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Gordon Giltrap - Visionary CD (album) cover

VISIONARY

Gordon Giltrap

 

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3.63 | 31 ratings

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Matti
Prog Reviewer
4 stars A quiz question: what combines this album and Tyger by Tangerine Dream?

British musician Gordon Giltrap has been described as a cult figure. Primarily a player of acoustic guitar, he started his career as a folk troubadour in the late sixties. In 1973, guided by feedback favouring his guitar playing, not singing, he decided to concentrate on instrumental stuff. Reading an article about the mystic poet/painter William Blake (1757 ? 1827) "blew his mind" and he started working for an album inspired by and honouring the works of Blake. Whereas Tangerine Dream a decade later used Blake's poems to be sung on Tyger, Giltrap turned the inspiration into completely instrumental music. An American gospel singer Larry Norman asked Giltrap to play on his album, which led the guitarist to work with producers Jon Miller, Rod Edwards and Roger Hand, a.k.a. Triumvirate. This all resulted as the seminal album Visionary, featuring a host of fine co-musicians such as drummer Simon Phillips and bassist John G. Perry (Caravan). Rod Edwards handled keyboards. Also several reed instruments and strings are incorporated. In a sense this acoustic guitar oriented, orchestrally flavoured music is not far from what MIKE OLDFIELD was doing, but it's a common false presumption that Giltrap would have been influenced by Oldfield.

As a side note, Visionary's cover art didn't please the artist himself who would have preferred some art of William Blake. Indeed so would have I. The rather brief album has eleven shortish tracks; a prog-minded listener would undoubtedly prefer the intervals not to exist, especially between the tracks 1-5 (the first side of the vinyl) that are inspired by the illustration The Day of Judgement & the poem The Last Judgement, and thus form a coherent suite. The rest of the track titles refer to Blake's individual works.

Instead of containing notable highlights, the whole album is very enjoyable -- if it meets the listener's taste in the first place, of course. It may sound a bit too lame to many progheads. As Kev Rowland says, it serves well as a good night's music. Besides early Oldfield, other suitable references are ANTHONY PHILLIPS, certain classically oriented works of STEVE HACKETT (e.g. The Midsummer Night's Dream, and his all-acoustic albums) plus Medieval-flavoured folk bands such as AMAZING BLONDEL (without the vocals). One might also think of the most classical guitar oriented pieces of SKY. It's not totally out of question to add some orchestral soundscapes of bands such as BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST or The Alan Parsons Project. Thinking of that, I'm tempted to imagine what if there was a good vocalist too and the album wasn't entirely instrumental. But that's useless speculation: it could be more dynamic, or the songs could feel unattached.

The Esoteric Recordings' reissue from 2013 has plenty of valuable bonus tracks previously unreleased: the three- movement 'Concerto' is an acoustic guitar solo work in a classical style. 'On the Wings of Hope' is a fanfare-like piece finished with trumpets and strings; it would have been a good, upbringing addition to the original album. 'Visionary (original version)' is a 15-minute demo that Giltrap and his producers recorded when envisaging the album. It contains old instruments like rebec, viol and crumhorn that are not heard on the album, which makes it very interesting. These bonuses stretch the CD's length to nearly 63 minutes. If the mere original Visionary album in its shortness would get only 3 stars from me, the ER issue is well worth four stars.

Matti | 4/5 |

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