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Gryphon - Red Queen To Gryphon Three CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

4.15 | 631 ratings

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Psychedelic Paul
4 stars GRYPHON are a London-based Prog-Folk band who are best-known for their unique blend of medieval and Renaissance Folk music, combining classical themes and proggy elements. They released five albums during the Progressive Rock decade of the 1970's:- "Gryphon" (1973); "Midnight Mushrumps" (1974); "Red Queen to Gryphon Three" (1974); "Raindance" (1975); & "Treason" (1977). The band reached something of a stalemate in the 1970's because they were never quite able to achieve commercial success, but they're now experiencing a well-deserved revival, thanks to the arrival of the Internet. Buoyed up by the renewed interest in the band, Gryphon released the aptly-titled comeback album "Reinvention" in 2018, their first album in over forty years.The chess-themed album we have here, "Red Queen to Gryphon Three", with its distinctive album cover, is probably the best-known of Gryphon's six albums. There are four movements in this instrumental Prog-Folk concept album based on the game of chess, so let's make the "Opening Move" now with the 10-minute-long opening piece of music.

Thrusting a pawn forward to the centre of the board with the bold "Opening Move", you could be forgiven for thinking this is YES when you hear the dynamic opening chord sequence. This is an energetic and adventurous keyboard piece which also features a bassoon. Imagine the grand symphonic sound of YES with a bassoon player included and that's the powerful piece of music you have here. There's also a gentle flutey middle passage to give the music a medieval banquet atmosphere, although this impression doesn't last for long, as the music slowly builds up into a crashing crescendo of sound for the dramatic finish when the slightly discordant chords reminds one of some of Van Der Graaf Generator's more experimental works. It's a powerful "Opening Move" to this musical game of chess with a striking "pawn storm" of sound in the centre of the board, designed to grab the listener's attention right from the outset.

Onto the second movement now with "Second Spasm", which opens in traditional medieval feast style with the sound of a crumhorn. You can almost picture Robin Hood and his Merry Men dining with Maid Marion at an exotic banquet with a lavishly-laid-out table. There's no time to dine on a feast though, as we're in full proggy mode just one minute into this 9-minute-long piece, when there's an outbreak of dynamic (and very modern) keyboards to spoil the medieval party atmosphere. The music returns briefly to the flutey medieval theme of a banquet hall, and then we hear the sound of a slow marching rhythm in which gallant knights might have marched into battle in old days of yore. The finale transforms into a powerful quick-march, which brings to mind intrepid medieval knights jostling and jousting on the battlefield to save a beautiful fair maiden's honour in time-honoured tradition.

Side Two opens with the third movement: "Lament". It's an 8-minute-long, three-piece-suite, opening to the harmonious sound of a bassoon and the crumhorn floating along on a gently melodic wave of sound. The acoustic guitar and rhythm section reminds one of the Prog-Rock band Renaissance, which seems somehow appropriate, as Gryphon's unique blend of musical styles is loosely based on the Renaissance music of the Middle Ages. In fact, this music wouldn't have seemed too out of place if it HAD been played in Henry VIII's time, although there would have been no power source to plug the modern electronic keyboard into. Putting that minor detail aside though, the middle section of the suite is a really laid-back mellow groove, but try not to get too laid-back as there's an uplifting and unrestrained grand finale to this Renaissance-style (in both senses) musical extravaganza. This is the kind of flutey folky Renaissance music you could picture yourself listening to at a medieval banquet attended by gallant knights and lusty wenches dining on a suckling pig, whilst being entertained by jolly jugglers and merry magicians, although you're more likely to hear this music played now at a 21st century medieval banquet revival night.

It's "Checkmate" now for the fourth and final movement on our chess-themed Prog-Folk album. This medieval style Prog-Folk instrumental will transport you back in time to the Renaissance court of Henry VIII where gay (in the old sense of the word) wandering minstrels and court jesters entertained the King. The music might have the flutey sound of Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, but it's actually the antiquated crumhorn and a recorder that gives the music a Renaissance feel to it. In modern times in England, this is the kind of jolly Folk music that Morris dancers might prance around to, looking slightly ludicrous wearing bell pads on their shins and waving sticks and handkerchiefs in the air, although to be honest, most sensible people in England would go out of their way to avoid Morris dancers. Anyway, back to the music at hand. The music's not TOO folky, because there's enough prog elements included here to keep the prog-heads entertained, including staccato stop-start changes of tempo and an outbreak of Rick Wakeman-style keyboard virtuosity for the sonorous grand finale to this 10-minute Prog-Folk epic.

If you're in the mood for some proggy Folk which conjures up images of gallant knights rescuing fair maidens in distress, then this might be just the album for you. Some of the music on this unique album might sound folky and medieval, but it's given a proggy 20th century upheaval.

Psychedelic Paul | 4/5 |


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