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Gryphon - Treason CD (album) cover

TREASON

Gryphon

 

Prog Folk

3.45 | 142 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
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.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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