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Gryphon

Raindances: Transatlantic Recordings 1973-1975

Review by Gary Hill

This double CD set compiles all the music from the four Gryphon albums that were released on Transatlantic Records between 1973 and 1975. They are grouped by album, with the first two albums on the first CD and the second set on the other disc. That also makes this rather thematic.

The music on the first CD is more traditional Celtic and classical in nature, while the second CD is more purely progressive rock. These guys are incredibly talented and tastefully odd. This is a set well worth hearing and owning. You aren't likely to find another act quite like this one.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2018  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
CD One

 

Kemps Jig

This instrumental is Celtic in nature. It's bouncy and fun. It gets rather traditional in nature, but with a modern edge to it. There are quite a few variants on the music theme as this works through.

Sir Gavin Grimbold
Celtic prog with quite a traditional edge to it, this is classy stuff. It's energetic and tasty.
Touch and Go
This comes in mellower and quite intricate. It's another instrumental that's quite entertaining
Three Jolly Butchers
This is a strange, but fun, little tune. It makes good use of multiple voices. It's traditional music, but it also has plenty of progressive rock in the mix. It gets more rocking for a while in a dramatic and theatrical movement. Then it gets even more theatrical in a very traditional music kind of arrangement.
Pastime with Good Company
Another instrumental, this does a great job of merging progressive rock and traditional Celtic stylings. It's an entertaining one.
The Unquiet Grave
Starting with a traditional music section, this works out to some folk music that's also traditional, but more modern. The vocals come in over that backdrop. As the song works forward there are more prog-like elements at play, but still within a fairly traditional music approach. This cut is so effective. In fact, it's one of my favorites here. It has some great acoustic guitar work. Mid-track it works out into a rather trippy, psychedelic vibe. When it makes its way back out to the song proper there is a more pronounced progressive rock element at play.
Estampie
Fast moving and quite fun, this is a traditional sounding piece with a healthy helping of prog as the icing on this musical cake. There is a cool percussion based movement later that's playful and cool. They wander into jazz-like territory before getting spacey as they come out of that movement. The faster and faster bit at the end makes me think of ELP just a bit.
Crossing the Stiles
An intricate and quite beautiful acoustic guitar solo, this is all class.
The Astrologer
There is a great balance between traditional Celtic sounds and progressive rock on this number.
Tea Wrecks
Here we have a fairly short and traditional instrumental.
Juniper Suite
While this instrumental has a lot of traditional music built into it, it also has healthy helpings of classical music. This is playful and also has some folk rock at its heart.
The Devil and the Farmer's Wife
Here we get a very theatrical number that has plenty of traditional sound at its heart. There is a weird little angelic voice bit at the end. Then again the whole song is playfully weird.  It should be noted that the story to this is essentially the same as the story behind the song "The Old Couple" on the Clannad album that I reviewed in this same issue.
Midnight Mushrumps
Celtic sounds, classical music and progressive rock all merge on this number. It has a processional kind of vibe to it. This is an epic piece at over 19 minutes of music. They put that time to good use creating a very dynamic and diverse piece. There is a drop back around the seven minute mark to a mellower, more purely progressive rock based movement. Acoustic guitar takes over around the eight and a half minute mark. It gradually starts to build back upward with a pure progressive rock sound from there. This gets dramatic and quite powerful as it grows upward with symphonic prog at its heart. It peaks and acoustic guitar takes over again. After that drops away the keyboards take over and hold the track for a time. The mix of rock and classical music is expanded upon on the next movement. The piece continues to evolve from there. They create some pretty exceptional music as this works forward. There is a particularly powerful section around the 16 minute mark. After that it drops way down, and keyboards take control. It begins to evolve in mellow ways from there.
The Ploughboy's Dream
A rather odd, but intriguing, blend of traditional music and progressive rock drives this piece. It's very much the definition of folk prog. When it starts to rock out later in the track, the prog elements really take command.
The Last Flash of Gaberdine Tailor
This instrumental has a lot of both the progressive rock and the classical leanings. It's all delivered with a Celtic edges. This reminds me at times of the more fanciful, old world inspired side of Klaatu. There are hints of things like Frank Zappa at times, though.
Gulland Rock
Keyboards are the dominant factor on much of this piece. Further down the road acoustic guitar and flute augment the arrangement. The track has a lot of classical music at its heart.
Ethelion

With some crazed laughter and other sounds in the background, this powers in as a classically dominated folk rock piece. The rock end of things gets more pronounced after a percussion led section later. It has a fast paced, classically oriented movement at the end that serves to close things nicely.

CD Two
            
Opening Move

They bring this in with much more of a straight progressive rock texture. In fact, some things about this track make me think of Yes. Yet there are still some Celtic elements on this powered up introductory section. It drops after a time to a classical piano solo, bringing a bit of a Rick Wakeman solo texture to this. In fact, as the prog tendencies rise up that vibe continues. There are more purely classical movements, while more powered up sections are pure progressive rock. This piece is nearly ten minutes, and they really use that space to explore different textures and themes. Some pretty crazed stuff ensues after the seven minute mark. The closing section turns toward nearly pure classical music.

Second Spasm

Celtic folk brings this bouncy number into being. After working through like that for a time, they switch things to a killer rock arrangement on those themes around the one minute mark. It moves along with some great prog rock energy. Then around the minute forty second mark it intensifies even more with a dense and driving prog jam. This continues to evolve working the themes through variations and alterations. Then a false ending after the two and a half minute mark gives way to some weird textures. It gets more classical and a bit odd for a time. Then some old time sounds take over from there. The changes continue as this makes its way onward. I love the cool classically based prog section that emerges further down the musical road. After the six and a half minute mark this explodes out into a powerhouse progressive rock jam that is so cool.

Lament
A progressive rock ballad approach has some classical and Celtic music at its heart. I love the keyboard textures over the top, but you can't ignore the great acoustic guitar work that serves as the backdrop for this number. Around the three minute mark it drops back to a decidedly mellow movement and begins to grow upward from there. This is another extensive piece, running almost eleven minutes. After the five minute mark there is a false ending. After a short bit of silence the cut powers up into a fast paced prog jam that again makes me think just a bit of Frank Zappa. This playful stuff. It revolves to a more melodic movement, though. It continues to shift and evolve as it moves forward. I love the killer acoustic guitar movement that takes it for a time. A soaring movement emerges after the seven minute mark with some killer keyboard textures driving it. As this continues to change it gets into some of the most powerful music of the whole set. It peaks after the nine minute mark and a mellower prog movement takes over from there. That segment eventually takes the track to its closing.
Checkmate
Fast paced progressive rock that seems to me like a merging of Yes and Frank Zappa starts this. After a time the cut shifts to more of a Rock In Opposition type of arrangement moving through some odd and rather fusion like movements. At close to tend minutes long, this is another that's of epic proportions. Around the two minute mark they take it to a fife and drum type interlude. That works its way upward and eventually drops back to more of the traditional music that we heard on the first CD. Exploring that territory for a while they begin to move it in the direction of chamber music. By around the six minute mark they have brought it back into progressive rock (albeit symphonic prog) territory. That movement ends and piano takes over from there. Guitar joins in a killer, rather off-kilter arrangement that is pure prog. They bring other instruments into the number to augment and expanded the progression. There are hints of things like Mike Oldfield as this grows outward. After the eight minute mark this gets into some really powerful progressive rock as it continues to change. They work it through several variations with a particularly potent section serving as the closing movement.
Down the Dog
There is a cool fusion vibe to this number. It's energetic and even a little funky. At less than three minutes of music, it seems starkly short after the last few tracks. It has a shift toward an almost surf music styled movement later in the cut. They still manage pack plenty of changes and drama into this despite the shortened duration.
Raindance
The sound of rain is heard on this. The cut has a mellower, but still rather fast paced, progressive rock texture to it. It reminds me in some ways of things like Synergy. Further along the road we get some thunder. While this is much shorter than a lot of them on this CD, at over five minutes, it's longer than the one that preceded it. It's less diverse than a lot of the rest, but that makes for a nice bit of variety.
Mother Nature's Son
The first tune on this second CD to feature vocals, there is definitely a folk prog vibe to this. There are comparisons to be made to both Klaatu and the Beatles, but this doesn't sound completely like either of them. There are definitely psychedelic rock elements here.
Le Cambrioleur Est Dans Le Mouchoir
A playful old world type of piece, this is a lot like the odd little pieces Queen would sometimes do. The guitar at times makes me think of Steve Howe, though. This is fun and short at just a little over two minutes.
Ormolu
More proggy, there is plenty of classical music built into this bouncy number. There is a timepiece type percussive element. This instrumental is just over a minute long.
Fontinental Version
Melodic progressive rock with a real folk edge is the concept here. This is another that makes me think of Klaatu in a lot of ways. There are some tastefully odd harder rocking parts to this number. The vocals have some different flavors and varieties, too. At times they are more typical prog rock based. At other points they take on a musical theater weirdness. After the two and a half minute mark this shifts out into a powerhouse twisting and turning jam that's tastefully quirky. They continue exploring from there with the weirdness just working to sell the piece. It works back out the theatrical stuff from there with some almost psychedelic weirdness ensuing. Eventually it resolves to a melodic prog jam with a lot of classical texture built into it. A quick burst of guitar prog ends this.
Wallbanger
A fast paced and rather melodic progressive rock jam brings this into being. More of those Klaatu elements are on display as this works forward. I love the killer bass work on much of this piece. They take this instrumental through some cool changes, but the general progressive rock vibe dominates the entire thing. At less than three and a half minutes long, it's fairly short.
Don't Say Go
This piece is less than two minutes long. It has some a rather odd little theatrical bit at the start. That gives way to a more traditional progressive rock jam for the entrance of the vocals. I dig the guitar work on the closing section.
(Ein Klein) Heidenleben
The pure epic on the second disc, this number is nearly 16 minutes long. It rises up very gradually with an ambient texture ramping upward. Classical elements start to come across the mix as it continues. More of an electronic prog concept continues the themes. It explodes to more rocking progressive rock as the guitar weaves some great lines. Keyboards take over as an alternate to that guitar, but the guitar takes control again. The piece continues to grow and expand. At times it leans toward classically inspired music. At other points it works to fast paced fusion type sounds with a real progressive rock edge. It just keeps driving forward with a lot of variety and a killer intensity. They drop it back to a mellower, classical music inspired arrangement after a while. Changes continue to ensue. Flute really drives a lot of this, particularly as it intensifies. After the six minute mark a cool new progressive rock jam ensues. There are definite classical music elements placed over the top of the arrangement as they work onward. That movement peaks and gives way to a mellower section that makes me think of Pink Floyd to a large degree, particularly because of the guitar sound at its heart. Don't get comfortable, though, because we quickly make our way toward more classical music. The number shifts again from there turning toward a jazzy kind of prog exploration with more killer guitar sounds. After some mellower, rather classical music takes over for a time, this explodes out into some scorching electric guitar driven progressive rock jamming to continue. This section really evolves into a powerhouse jam before giving way to another classically oriented movement. That section works upward toward powerhouse rocking stuff that still retains much of the mood and theme. This just keeps shifting and changing as it drives onward. They shift out again after the 13 minute mark to a triumphant sounding prog jam that's so cool. The guitar gets quite expressive as it continues. Eventually it drops back to a mellower movement from there, though. That movement finally takes the piece to its closing.
 
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