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GRYPHON

Gryphon

Prog Folk


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Gryphon Gryphon album cover
3.25 | 145 ratings | 24 reviews | 17% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential


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Studio Album, released in 1973

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Kemp's Jig (3:07)
2. Sir Gavin Grimbold (2:45)
3. Touch and Go (1:29)
4. Three Jolly Butchers (3:54)
5. Pastime with Good Company (1:31)
6. The Unquiet Grave (5:40)
7. Estampie (4:53)
8. Crossing the Stiles (2:22)
9. The Astrologer (3:12)
10. Tea Wrecks (1:06)
11. Juniper Suite (4:49)
12. The Devil and the Farmer's Wife (1:55)

Total Time: 36:43

Lyrics

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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- Brian Gulland / bassoon, crumhorns, recorders, keyboards, vocals
- Richard Harvey / recorders, crumhorns, vocals, keyboards, mandolin, guitar
- David Oberlé / drums, percussion, vocals
- Graeme Taylor / guitars, keyboards, recorder, vocals

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
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GRYPHON Gryphon ratings distribution


3.25
(145 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(17%)
17%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(30%)
30%
Good, but non-essential (39%)
39%
Collectors/fans only (12%)
12%
Poor. Only for completionists (3%)
3%

GRYPHON Gryphon reviews


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Folk
2 stars 2.5 stars really!!!

Historically important album in progressive music but also in the story of Folk music. Better things to come from Gryphon - very medieval . This is in no way prog per se (and certainly not rock either), but it is showing us a thing or two about how complex and free were the music of pre-renaissance before the churches started calling certain chords demonic and Satanic, because they could send some people in trance. If I talk about pre-renaissance music and medieval , please note that the music present here does not contain the typical drone type (we would call them synths layers today) so typical of some instruments. Extensive use of the Krummhorn (once used as a golf club just before a concert) is the main characteristic of the music .

Not over-bearing music , relatively hard to maintain attention to, even when Estampie (clearly the highlight and my prefered track) is playing.

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Review by Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Gryphon's transformation from a band of bona fide "Renaissance Fayre" strolling minstrels into the prog-rock monsters who could share the stage comfortably with prime-era Yes was a powerful thing to behold. Unfortunately for proggers, the very first album by Messrs Harvey, Gulland, Oberle and Taylor has little to commend it in the way of counterpoint, Moog synths and fantasy lyrics. It is nonetheless a beguiling work that would not shame a prog collection.

The tone for this album is set by the lively Kemp's Jig, which sees Gulland establish the presence of the krumhorn (a Renaissance-era curved horn that both Gulland and Harvey, who met at the Royal College of Music, were masters of). Most of the pieces on this romp are either butsling jigs like Kemp's Jig and Estampie or bawdy folk songs like Three Jolly Butchers and Sir Gavin Grimbold which really aren't for everyone.

The main concessions to prog sensibilities are the brief but challenging guitar and recorder duet Touch And Go and The Juniper Suite, which with mandolin, organ, harpsichord, bassoon, recorders, classical guitar and the obligatory crumhorn quartet was a delightful glimpse into Gryphon's subsequent dizzying climb up the prog-rock ladder.

Nothing on the first album however can remotely approach the brilliance of Gryphon's glorious adaptation of the folk ballad The Unquiet Grave. The lilting melody sung by Oberle, the steady build-up of melodic layers (due in no small part to a four-part crumhorn arrangement!), Taylor's achingly beautiful guitar accompaniment and the eerie bassoon and drum "graveyard interlude" all serve to make this among the most cherished pieces of music I own. The tale of a love that transcends death may be centuries old, but it comes graphically alive in Gryphon's hands, and makes this album far more than the curiousity it might otherwise have been. ... 65% on the MPV scale

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Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This magnificent album is VERY acoustic: the miscellaneous childish but complex MEDIEVAL and slightly Celtic textures of string and wind instruments really steal the show here! The music is VERY sophisticated and well synchronized, rather funny and very disciplined. The bassoon and krumhorns make perfect and solid patterns with the acoustic guitars and mandolin. The rare keyboards I have noticed are harpsichord and harmonium if I am correct. There are no bass, and the rare drums are rather replaced by primitive percussions and small bells. There are many not bad lead & backing vocals like Ian Anderson's ones on the "Rover" track: I think this music does not need such vocals, because they negatively contrast with the delicate and graceful textures. I'm completely transported by the fluid, addictive and catchy second part of the more serious "Unquiet Grave" track. There are NO ordinary tracks. The overall style is a bit like Gentle Giant's Talybont track, without the electric guitars. On the next albums, Gryphon add bass, excellent keyboards and more drums, and they are more progressive rock still with many medieval parts.

Rating: 4.5 stars

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Review by NJprogfan
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars This album would not be out of place if you ever went to a Renaissance festival. Pure medival music using old world instruments: bassoons, krumhorn, recorders, mandolin and drums. Lumped in with the folk/prog sect, they are really more folk than prog. One track comes close to prog; "Juniper Suite" it being the longest with several time changes and many instruments used. Most of the songs sung are very nice, except for "Sir Gavin Grimbold" and 'The Devil And The Farmer's Wife". The two are story type songs with humorous lyrics and sung in a bold, silly style. What I like most are the instrumental songs,some haunting ('The Unquiet Grave') and some just plain fun ('Kemp's Jig') with 'Juniper Suite' being the best of the bunch. So, if you like your folk old-style, get this album forthwith, but for all you prog nuts, pass it by. A solid 3 stars nevertheless.

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Review by obiter
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars A complex and enjoyable medieval influenced folk romp. There's plenty of modern interpretation.

Kemp's Jig isn't a jig. Sir Gavin Grimbold heads off on hies horse with his sword, but the horse returns without the brave rider leaving his pregnant wife and mother with a barn to build and the crops to cut ... Johnson the valiant one of three butchers stops to aid a woman's cry only - part of a highywaymen's trap. he stands his grounds and kills 9 of the 10 before the woman takes the knide form his side and stabs him in the back. A hue & cry is rasied and she is taken to Newgate in irons for klling the finest butcher " as ever the sun shone on"

The Unquiet Grave is a tradiitonal song about a young man mourning over the grave of his lost love.

Astrologer: hilarious harlot playing the maid gets her cummupence and the astrolger gets a crown. Hmm not many tracks have three part recorder breaks in them. A medieval Golf Girl. The Devil and the Farmer's Wife exhibits a similar sense of humour.

I love it. One of those albums that's not just great listening but guaranteed to cheer you up.

An excellent additon .....

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Review by kenethlevine
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog-Folk Team
2 stars A relatively short album on time as well as thin in overall material, Gryphon's debut is almost if not entirely acoustic. Like much folk music from the British Isles, this has a timeless air about it, yet when considered in the context of the revival of the late 60s and early 70s, it is actually preceded by a number of superior efforts. For instance, by now Amazing Blondel had released 4 excellent albums which explored much wider themes. They sang better, did not overuse the precious instruments to the same degree, and performed almost entirely their own compositions. Spirogyra, Incredible String Band, Forest, Strawbs and Steeleye Span had all made several albums of consciously ancient sounds by this time. Sure, a lot of them, including Gryphon, would evolve into quite a different beast, but it is Gryphon's eponymous album we are considering here, and it is in no way a pioneering or even a significant piece of work.

What we have is one wave after another of recorders and crumhorns with occasional self conscious vocals performing versions of material better done by others. Stately it often is, but in a contrived, tight lipped sort of way, as if they were being forced to play by some petulant young prince. Even "Estampie" just comes across as the recycled motifs on speed that it is. The best tracks are the first 2, "Kemp's Jig" and "Sir Gavin Grimbold", which pretty much say everything that Gryphon has to say this time around, along with several parts of "Juniper Suite" where the mandolin all too briefly wrests the controls away from the horns. My recommendation would be to seek out the aforementioned groups' efforts from the preceding 5 years. For medieval folk completists only!

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Review by ExittheLemming
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars A Third of the Way to the Court of the Crimson Queen - Hey Nonny No

Although Gentle Giant and Gryphon may appear rather strange bedfellows (and who fancies either cleaning up the feathers afterwards or sitting on the eggs?) they do share some common ground by their use of source materials and derived inspiration i.e both bands have a marked fondness for utilizing the musical vocabulary of ye olde english folk musick. This includes the madrigals, jigs, chansons and motets that were considered the fab and groovy preserve of the 'longhairs' circa the swinging Elizabethan era. For Emerson, Lake and Palmer read Dowland, Bull & Byrd. Where the two groups differ however, is that while GG use such devices as a departure point for their own progressive writing, Gryphon adhere much more faithfully to the original forms and are more concerned with providing a contemporary flavor to these ancient recipes.

As far as I can tell, most of the pieces on Gryphon's 1973 debut are in the time honored 'trad-arr' format, and it is worth pointing out that you ain't going to hear any blues licks, shuffle beats or electronic freakouts on this record, as these are authentic renditions of some very old and traditional medieval folk tunes.

With this in mind, Gryphon have elected to exploit a wide variety of 'period' instrumentation to show these pieces off to best effect and we are regaled by the very quaint and occasionally unnerving timbres of tudor bassoons, krumhorn, 'wheezy' harmonium, mandolin and recorder. All the players appear to be masters of their chosen 'weapons' and the playing is commensurately superb throughout. The contemporary elements are adroitly subtle and arrive courtesy of bass guitar, piano, organ and percussion.

Special praise must go to the drummer David Oberle, who has sensibly resisted the temptation to lay down a rock kit beat beneath any of these tracks and instead opts for mostly tom driven accents and flourishes at the appropriate climactic points which imbues his contribution as that of an orchestral player's approach in an orchestra.

Such is the thematic wholeness and atmosphere that pervades this whole document, it would be inappropriate to go through each track separately but for what it's worth I think 'Pastime With Good Company' was written by that infamous tubby Monarch addicted to wedding cake (Henry VIII) and No, 'Touch & Go' is NOT the original fanfare that appears on ELPowell's album.

Those tunes that have lyrics and are sung do unfortunately get delivered in a rather affected 'a wandering minstrel I' verbiage so beloved of folk singers in tights and codpieces since the dawn of....Ian Anderson (and why do they wink at you all the time?)

Despite these misgivings, there is much to enjoy here and I for one found this a welcome breath of fresh air from my usual bristling listening material. I suppose the ripe question that some may ask after hearing this is:

- Yeah that's nice, but is it prog(y) at all? -

Although most of you will probably offer an unhesitating 'No' at this point, this record's main interest to me was how the band who recorded the subsequent 'Red Queen to Gryphon 3' arrived at that point, and for that alone, this album is a fascinating insight to the gestation of one of Prog's most enduring masterpieces.

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Review by SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Symphonic Team
1 stars This debut album by Gryphon is basically pure medieval Folk music. Several compositions are traditional. While it is probably the case that they aimed this release at a rock and pop audience, there is not any rock at all in it. As I said, this is pure medieval Folk music played on primarily acoustic instruments. The music is cheerful and, I would say, a bit shallow. It lacks substance and depth.

By 1973 there were many other groups who had recorded new versions of traditional material, or original material with a folky sound, somewhat similar to this. Amazing Blondel and Magna Carta are two examples. And while there is no doubt about Gryphon's instrumental prowess, these other groups' music is much more pleasant on the ear than this. Gryphon was neither really groundbreaking nor very enjoyable.

Not really my cup of tea, I'm afraid. Only for completionists and people with a special interest in medieval music.

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Review by Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Errors and Omissions Team
3 stars I rarely agree completely with especial review, but here, this "chosen one" is Sean Trane's (Hugues) one. With this acoustic piece, I feel like on some kind of medieva fair. It's cheerful music (not dull, void and empty by any chance, as some of these renaissance things tends to be). The most progressive one would probably be Estample, but take this as a one eye king amongst the blind. However, I like it, as I'm on this kind of music. Crossing the Styles is similar to "Clap" by Yes.

3(-), because that's my rating for music that's not so much prog, but I like it. Still, far more folk than prog.

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Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams
3 stars I wouldn't really call this a progressive rock or progressive folk album. It is mostly an attempt, mostly successful, to recreate medeival music. There is also an attempt to use traditional instrumentation when possible. And while I enjoy this album quite a bit, I must admit that I never would have been interested in it had it not been for Gryphon's subsequent albums, where they used this type of music as a launching point to create some beautiful progressive rock/folk.

While this music may not be for everyone, it provides a fine but light listen, and should certainly be of interest to an early music fan.

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Review by progpositivity
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars This album is excellently recorded and well performed. The music is interesting, and even historically educational. It is also, however, primarily of interest to Gryphon fans in particular and appreciators of Renaissance and Medieval art folk music in general. Period instruments are used to convincingly recreate the music of this age, but there is precious little "rock" to be found here.

Many scholarly groups performing medieval and renaissance songs unwittingly strip them of their vitality by presenting them in an overly elegant, polished and refined manner. Although Gryphon plays their instruments well, there remains a certain lively jig in their step that works in concert with a vocal style that I will only described as 'rough around the edges'. The end result is a "sound" that is convincingly reminiscent of the period in which this style of music was originally performed.

Once again, I'd like to stress that there is nothing "wrong" with this album. As a historical recreation of the folk music of long ago, I personally rate it rather highly. But not as a "Prog Rock" album. For a Prog Rating, I must give it a "2".

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Review by Menswear
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars THE ultimate medieval album.

Move over Gentle Giant, Gryphon is the supreme medieval band in the very hard world of entertainment. I know many Middle Earth fans that should get this and play it in their conventions. How come this band is not a cult band? I shake my head with grief, Gryphon hasn't the recognition it should have.

You close your eyes and you are there: the muddy streets, the tuberculosis, the toothless women, the smell of feces and carbonized meat, the life expectancy of 25 and of course, the band in the corner playing a farandole to the joy of the market place.

Come on good people, grab a pint and be amazed of how skilled these men are. They are the absolute high priest of shredding unplugged instruments. Better instrumentists than Yes or Gentle Giant, and just saying that is like unbelievable.

What if Yngwie Malmsteen picked up the recorder instead? You'd have Gryphon.

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Review by ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
1 stars I have reviewed quite a bunch of "prog" folk albums on this site. But to be honest, I prefer the prog side of some bands from this category (Elfonia, Iona, Karnataka, The Decemberists, and Mostly Autumn) than the folk of others (Amazing Blondel, Los Jaivas, Blackmore's Night?).

In other words, I am not a purist. And this album is really hard to digest if you ever want to discover some prog in here. This is pure medieval English folk. It might maybe be fun during an all English student party ("Three Jolly Butchers"); but for the ones alien to this culture; I am not as positive.

I can hardly find one pleasant song to my ears on this album. I guess that the music would have be pleasant while being played at the court of king Henry VIII. But I don't belong to these times.

My favorite track is the short and acoustic guitar oriented "Crossing The Stiles". Hundred fifty seconds? One star if you are prog oriented (like I am), two to three stars if English medieval stuff can fill your appetite.

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Review by Tom Ozric
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars GRYPHON's debut album from 1973, graced with a superb artwork by Dan Pearce, offers a charming journey back to Medeival times, yet remains a fantastic relic from the 70's Prog-Folk boom. The musicians here definately know how to play their instruments - crumhorns, bassoons, recorders, guitars, harmonium, organ, harpsichord, percussion etc. and they definately progressed from album to album, honing their instrumental and compositional skills furthermore as well as turning more 'electric' and symphonic. Understandably, this album gets mixed reactions from many, it's mainly based on traditional renaissance compositions (only 3 out of 12 tunes here are credited to the band or members), but executed with a sort of modern technical finesse, placing it firmly amongst the 'Progressive' world of music. Eccentricities are offered up in droves - the character of the vocal delivery by the percussionist Dave Oberle singing from the amusing texts, or be it the quirky instrumental jigs and arrangements, there's always a light-hearted appeal to what these guys are doing. And they do it well. From side one's opening crumhorn of Kemp's Jig, with a mournful stop by 'The Unquiet Grave', to the 2nd side's Estampie, featuring Richard Harvey's virtuosic recorder work, the band written Juniper Suite, suggesting what was to come on their next release, finally closing with the bonk of a teapot on the humour filled 'The Devil and the Farmer's Wife', this album is a beauty. I'm not a big fan of folk music, but this one fills my cup, may it fill yours too. 5 stars.

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

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

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

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

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

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Review by siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR PSIKE Team
4 stars GRYPHON was formed in the early 70s when the two Royal College of Music graduates Richard Harvey (recorders, crumhorns, keyboards, guitar, mandolin) and Brian Gulland (bassoon, crumhorns, recorders, keyboards, vocals) met. The two were extremely interested in English folk music, Renaissance music and everything medieval. This academic passion for the music of centuries gone by soon caught the attention of fellow musicians Dave Oberlé (drums, percussion, vocals) and Graeme Taylor (guitars, keyboards, recorder, vocals) who would soon join them to create some serious retro music with a modern day rock energy flair. Soon after this musical union, the band recorded a whole bunch of traditionals dating all the way back to King Henry VIII and caught the attention of Transatlantic Records which released their eponymous debut album in 1973.

While GRYPHON is best known for their unique mix of progressive rock and medieval folk instrumentation on their highly acclaimed "Red Queen To Gryphon Three," on this debut they were in full retro English folk and Renaissance mode staying very faithful to the original compositions on board here. Almost everything on the album is acoustic and heavy use of recorders, crumhorns and bassoon gives a most genuine period feel that instantly puts you in the time of the Tudor's and everything 1500s. The track "Pastime With Good Company" was written by King Henry VIII himself and is perhaps the most famous of the lot. The Dan Pearce fantasy album cover depicting the legendary GRYPHON, the most powerful and majestic creature ever to have lived guarding the treasures is the perfect symbology of the band's approach keepers of the medieval musical treasures that they have resurrected.

I can understand why many prog rock lovers will not find this one appealing. There is absolutely nothing modern or rock on this debut except for, of course, the recording and production techniques. All instruments and tracks are period correct and quite faithfully performed to evoke that good old Renaissance feel, however there is definitely an infusion of modern day rock energy incorporated into this track list of oldies but goodies. The drumming patterns are very energetic and what little interpretations of Renaissance music i have heard to not even come close to the quality of the music on this album. Progressive folk this is without any rock whatsoever but starting with the second album "Midnight Mushrumps," GRYPHON would begin adding rock elements into their retro folk sound. For this debut, however, we get one full-on Medieval folk album that transports you into the world where Shakespeare and English Madrigal Schools flourished. Personally i find this one to be quite the interesting listen heightening my musical and historical sensibilities in tandem. I have never heard anything like this and find GRYPHON to be a sadly underappeciated musical force.

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Latest members reviews

4 stars This is very authentic. It's hardcore medieval music at its best! If that kind of music ever interested you, then it's worth checking this stuff out. Gryphon took the genre and made it sound genuine, fresh and full of energy. There are no electric guitars, synthesizers or production tricks on thi ... (read more)

Report this review (#450576) | Posted by Frankie Flowers | Saturday, May 21, 2011 | Review Permanlink

3 stars 3.5 stars if I could. Gryphon's debut contains mostly rearranged traditional pieces (some from the 1400s or before), such as "Kemp's Jig", with a few by the band itself, such as "Touch and Go". This album is the epitome of early folk music, with heavy emphasis on the double reed instruments -- ... (read more)

Report this review (#230854) | Posted by Concentration Moon | Monday, August 10, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I really like this little album. Much better than the overrated 'Red Queen to Gryphon Three'. I guess that's because I like mediaeval instruments. This one is very ancient sounding - in a good authentic way - played with lots of unusual instruments including their famous 'Krumhorn'. I can't beli ... (read more)

Report this review (#208851) | Posted by Dobermensch | Thursday, March 26, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars The first work released in 1973 "Gryphon". It is a content "Ancient music lock" exactly as the sound it in the Middle Ages. It is an extremely unique, avant-garde work. It has a simple throb feeling. It tried to make it escape from music from the world where "Classics music" is formal, and to ... (read more)

Report this review (#60363) | Posted by braindamage | Thursday, December 15, 2005 | Review Permanlink

2 stars It's very nice. and too much « obsolete ». Maybe it's a non-essential item for those who have yet their « prog folk » masterpieces, but this could be a good place to start if you're not familiar with medieval music. From a prog fan point of view, I think it's not very interesting, because it i ... (read more)

Report this review (#44226) | Posted by miedj | Thursday, August 25, 2005 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Very classical, very folk, very medieval... At least on this 12 tracks Gryphon musicians seems to have real fun and you can hear it in every song. "Estampie" and "The Unquiet Grave" are the best songs of this recordings who reminds me an old and comfortable english tabern with some touches of ... (read more)

Report this review (#40323) | Posted by progadicto | Monday, July 25, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I would recommend this album - and any other by Gryphon, for that matter - very highly to anyone intrerested in English progressive rock, not necessarily because it is so progressive, but for the same reason I would recommend Anthony Phillips' music, which is also mainly acoustic. The key is E ... (read more)

Report this review (#2978) | Posted by EMinkovitch | Thursday, August 05, 2004 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This is a very difficult album to rate in this archives. From a prog fan point of view, I suppose it's not very interesting, because it is mainly an acoustic medieval folk album. So I suggest better skipping it and getting 'Red Queen to Gryphon Three'. But, on the other hand, it is very enjoyable fo ... (read more)

Report this review (#2976) | Posted by Paco Fox | Wednesday, February 11, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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