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




Prog Folk

4.15 | 733 ratings

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4 stars I usually avoid the "Prog Folk" subgenre, as I tend to associate it with rather dull and sometimes simplistic music. This is certainly not the case here, as "Red Queen to Gryphon Three" is one of the finest accomplishments of progressive rock and deserves a lot more than it's "cult" status. I think of "Red Queen." as a cross between Camel's famed "The Snow Goose" and the sheer complexity of Gentle Giant (and with some Genesis and Yes thrown in). The result is a record that's rich in beauty and elegance , at the same time being quite sophisticated and challenging. It's not hard at all to see why it got swept under the rug back then -was smart instrumental music ever commercially successful? Well, all the more reason to check out this highly impressive record.

"Opening Move" is masterful right from the start, but the true fun begins at the 3 minute mark, when the band embarks on an excellent musical theme full of hauntingly beautiful tonality changes (it also serves as the track's adventurous outro). Add to that lovely piano fills and intricate woodwind interludes, and you've got yourself a perfect opener and a pure prog classic.

I'm not too enthusiastic about "Second Spasm", however. It does possess some of the exquisite grace that sets this group apart from it's counterparts, and houses a couple of interesting spots (the krumhorn section, notably), but in general, it lacks the brilliant ideas that color the rest of the album. Nevertheless, I'm rarely anxious to skip it.

"Checkmate" finds the band back in shape, opening with a quirky keyboard motif soon replaced by interesting bassoon melodies. A number of slightly dull moments prevent it from being an absolute classic, but these don't do any significant damage and are easily made up for with lush ever-changing instrumental sections the band comes up with effortlessly.

However, it is "Lament" that steals the show. The opening theme is pure brilliance, from the strummed acoustic guitar that provides the backbone of the music, to the perfect recorder melodies gliding above. This section alone would qualify the track as a masterpiece, but there's more great stuff, as it's followed by another woodwind-driven part with complex counterpoint structures. More solid interludes follow, until the group returns to the main theme, this time enhanced by synthesizer. Anyway, the composition is available for streaming on this site, so be sure to check it out.

Overall, the shortcomings mentioned above lose this album the 'masterpiece' rating, but it remains a highly impressive and important prog entity that has rarely been matched, let alone surpassed.

Pafnutij | 4/5 |


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