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Prog Folk • United Kingdom

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Gryphon biography
Founded in 1973 - Disbanded in 1977 - One-off reunion in 2009 - Reformed in 2015

GRYPHON was founded by Richard HARVEY (recorder, keys) and Brian GULLAND (bassoon, krumhorn) after a stint at the Royal Acadamy of Music in 1973. They shared a vision of blending traditional English folk, Baroque instrumentation and Renaissance music in a modern format. The compositions resemble those of Gentle Giant but give greater emphasis to the authentic textures and sounds of the Renaissance period.

Harvey and Gulland were joined in 1973 by Graeme TAYLOR on guitar and singer/percussionist David OBERLE for their all-acoustic first album 'Gryphon'. Bassist Philip NESTOR was added to the line up in 1974 for their second effort 'Midnight Mushrumps', which featured an increased number of original compositions and leanings in a rock direction. Later that year their classic 'Red Queen to Gryphon Three' was released and has become a prog rock staple with its longer, somewhat more symphonic arrangements and courtly instrumental rock. The mid-1970s brought big changes to the band with new bass player Malcom BENNET taking over for Nestor. In 1977, guitarist Graeme Taylor left to be replaced by Bob FOSTER, bassist Jonathan DAVIE replaced Bennett, and Oberle switched to lead voice with Alex BAIRED taking over on drums. Tim SEBASTIAN was also brought in as a lyricist to complete the ever-growing unit. 'Raindance' was released in 1975 and 'Treason' in '77, establishing GRYPHON as a top-notch prog rock act.

With a seamless fusion of British folk and medieval rock, GRYPHON developed a strong sound all their own and a loyal following.

-- Atavachron (David) --

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Gryphon 2018
$12.38 (used)
Raindances: Transatlantic Recordings 1973-1975Raindances: Transatlantic Recordings 1973-1975
Esoteric 2018
$12.22 (used)
Red Queen to Gryphon ThreeRed Queen to Gryphon Three
Shirty Records 2016
$10.63 (used)
Midnight MushrumpsMidnight Mushrumps
Talking Elephant 2016
$10.98 (used)
Red Queen to Gryphon Three/RaindanceRed Queen to Gryphon Three/Raindance
$12.16 (used)
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GRYPHON discography

Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help to complete the discography and add albums

GRYPHON top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.33 | 202 ratings
3.70 | 218 ratings
Midnight Mushrumps
4.16 | 588 ratings
Red Queen To Gryphon Three
3.27 | 193 ratings
3.48 | 137 ratings
3.92 | 53 ratings

GRYPHON Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

1.79 | 10 ratings
3.10 | 21 ratings
About as Curious as It Can Be
3.43 | 19 ratings
Glastonbury Carol

GRYPHON Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

GRYPHON Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.92 | 5 ratings
The Collection
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Collection II
4.07 | 14 ratings
Gryphon & Midnight Mushrumps
4.26 | 22 ratings
Red Queen To Gryphon Three & Raindance
3.20 | 7 ratings
Crossing the Styles - The Transatlantic Anthology

GRYPHON Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.67 | 3 ratings
Spring Song


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Red Queen To Gryphon Three by GRYPHON album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.16 | 588 ratings

Red Queen To Gryphon Three
Gryphon Prog Folk

Review by Chaser

5 stars Good things come in threes! In the case of Gryphon's third album, "Red Queen to Gryphon Three", great things come in threes, because this album is an essential masterpiece of progressive rock music that every prog rock fan should own.

Why is it so essential? Because this album successfully achieves the fusion of medieval folk and progressive rock in a way that few other albums ever have.

The Gryphon journey is one from almost pure folk on their self titled debut, to pop rock on their fifth album "Treason", but, in truth, they were at their best when they combined these two influences, and nowhere did they achieve this so completely and successfully as on this album.

The album also achieves a level of consistently high quality across all four pieces on the album.

Other Gryphon albums tend to have at least a few weaker tracks, but here nothing is weak, all of the pieces that make up the album are brilliantly conceived and executed with the highest standard of musicianship.

The theme of the album is ostensibly based on a game of chess, and I have heard people say that they haven't listened to the album because they're not interested in chess! Really the chess theme is nothing more than incidental to the album and, whilst I do like chess, the album could really be about anything and you certainly don't have to be a fan of chess to enjoy it.

The other great advantage of this album is that it is entirely instrumental. I have always thought that vocals were not Gryphon's strong suit, so their absence on this album is all to the good.

To be able to successfully combine crumhorns, bassoons, flutes, synths, and electric guitars, to create a work of art that sounds both at the same time medieval and modern is no mean feat, but Gryphon pull it off in style in this album.

All of the musicians are superb on this album, but special mention should go to Richard Harvey who is, for my money, one of the best exponents of the flute that I have had the pleasure of listening to. His soaring, lilting flute on the closer "Checkmate" is simply joyous.

A wonderfully uplifting album that achieves everything that it sets out to achieve and is unquestionably a landmark in medieval folk prog fusion. This album absolutely shows how it should be done and no serious prog rock fan should be without it in their collection. A masterpiece of the genre.

 Midnight Mushrumps by GRYPHON album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.70 | 218 ratings

Midnight Mushrumps
Gryphon Prog Folk

Review by Chaser

4 stars The second album from medieval folk prog specialists Gryphon exhibits a sound that is maturing and becoming more sophisticated, as the band take the compositional standard of their work up a significant notch and begin to take their music beyond straight folk and into more progressive territory.

There are two stand out tracks on this album and they are the opener and title track "Midnight Mushrumps", and the closer "Ethelion".

"Midnight Mushrumps" demonstrates the considerable orchestral compositional skills of Richard Harvey with a beautiful piece of music that builds softly and slowly and rises to a crescendo of medieval musical wonder full of crumhorns and bassoon, before softening to the gently lilting flute of Harvey. A wonderful piece of music.

"The Plough Boys Dream" is more in the style of the pure folk found on Gryphon's debut album, but is a nice enough piece, even if not particularly special.

"The Last Flash of Gaberdine" is a well constructed piece in a typically medieval folk style. "Gulland Rock" has some nice guitar work by Graeme Taylor, and "Dubbel Dutch" is a pleasantly meandering piece of medieval style folk.

But Gryphon save the best until last on this album with the final track and show stopper "Ethelion".

There is a playful side to the band in every album, which can be hit and miss, but on this track it's definitely a hit as the band's impromptu studio tickling attack on Brian Gulland becomes the maniacally comical opening to the track.

All the musicians come together brilliantly for this track as the medieval sounds evolve into a wonderfully stirring hook played on numerous instruments. Crumhorn leads us into guitar, followed by Richard Harvey's beautifully dulcet flute given harmony by Brian Gulland on the tenor recorder. The track swells and grows into a thing of beauty and majesty and you feel that don't want it to end, but sadly it does.

Ethelion is possibly the best track that Gryphon ever produced, and this album is a wonderful exhibition of sophisticated medieval folk prog at its best.

 Gryphon by GRYPHON album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.33 | 202 ratings

Gryphon Prog Folk

Review by Chaser

3 stars Gryphon are such a unique band that, if you have any interest in medieval and renaissance music, and, especially, in how it can be incorporated into progressive rock, then they are essential listening.

The Gryphon journey is very much a journey from pure medieval folk on this their debut album to a much more mainstream pop/rock sound on their final album "Treason", before their forty year hiatus saw them rise, phoenix like from the flames, to release ReInvention in 2018. I would not recommend a prog rock fan unfamiliar with Gryphon to start with this album. It is almost pure folk and may put a rock fan off the band completely.

Prog rock fans new to Gryphon should start with their classic third album Red Queen to Gryphon Three, and then work forwards or backwards, depending on their taste for more of the folk sound or more of the pop/rock sound.

The musicianship on the debut album is excellent with plenty of bassoon and crumhorn to excite the medieval folk enthusiast. Brian Gulland is excellent on bassoon and crumhorn, and Richard Harvey is one of the best flute players you are likely to hear. Backed up by David Oberle on vocals and percussion and the excellent Graeme Taylor on guitar and keys, this is a highly accomplished group of musicians.

The album has a number of interesting medieval folk numbers, especially "Kemp's Jig", "The Unquiet Grave", and a rendition of of a piece written by Henry VIII, entitled "Pastime with Good Company".

These tracks are good enough, but there is only one really outstanding track on this album, and that is "Juniper Suite", a track soaked in heavy crumhorns, and lightened by beautiful guitar work from Taylor and Harvey. A piece that totally transports you back to the court of King Henry VIII. Majestic in its pomp and beauty.

Unfortunately some pieces feel a bit lightweight, such as the fun and frivolous "Three Jolly Butchers" and "Sir Gavin Grimbold", and the album finishes with the playful, if possibly somewhat misogynistic, "The Devil and the Farmer's Wife".

Gryphon have a fun side to them which is evident throughout their albums and which can be hit and miss, but this album should have finished on a high with "Juniper Suite" and not with the somewhat puerile closer.

Better things were to come from Gryphon, but this album is certainly recommended to those who have already listened to and enjoyed the albums that follow this one. Three stars.

 ReInvention by GRYPHON album cover Studio Album, 2018
3.92 | 53 ratings

Gryphon Prog Folk

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator 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!!!!

 Treason by GRYPHON album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.48 | 137 ratings

Gryphon Prog Folk

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars GRYPHON was one of prog rock's most restless characters during their initial seven year run. All within the span of five albums released during the 70s, they managed to develop not just one style of playing but in reality they cranked out three distinct musical sounds that they could call their own! The band emerged as a unique medieval Renaissance folk revival band which stood out like a sore thumb even amongst the fertile creative early years of the 70s when it seemed everything experimental was en vogue and GRYPHON developed their retro folk of centuries gone by perfectly. However they would soon catch a prog bug, end up touring with Yes and then honed their skills to craft one of prog's most unique albums of the 70s with their landmark "Red Queen To Gryphon Three." Having apparently been happy enough with one glorious proggy album of that caliber, they switched gears again and started honing their progressive art pop skills which started out on the awkward transition album "Raindance" and finally realized on their fifth and final album of their early years TREASON.

After "Raindance," the band experienced a complete upheaval as three of the five members departed and after all was said and done, guitarist Graeme Taylor was replaced by Bob Foster, bassist Malcolm Markovich was replaced by Jonathon Davie and drummer David Oberlé by Alex Baird. And with the departure of two of the founding members, so too did almost all of the folk aspects of the early years exit stage left. TREASON represents what was supposed to be a whole new chapter in the GRYPHON saga as they adapted to the ever changing world of less proggy tracks that were shorter and more mainstream, however in reality they are anything but as TREASON packs in quite a few punches of over-the-top time signature workouts and compositional fortitude that would please any hardened progger. However, TREASON does deliver more streamlined tracks that diminish the pomp and awe excess and create easier to follow tracks even if within them they pack a few prog punches. This is also the most vocal oriented of the five original GRYPHON albums with Oberlé taking the mic and doing his best Jon Anderson as Yes provided once again the main inspiration.

While "Raindance" seemed more like a grab bag of disparate leftover tracks and had no continuity between the nine tracks, TREASON on the other hand exudes its own character. Gone are the medieval crumhorn squawks but the band successfully integrates the English horn and bassoon from previous incarnations into their decidedly austere progressive art pop. If you ask me, TREASON sounds a lot like a more Yes inspired Caravan. This album has cleverly crafted pop hooks and Pye Hastings meets Jon Anderson type vocals. Bob Foster, the new guitarist in town, obviously worshiped Mr. Steve Howe and his guitar style emulates the best moments on "Close To The Edge" as well as the earlier more melodic Yes moments. All in all, the album is composed of seven catchy tracks that exhibit strong hooks, somewhat traditional pop compositional form and contains elements of progressive rock, funk and jazz, albeit more tightly woven together than the previous album. With TREASON, the band had successfully transmogrified once again into a completely different band and pulls it off reasonably well.

The Yes influences have never been more apparent beginning with the opener "Spring Song" which takes that famous "Close To The Edge" sort of groove and adds a little funk with some dramatic keyboard stabs for emphasis. This ten minute opener is by far the most proggy track on board but overall comes across as a post-Relayer type of Yes, more like "Tormato" than the "Close To The Edge" riffing style that the track exudes with bravado. It also has a key rich melodic line that echoes a late 70s connection with bands like Styx and Supertramp but in the end sounds like neither. The rest of the tracks remain shorter with only one barely extending past the five minute mark but somehow GRYPHON retains a kernel of their former selves within each art pop oriented creation.

Out of all the GRYPHON albums, TREASON is the one that i've wafered back and forth over. The first time i heard this i was floored and thought it was their best album but the second time i hated it and thought it was their worst. I've had to let this album simmer down and check it out in various moods and then ultimately accept it for what it is outside the context of what came before. Ultimately i'm quite taken with the art pop on display on TREASON. There have been many claims that TREASON is GRYPHON's "Abbey Road," that meaning a final chapter of a band's history that does nothing but deliver strong catchy vocal oriented songs that grab you by the heart rather than dazzle you with instrumental workouts. And that's exactly what this one does. The Yes inspired aspects embedded within progressive pop hook laden compositions is quite a decent formula and had GRYPHON not released this in the very year when The Sex Pistols changed the entire musical paradigm of popular music then perhaps they could've evolved this sound into the 80s and have produced elegant art pop hits much in the vein of both Yes and Genesis. That was, however, not their destiny and after TREASON the band would call it a day and not release another album for forty years. Ultimately TREASON has won me over despite a preference for a return to the "Red Queen" days.

 Raindance by GRYPHON album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.27 | 193 ratings

Gryphon Prog Folk

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

3 stars The London based GRYPHON had had a wild ride since they emerged in the early 70s as the world's best known medieval Renaissance folk revival band when they made a splash with their eponymous debut in 1973, but the band quickly caught the prog bug and on their followup "Midnight Mushrumps" they had begun to incorporate more challenging progressive rock elements which, after touring with Yes, had blossomed into the heights of holy progginess on their landmark masterpiece "Red Queen To Gryphon Three" only the following year. The band had evolved quickly into one of the classic prog bands of the mid-70s but just as quickly as they ascended to the promised proggy lands, as quickly did they fall from grace and fade into irrelevance. The band spent 1974-75 touring with Yes in support of "Red Queen To Gryphon Three" but perhaps the prog bug that they caught so quickly failed to yield the desired success that fellow bands like Yes were finding.

With the release of their fourth album RAINDANCE, the band would dampen their progressive ambitions and release a more streamlined album of eight shorter tracks and only one longer prog behemoth in the form of the instrumental "(Ein Klein) Heldenleben" that would resemble the ambitiousness experienced on "Red Queen." While "Red Queen" was unified by a concept thus allowing all the tracks to connect, RAINDANCE is a very random assortment of tracks that don't sound like they belong together and in the end sounds more like an archival release of unreleased material rather than a proper followup. Given that Graeme Taylor, Malcolm Markovich and David Oberlé left soon after this was released, it most likely meant the band's chemistry had fallen into a slump and that the honeymoon was over. While there is no doubt that the music on RAINDANCE could have come from no other band than GRYPHON, somehow the passion had been tamped down as well as the ambitiousness of the grandeur of yesteryears.

As the prog years were quickly waning, it seems GRYPHON like many others were trying to simplify their music in order to cash in before the complete upheaval that the punk years would bring. Right from the very first notes of "Down The Dog" it's apparent that RAINDANCE would be no "Red Queen II" as it begins with a jazz-fusion oriented funky bass line with a Fender Rhodes sounding more like Herbie Hancock's funk jazz "Headhunter" days than GRYPHON's previous works. While the folk instrumentation does kick in with the recorder, flute and subdued occasional crumhorn, the track is clearly more straightforward and pop oriented than anything that came before. The track doesn't even hit the three minute mark and then followed by the completely different title track which sounds more like a Tangerine Dream progressive electronic track. Had GRYPHON collectively found themselves with a case of musical amnesia and forgotten who they were? Now it seems they want to copy whoever else was popular at the time instead of crafting their own brilliant slice of progressive rock mixed with medieval folk.

While the first two tracks are hardly bad and the title track actually quite interesting, the instrumental pair cede to one of the most out of place tracks on the entire album as a cover version of The Beatles' classic "Mother Nature's Son" is done GRYPHON style complete with the crumhorn to accent the syncopated beats. While not badly done per se, this track completely deflates any expectations of a brilliant album experience as performed on the band's first three releases. The album only becomes more disjointed as the GRYPHON created "'Le Cambrioleur Est Dans le Mouchoir" sounds like one of those show tune pieces that Paul McCartney came up with on The Beatles' albums as well as sounding like a drunken Ringo Starr. The band utilize the folk instruments and once again and although i can't say this is bad, it is nevertheless a head scratching moment as the tracks zigzag randomly all over the place.

Same goes for the next instrumental "Ormolu" which delivers a mere one minute track that sounds like it may have been a leftover from the "Midnight Mushrumps" days as it's more medieval folk than rock. "Fontinental Vision" is another soft rock vocal track that goes through a variety of moods and isn't a bad track either but sounds unlike anything on this album or any other from the band. It's kind of a silly track actually with alterations between mellow serious parts and harder comedic moments with a few progressive time signature changes and a bombastic Minimoog outburst at the end. "Wallbanger" and "Don't Say Go" end the shorter tracks with a rather mediocre delivery before the best track of the album closes in the form of "(Ein Klein) Heldenleben" which is a sixteen minute instrumental that is on par in quality with anything from "Red Queen." THIS is the followup everyone wanted and the fact that this track is tacked on to the end only makes the rest of the album sound inferior! The closing track wends and winds through the familiar soundscapes of the most progressive aspects of GRYPHON with all the brilliant musical interplay they displayed at their peak.

It's really no wonder that this album wasn't (and still isn't) well received. It's a true let down and a major departure from the brilliance of their first three album run. This signifies a band that had truly lost their momentum and were tumbling from grace but to be honest, there are really no bad songs on here if you simply accept this as an album of nine distinctly individual tracks. Throw away the idea of a unified concept album and think of this as a collection of bonus tracks and it's all quite pleasant indeed. Despite the dumbing down of the formula, GRYPHON found no major crossover appeal and as a result three of the members would jump ship. The band would continue with new members and conjure up their final album "Treason" two years later before disbanding, but by the sound of RAINDANCE, it seems the spirit of the band had already jumped on their big winged mascot and flown away for good. This is a decent album but not essential by any means but "(Ein Klein) Heldenleben" is well worth the price of admission for hardcore GRYPHON fans.

 Red Queen To Gryphon Three by GRYPHON album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.16 | 588 ratings

Red Queen To Gryphon Three
Gryphon Prog Folk

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

5 stars GRYPHON was one the more unique bands to have emerged from the classic prog era of the 1970s. While initially dazzling audiences on their self-titled debut with their neo-medieval folk revival that sounded like it was recorded in the days of Henry VIII and one of the few acts of the era who dabbled with the use of bassoon, crumhorns and recorders in a progressive context, the band began to add rock instrumentation on their second album "Midnight Mushrumps" which got them noticed in prog rock circles. While the debut was completely devoid of rock elements and completely emerged in unadulterated medieval folk, the sophomore album added elements of progressive rock which dabbled rather equally in both arenas but it wasn't until a tour with Yes, that this London based quintet would really open the floodgates on the progressive rock side of the equation and let out the most lauded album of their career RED QUEEN TO GRYPHON THREE.

These were busy times for GRYPHON and this third offering was actually the second album in the year 1974 and shows the band maturing significantly over what had come before. Not only are the progressive aspects turned up to eleven but the album displays the full pomp and awe of the peak years of prog with a lofty concept album about playing the game of chess laid out in four tracks ranging from the eight to eleven minute timespan. RED QUEEN TO GRYPHON THREE mastered the art of hybridization of musical genres as it successfully integrated the medieval folk of their previous two albums in the context of progressive rock intricacies such as brutal time signature workouts that also incorporated English folk, Baroque and progressive rock that were laid out in a typical classical musical formula where the moods alternate and recurring melodies wax and wane with unfaltering brilliant resolution.

Like a good chess game, the all-instrumental RED QUEEN TO GRYPHON THREE evokes the mood of a strategic set of thought processes in competition as the medieval Renaissance, English folk and progressive rock aspects seem to make their moves and allows the other genre swings to adapt to the motifs offered only instead of simply copying each other in an identical fashion, the different styles stay in character and allow a unifying, yet distinct dramatic set of events to unfold. Understanding the Yes connection makes it easier to pick out some of the time signature bombast that GRYPHON unleash on this album as they not only chug along with off-kilter time signatures like a "Relayer" album on steroids during the heavier rock parts of RED QUEEN TO GRYPHON THREE but they also find a way to create a harsh tension even in the most subdued and airy moments of the album.

The four tracks are titled in relation to the moods they set during this thirty-eight and a half minute soundtrack to the ancient game believe to have originated in India. "Opening Move" provides an airy introduction to the progressive medieval folk aspects and then begins to shape shift into the more progressive rock and as "Second Spasm" gets under way, the mood is more aggressive as if the battle has begun while a rather heavy rhythm section displays a new aspect of GRYPHON absent on their earlier works, namely a harder rock approach in their delivery. "Lament" is more contemplative as it seems unsure how to proceed with different musical moods alternating in an almost seemingly random manner much like the middle of a chess game can offer the frustrations of the complexities at hand. "Checkmate" is the dramatic ending that offers the most progressive rock track with Richard Harvey showing off some amazing classical piano and organ chops as well as Graeme Taylor's guitars following suit.

RED QUEEN TO GRYPHON THREE is by far the best of GRYPHON's initial five album run. It is not only the most complex and most interesting but also ranks as one of the most distinct sounding examples of the entire classic prog era. Nobody else dared to include such wild instrumentation as recorders and crumhorns into their rock paradigm. The musicianship on this album is impeccable with the five main musicians and two session musicians in perfect unison as they create an intricate network of difficult music that in the end still comes off as lighthearted and totally uplifting. There's something about the Medieval Renaissance folk that just makes this very special. The tracks are dramatically paced with softer passages allowing the proper emotional developments to build while the more bombastic faster tempos allow a fully satisfying crescendo to bring it all to a close. This is indeed complex music despite that it's somewhat easy on the ears. This is one of prog's greatest moments as GRYPHON hit their stride but woefully the band would fall from grace after this one and become irrelevant in a very short time. For this one, however, they will be remembered for time immemorial.

 Raindance by GRYPHON album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.27 | 193 ratings

Gryphon Prog Folk

Review by Walkscore

4 stars Gryphon becomes a (progressive) rock band.

This is the album where Gryphon morphs from playing progressive medieval music while using both medieval and modern instruments, to a rock band playing progressive rock that also includes medieval instruments. As other reviewers have noted, the album contains a mix of styles, and if nothing else, this presents issues of flow and continuity. Thus, while everything on 'Red Queen to Gryphon Three' was written in the same eclectic progressive-medieval style and flows exceptionally well from track to track (and from section to section within the tracks), on this album the transitions can feel jarring and certain tracks sound very out of place. Saying this, the underlying music is still quite good. The best track here (competing for the best track in their entire catalogue) is the 16-minute "(Ein Klein) Heldenleben". This is the track that provides the most continuity with 'Red Queen', with a very similar compositional style and sound. It is more structured around the rock instruments though (with prominent electric guitar solos, etc) than the medieval instruments, although the latter are still all present and sections of the piece definitely get back into the medieval sound. This is an awesome 5-star piece, and takes up more than a third of the album. The only other two tracks that have a medieval feel are "Le Cambrioleur est dans le Mouchoir" and "Wallbanger" but even these are more 'modern' than medieval, and both are brief. The rest of the tracks are a different story. Indeed, no one versed in the first three albums would probably even recognize the rest as Gryphon - they are very much of various rock genres. "Don't Say Go" is totally Canterbury-flavoured rock, and very catchy, much like Caravan, but I like it. "Down the Dog" and "Ormolu" have a Gentle Giant feel (not at all medieval), while "Fontinental Version" sounds (to me) a bit like the last track on the Quiet Sun album (thus also a bit of a Canterbury flavour, although less so than 'Dont Say Go'). The title track, "Raindance" should have been the last track on the album - it is basically just a mellow outro. Indeed, when I made up the tape of this album, I re-arranged the tunes, with (Ein Klein) Heldenleben first, and Raindance last. I think the album works better in that order. Actually, I would say that the order of the tracks on the original album is one reason why the transitions are jarring for the listener, and perhaps why this album gets some poor reviews. This is easily fixed with a bit of re-arranging. The only track I don't like here is the cover version of the Beatles' "Mother Nature's Son" - it feels too out of place, and there is no better order for me that includes it. Other than that, I think all the music here is good, and Heldenleden is really excellent and worth the price of the album alone. All together, this gets 8.0 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translates to 4 PA stars.

 Red Queen To Gryphon Three by GRYPHON album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.16 | 588 ratings

Red Queen To Gryphon Three
Gryphon Prog Folk

Review by Walkscore

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.

 Midnight Mushrumps by GRYPHON album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.70 | 218 ratings

Midnight Mushrumps
Gryphon Prog Folk

Review by Walkscore

3 stars An original and musical evolution.

Evolving from their debut medieval cover album, Gryphon here offer a new and original vision. While not yet as outstanding as their third album would be, this sees the band take the original impetus for reproducing medieval English music and use it to establish their own voice, stake out their territory. And they do it well. There is not a bad track on this album, and many of the tracks here are on the same, or better, level as the best track on their debt ("Juniper Suite"). The standout track on this album is the long epic title track "Midnight Mushrumps". While some find it slow and fragmented, and in fact this is true, it is nonetheless very musical. It takes its time to get where it needs to go, and sets out a number of very musical melodies, mixing piano, organ, acoustic guitars, and even some great dissonance. A very satisfying experience. I really like how more of the tracks (including a number of sections of the long epic) here move in an out of minor keys, which really sets it apart from their very major-key debut (were the middle ages really always so happy?). And of course, there are the fabulous crumhorns and other English horns. After the title track, my favourite here is "Gulland Rock", a really musical composition with some great slow dark, jazzy and moody sections, as well as dissonance, with lots of changes and sections (including a nice happy roiling medeival theme in one part). Both this song and the title track also have very nice piano parts, which adds much to the otherwise horns and organ sound. The rest of the pieces are all good too, although once again I would have liked the entire album to be instrumental (thus, "the Ploughboy's Dream" is for me the weakest track on this album). So, while I can listen to every song on this album, the quality is still mixed, with the two really excellent tracks balanced out somewhat by the others. I give this 7.6 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which is much better than the debut, and translates to high 3 PA stars.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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