy to listen to, full of light and pleasure, Gryphon are back with an album which is totally indispensable and essential. If you have not previously come across these guys then you have been missing out, and at long last there is a new album to excite and delight us all.

Report this review (#2183985)
Posted Thursday, April 18, 2019 | Review Permalink

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