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Gryphon - Raindance CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.28 | 196 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
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.

siLLy puPPy | 3/5 |


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