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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Gryphon

Glastonbury Carol

Review by Steve Alspach

If you ever want to hear a band go "medieval on your @$$" - literally - this is a good place to start. While bands like Jethro Tull, Gentle Giant, or Fairport Convention would pay good homage to renaissance-era music, Gryphon immersed themselves in this kind of style. You don't hear the bassoon or high krumhorn very often in rock, let's put it that way. But for those who enjoy this sort of thing while they hie theeselves off to ye olde faire, this will put you in the mood. Most of the songs here are traditionals, but there are some originals as well, including the three-part "Midnight Mushrumps." The songs were taken from BBC sessions in the early 70s.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2004 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Kemp's Jig
There is a considerable amount of interplay and counterpoint in this album-opening traditional.
Sir Gavin Grimbold
There is a stop-start arrangement to this piece. The band goes through a riff that serves as an intro to the verse. The verses are driven primarily by Graeme Taylor's acoustic guitar.
Touch & Go
This has a bit of a baroque feel to it. Again, Graeme Taylor's guitar is the focal point, and Taylor exhibits a nimble style to his playing. Richard Harvey plays lead lines on recorder as well.
Astrologer
Another traditional song arranged by the band, "Astrologer" has all the trappings of a traditional English folk ballad - the young maid, a lure up to a bedroom, danger, all the good stuff.
Estampie
A rather lengthy jam goes here as the recorder and bassoon dance around each other in the lead, and then the bassoon takes snippets from other popular songs, such as "It's a Long Way to Tipperary" and "Over the Rainbow." The keyboards' backing patterns are anachronistically contemporary, though, giving the piece a touch of modernity. The piece speeds up a bit while the high recorder comes back in. If they had jazz in the late 1600s, this may be what it sounded like.
Opening Number
Having added Phil Nestor on bass, and with David Oberle playing a drum kit, Gryphon sounds a bit more modern while still not abandoning their roots. This is a lively piece in ¾ time.
Midnight Mushrumps

First Movement
This starts off rather slowly, and the keyboards dominate the opening, playing chords over a languid opening. The melodic styles fit in the medieval pattern, but the structure of melodies probably wouldn't be something you'd find in traditional English music. This piece almost sounds like an overture to a Shakespeare play.
Second Movement
A pipe organ starts this piece, then the bass comes in to sound almost Yes-like or early Renaissance-like. Graeme Taylor then takes a solo guitar piece which is simple yet melodic. The band then comes together in an arrangement that, from the sounds of it, may have caught the attention of a young Mike Oldfield.
Third Movement
Perhaps the most true-to-the-form movement of the three, the first part sounds very much like a traditional song in melody and structure. The band then goes into a syncopated section. The ending is a recorder's swirl of notes over washes of cymbals, and the piece gently comes to an end with the recorder and organ.
Glastonbury Carol
A rather dark arrangement, the organ plays a drone over the vocals, but then the band breaks into a traditional jig before settling back to the original arrangement.
 
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