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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
2 stars 2.5 stars really!!!

Historically important album in progressive music but also in the story of Folk music. Better things to come from Gryphon - very medieval . This is in no way prog per se (and certainly not rock either), but it is showing us a thing or two about how complex and free were the music of pre-renaissance before the churches started calling certain chords demonic and Satanic, because they could send some people in trance. If I talk about pre-renaissance music and medieval , please note that the music present here does not contain the typical drone type (we would call them synths layers today) so typical of some instruments. Extensive use of the Krummhorn (once used as a golf club just before a concert) is the main characteristic of the music .

Not over-bearing music , relatively hard to maintain attention to, even when Estampie (clearly the highlight and my prefered track) is playing.

Report this review (#2975)
Posted Monday, February 2, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is a very difficult album to rate in this archives. From a prog fan point of view, I suppose it's not very interesting, because it is mainly an acoustic medieval folk album. So I suggest better skipping it and getting 'Red Queen to Gryphon Three'. But, on the other hand, it is very enjoyable for those who like medieval music and english folk, and among other records of this genre, it ranks fairly high.
Report this review (#2976)
Posted Wednesday, February 11, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars I would recommend this album - and any other by Gryphon, for that matter - very highly to anyone intrerested in English progressive rock, not necessarily because it is so progressive, but for the same reason I would recommend Anthony Phillips' music, which is also mainly acoustic. The key is ENGLISH, which means pastoral, anachronistic, romantic and humorous. Ok, so Anthony is associated with Genesis, but then Gryphon is associated with Yes, having toured with them. It is the renaissance atmosphere that Gryphon captures so perfectly, and executes with such skill and mastery that puts them in the prog camp. Make no mistake - they are NOT just a folk band. These are trained musicians, well versed in the Renaissance musical vocabulary. No wonder it was so easy for them to switch to ultra-complex prog later on. I like to think of them as a Renaissance musical consort, that traveled in time to the 70's and picked up some electric instruments. This album is mostly acoustic, but very rewarding to anyone who is willing to give it a try, just like Geese and the Ghost or Private parts and Pieces or Bay of Kings.
Report this review (#2978)
Posted Thursday, August 5, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Gryphon's transformation from a band of bona fide "Renaissance Fayre" strolling minstrels into the prog-rock monsters who could share the stage comfortably with prime-era Yes was a powerful thing to behold. Unfortunately for proggers, the very first album by Messrs Harvey, Gulland, Oberle and Taylor has little to commend it in the way of counterpoint, Moog synths and fantasy lyrics. It is nonetheless a beguiling work that would not shame a prog collection.

The tone for this album is set by the lively Kemp's Jig, which sees Gulland establish the presence of the krumhorn (a Renaissance-era curved horn that both Gulland and Harvey, who met at the Royal College of Music, were masters of). Most of the pieces on this romp are either butsling jigs like Kemp's Jig and Estampie or bawdy folk songs like Three Jolly Butchers and Sir Gavin Grimbold which really aren't for everyone.

The main concessions to prog sensibilities are the brief but challenging guitar and recorder duet Touch And Go and The Juniper Suite, which with mandolin, organ, harpsichord, bassoon, recorders, classical guitar and the obligatory crumhorn quartet was a delightful glimpse into Gryphon's subsequent dizzying climb up the prog-rock ladder.

Nothing on the first album however can remotely approach the brilliance of Gryphon's glorious adaptation of the folk ballad The Unquiet Grave. The lilting melody sung by Oberle, the steady build-up of melodic layers (due in no small part to a four-part crumhorn arrangement!), Taylor's achingly beautiful guitar accompaniment and the eerie bassoon and drum "graveyard interlude" all serve to make this among the most cherished pieces of music I own. The tale of a love that transcends death may be centuries old, but it comes graphically alive in Gryphon's hands, and makes this album far more than the curiousity it might otherwise have been. ... 65% on the MPV scale

Report this review (#2980)
Posted Tuesday, February 15, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This magnificent album is VERY acoustic: the miscellaneous childish but complex MEDIEVAL and slightly Celtic textures of string and wind instruments really steal the show here! The music is VERY sophisticated and well synchronized, rather funny and very disciplined. The bassoon and krumhorns make perfect and solid patterns with the acoustic guitars and mandolin. The rare keyboards I have noticed are harpsichord and harmonium if I am correct. There are no bass, and the rare drums are rather replaced by primitive percussions and small bells. There are many not bad lead & backing vocals like Ian Anderson's ones on the "Rover" track: I think this music does not need such vocals, because they negatively contrast with the delicate and graceful textures. I'm completely transported by the fluid, addictive and catchy second part of the more serious "Unquiet Grave" track. There are NO ordinary tracks. The overall style is a bit like Gentle Giant's Talybont track, without the electric guitars. On the next albums, Gryphon add bass, excellent keyboards and more drums, and they are more progressive rock still with many medieval parts.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Report this review (#2981)
Posted Wednesday, March 30, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars This album would not be out of place if you ever went to a Renaissance festival. Pure medival music using old world instruments: bassoons, krumhorn, recorders, mandolin and drums. Lumped in with the folk/prog sect, they are really more folk than prog. One track comes close to prog; "Juniper Suite" it being the longest with several time changes and many instruments used. Most of the songs sung are very nice, except for "Sir Gavin Grimbold" and 'The Devil And The Farmer's Wife". The two are story type songs with humorous lyrics and sung in a bold, silly style. What I like most are the instrumental songs,some haunting ('The Unquiet Grave') and some just plain fun ('Kemp's Jig') with 'Juniper Suite' being the best of the bunch. So, if you like your folk old-style, get this album forthwith, but for all you prog nuts, pass it by. A solid 3 stars nevertheless.
Report this review (#2983)
Posted Monday, May 9, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Very classical, very folk, very medieval... At least on this 12 tracks Gryphon musicians seems to have real fun and you can hear it in every song. "Estampie" and "The Unquiet Grave" are the best songs of this recordings who reminds me an old and comfortable english tabern with some touches of prog... maybe just good stuff but i don't know why I can't stop to listen this album...
Report this review (#40323)
Posted Monday, July 25, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars It's very nice. and too much « obsolete ». Maybe it's a non-essential item for those who have yet their « prog folk » masterpieces, but this could be a good place to start if you're not familiar with medieval music. From a prog fan point of view, I think it's not very interesting, because it is mainly an medieval folk album which is a little bit wearying.
Report this review (#44226)
Posted Thursday, August 25, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars The first work released in 1973 "Gryphon". It is a content "Ancient music lock" exactly as the sound it in the Middle Ages. It is an extremely unique, avant-garde work. It has a simple throb feeling. It tried to make it escape from music from the world where "Classics music" is formal, and to place the attempt with this album at a natural position. The performance is an extremely authentic technique sect, and it has the perfection that the dimension is quite different from other folk works.
Report this review (#60363)
Posted Thursday, December 15, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars A complex and enjoyable medieval influenced folk romp. There's plenty of modern interpretation.

Kemp's Jig isn't a jig. Sir Gavin Grimbold heads off on hies horse with his sword, but the horse returns without the brave rider leaving his pregnant wife and mother with a barn to build and the crops to cut ... Johnson the valiant one of three butchers stops to aid a woman's cry only - part of a highywaymen's trap. he stands his grounds and kills 9 of the 10 before the woman takes the knide form his side and stabs him in the back. A hue & cry is rasied and she is taken to Newgate in irons for klling the finest butcher " as ever the sun shone on"

The Unquiet Grave is a tradiitonal song about a young man mourning over the grave of his lost love.

Astrologer: hilarious harlot playing the maid gets her cummupence and the astrolger gets a crown. Hmm not many tracks have three part recorder breaks in them. A medieval Golf Girl. The Devil and the Farmer's Wife exhibits a similar sense of humour.

I love it. One of those albums that's not just great listening but guaranteed to cheer you up.

An excellent additon .....

Report this review (#136645)
Posted Thursday, September 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
Prog-Folk Team
2 stars A relatively short album on time as well as thin in overall material, Gryphon's debut is almost if not entirely acoustic. Like much folk music from the British Isles, this has a timeless air about it, yet when considered in the context of the revival of the late 1960s and early 1970s, it is actually preceded by a number of superior efforts. For instance, by now Amazing Blondel had released 4 excellent albums which explored much wider themes. They sang better, did not overuse the precious instruments to the same degree, and performed almost entirely their own compositions. Spirogyra, Incredible String Band, Forest, Strawbs and Steeleye Span had all made several albums of consciously ancient sounds by this time. Sure, a lot of them, including Gryphon, would evolve into quite a different beast, but it is Gryphon's eponymous album we are considering here, and it is in no way a pioneering or even a significant piece of work.

What we have is one wave after another of recorders and crumhorns with occasional self conscious vocals performing versions of material better done by others. Stately it often is, but in a contrived, tight lipped sort of way, as if they were being forced to play by some petulant young prince. Even "Estampie" just comes across as the recycled motifs on speed that it is. The best tracks are the first 2, "Kemp's Jig" and "Sir Gavin Grimbold", which pretty much say everything that Gryphon has to say this time around, along with several parts of "Juniper Suite" where the mandolin all too briefly wrests the controls away from the horns. My recommendation would be to seek out the aforementioned groups' efforts from the preceding 5 years. For medieval folk completists only!

Report this review (#156371)
Posted Sunday, December 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars A Third of the Way to the Court of the Crimson Queen - Hey Nonny No

Although Gentle Giant and Gryphon may appear rather strange bedfellows (and who fancies either cleaning up the feathers afterwards or sitting on the eggs?) they do share some common ground by their use of source materials and derived inspiration i.e both bands have a marked fondness for utilizing the musical vocabulary of ye olde english folk musick. This includes the madrigals, jigs, chansons and motets that were considered the fab and groovy preserve of the 'longhairs' circa the swinging Elizabethan era. For Emerson, Lake and Palmer read Dowland, Bull & Byrd. Where the two groups differ however, is that while GG use such devices as a departure point for their own progressive writing, Gryphon adhere much more faithfully to the original forms and are more concerned with providing a contemporary flavor to these ancient recipes.

As far as I can tell, most of the pieces on Gryphon's 1973 debut are in the time honored 'trad-arr' format, and it is worth pointing out that you ain't going to hear any blues licks, shuffle beats or electronic freakouts on this record, as these are authentic renditions of some very old and traditional medieval folk tunes.

With this in mind, Gryphon have elected to exploit a wide variety of 'period' instrumentation to show these pieces off to best effect and we are regaled by the very quaint and occasionally unnerving timbres of tudor bassoons, krumhorn, 'wheezy' harmonium, mandolin and recorder. All the players appear to be masters of their chosen 'weapons' and the playing is commensurately superb throughout. The contemporary elements are adroitly subtle and arrive courtesy of bass guitar, piano, organ and percussion.

Special praise must go to the drummer David Oberle, who has sensibly resisted the temptation to lay down a rock kit beat beneath any of these tracks and instead opts for mostly tom driven accents and flourishes at the appropriate climactic points which imbues his contribution as that of an orchestral player's approach in an orchestra.

Such is the thematic wholeness and atmosphere that pervades this whole document, it would be inappropriate to go through each track separately but for what it's worth I think 'Pastime With Good Company' was written by that infamous tubby Monarch addicted to wedding cake (Henry VIII) and No, 'Touch & Go' is NOT the original fanfare that appears on ELPowell's album.

Those tunes that have lyrics and are sung do unfortunately get delivered in a rather affected 'a wandering minstrel I' verbiage so beloved of folk singers in tights and codpieces since the dawn of....Ian Anderson (and why do they wink at you all the time?)

Despite these misgivings, there is much to enjoy here and I for one found this a welcome breath of fresh air from my usual bristling listening material. I suppose the ripe question that some may ask after hearing this is:

- Yeah that's nice, but is it prog(y) at all? -

Although most of you will probably offer an unhesitating 'No' at this point, this record's main interest to me was how the band who recorded the subsequent 'Red Queen to Gryphon 3' arrived at that point, and for that alone, this album is a fascinating insight to the gestation of one of Prog's most enduring masterpieces.

Report this review (#175358)
Posted Wednesday, June 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
1 stars This debut album by Gryphon is basically pure medieval Folk music. Several compositions are traditional. While it is probably the case that they aimed this release at a rock and pop audience, there is not any rock at all in it. As I said, this is pure medieval Folk music played on primarily acoustic instruments. The music is cheerful and, I would say, a bit shallow. It lacks substance and depth.

By 1973 there were many other groups who had recorded new versions of traditional material, or original material with a folky sound, somewhat similar to this. Amazing Blondel and Magna Carta are two examples. And while there is no doubt about Gryphon's instrumental prowess, these other groups' music is much more pleasant on the ear than this. Gryphon was neither really groundbreaking nor very enjoyable.

Not really my cup of tea, I'm afraid. Only for completionists and people with a special interest in medieval music.

Report this review (#178167)
Posted Friday, July 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars I really like this little album. Much better than the overrated 'Red Queen to Gryphon Three'. I guess that's because I like mediaeval instruments. This one is very ancient sounding - in a good authentic way - played with lots of unusual instruments including their famous 'Krumhorn'. I can't believe it only has 2.88 on the Prog Archive Richter Scale. What's the matter with everyone, eh?

It sounds unlike just about anyone I've heard before (and I sit here swamped by thousands of cd's). It's unusual, cheery, bright, VERY Mediaeval and also very English sounding (which I shouldn't like - being from Scotland!). 'Three Butchers' has some bawdy, funny lyrics sung by blokes who sound completely smashed trying to sound sober. There's also a few 'cover' versions of 14th Century tunes which are superb. Forget 'Rock' folks. This one's as far removed from that kind of music as you'll get. For something a bit different I'd certainly recommend this.

One of the few 5 Star awards I'll be awarding on this site. Brilliant!

Report this review (#208851)
Posted Thursday, March 26, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars 3.5 stars if I could.

Gryphon's debut contains mostly rearranged traditional pieces (some from the 1400s or before), such as "Kemp's Jig", with a few by the band itself, such as "Touch and Go". This album is the epitome of early folk music, with heavy emphasis on the double reed instruments -- the bassoon and krumhorn, that is.

This album, in my humble opinion, is not Gryphon's strongest, but it is the one most influenced by early renaissance music. If you are already familiar with Gryphon's other works or renaissance music, then you should definitely check this album out. The band was revolutionary in playing rock with unusual winds, but this album is very traditional sounding. My favorite tracks are "Kemp's Jig", "Touch and Go", and "The Unquiet Grave".

Report this review (#230854)
Posted Monday, August 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
Errors and Omissions Team
3 stars I rarely agree completely with especial review, but here, this "chosen one" is Sean Trane's (Hugues) one. With this acoustic piece, I feel like on some kind of medieva fair. It's cheerful music (not dull, void and empty by any chance, as some of these renaissance things tends to be). The most progressive one would probably be Estample, but take this as a one eye king amongst the blind. However, I like it, as I'm on this kind of music. Crossing the Styles is similar to "Clap" by Yes.

3(-), because that's my rating for music that's not so much prog, but I like it. Still, far more folk than prog.

Report this review (#260272)
Posted Sunday, January 10, 2010 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars I wouldn't really call this a progressive rock or progressive folk album. It is mostly an attempt, mostly successful, to recreate medeival music. There is also an attempt to use traditional instrumentation when possible. And while I enjoy this album quite a bit, I must admit that I never would have been interested in it had it not been for Gryphon's subsequent albums, where they used this type of music as a launching point to create some beautiful progressive rock/folk.

While this music may not be for everyone, it provides a fine but light listen, and should certainly be of interest to an early music fan.

Report this review (#261162)
Posted Saturday, January 16, 2010 | Review Permalink
2 stars This album is excellently recorded and well performed. The music is interesting, and even historically educational. It is also, however, primarily of interest to Gryphon fans in particular and appreciators of Renaissance and Medieval art folk music in general. Period instruments are used to convincingly recreate the music of this age, but there is precious little "rock" to be found here.

Many scholarly groups performing medieval and renaissance songs unwittingly strip them of their vitality by presenting them in an overly elegant, polished and refined manner. Although Gryphon plays their instruments well, there remains a certain lively jig in their step that works in concert with a vocal style that I will only described as 'rough around the edges'. The end result is a "sound" that is convincingly reminiscent of the period in which this style of music was originally performed.

Once again, I'd like to stress that there is nothing "wrong" with this album. As a historical recreation of the folk music of long ago, I personally rate it rather highly. But not as a "Prog Rock" album. For a Prog Rating, I must give it a "2".

Report this review (#282119)
Posted Saturday, May 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars THE ultimate medieval album.

Move over Gentle Giant, Gryphon is the supreme medieval band in the very hard world of entertainment. I know many Middle Earth fans that should get this and play it in their conventions. How come this band is not a cult band? I shake my head with grief, Gryphon hasn't the recognition it should have.

You close your eyes and you are there: the muddy streets, the tuberculosis, the toothless women, the smell of feces and carbonized meat, the life expectancy of 25 and of course, the band in the corner playing a farandole to the joy of the market place.

Come on good people, grab a pint and be amazed of how skilled these men are. They are the absolute high priest of shredding unplugged instruments. Better instrumentists than Yes or Gentle Giant, and just saying that is like unbelievable.

What if Yngwie Malmsteen picked up the recorder instead? You'd have Gryphon.

Report this review (#435831)
Posted Tuesday, April 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is very authentic. It's hardcore medieval music at its best! If that kind of music ever interested you, then it's worth checking this stuff out. Gryphon took the genre and made it sound genuine, fresh and full of energy.

There are no electric guitars, synthesizers or production tricks on this album. And there's no commercial appeal either! The joyful album opener, 'Kemp's Jig' presents the main elements of the band's groove with some masterful work from the recorder and bassoon.

Of the instrumentals, I like the short and sweet 'Touch And Go' and 'Pastime With Good Company' the best. 'Estampie' is a longer piece and has a similar kind of interplay. I particularly like the percussion on that track.

The vocal numbers are among the greats but with a couple in particular, don't expect something like medieval minstrels with angelic voices. Instead, you'll hear the band's down-to-earth and humourous side. I absolutely love 'Sir Gavin Grimbold' which has a cute stop-and-start structure and mystical tale of an unexplained disappearance.

'Three Jolly Butchers' is just as fun, with a tale of horrendous betrayal played to a bassoon/harpsichord backing. The melodies are fabulous too. Best of all though, is probably the chilling "The Unquiet Grave". In all, this may not be for everyone but the performances here are excellent and it's ever so cheerful and chaming. Folk lovers should give it a few spins.

Report this review (#450576)
Posted Saturday, May 21, 2011 | Review Permalink
1 stars I have reviewed quite a bunch of "prog" folk albums on this site. But to be honest, I prefer the prog side of some bands from this category (Elfonia, Iona, Karnataka, The Decemberists, and Mostly Autumn) than the folk of others (Amazing Blondel, Los Jaivas, Blackmore's Night?).

In other words, I am not a purist. And this album is really hard to digest if you ever want to discover some prog in here. This is pure medieval English folk. It might maybe be fun during an all English student party ("Three Jolly Butchers"); but for the ones alien to this culture; I am not as positive.

I can hardly find one pleasant song to my ears on this album. I guess that the music would have be pleasant while being played at the court of king Henry VIII. But I don't belong to these times.

My favorite track is the short and acoustic guitar oriented "Crossing The Stiles". Hundred fifty seconds? One star if you are prog oriented (like I am), two to three stars if English medieval stuff can fill your appetite.

Report this review (#531718)
Posted Saturday, September 24, 2011 | Review Permalink
Tom Ozric
5 stars GRYPHON's debut album from 1973, graced with a superb artwork by Dan Pearce, offers a charming journey back to Medeival times, yet remains a fantastic relic from the 70's Prog-Folk boom. The musicians here definately know how to play their instruments - crumhorns, bassoons, recorders, guitars, harmonium, organ, harpsichord, percussion etc. and they definately progressed from album to album, honing their instrumental and compositional skills furthermore as well as turning more 'electric' and symphonic. Understandably, this album gets mixed reactions from many, it's mainly based on traditional renaissance compositions (only 3 out of 12 tunes here are credited to the band or members), but executed with a sort of modern technical finesse, placing it firmly amongst the 'Progressive' world of music. Eccentricities are offered up in droves - the character of the vocal delivery by the percussionist Dave Oberle singing from the amusing texts, or be it the quirky instrumental jigs and arrangements, there's always a light-hearted appeal to what these guys are doing. And they do it well. From side one's opening crumhorn of Kemp's Jig, with a mournful stop by 'The Unquiet Grave', to the 2nd side's Estampie, featuring Richard Harvey's virtuosic recorder work, the band written Juniper Suite, suggesting what was to come on their next release, finally closing with the bonk of a teapot on the humour filled 'The Devil and the Farmer's Wife', this album is a beauty. I'm not a big fan of folk music, but this one fills my cup, may it fill yours too. 5 stars.
Report this review (#550944)
Posted Saturday, October 15, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars A majority of Progheads obviously prefer the band's later, more electronic efforts, but Gryphon's self-titled 1973 debut is by far their best album, because it remains the most genuine of the bunch. Unlike the occasional Elizabethan eclecticism of rockers like GENTLE GIANT, or the more traditional post-60s Folk Music of bands like PENTANGLE, Gryphon was the real deal: a quartet of medieval troubadours transplanted to the late 20th century and let loose in a modern, multi-track recording studio.

The music wasn't Progressive Rock (at least not yet), but it wasn't really Folk Rock either. Authenticity was never Gryphon's goal, and yet their interpretation of traditional music (including one song here penned by the Tudor's own rock star, Henry VIII) remained true to their original era even when adapted to ours, circa 1973. The arrangements were honest, and typically very simple, but the sound throughout is discreetly modern.

It's a very short album (less than 37 total minutes), but in presentation and performance a near perfect one, although hard-line Progheads might beg to differ. The material is smartly arranged too, balancing unplugged period instrumentals alongside charming mock 15th century sing-a-longs. And all of it is played with disarming wit and ingenuity, from the haunted romance of 'The Unquiet Grave' (with its near ambient middle interlude) to the toe-tapping morality tale taught by 'The Astrologer', and finally to the ribald comedy of 'The Devil and the Farmer's Wife': Chaucer with krumhorns and cartoon demons.

And, lest you imagine a band of (mostly) unplugged ersatz Folkies unable to generate any musical heat without the friction of electronic instruments, lend an ear to the whirlwind of 'Estampie', propelled into overdrive on the virtuoso recorder trills of Richard Harvey, and David Oberl's manic drumming. There's even a brief quotation from 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow' hidden within the bassoon solo, yet another example of the band's playful iconoclasm.

Gryphon would later jump headlong onto the Symphonic Rock gravy train, just before it was rudely derailed at the end of the decade. But here at the start of their career the band's ambitions were still untarnished, and refreshingly modest for 1973. Compare this album to what the major Prog acts were playing that year, and maybe you'll agree: sometimes smaller is better.

Report this review (#816103)
Posted Friday, September 7, 2012 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars GRYPHON was formed in the early 70s when the two Royal College of Music graduates Richard Harvey (recorders, crumhorns, keyboards, guitar, mandolin) and Brian Gulland (bassoon, crumhorns, recorders, keyboards, vocals) met. The two were extremely interested in English folk music, Renaissance music and everything medieval. This academic passion for the music of centuries gone by soon caught the attention of fellow musicians Dave Oberlé (drums, percussion, vocals) and Graeme Taylor (guitars, keyboards, recorder, vocals) who would soon join them to create some serious retro music with a modern day rock energy flair. Soon after this musical union, the band recorded a whole bunch of traditionals dating all the way back to King Henry VIII and caught the attention of Transatlantic Records which released their eponymous debut album in 1973.

While GRYPHON is best known for their unique mix of progressive rock and medieval folk instrumentation on their highly acclaimed "Red Queen To Gryphon Three," on this debut they were in full retro English folk and Renaissance mode staying very faithful to the original compositions on board here. Almost everything on the album is acoustic and heavy use of recorders, crumhorns and bassoon gives a most genuine period feel that instantly puts you in the time of the Tudor's and everything 1500s. The track "Pastime With Good Company" was written by King Henry VIII himself and is perhaps the most famous of the lot. The Dan Pearce fantasy album cover depicting the legendary GRYPHON, the most powerful and majestic creature ever to have lived guarding the treasures is the perfect symbology of the band's approach keepers of the medieval musical treasures that they have resurrected.

I can understand why many prog rock lovers will not find this one appealing. There is absolutely nothing modern or rock on this debut except for, of course, the recording and production techniques. All instruments and tracks are period correct and quite faithfully performed to evoke that good old Renaissance feel, however there is definitely an infusion of modern day rock energy incorporated into this track list of oldies but goodies. The drumming patterns are very energetic and what little interpretations of Renaissance music i have heard do not even come close to the quality of the music on this album. Progressive folk this is without any rock whatsoever but starting with the second album "Midnight Mushrumps," GRYPHON would begin adding rock elements into their retro folk sound. For this debut, however, we get one full-on Medieval folk album that transports you into the world where Shakespeare and English Madrigal Schools flourished. Personally i find this one to be quite the interesting listen heightening my musical and historical sensibilities in tandem. I have never heard anything like this and find GRYPHON to be a sadly underappeciated musical force.

Report this review (#1419365)
Posted Sunday, May 24, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars Gryphon's eponymous debut album is not rock, and is technically regressive rather than progressive. This is due to the fact that the music is played on acoustic instruments and largely consists of traditional English Renaissance/folk songs.

The album finds Gryphon as an acoustic quartet, consisting of Royal College of Music classmates Richard Harvey (recorder, crumhorn, organ, harpsichord, mandolin) and Brian Gulland (crumhorn, bassoon, recorder, vocals), together with Graeme Taylor (acoustic guitar, recorder, vocals) and David Oberle (drums, percussion, vocals). Oberle used an ingenious combination of toms, bongos, gongs, cymbals and even a kettle instead of a standard drum kit.

Despite the band's reputation as medieval-prog band, much of the album's music originates from the Renaissance and Baroque era: Kemp's Jig is a 17th century tune named after Shakesperean actor William Kempe (died 1603), The Three Butchers is a 17th century ballad, Pastime With Good Company is a well-known song composed by a young Henry VIII. Three Jolly Butchers with its references to shooting also seems to be a Renaissance song. Actually, all songs with vocals use modern English.

All songs are rather short, with only The Unquiet Grave surpassing five minutes in length, but this also means that none of the songs overstay their welcome. About half of the songs are instrumentals, interestingly including Pastime With Good Company, which does have lyrics. The songs with vocals range from melancholy (Sir Gavin Grimbold and The Unquiet Grave) to amusingly raunchy. Save for three original instrumentals (two of which are very short), the album is comprised of cover songs.

As such, this debut is more of a showcase of the band's instrumental prowess rather than its compositional abilities. Estampie, in particular, reaches an impressive tempo. Nevertheless, the band's own composition Juniper Suite is very strong and foreshadows Red Queen to Gryphon Three.

Whether you will enjoy this album depends on your appreciation of Medieval/Renaissance/Baroque/acoustic folk music. For my part, I enjoy it very much, leading to a solid four star rating.

Report this review (#1517460)
Posted Thursday, January 21, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars Gryphon was formed in the early seventies, soon after two graduates of Royal Academy of Music, a multiinstrumentalist Richard Harvey and a woodwind player Brian Gulland, met, finding a mutual approach to music. The duo played a few local concerts and were soon joined by a guitarist Graeme Taylor and a drummer and percussionist Dave Oberlé. In March of 1973, the quartet entered the studio to record the first tracks for what would become their self-titled debut album, which was released in June of the same year under the Transatlantic label. The cover art, portraying a mighty, masculine creature, half an eagle, half a lion, Gryphon, was designed by Transatlantic's artist, Dan Pearce.

Since its very first days, Gryphon's aim was to put the original English folk of the middle ages and renaissance into the framework of modern folk music, reminiscent of the sixties folk revival, artists like Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, and even Bob Dylan. The results are absolutely charming. The interplay of a wide plethora of instruments like recorders, flutes, crumhorns, a bassoon, a mandolin, a guitar, a harpsichord, a harmonium, organ, and various percussion instruments gives the album a rich, majestic sound. Furthermore, Gryphon is dripping with cascading, labyrinthine arrangements. Everything, as technical and sophisticated as it could be, is often executed in a tongue-in-cheek manner. All these elements do not give an impression of overabundance. Everything seems to have its own place in the musical layers, while the minimalistic factor makes Gryphon's material sound authentic. The emotion, character, spirit, and atmosphere of this album are dense enough to fire up listener's imagination and put their "alter ego" on a busy street of the 14th century London. With this release, Gryphon created an image of medieval troubadours with incredible instrumental skill.

What undoubtedly shaped Gryphon's sound to a high degree, was its members' classical training. The previously mentioned variety of wind instruments works in favor of the band's unique sound. The instruments are played with great precision and passion. Dave Oberlé's percussion playing is versatile, he finds himself incredibly proficient in rapid rhythmic play on many types of drums at once. While a good most of folk bands at the time usually used two acoustic guitars, Gryphon only needed one - Graeme Taylor's traditional, percussive style covers all guitar parts needed. Harmony vocals, which play a crucial role in the band's sound, range from deep, washy bass, to baritone, to a high, tounge-in-cheek, almost Monty Python-like countertenor.

The album opens with an instrumental piece "Kemp's Jig". Although the title suggests so, this is not a jig in the traditional meaning of the word. Nonetheless, it proficiently sets up the right atmosphere for the rest of the album. "Sir Gavin Grimbold" is the most comedic of the songs, telling a story of an adventurer, who set out on a journey never to be seen again. "Three Jolly Butchers" is quite similar in appeal, showcasing the fantastic harmony vocals of the band's members. "The Unquiet Grave" is less cheerful than the previous tracks, with its meditative, pastoral feel. "Juniper Suite" is in fact not a suite, but only a five minute track with great interaction of various wind instruments and a moody harpsichord. "The Devil and the Farmer's Wife" is another comedic, short-format story song, which closes the album with a quick allusion to Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag" on harmonium.

Gryphon are most often associated with their instrumental 1974 release Red Queen to Gryphon Three, which showcased the more classical-oriented, electric folk sound. However, just one year before that, the group had recorded their all-acoustic self-titled debut. It could shortly be described as an incredibly moody take on music of the middle ages and renaissance. The album is an incredibly pleasing journey through medieval England and should be a pleasing experience for folk fans! Highly recommended!

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Posted Monday, May 30, 2016 | Review Permalink
2 stars Like being in a Monty Python movie...

It is fascinating how different musicians eventually come around to produce excellent music. Some start in Jazz, others in heavy rock, etc. Gryphon began playing authentic English medieval music, using instruments that were around in the middle ages. The tracks here are virtually all cover tunes, mostly in major keys, and virtually all played with the same rhythm. Listening to this, you feel like you are in the movie 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail', not only because this kind of music permeates that movie (if you can think back to the part where Sir Robin meets up with and then runs away from the Knights Who Say 'Nee', and the music the troubadour is playing alongside Robin "and Sir Robin ran away"... well, that is the kind of music this is). Secondly, because the band here plays all these tunes with a deadpan straight face, trying to adhere to the original versions as much as possible, it does come across as silly, although I also do admire the attempt. Perhaps this provides an important archival service, but it doesn't work very well as an album, unless you really need to bring along some music for that middle-ages-dress-up birthday party your kids were invited to. Gryphon would write excellent original music later on, but not here. There are both vocal and instrumental songs on this album. I myself much prefer the instrumentals, both because I think they are more musical (and because the lyrics are mostly light, silly and even sometimes off- putting), and because the instrumentals come closest to the sound that Gryphon would develop with their subsequent albums. There is really only one standout track on this album: "Juniper Suite". After this, decent tunes include "Tea Wrecks", "Touch and Go", "The Unquiet Grave", "Sir Gavin Grimbold" and "Estampie". This makes up about half of the album. After a number of listens, I can't really listen to the rest. Even the decent tunes are not strong enough to make one want to put this on - only Juniper Suite. On balance I give this 4.7, which translates to 2 PA stars. Nee!

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Posted Saturday, November 18, 2017 | Review Permalink
3 stars Gryphon are such a unique band that, if you have any interest in medieval and renaissance music, and, especially, in how it can be incorporated into progressive rock, then they are essential listening.

The Gryphon journey is very much a journey from pure medieval folk on this their debut album to a much more mainstream pop/rock sound on their final album "Treason", before their forty year hiatus saw them rise, phoenix like from the flames, to release ReInvention in 2018. I would not recommend a prog rock fan unfamiliar with Gryphon to start with this album. It is almost pure folk and may put a rock fan off the band completely.

Prog rock fans new to Gryphon should start with their classic third album Red Queen to Gryphon Three, and then work forwards or backwards, depending on their taste for more of the folk sound or more of the pop/rock sound.

The musicianship on the debut album is excellent with plenty of bassoon and crumhorn to excite the medieval folk enthusiast. Brian Gulland is excellent on bassoon and crumhorn, and Richard Harvey is one of the best flute players you are likely to hear. Backed up by David Oberle on vocals and percussion and the excellent Graeme Taylor on guitar and keys, this is a highly accomplished group of musicians.

The album has a number of interesting medieval folk numbers, especially "Kemp's Jig", "The Unquiet Grave", and a rendition of of a piece written by Henry VIII, entitled "Pastime with Good Company".

These tracks are good enough, but there is only one really outstanding track on this album, and that is "Juniper Suite", a track soaked in heavy crumhorns, and lightened by beautiful guitar work from Taylor and Harvey. A piece that totally transports you back to the court of King Henry VIII. Majestic in its pomp and beauty.

Unfortunately some pieces feel a bit lightweight, such as the fun and frivolous "Three Jolly Butchers" and "Sir Gavin Grimbold", and the album finishes with the playful, if possibly somewhat misogynistic, "The Devil and the Farmer's Wife".

Gryphon have a fun side to them which is evident throughout their albums and which can be hit and miss, but this album should have finished on a high with "Juniper Suite" and not with the somewhat puerile closer.

Better things were to come from Gryphon, but this album is certainly recommended to those who have already listened to and enjoyed the albums that follow this one. Three stars.

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Posted Friday, November 16, 2018 | Review Permalink
5 stars Predictably, Prog fans tend to zero in on Gryphon's third album "Red Queen To Gryphon Three" with its combination of instrumental doodling and lengthy tracks and total absence of vocals and general sense of seriousness.The group's eponymous debut is by far their most enjoyable partly because of the musicians refusal to take any thing they do too seriously while still displaying serious musical chops. And make no mistake- all four musicians are absolute virtuosos. Richard Harvey is a phenomenal recorder playe as displayed towards the climax of the album's opener- Kemp's Jig,Brian Gulland is an expert on the crumhorn and his wayward accompaniments add to the creative whimsy.Guitarist Graeme Taylor playing is extremely tasteful throughout and is almost jazzy in places especially on "The Astrologer".Dave Oberle plays an assortment of drums while taking on most of the vocal duties. While the album is dominated by the group's quirky takes on medieval and Renaissance tunes they also incorporate their own medieval inspired instrumentals. The best of these by far and by far my favourite track on the album and infact my favourite ever Gryphon track is "Juniper Suite". I remember being totally smitten when I first heard this wonderfully intricate Prog Classic (yes that is Prog with a capital P)and have never stopped enjoying listening to it. It is a shame that the group were almost impatient to abandon the quirky approach of the first album although the final Transatlantic album saw them recapturing some of the magic of their debut. A wonderful album. A full 5 stars
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Posted Thursday, September 10, 2020 | Review Permalink

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