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CROSSING THE STYLES - THE TRANSATLANTIC ANTHOLOGY

Gryphon

Prog Folk


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3 stars This compilation may be viewed as very good as well as rather bad, depending on several objective and subjective factors.

If you have all the four Gryphon albums presented in this compilation (namely, "Gryphon", "Midnight Mushrumps", "Red Queen To Gryphon Three" and "Raindance"), you don't need it. But if you don't, you should be informed about its advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages: the compilation covers 29 out of 31 tracks from the original albums (the second and the third albums are represented completely, the first and the fourth albums lack one track each other), so your notion about the music of the group at that period is almost complete. It has a rather low price for two discs, also.

Disadvantages: in order to reconstruct the development of the group from the first album to the fourth you have to solve a puzzle, because all the tracks are intermixed there upon two discs, and the chronology doesn't exist. To do it, you must have the steel nerves. Too much effort...

As for the music itself, there are no news there, and all the information about it you can get from the reviews of all the original albums.

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Send comments to Fassbinder (BETA) | Report this review (#80950)
Posted Sunday, June 11, 2006 | Review Permalink
Einsetumadur
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars 10/15P.:A low-priced reissue of Gryphon's first four albums on 2CDs, albeit with some blemishes

In the last months I am quite keen on finding those compilation CDs where all - or most - of the songs of a band are included, just like the superb Lark In The Morning set by Steeleye Span where their first three albums are reissued on a double CD at the price of a single disc.

So, I also discovered that Gryphon - a band I haven't noticed so far - published such a CD including four of their five studio albums, and probably four of the best.

A short description of the music

The music of Gryphon is - in general - fascinating and unlike most music you might know: with a salmagundi of different instruments, going from percussion instruments, acoustic-, bass-, and electric guitars on to krumhorns, recorders and bassoons the band creates a superb mix of renaissance and rock music. And all that in a fresh and virtuosic manner: similar to Gentle Giant, but contrary to them with far more renaissance than rock. The first time listening to Sir Gavin Grimbold raised the question if this band takes this perfectly arranged chorus of hooting with this majestic singing seriously or as a winking reminiscence to the Middle Ages. I still don't know by now, but - as I've said - not many bands sound like that.

As well, Gryphon is a band of contrasts: most of the songs are either really short pieces from one to three minutes or giant epics lasting nearly twenty minutes, while strangeness, beauty and darkness occur in equal measure.

Another thing which may be interesting to know is that Gryphon from 1972 to 1975 developed from an acoustically-orientated folk band to a real progressive rock band with more frequent electric instruments such as synthesizers, mellotrons and more prominent bass or electric guitars. Or: from a cocktail of Mike Oldfield, Steeleye Span and a local Middle Ages troubadour to a mixture between Yes and Gentle Giant, but still with lots of krummhorns and renaissance sundries.

This change is documented on this compilation, but if you really want to hear this alteration, you need to put the songs in chronological order: on the CDs, they are mixed up. Some listeners complain about that, but as the original albums always tended to be unbalanced (either there was an album of thousands of short pieces or one only with longtracks), I think that the shuffling benefits the music very much, indeed.

Beware: the band consisted of musicians who studied music professionally, and one hears this really clearly. The music is quite formulaic and droughty at times, which is a letdown regarding some of the tracks in which the balance between complexity and feeling doesn't really fit.

The 2CDs themselves...

Just like I have already mentioned, you own the complete four Gryphon albums from 1972 to 1975 when you buy this 2CD-set: Gryphon, Midnight Mushrumps, Red Queen To Gryphon Three and Raindance are featured here in their entirety. Only the long-lost Treason (1977) album, known for its more 'reduced' sound, is left out completely. But I think that the decision has been wise to leave it out completely because otherwise Crossing the Styles would be just a normal compilation, not the entire collection of Gryphon's heydays.

But is it really as complete as it seems?

First, there are two very short songs that have been left out knowingly due to the 79-minute-limit of a compact disc: the 1.5 minute acoustic ditty "Touch and Go" from the debut album and the much more interesting "Wallbanger" from the Raindance record, a 3 minutes short, but good and dynamic prog tune which I personally miss more.

But it's a real pity that some precious minutes are wasted because of some stupid rookie's mistakes: one point is that the songs are named wrong on CD1: track 8 isn't "Dubbel Dutch", but actually "Gulland Rock", while the real "Dubble Dutch" can be heard on track 7 - that actually should be "Ethelion". Track 6 is mentioned as "Gulland Rock", but in fact is "The Last Flash of Gabberdine Tailor".

But the songs are not only named incorrectly: "The Last Flash of Gabberdine Tailor" then is featured a second time in the same version on CD2, track 8, although it is (ironically) named correctly on CD2. "Ethelion" (an adventurous rocker from "Midnight Mushrumps") is missing completely, even though it should be there according to the songlist.

To sum up: plenty of awkward mistakes, and a really good track missing because another one is featured twice.

The sound:

The old records have been remastered for this CD, and this remastering has really paid off: the sound is crystal-clear, sophisticated and powerful. Just listen to the bright, shining acoustic guitars on "Lament" or the dark, boosting harmonium on "The Last Flash of Gabberdine Taylor" which you can even enjoy two times. ;-)

Probably the new reissues of the original albums sound just as great, but this collection costs about 15$ (or 10$ in iTunes) instead of 4x20$=80$ and therefore would be my favorite.

There is also a short biography of the band in the booklet. I usually prefer detailled liner notes of each single track, but the 8 pages of photos and text in the booklet are pretty okay.

The rating:

Compilations are always quite hard to rate, so I prefer putting my opinion into a sentence at first.

"Crossing The Styles" is a good collection which features 28 of 31 tracks of Gryphon's first four albums with a great sound and a pleasant booklet. The music itself is somehow difficult to rate: it's an interesting listen with enough highlights, but things do get a bit academic at some places. Maybe a weak 4 star rating for the music itself. Still, the bad mistakes in naming the songs and the missing of a track which should actually be there make me give only a good 3/5 stars - both for the featured music and for this particular collection.

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Send comments to Einsetumadur (BETA) | Report this review (#258645)
Posted Thursday, December 31, 2009 | Review Permalink

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