Gryphon


Gryphon

Gryphon - Gryphon ©1973 Transatlantic Records/Curio Records
1. Kemp's Jig
2. Sir Gavin Grimbold
3. Touch And Go
4. The Three Butchers
5. Pastime With Good Company
6. The Unquiet Grave
7. Estampie
8. Crossing The Stiles
9. The Astrologer
10. Tea Wrecks
11. Juniper Suite
12. The Devil And The Farmer's Wife

Gryphon was one of the more interesting (and wacky) bands to surface during the English prog rock explosion of the early seventies. They never released an album that accurately summarized their basic sound; the one consistency was the use of medieval instruments (crumhorn, bassoon, recorder, mandolin etc.). Their first release, Gryphon, presents the listener with pure English Medieval music with minor rock influences. The music ranges from serene pastoral fare, to romantic (and tragic) ballads, to bawdy drinking songs sung with gusto.

The truly charming aspect of Gryphon is the extensive use of authentic Medieval polyphony; half the fun comes from locking in on a single instrument and following it throughout a song where layers and layers of melody lines sail overhead. The woodwind instruments lend the music a courtly grace, while primitive percussive instruments give the music a nice bass-laden thud. The acoustic guitar work is executed almost perfectly, with infectious melody lines and a nice, dense sound. The vocals come in two principle varieties: the boisterous (and often times comical) full-band choruses, and warm low register (emotive) singing.

Gryphon has about as much as you ask for in a beer drinking album. It has solid pub pomp (the choruses are addictive and singing along is imperative), beautiful love songs about long dead relationships (beer drinking should always be accompanied by some self-pity), and invokes imagery of a sprawling countryside and ancient village wells (well, I like thinking about stuff like that when I'm plastered). I rank it second after Silly Wizard's Wild and Beautiful for solid beer drinking. Beer aside, this is a really fun album for anyone vaguely interested in Medieval culture or music. Or Renaissance festivals.

Review by James Slone

Review date: 03/2000

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Red Queen To Gryphon Three

Gryphon - Red Queen To Gryphon Three ©1974 Transatlantic Records/Curio Records
1. Opening Move
2. Second Spasm
3. Lament
4. Checkmate

Looking at the cover, one might assume this is yet another cheesy power metal album based on sub-Tolkien fantasy. But in fact, it is one of the greatest progressive rock albums ever. Anyone who claims to enjoy good music (that isn't pretentious) should be state-issued this album. This album is so cool it should be illegal to dislike it. That it exists in such an obscure state, is truly a travesty. I'm not sure if there will ever be another album like it. But let's disregard the hype and delve deeper- explanations are clearly in order.

With Red Queen to the Gryphon Three, the Medieval music (minus the vocals) that characterized the debut is successfully infused with a rock rhythm section and some wild prog rock keyboard jamming. The result? Total sonic bliss. The vocals are absent, and four epic (ten minute range) instrumentals dominate the album. The music is so varied and complex, that vocal layering would be nearly futile and awkward at best. The woodwind polyphony still dominates the music, but is now complimented and strengthened by drums, bass, and ever-present acoustic guitars. This album is very complex; not so much rhythmically as harmonically, with layers of melody lines sailing over rapidly changing rock structures. The music attacks from all sides, symphonic is scope and brilliantly executed.

The four songs that make up the album are expansive, but never redundant or boring. When I first heard this album, I was totally glued to my seat eagerly anticipating each new turn in the music. Despite the music's relative sophistication, it is never alienating or cold; it is warm and vital, positive and inspiring. Red Queen to the Gryphon Three is one of those albums that simply doesn't get old; like any fine vintage, the taste improves with age. Find at all costs.

Review by James Slone

Review date: 04/2000


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