Lee Speaks About Music… #99

Monuments – Napiers Bones

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Introduction…

For those who are familiar with Gordon Midgley’s solo work I am pretty sure they will be certainly aware of his work he does with vocalist Nathan Tillett and their project that is known as Napier’s Bones. Since the pair found each other on Soundcloud back in 2014 and started to collaborate with one another, so far they have managed to release and put out an album every year. Monuments is their 5th and latest album to hit the shelves so to speak, and I have to say this duo seem to be getting better and better with every album they put out.

No doubt Gordon Midgley’s production work has improved over the years to which will certainly have contributed to why each album sounds and feels better, but I also cannot really take anything away from the composition side of things either. Napier’s Bones is a project that presents the music to you in the form of a concept story, and each album can be quite fascinating in the way they present it all to you. Which is very much in the same style as progressive rock.

Gordon Midgely is no stranger to concept albums and even his own solo work tends to focus on that side of things as well even with his instrumental albums to some degree. It was only October of last year that we got to see the release of his GREAT! solo album The Fall Of The House Of Usher which was a concept story album based on a short story by Edgar Allan Poe. There is no doubt that Midgely not only can write great music, but he is also a great multi talented musician who is full of ideas and is capable of playing what he presents to you as well.

Napier’s Bones may not be the type of band you will get to see play live. But both Messrs Midgley & Tillett have both played in bands live previously before. But just because they now tend to function on the studio side of things, one should never really be put off by the GREAT! work they do together with how they function as a team. This is a team that is capable of churning out some really GREAT! music and they certainly have the power to ROCK!. Before I go any further let’s take a look at the artwork and packaging as usual.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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Well the first thing I should really point out is that no Napier’s Bones album comes in the form of a physical CD like in the picture above. But even though their music comes really in the form of a digital download. They do also send you the artwork so you can make it look like we have in the picture above by printing it out yourself and burning the album out yourself onto a CDR.

The Artwork.

All the artwork is done by Nathan Tillett and I have to say he always tends to do a very impressive professional job of it as well. Besides the graphic design work he does, he is also very good with a camera and goes out and about to capture the subject matter of the concept story with his camera. This video below shows you the process of turning his  original photograph into something that is more fitting with how he has done the design around it.

The Album In Review…

Napier’s Bones 5th album Monuments was officially released on the 24th August 2018. The album contains 5 tracks and has on overall playing time of 50 minutes, 43 seconds. The album was written, mixed and produced by Gordon Midgley in his home studio. I did mention that his production work gets better and better and I have to say this new album sounds purely fantastic, especially being that it was produced in his own home in Bradford.

All the material for the album was practically done predominately on his acoustic guitar, and Gordon started work on the first epic mammoth track “Standing Childe” way back in September last year. However due to the sudden loss of his father it very much put an halt on things, and he never got back to work on it till around Christmas in December of 2017. He also wrote “Waters Dark” in that same month. The remaining 3 songs for the album were written sometime between January – April 2018 and he had started work on the proper recordings of the songs in March 2018.

The other half of Napier’s Bones Nathan Tillett lives some 329 miles away all the way down Plymouth in Devonshire. He actually records his vocal parts on his ipad in his car and sends over the stems via the internet. His voice projects more of the raw power into the project and no doubt it works very effectively as well. Both Tillett & Midgley also have their own solo projects and have been involved in other projects besides Napier’s Bones but this is a project that perhaps is a bit more special and works really well I have always felt.

No Napier’s Bones album could ever really be achieved without the right weapons and tools at hand, and Gordon Midgley comes armed with an array of them to achieve what he’s after and get the job done precisely, efficiently and effectively.

The Gear

Midgley is a very talented multi instrumentalist and has put in a lot of hours learning his tools of the trade so to speak. Predominately he is a bass guitarist and guitarist though his skills stretch out more beyond and he is just as efficiently good with his keyboard and drum programming skills and has spent the time with his effect pedals and studio plugins to get precisely the right sounds he’s looking for.

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Both the Korg MS 20 and Volca Keys come in very handy and are very useful tools to get the job done. All those along with his microphones, amplification plus recording and mixing skills are more than enough to do a very professional job.

Musicians & Credits…

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Produced by Gordon Midgley. Recorded between March – July 2018 at GM’s Home Studio in Bradford. Engineered by Gordon Midgley. Mastered by Gordon Midgley in August 2018. Artwork Photography & Design by Nathan Tillett. All music and lyrics by Gordon Midgley.

Musicians.

Gordon Midgley: Vocals/Electric & Acoustic Guitars/Keyboards. Drum Programming..
Nathan Tillett: Vocals.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Like many concept albums many artists will quite often either write their own stories or draw on source material from a book, or some ancient bit of history. Whether it be some sort of legendary thing about fables, fantasy, witchcraft or a true historic event like war for an example. For a reviewer like myself I quite enjoy doing a bit of my own research, especially when the subject matter has been documented and it’s quite easy to find it out on the net. Like most of the concepts Gordon Midgley writes about I always tend to find  them interesting, and the fact that the album Monuments does have an “S” on the end of it, means there is more than one story going on here.

During the time of working on the album, every now an then Gordon will post the odd teaser video showing the progress of some of the tracks for the album. Though most of these are posted on Facebook, he will post the odd one on Youtube as well. This video is one of the two he made during the 2nd track on the album “Mirabilis“.

Here he explains a bit of background information regarding the subject matter he’s writing about, and shows you how the guitar parts fit into the track itself. It was around this time he had also purchased an Epiphone Firebird to add to his collection of guitars. he also has a Gibson Firebird to which he had long before this one. You also get to hear how Nathan’s great rock voice fits into the song.

No doubt you will find many influences in all the songs Napier’s Bones have done over the past 4 or 5 years. On this particular album you get to hear influences from Rush. Queen. Steve Hackett. Pink Floyd and many more. But of course Napier’s Bones have their own distinctive way of doing things themselves. Besides the musical aspects even Nathan Tillett’s voice is very much his own and it’s highly original material. So let’s now take a closer look at the album Monuments as I take you through all of its 5 tracks.

Track 1. Standing Childe.

The opening track on the album is quite a BEAST of a track and weighs in at a touch over 23 minutes. The 23 minute epic comes in 9 parts to put across the story of the first of the monuments we have here on the album. The standing Childe in some way could be seen as all that is left of Ordulf the son of Ordgar today. As legend as it Ordulf was known as Childe The Hunter a brave noble warrior who obviously must of made some sort of an impact enough to be remembered in honour of his name.

Speaking of honour the name Childe was most likely derived from the Old English name  Cild and they changed it to Childe in honour of his name. Ordulf’s father was the Anglo-Saxon Earl of Devon from way back in the 11th century. No doubt over the many years many different stories have been told of Childe The Hunter regarding his party battles and the slaying of mythical beasts on Dartmoor’s moor, but the one thing that may be certain is how he met his fate.

He very much met his fate in the freezing snow with his horse. Although the horse kept him warm for awhile it was not really enough. He ended up killing his horse and then he disembowelled it and crept inside the warm carcass for shelter. Though nevertheless he still froze to death. But just before he did he supposedly wrote a note to the effect that whoever should find him and bury him in their church, would inherit his Plymstock estate.

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Childe’s body was found later by the monks of Tavistock Abbey. However, they heard of a plot to ambush them by the people of Plymstock, at a bridge over the River Tavy. So they took a detour and had to build a new bridge to get across the river, which was just outside Tavistock. They was also successful at burying his body in the grounds of the Abbey and inherited the Plymstock estate.

The picture above is of Childe’s Tomb and was before it’s destruction which took place in 1812. The tomb was virtually destroyed by a man back then who stole most of the stones to build a house nearby, but it was partly reconstructed in 1890. Child’s Tomb still stands today the picture below is what it looks like now after the reconstruction.

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The words Gordon Midgley has wrote for his story of Childe The Hunter’s party battles is put across in the way of making it that much more exciting, and I have to say I quite like how he has gone about it all, and put it all into context to be able to put it all across more effectively with the vocal side of things to coincide with the music.

As I mentioned before he has broken the story down into 9 parts. All of which are very much have subheading titles for each of the parts that are contained throughout the 23 minute blockbuster of a piece. The first subheading is titled “(I) The Childe” and this is very much an instrumental piece to set the scene for the epic story that is to unfold. It takes up the first 3 minutes of the 23 you get here.

It opens up with the eerie sound of the wind and the crashing waves of the sea and with some ambient guitar. All of which take up around 22 seconds before it then bursts into action with powerful power chords on the electric guitar, all supported very well by the drums and bass, and a rather nice lead synth playing a fine melody at first.

The synth takes on the lead role and fizzles and sustains its way out nicely at around the 1:10 mark. Then we get this lovely little change with the acoustic guitar coming into play to which is accompanied by a lovely flutey sound from the mellotron. This all builds up very well and at around the 1.5 minute mark and Brian May swings into play for a bit of the action but Midgley is having none of it and soon swings into action on his electric to shut him up for awhile :)))))). It’s all pretty hot and it builds up with some mighty power to hammer its way into the next section which is the second part of the monster piece.

“(II) Mark Well” is a beautiful acoustic song that runs from 3:01 – 5:40 and I love the way the whole thing runs so smoothly into play from where the last part ended. It all fits into place so well and we get some beautiful acoustic work from both 6 and 12 string guitars. Tillett’s vocals are quite golden on this lovely ballad, and not only does he have a great ballad voice but it can change with more powerful expression at any time to suit the moods throughout the piece, or any piece for that matter.

Besides the lovely acoustic guitars (which are superbly recorded by the way) and Tillett’s GREAT! voice. You also get some fine effective electric guitar bringing in some ambience along with some choral sounds from the keyboards. I love where the bass guitar comes into play around half way through it and this is also where the 12 string guitar comes in as well to accompany the 6 string. The piece is filled with beauty, even though the story line is perhaps haunting.

It’s certainly one of my favourite sections of the whole piece, and perhaps apart from the lyrics being story based, it could possibly be the single from the album. I love how it all builds up as well at the end and Brian May comes back for another blast with the twin lead guitars to end it all off. It really is a superb well written song.

(III) Born to this Duty” runs from 5:40 – 8:01 and is another great acoustic song that features both Tillett & Midgley taking on the vocal duties. Once again the transitional change is very smoothly done and Midgley’s voice is more haunting. it also follows Tillett’s in a sort of answering back way. The acoustic guitar runs all the way through this track and the track that follows it in this particular part gets accompanied by a dominant bass line and Steve Hackett drops in with his very well phased guitar :))))).

It builds its way up strongly towards the end and the power takes us into the next part  “(IV) Like None Before” which is quite a short section and runs from 8:01 – 9:51. This section runs at a faster pace and the acoustic guitar is strummed along with a sort of a Jimmy Page droning style. You also get a bit of synth and some more flying around on the electric guitars by Midgley. It also gives Tillett the chance to bring out more angst with his great voice with the powerful build up, and it builds up very and falls down at the end very well to take us into the next part.

The next section “(V) Where Horizon Meets The Sky” runs from 9:51 – 12:09 and this is what I call the 70’s Rush section and this section totally ROCKs! it s way along with very powerful bass and power chords from the guitar, and even the synth work is reminiscent to Rush too. The only real thing that sets it aside is Tillet’s voice which works GREAT! and once again delivers the angst and great expression for the song. “Where Horizon Meets The Sky” is very much the main battle were Ordulf gets to slay the BEAST.

(VI) Fate Will Do As It Must” is another short section that runs from 12:09 – 12:49 and once again the strumming acoustic Jimmy Page droning style guitar comes back into play at pace and is accompanied by the drums, bass and more May-ish lead tones on the electric guitar. Each section runs and blends into one another so well and it works very well in giving you something more to keep you listening and attentive to how the story all unfolds. The power fizzles out effectively at the end to bring in the next part which is where the freezing cold proves to be more of a battle than the BEAST for Ordulf.

The next part “(VII) Today It Ends” is more of an ambient section which utilises guitar effects and more Hackett like lead lines to put over the snow storm and the fact that the freezing cold is setting in. Even the bass line runs along like a clock counting out the hours Ordulf is held down by the storm and is a bit like Roger Waters. This section runs from 12:49 – 16:26 and Tillett’s voice echoes the thoughts Ordulf has he reflects over his life and ponders over if this what we live our lives for.

(VIII) Not Enough” is Ordulf’s last attempt to try and save himself and is the part where he kills his horse and disembowels it, and gets inside its carcass for more warmth. But his luck runs out and the storm is not giving way even to this mighty warriors strength. This section is very well portrayed in an heavenly choral kind of way as it opens up with more Hackett like guitar phasing on the electric and the acoustic guitar also comes back nicely and slots into place in a more subtle way for Tillett to express the emotions with his fine voice.

It also runs directly into the final part “(IX) Behold The Childe” which rounds the story of perfectly with more beautiful acoustic guitar work and electric lead lines, keyboards bass, drums and great vocals. It’s one big epic journey from start to finish and there is never a dull moment in it. Even though the epic is 23 minutes, it seems to be over in no time at all with the enjoyment you get from the piece. It’s all been very skilfully woven together and this is my personal favourite track on the album and merits my top spot of the album award.

Track 2. Mirabilis.

The 2nd of the monuments is that of the alchemist and English philosopher known as Roger Bacon who was also known as Doctor Mirabilis. No one was ever really sure of the year when Roger Bacon was actually born, although he did get about enough for people to take notice of some of his works he did back in 13th Century. Bacon’s major piece of work was the Opus Majus. To which was written in Medieval Latin and sent to Pope Clement IV in Rome in 1267.

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Bacon studied at Oxford and became a master there lecturing about the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle though there was no evidence he was ever awarded a doctorate. The title of Doctor Mirabilis was very much posthumous and figurative, though there was no doubt he was considered to be a very wise man and studied very hard in many subjects. He was also a Franciscan friar who placed considerable emphasis on the study of nature through empiricism. In the early modern era.

He attributed the Secret of Secrets (Secretum Secretorum) the Islamic “Mirror of Princes” to Aristotle, thinking that he had composed it for Alexander the Great. The guy may very well have studied that hard that it fried his brain :))))). He was regarded as a wizard and particularly famed for the story of his mechanical or necromantic brazen head. He also dabbled in the occult and black magic and thought he could create life from metal. It’s perhaps just as well he was not around in the late 20th century to see Metal Mickey. He most likely would of flipped his lid and tried to say that he created him :))))).

But no doubt Roger Bacon had done enough to leave his mark in history back in the 13th century, and his monumental statue was erected near Ilchester in Somerset, England. For the order Friars Minor. 

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Without a shred of a doubt Messrs Midgley & Tillett have cooked Roger’s Bacon very well indeed. The magical intro gives you the feeling that Bacon is working away in his study or laboratory winding up his mechanical mechanisms to try and bring them to life. Roger Bacon was one of the first Westerners to build chiming clocks, the designs came from the Arabs who took their inspiration from the Chinese. The bells add more to the haunting and mischievous dark goings on with black magic, adding to the magic once again we get some gorgeous work on the 6 & 12 string acoustics along with some more Hackett like lead work.

Both Midgley & Tillett do a grand job on the vocal duties and the piece builds up with some electric force with the drums, bass and more great lead work from the electric guitars. It then comes down with the bells and the haunting feeling of it all and fades its way out very well indeed. This 2nd video is another fine example of just how well it’s all worked out and gives you more of an insight of what the song is all about.

Mirabilis” is another really great song and fine piece of work and is very much another contender for the top spot on the album, I like the chord progression and acoustic work on this album a lot.

Track 3. Waters Dark.

The “Waters Dark” is the shortest track on the album and is just over the 3 minute mark. Unlike the first 2 tracks, these last 3 songs on the album are not so much perhaps monuments, and to be honest because of the titles of these final 3 tracks on the album, it was not so much of an easy thing for me to look up on the net to see how they related to any sort of person who had made an impact enough to leave behind a monument so to speak. I also never had the lyrics at the time either. So I very much ended up asking Gordon if he could shed a bit more light on them for me, to which he provided me with some very useful information and gave me more insight into them.

Although it’s true not all the tracks on the album are monuments, they do however have the odd bit of a connection with one another on some of them. For example the lyrics in this song mentions the chiming of the York minster bells, to which Mirabilis also had bells in and also “Waters Dark” is also mentioned in the last track on the album.

Waters Dark” is based on a legend from the York area and is about a person who goes alone to a place on a river on a May Day to place 5 white stones into the water. A kind of ritual sort of thing I suppose, and by doing such a thing the person is granted a vision of the past and the future. Gordon also told me that Nathan had followed instructions and tried it out, but he’s still waiting for the vision :))))))).

The song itself is another fine acoustic song that has the calming flow and feel of a river with how it’s all put so well across. Tillett is once again on the lead vocals and Midgley echoes along with the backing harmonies. Once again we have some fine work on the acoustic guitar and more Hackett like phasing and phrasing on the electric guitar and they do another grand job here of it all.

Gordon also told me that he wrote the song after his father died last year. I also think some of the lyrics reflect the pain and the time it takes to heal after his sad loss too, and once again the lyrics very well written. I actually remember when I lost my son a few years ago now, I went down to a river on my own and sat on the bank, and stared into the water to collect my thoughts.

Track 4. Free To Choose.

Well I did mention earlier that the 2nd part “Mark Well” of the mammoth BEAST of a song “Standing Childe” that opens up the album could be the single of the album, apart from the lyrics being more story based. But this song “Free To Choose” I feel would certainly be the most fitting song to choose from the album and would even work with the lyrics that was written for it. I also feel it’s got the right temperament and the right up-tempo feel to it, it’s a great song that lifts up very well with the chorus of the song.

The song itself is about the painter Robert Lenkiewicz. Like most painters it’s also very hard for them to get any real recognition for the great work they really do. For example Lenkiewicz was born in London, and because he was the child of Jewish refugees his paintings were very much rejected by the establishment in London. So he ended up in Plymouth where he got a lot more appreciation for his great works of art.

Since Robert Lenkiewicz died back in 2002 in some way I suppose he did leave behind a sort of monument in the way of a Murial. The Barbican Murial is one of his most famous Murial’s that he painted next to his own studio in Plymouth back in the early 70’s and was completed between the years of 1971 – 72.

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Robert Lenkiewicz and his Murial The Barbican.

The above picture above is a photograph of Lenkiewicz and his famous painting taken back in 1979. Unfortunately today the Murial has faded badly over the years and they have had to prop the walls up with timber to try and stop it from collapsing. Gordon took a trip to Plymouth himself to get a photograph of it himself, and you can see how it’s deteriorated over the years and the timber propping it up is holding it all together.

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Nathan used to see the painter around his own town of Plymouth back in the 80’s. He was also quite a ladies man to 100’s of them and he also had 11 children all of which are artists in their own rights. Like many painters when Lenkiewicz died in 2002 despite his prolific output of over 10,000 pieces of work he had done throughout his lifetime. He only had £12 in cash in his possession. He never had a bank account and was said to owe over 2 million pound to various creditors.

Since his death, some examples of his best paintings have been sold for six figure sums in various London auction rooms. Media reports put the value of his estate at some £6.5 million. This figure included a cursory valuation of the artist’s antiquarian library of rare books on witchcraft, the occult, metaphysics and medieval philosophy. It all sounds like he may have been loaded. However, the sale of this entire collection by Sotheby’s in 2003 raised less than £1 million.

Like most painters they are perhaps worth more after they have gone, and they was very much more or less poor whilst they was alive. Though no doubt I rather think Robert Lenkiewicz was a man who perhaps enjoyed his life and just like this song says in the words We are Free to choose this way, free to think, free to be who we are Free expression here, free to love while it lasts” That’s most likely how he lived it, and it’s another GREAT! song.

Track 5. From The Heights.

When I first seen the title for the final song on the album, it had me thinking along the lines of something more associated with one of Gordon’s other hobbies which happens to be mountain climbing. But what we have here is based around has to which one of the Bronte family actually wrote “Wuthering Heights“. Well one thing for certain is that is was not Kate Bush even though she may have wrote a song and sang about it :))))))).

Patrick Branwell Bronte better known as Branwell Bronte was refereed to being the mad, bad and dangerous brother of Charlotte, Emily and Anne. Although he was the only brother the 3 sisters had Branwell Bronte was also an English painter, writer and artist. Though some may have called him a piss artist when he gave way to drugs and alcohol addiction :))))).

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The painting above was painted by Branwell Bronte and it shows his 3 famous sisters. He even painted himself in the picture, but afterwards decided to paint it out. Branwell also had two other sisters who died just before his 8th Birthday and it deeply affected him. His father very much taught his son Branwell himself at home even though he was advised to send him to school and gave his son a classical education. Even though all 3 of sisters went to school to be educated a typhoid epidemic spread around the school that led to the death of both Maria and Elizabeth Bronte. Their father took Charlotte, Emily and Anne out of school and decided to teach them as well at home.

During the 19th century sickness and epidemics such as typhoid and tuberculosis were nothing unusual and it took its toll on many, and not many lived to grow old. Many were dead by the time they reached 30 including the family in question here. Charlotte was the eldest of her 3 sisters and was near enough a year older than her brother too. Yet she lived the longest out of them all. Though she did not quite make 40 and died at the age of 39. She got to live 10 years longer than her youngest sister Anne and 9 years longer than both Branwell and Emily who died in the same year, and the latter of the two lived only 3 months longer.

Branwell brought his own death upon himself, and unlike his sisters the only real thing that killed him was his own addiction. In many ways I suppose he was the black sheep of the family because he could not hold any kind of regular job, he was often up to no good by trying to cheat people out of money, and even turned to blackmail to get the money to pay for his dirty habit. Well that’s how I see his life anyway by just reading up on it. I can see why he was seen as the mad, bad and dangerous brother because basically he was a disgrace and embarrassment to the family more than anything else.

Most of his early works regarding his writing were done in collaboration with his oldest sister Charlotte to which were mostly poems. Branwell was no novelist like his sisters even though he may have had grand delusions of grandeur as a child. But as he got older he never bothered pursuing a career at all. Even the poems he sent in to try and get some kind work were left unanswered. All his other work were all in fact done with his sisters in collaboration (including a play he did with Charlotte).

Unlike his sisters Branwell liked to have a good time, and spent most of his time with friends in public houses getting pissed out of his brains. Even though he tried to further educate himself he soon gave up more or less on everything he did. Unlike both of his sisters Charlotte and Emily who did go on to further education and even became school teachers. So is it possible that this guy could write something like Wuthering Heights?. Personally I very much doubt it, but you never know.

Emily on the other hand was not like her sisters who were more well known for writing novels, and the only novel credited to her name was the first part of Wuthering Heights. Not even that at first was credited to her real name and all the Bronte sisters did in fact go under pseudonym names. They may very well have had their reasons for doing so as well, after the disgrace and embarrassment their own brother Branwell had brought to their family name. Branwell could not even get admitted into the Royal Academy Of Arts for his paintings, never mind get his poems and a book published (if he did really write one that is). However he was the first Bronte poet to get some of his poems published in local newspapers under the name of Northangerland.

There is no doubt that there was certainly quite a lot of criticism going around when the book Wuthering Heights was published. Many believed because of how it was written that there was no way a woman could of wrote it. But just by reading the background of Emily’s life I would say that Wuthering Heights is more or less an autobiography of her life with the madness of her brother thrown into it all. Emily was the shy one who kept herself to herself, and it just may be the case that she was abused more than the others was at an early age. A lot of that anger about men and all the sickness she went through could of certainly wrote that book.

There is no doubt that Charlotte was the one who helped Emily the most, and it was her that stumbled upon Emily’s poems and other written material and was the one who very much made sure they got published. Emily wanted nothing to do with it and was much more closer to Anne than Charlotte. When the book was first published Anne was even credited to the writing and it was first published under both Emily & Anne’s pseudonym names of Ellis & Acton Bell.

Many publications have been published over the years that have intended to show that  Branwell was the real guy behind the story of Wuthering Heights. Such as the likes of Stella Gibbon’s 1932 novel “Cold Comfort Farm” and Pauline Clarke’s “The Twelve and the Genii”. The only real person who could of really answered as to who really wrote it was Charlotte Bronte and she very much took that to her grave.

The words that Gordon Midgley wrote for “From The Heights” very much portray the life of Branwell Bronte down to a tee. It very much describes the talented young side of Branwell‘s early life up to his pitfalls, downfalls and failures later on in his life, and how at the end of it all, how he was painted out of history. Midgley’s story also pertains to the possibility that Branwell may well of wrote the first draught of Wuthering Heights and Emily was the one who took it and finished it off. It’s also not known if he was aware of his 3 sisters debut novels that got published in 1847 the year before he died.

In many ways Branwell‘s innocent childhood and last years of madness could very well portray the character of Heathcliffe in the book. In the end he threw himself over the cliff so to speak. But no doubt he left a legacy and the picture he painted of his 3 sisters may even be a monument of his own history, even if he painted himself out of it all.

From The Heights” is very much another great piece of work and strong contender for the top spot on the album. Tillett’s GREAT! voice puts over this final chapter of the GREAT! story very well with how he has expressed it all. Midgley comes in the right parts with his vocals to back it up and support and once again we have a very powerful song that is well hauntingly done with the use of acoustic guitar, electric guitars, bass and drums to raise the game and lift it all up with its superb intense build up and puts an end to one really superb album.

Summary

To sum up Monuments by Napier’s Bones its certainly an album that has plenty to say with all 5 of its tracks and story lines put to them, and is certainly an album that gives a reviewer like myself plenty to speak about. I found all the subject matter throughout this album purely fascinating, and I knew very little and certainly in most cases nothing at all about the impact and monumental history of how these people left their mark on it in one way or another in this world.

The fact that I knew very little and nothing at all about the people that are contained on this truly GREAT! album, made it that more fascinating and exciting to read up on it all. Though please do not take my own personal views of Branwell Bronte’s personal life of how I seen it with my own observations.

My own personal observations have come from mainly reading upon both his life and his sister Emily’s life, and I have not gone into any great detail by reading entirely all the other various publications in my own research on the subject matter. And I am far from any expert who knows the inside out of that classic novel Wuthering Heights either or how it really came about.

There is no doubt that a great deal of thought and effort has gone into the making of this album and it stands up very well as a testament to the history of the lives it portrays, and how it’s been put across. When it comes to concept albums and the source of the material that we have here, it very much suits the world of progressive rock to a fine art, and no doubt this prog rock album is a very fine work of art that truly GELS with how it’s all so skilfully been very well constructed and woven together.

My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Standing Childe“. “Mirabilis” and “The Heights“. I also think it is very hard to pick a favourite out of the 3 tracks and I could even include the other 2 tracks in these highlights. But I could just of easily of said the whole album and as an album it purely works solidly as one.

Conclusion…

Monuments by Napier’s Bones is a very strong body of work and is very much a solid album with all the material that was written for it. There is no doubt that an album like this will, or should appeal to many who like myself are into the world of prog rock and concept albums stories and conspiracy. For those who are into such GREAT! music I can honestly recommend this album 100% and it does not in any way at all disappoint in the slightest bit either. The album very much will stand up and speak for itself, and I suggest at the very least you give it a listen.

Napier’s Bones may very well be a two man outfit, but there is no box of magic tricks or gimmickry that has been added to this album in the studio at all. It’s all purely done with the use of real instruments, real guitar effects, real voices and real sweat apart from the drum programming and even that has been skilfully done. To put it all in a nutshell Its very much the work of two very well skilled musicians who purely make a great team.

Like I have mentioned before regarding overall quality of Gordon Midgley’s production work. it very much has been improving all the time and this album comes with a superb production. I also personally think this album is their best album yet, and If you are into the likes Rush/Queen/Steve Hackett/Pink Floyd and many, many more there is no doubt Napier’s Bones will appeal to your taste. Monuments is a masterful magnificent album that portrays an hauntingly dark, thrilling and mischievous look into those who left their mark in history. Most of which you most likely would never had heard of, which makes it even more exciting.

The album Monuments by Napier’s Bones is free to listen to and can also be purchased as a digital download only for as little as £4 or more @ Bandcamp. You can listen or even purchase it from this link here : https://napiersbones.bandcamp.com/album/monuments  

This Bright Winter’s Day Sally Forth Feel The Bite Of The Wind From The North…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Standing Childe. 23:03.
02. Mirabilis. 10:25.
03. Waters Dark. 3:07.
04. Free To Choose. 5:59.
05. The Heights. 8:09.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 10/10.

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Lee Speaks About Music… #98

ReInvention – Gryphon

GRphon

Introduction…

Well it’s finally here after some 41 years and no doubt I would never of thought it would of ever been possible to see a 6th Gryphon album after all these years either. I dare say some of the bands fans would of even past over to the other side by now and this is not exactly like waiting for the next Peter Gabriel album to arrive which may come along once in a blue moon. I think for the biggest majority of bands fans after all these years, you would certainly be dead lucky to see most of the original members still alive. But here we get at least 3 of its 4 original members, and even though the 4th one is not here, he is still very much still alive and kicking.

There is no doubt a lot of Gryphon fans will be missing Richard Harvey, especially with him being the guy who contributed towards perhaps most of the bands written material way back in the 70’s. There is no doubt that he was the guy who wrote many of the bands masterpieces back in that golden decade. But then again so did both Graeme Taylor and Brian Gulland. So no doubt with even 2 thirds of the bands original writing force. I don’t think Gryphon fans will be that disappointed.

I myself am just grateful that I was still around to see all this happen, and I even got to see the band with all 4 of its original members play live back in 2015 as well. They even had Jonathan Davie on bass who was very much on the bands 5th album Treason back in 1977 along with them as well. Gryphon are a band I will very much take to my grave, and if I can afford to be buried in a grave it will certainly be an “Unquiet” one along with my Gryphon albums and HiFi :)))))).

Gryphon today are very much a 6 piece outfit just like the band was on their last album they made back in 1977 Treason. The multi instrumentalist Graham Preskett was the first to join the band back in 2009 when they first got back together and performed their one off concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London. Rory McFarlane joined the band in 2016 and replaced the bands old bassist Jonathan Davie who rejoined the band back in 2009 and decided to leave towards the end of 2015.

The latest member to join the band is the woodwind player Andy Findon who joined the band last year in 2017. He replaced Keith Thompson who originally replaced Richard Harvey back in 2016 – 2017. Since 2009 the band have very much reinvented themselves and finally at last a new album has finally arrived, and I am very much looking forward to reviewing this one. Though I have to confess before this album arrived and after some 41 years of waiting for it, I never had any great expectations of how it would turn out.

After all this is 2018 and not the 70’s. Today I find it practically impossible for any band that came out of that decade to really recapture that golden magic again. But before I go any further, let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork first.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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Well the first surprise was that the latest album actually comes in a Digipak and it looks like no expense as been spared here. Like many Digipaks these days it also comes with a pocket to store the booklet in. Speaking of the booklet its an 8 page one that contains all the linear production notes, credits and the lyrics. Talking Elephant have certainly done a much better job than they did with the new remasters of Gryphon’s first 5 albums that I recently brought and it looks very neat for it as well.

The Artwork.

The artwork and design was done by the English psychedelic artist John Hurford. In the late sixties he was one of the leading psychedelic painters, with work appearing in Oz, IT and Gandalf’s Garden magazine. He is the only psychedelic artist of his generation who has contributed to all three of these seminal underground publications. He then went on to do illustrated children’s books for publishers in the UK, the US, Australia, New Zealand and Africa and over 40 titles have been published over the years.

He even done the artwork for Gryphon’s new website that they launched around 2 years ago now. I quite like the fact that like Dan Pearce’s work its very colourful, and in some respects sort of harks back to the cover that Pearce done for the bands 3rd album Red Queen To Gryphon Three. It looks like they may have used the bands wind player the mighty or rather God Almighty Brian Gulland to step in and stop the fight as well :))))).

The Album In Review…

Gryphon’s latest 6th album ReInvention was officially released on Talking Elephant Records on the 10th August 2018 via the bands website only. It was also released at the Cropredy Festival on the same day. Eventually it will get released at other outlets such as Burning Shed and Amazon. The price point is also very reasonable from the bands own website and it’s priced at £12 plus £1.70 postage and packaging to which they so also use 1st class post here in the UK.

The album comes with 11 tracks and has an overall playing time of 62 minutes, and 34 seconds. It’s the longest Gryphon album ever made. No doubt some may consider it too long, but after waiting 41 years I doubt that will be the case at all, and it will be certainly more of a welcoming thing for Gryphon fans. However if the band do plan to release it on vinyl at some point later on. I rather think that they have made it more of a costly thing to do, simply cause you cannot squeeze 62 and half minutes onto one LP.

Gryphon’s new album was recorded and produced by Graeme Taylor at Morden Shoals Studio which is basically a studio he set up in his own attic. Taylor has spent quite a few years recording and producing a variety of other artists albums along with some radio and television work and the Gryphon’s new album comes with an excellent production and sounds really GREAT!.

Gryphon are certainly not the type of band you could set your watch by, and since they got back together in 2009 they have certainly jumped the gun regarding what news they put out and with the announcements they have made from time to time. Since that one off gig they played at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London that I missed in 2009. I kept my eyes peeled on the only real website you could find out any real information about the band.

That website was designed and maintained by Eduardo Mota. I am pretty sure the first rumours that Gryphon was going to be playing live again floated around in 2013. Then it was announced they would be getting together for some shows in 2014. Throughout this time they also announced they would be working on a new album. It all eventually came together again in 2015 and they called their little mini tour The Non The Wiser Tour. No doubt nobody were non the wiser has to when it would all happen again. But I kept my eyes glued to Eduardo’s website from 2010 onwards.

Since 2016 Gryphon finally created their own website and even though Eduardo Mota as not updated anything on his website since January 2015 to be honest it contains more useful information about the band and looks a damn site better than the new website the band have now. I myself found it a very useful website for a lot of the resources for my reviews of the bands 5 albums from the 70’s. I think Eduardo done a magnificent job on that website and he deserves a lot of credit for it too.

No doubt since the band got back together just before 2009 it’s certainly had an hard time of keeping a consistent line up, and that is very much what has held a lot of things back. I also felt that Richard Harvey with all his commitments may have held up a lot of things after that one off gig they did back in 2009. To be honest having seen the band live in 2015 with Richard Harvey. I got the impression that the band were much more stable and comfortable, when I seen them without him in 2016. They also appeared to be more happier within themselves as well.

Gryphon are without doubt still a force as a live act even without Harvey. Though no way could I ever take anything really away from Harvey’s great talent has a composer and a performer.

Even with the line up of the band Gryphon now have you cannot really set your watch by them, and a typical example of that is with the release of their new album. This album was officially supposed to be released on the 14th of September. They even announced it that gig which will be once again at the Union Chapel in London at the beginning of this year. They even called the event the Grand New Album Launch.

I even brought a ticket for the event to get the album upon its release, and they have already released the bloody thing :)))))). I most likely would of avoided travelling all the way to London if I would of known, and waited for them to play at Wolverhampton in November as it’s nearer for me to travel. But I do not mind and will get to see them twice this year now.

In a way I am glad the album got released before the concert simply cause no doubt they will be playing a lot of the new material at the shows, and I would much sooner hear it before hand, rather than listen to a lot of new material I have never heard before.

Musicians & Credits…

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Produced by Graeme Taylor. Recorded & Mastered at Morden Shoals Studio. Recording Engineer  Graeme Taylor. Additional Editing by Graham Preskett. Art & Design by John Hurford. All tracks recorded in 2017.

Musicians.

Brian Gulland: Bassoon/Baritone Sax/Recorders/Bass Krumhorn/Pestle ‘n Mortar/Piano/Vocalisations.
Graeme Taylor: Santa Cruz OM Acoustic Guitar/Fender Custom Shop Telecaster.
Dave Oberlé: Drums/Percussion/Pestle ‘n Mortar Rotation/Vocals.
Graham Preskett: Violin/Keyboards/Mandolin (and a spot of Harmonica).
Andy Findon: Flute & Piccolo(With and without Abell Whistle Headjoints for Boehm-System Flute)/Soprano Krumhorn/Soprano Sax/Clarinet/Sweetheart Fife.
Rory McFarlane: Electric & Double Bass.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Looking at how Gryphon’s new album ReInvention as been laid out with it’s 11 tracks. I think if you was going to compare it with any of their earlier albums from the 70’s with its layout, it would certainly have to be their 1973 self titled debut album, to which even though it was some 20 odd minutes shorter, it did contain 12 tracks. I would also say that the bands new album is more structured around the more folkier side of things too.

Though one could certainly say that no Gryphon album is really alike and that certainly still stands true even after all these years. Both renaissance and medieval music always has been the major element behind the bands music ever since they first started out back in the early 70’s. The only album they ever made where it was not so evident would most certainly have been their last album Treason done back in 1977.

Gryphon have always been known as the medieval prog rockers, and no doubt prog rock is also evident in a lot of English traditional folk music, and the structure of even some of this style of music can still be just as well structured and very complex to play. Gryphon have always applied a lot of classical music to the structure of their music too, which is most certainly down to their more unusual use of instrumentation they use and its what really sets them apart from many others, and why their music is that much more unique.

I suppose the best way I could really describe Gryphon’s new album ReInvention is that you still have the odd bit of medieval goodness that was present on the bands self titled debut album from 1973. But we also have a more airy and lighter approach to approach to folk music which fuses classical, traditional folk, jazz and blues into it’s melting pot. In many ways I get the impression that this particular album was certainly tailor made for the Cropredy Folk Festival rather than any prog rock festival.

In my introduction I stated that I never had any great expectations has to how this album would turn out after all these years. This was very much based on how many artists from that golden decade of the 70’s I loved so much, have somehow lost the knack in creating something they did back then. I also stated that after all this is 2018 and not the 70’s, and today I find it practically impossible for any band that came out of that decade to really recapture that golden magic again.

No doubt many of those artists can recapture that magic when you go and see them live, and let’s face it at their live shows they still play those old classics they created all those years ago more often than their newer material. That is the very reason why most people still go and see most artists play live even today. Though I have to say regarding writing newer material today, I would say that 90% of artists still find it difficult to recapture the magic from when they started out many moons ago.

In some respects I can see why Peter Townshend of the Who gave up writing newer material for the band when they got back together to play some live shows. Even he felt it was too hard to recapture the past and even though many artists still plod on and try and do so, it’s a very hard thing to do. Even a successful artist like Elton John cannot do it either. So the question is can Gryphon do it after some 41 years. Well let’s take a closer look at the new written material as I go through the 11 tracks on the album individually.

Track 1. Pipe Up Downsland Derry Dell Danko.

Well no doubt just by glancing at the title we have here it’s quite easy to relate it to some sort of jig you would find in traditional folk music. A title such as this would of have even been more associated with a band like Fairport Convention before Gryphon were even born :)))))). But oddly enough even though this particular track is mainly an instrumental piece, it does have words and vocals in it, unlike any jig and its quite strange where the vocals come into play as well which is more or less right at the end at around the 3 and half minute mark.

Gryphon’s medieval dance style is still quite reminiscent in the piece, and musically its perhaps more like a reel than a jig. It’s a very interesting piece and no doubt the vocal section which was perhaps most unexpected and sees the band injecting their usual bit of humour into the piece. Both Dave Oberlé and Brian Gulland share the vocal duties and they tend to on a couple of the vocal tracks on the album.

It’s one of the 4 tracks on the album that was written by Brian Gulland and to be honest I have always enjoyed his contribution to the bands writing and was glad to see he had written quite a few tracks for this new album. Both “Gulland Rock” from the bands 2nd album Midnight Mushrumps and “Flash in the Pantry” from the last album Treason I have always regarded as masterpieces.

Though I would not exactly say that “Pipe Up Downsland Derry Dell Danko” is really a masterpiece, its a very well constructed piece of work. You get all your familiarities with the flutes, organ, harpsichord, krumhorns, bassoon, acoustic guitar, percussion and I suppose the only really new addition is the violin. It’s quite a delightful and pleasing way to kick off the new album and I really like what the band have done here, and this is very much a contender for the top spot on the album.

Track 2. Rhubarb Crumhorn.

The first of 4 tracks that Graham Preskett has contributed to the band and judging by its title its perhaps more associated to Brian Gulland but this instrumental piece is perhaps more familiar with Richard Harvey’s writing, in that its certainly something more along the lines of what one would write for Television. But it does have Gryphon’s unique style stamped all over the piece.

Once again the band have done a really superb job of it all and there is a lot more than just the krumhorns that make up the beauty we have here in this very well constructed and well written piece. It’s also another contender for the top spot on the album and its an excellent track on the album.

Track 3. A Futuristic Auntyquarian.

Well the title of this Brian Gulland instrumental piece certainly has more of a Gryphon ring about it. Once again it’s another delightful well structured piece and what I like a lot about this album is the way that all the members of the band stand out so clearly with the use of their instruments. It’s been very well recorded and the band certainly appear to be more in unison with one another. I certainly felt that was missing on the bands 4th album Raindance.

The violin in particular is perhaps contributing more to how much different Gryphon is in presenting their music on this album, and it’s perhaps not an instrument one would usually associate with the band back in the 70’s even though Richard Harvey done a fine job of emulating one on his keyboards back then. I like the way they incorporate a nice bit of blues boogie into the piece and it works it’s way in very well and this is yet another contender for the top spot on the album.

Track 4. Haddocks’ Eyes.

This is perhaps the most adventurous track on the album, it’s also the longest track on the album and weighs in at smack bang on 11 minutes. It’s another of the vocal tracks and is credited to both Graeme Taylor and some famous author who happened to write  the Adventures Of Alice In Wonderland namely Lewis Carroll. No doubt things seem to get Curiouser and curiouser! especially the adventure we have with this set of lyrics.

No doubt Graeme Taylor is providing all the humour we have here in the writing and I am pretty sure he did not have to put Lewis Carroll in the writing credits. But what we have here is perhaps Taylor’s own version of what Alice saw through the looking glass so to speak and I have to say he’s done quite a remarkable job going about it all.

It’s quite theatrical with how the story is portrayed with the music and with how Messrs Oberlé and Gulland put the words across with their fine voices. Speaking of their voices in the speaking parts in particular they remind me of the same voice on Camel’s 2002 album A Nod And A Wink. But Brian Gulland used this exact same vocal expression way back in 1975 towards the end of “Fontinental Version” which can be found on their Raindance album.

Like most of the tracks on the album they contain some really great progression and this one certainly has the length to allow for more diversity to which it certainly displays too. I think Taylor came up with another winner here and this is my personal favourite track on the album and merits my top spot on the album award.

Track 5. Hampton Caught.

Another fine instrumental piece of music written by Graham Preskett and this one suits Gryphon right down to the ground with it’s medieval folk vibe. It’s beautifully arranged and contains all the essence and right ingredients you will find within the bands earlier music and perhaps not that too far away from “Pastime With Good Company” from the bands 1973 debut album.

Only this is much more longer and is some 5 and a quarter minutes long. No doubt there is a bit of fun regarding the title, but they did get to catch a bit of magic here and it really is an excellent piece. It’s also a very strong contender for the top spot on the album too.

Track 6. Hospitality At A Price… (Dennis) Anyone For?.

Another one of Brian Gulland’s compositions and here we get a chance to listen to some of his own “Drivel” :)))))). This is another song with words and he himself takes on all the vocal duties with his own humorous lyrics, its a bit like listening to a musical that came from the 1920’s and once again shows you just how great this band can be when it comes to doing something in this old fashioned style.

Once again the instrumentation throughout the piece is great and it even gives the bands bass player Rory McFarlane the chance to jump on the double bass. The Krumhorns also remarkably work very well with the piece considering its 20’s style jazz music and this is one that would be great to see them play live, and knowing them they will do it for the fun of it all.

Track 7. Dumbe Dum Chit.

Another very well arranged instrumental piece that suits Gryphon’s fine style down to a tee, and is once again penned by Graham Preskett. It’s the shortest track on the album and weighs in at just over 3 minutes. Musically its like another folk reel combined with a fine splash of jazz to add to its splendour. All the musicians play integral parts with their instruments and the interplay between the band is golden. It’s title may also present one with a problem if trying to say it too fast as well :)))).

Track 8. Bathsheba.

The only composition on the album written by the bands bassist Rory McFarlane. It’s title is based around the biblical story of King David fornicating with another man’s wife having seen her bathing in the nod basically. No doubt he got a bit of a Stiffy and could not resist the temptation having clapped his eyes on her :))))).

Bethsabée,_by_Jean-Léon_Gérôme

It’s another fine instrumental piece that captures the story in a dramatic way, and their is much more to the story than just a bit of hanky panky so to speak. The violin and clarinet play an integral part with the main melody line or theme, and I like how the clarinet and bassoon work in unison with one another and run in a timely way with the bass line and percussion. It’s a bit like a clock counting out the movement of the piece.

Once again all the band members manage to work, and ease their way into the fine piece comfortably enough, and its perhaps not going to set the world on fire. But it does well in portraying the story and the scene we have here and it’s a well worked out piece of work and pleasant enough to listen too.

Track 9. Sailor V.

Another of Graham Preskett’s compositions and this is another fine instrumental piece that perhaps has a bit more of a Celtic feel about it all. In some ways it’s a bit like a cross between what Fairport Convention do these days and what Mike Oldfield done quite a few moons ago. However Gryphon do have their own distinctive style and even though they do a purely fantastic job of presenting a Celtic piece like this to you, their own style is perhaps lost on a piece like this, and this is certainly different.

In some ways I would say that this was perhaps the odd track on the album, and that is certainly down to the Celtic side of things we have here, which is something that is not really associated with Gryphon’s music at all. No doubt Gryphon have always been into traditional folk and renaissance music but this is more of your modern day Irish music and to be perfectly honest Celtic music is not really my thing. But I can take the odd track now and then, but not in large quantities like Oldfield’s album Voyager for example.

There is no doubt this piece is very well structured and very well arranged. This is also a piece that would be well suited for television and even a film, and it would suit both very well. The musicianship is first class throughout the piece and the bassoon and the bit of harmonica slot into place very well. I cannot fault the composition at all and it just goes to show how remarkable a band like Gryphon can play Celtic music they have certainly done an outstanding job of it all.

Sailor V” is the 2nd longest track on the album no doubt the music expresses a voyage across the sea as well. The title may suggest that there were another 4 parts to it before we arrived here. But my guess that it may have been the name given to some sea vessel they spotted or the “V” is an abbreviation of “Thee” :))))). Like I said this is not a piece of music one would associate with Gryphon’s music and I myself am not that fond of Celtic music. However I cannot rule out the art of composition and the purely FANTASTIC way the band have presented the piece and it’s brilliant arrangement. And this certainly has to be another strong contender for the top spot on the album.

Track 10. Ashes.

I must admit when I first seen the title I thought this was one of Gryphon’s older pieces that was written around the time they done the tracks for their Raindance album back in 1975. “Ashes” was very much a piece written by Brian Gulland and left off that 1975 album. It eventually found its way along with 3 other unreleased tracks on the 2nd of the of the two compilation albums released on Curio Records back in 1995, and appeared on The Collection II CD.

But the “Ashes” we have here was written by Graeme Taylor and Gulland’s version of “Ashes” must have been well scattered and blown away by now :))))). The song we have on this album they actually performed live back in 2016 when I seen them at the Robin 2 in Wolverhampton, and apart from this being a studio version of Taylor’s song there is not a lot of difference.

It’s a fine acoustic song that utilises Taylor’s acoustic guitar very well and Preskett gets a chance to bring out the mandolin again as well as the violin. Gulland takes on the lead vocal and jumps on the bassoon for the solo. Findon does a grand job on the flutes and both McFarlane and Oberlé hold up the fort very well with the back line that lends fine support to it all. It’s a pleasant enough song and is perhaps like a light wispy breeze with an airy feel about it.

Track 11. The Euphrates Connection.

The final track on the album was penned by Brian Gulland and its quite a strange piece of music even though we do get a few words sung by Gulland backed up by Oberlé on harmonies at the beginning. It’s perhaps a piece that allows some of the members of the band to come in with their instruments and features a nice bit of acoustic and electric guitar from Taylor. Oddly enough the electric guitar is playing a rather strange western sort of theme which makes it very strange indeed :)))).

It’s a very unusual piece I will give that and quite quirky in a way too. My favourite part is when the pipe organ comes into play and how all the guys support it. It really lifts the piece up and even gives it more of a Jetrho Tull feel to it all. However strange the piece may come across it’s very worked out and very well constructed. It’s certainly the most strangest piece I think I have heard Gryphon do, and I quite like things when they are strange too :))))).

Summary

To sum up my review of Gryphon’s very, very long awaited 6th album ReInvention. I personally do not think there are any real masterpieces on this latest album, but that is not to say it’s not a strong album at all, and to be perfectly honest this album is certainly more than I ever really expected of how it would actually turn out after all these years.

I also think were Gryphon may have the advantage of giving you something that bit more of what you would of been expecting after all these years, is more than likely down to the fact that they never have made an album really the same and they are all quite different.

Even though the band may have perhaps gone back to their folk roots in some respects, this is not really an album like Raindance which I personally seen as a step backwards. The main essence of the band still remains in the written material they have written for this new album.

You still get the medieval side of things on some of the tracks, you also get the odd bit of jazz thrown in for good measure. The classical side of things is still very much there and so is the great progression. You even get a splash of blues and a Celtic piece thrown in which maybe out of place, but never the less its certainly still very much a very strong composition.

My personal highlights from the album are: “Haddocks’ Eyes“. “Rhubarb Crumhorn“.”A Futuristic Auntyquarian“. “Hampton Caught“. “Sailor V“. and “Pipe Up Downsland Derry Dell Danko“.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of ReInvention by Gryphon. There is no doubt that I did highly speculate as to if Gryphon could recapture that magic from the 70’s. But in all honesty I should never really have worried about it. There is no doubt the magic is still there and the musicianship is top notch as ever. There is no doubt that they have come out with a newer approach to their music, but it works for them extremely well I feel and I cannot say there is nothing on this album that really disappoints.

Is it the best Gryphon album and can it compete with those albums they made back in the 70’s?. My answer to that 2 part question would be NO!!!!. Of course it’s not the best Gryphon album and to be honest, I could not pick the best album out of Gryphon’s first 3 albums. But I certainly think that the material on ReInvention is very strong and as an whole album it can certainly compete with both Raindance and Treason. The one thing I can honestly say about all Gryphon’s albums, is that not one of them have let me down. And there is not a lot of bands I could say the same thing about.

I think for all genuine Gryphon fans their latest album ReInvention is a must to have and its a very exciting but different album. For those who just brought the bands 3rd album Red Queen To Gryphon Three because it had more of the prog rock side of things. You will not get that on Reinvention I am afraid. Though no doubt you will still get the great diversity and progression and the odd bit of quirky prog rock thrown in for good measure. Gryphon are very much a band you really need to go and see play live. It might just open up anyone’s eyes to how remarkable they really are.

On a final note I just hope I do not have to wait that long to see a 7th Gryphon album. I certainly have not got 41 years left in me, and neither have they :)))))).

I Make Them Into Mutton Pies And Sell The On The Street…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Pipe Up Downsland Derry Dell Danko. 4:48.
02. Rhubarb Crumhorn. 5:53.
03. A Futuristic Auntyquarian. 5:58.
04. Haddocks’ Eyes. 11:00.
05. Hampton Caught. 5:11.
06. Hospitality At A Price… Anyone For?. 3:38.
07. Dumbe Dum Chit. 3:08.
08. Bathsheba. 5:37.
09. Sailor V. 8:35.
10. Ashes. 3:29.
11. The Euphrates Connection. 4:43.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 09/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #97

Treason – Gryphon

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Introduction…

With the departure of Graeme Taylor and Malcolm Bennett things may have looked all over for Gryphon. But they was not about to give up just quite yet, and pretty soon they was to recruit 3 new members to the band, they even brought in a lyricist to make things run a bit more smoothly and create a new sound for the band. Gryphon were bouncing back with a new style for one final time before they bowed out gracefully, and I have to say I quite like the way they did it as well.

There is no doubt that Gryphon were fans and may have been influenced by Yes to some point. But I would not say they was influenced by them enough to try and emulate their music, and on their other 4 albums it’s plain to see that they was more influenced by folk and classical music. I also personally think Gryphon was certainly much more classically minded than Yes as well.

But if Gryphon ever made an album that showed their influence towards Yes. Their 5th album Treason is certainly the one where they did. But before I go any further, let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork as usual.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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As with all the new remasters done by Talking Elephant they come in a standard jewel case and a 2 page booklet. This booklet also includes the lyrics besides the usual linear production notes. Unlike the bands first 3 albums that got new remasters in 2016 by Talking Elephant, this one they remastered in 2009.

My old CD was released by C-Five Records back in 1993. I ended up getting this 2009 remaster from ebay for £8.99 as Amazon was asking too much money for it  and had it priced at around £14.99. Once again these new remasters sound great and I have no complaints.

The Artwork.

Well you will not really have a problem spotting the Griffin on this album cover, and apart from the name of the band and the title of the album, that’s about all you can see. Not as colourful as Dan Pearce’s work or even Tony Wright‘s work to think about it. I personally do not think it’s the best of the bands album covers and actually rate this one bottom of the pile out of all 5 of their albums from this decade. The album design and illustration was done by Pat Elliott Shircore and the photographs on the back of the album were done by Pete Vernon and Alan Coleman.

The Album In Review…

The bands 5th album was released sometime between March – May in 1977. The album contained 7 tracks and has an overall playing time of 37 minutes, 26 seconds. By now the band had signed up to a new record label EMI’s Harvest Records and given the services of producer Mike Thorpe. With disappointing sales from the bands last album Thorpe very much steered the band in a new direction in order to try and make them a bit more popular, and to make their new album more of a saleable product.

In May of the same year he even made an edited down version of 10 minute opening track on the album “Spring Song” and released it as a single, to try and bring in a few more punters so to speak. “The Fall Of The Leaf” also from the same album was placed on the B’ Side of the record. It was Gryphon’s first ever single and being as Punk Rock had just burst on the scene and soon became a massive British invasion the single was bound to flop. No doubt Mike Thorpe must of had delusions of grandeur :)))).

No doubt punk rock was to put the mockers on a lot of things in 1977 and many bands were feeling the pinch. I am not sure when Gryphon’s new recruits  of guitarist Bob Foster, bassist Jonathan Davie and drummer Alex Baird joined the band. But it may of been sometime in 1976 I would of imagined. It perhaps seems a bit strange of them bringing in another drummer when they already had one. But the band had more vocal tracks in mind for their new album Treason which gave Dave Oberlé more vocal duties to cater for, so he dropped down to percussion.

Lyricist Tim Sebastion was brought in to handle the lyrical side of things whilst the band went to work on the music. Most of the tracks on the new album was left to Richard Harvey to write the music for them, and only 1 song was credited to Brian Gulland and another to the newcomer Bob Foster.

Most of the album was recorded at the Manor Studios in Oxfordshire the very studio brought by Richard Branson to which Mike Oldfiled’s Tubular Bells was recorded their and launched Branson’s new record label Virgin Records in 1973. Although the studio was not solely used just for Virgin Records and many other record labels had sent their artists to record at the studios. The first band to record an album there was actually The Bonzo Dog Band back in November 1971.

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The Manor Studio

The Manor was a studio up until the year 1995 and The Cast was the last band to record an album there. Over the years many well known artists had recorded their albums at the studio including the likes of Sandy Denny. Gong. Tangerine Dream. Queen. Black Sabbath. Rush and so on. The Manor Studio was taken over by EMI in April 1995 and they actually closed it as a studio. It’s now the country home of the Marquess of Headfort.

Desk

The song that found it’s way on the B’ Side of the single “The Fall Of The Leaf” was the only song the band recorded at Abbey Road studios in London. No doubt the studio is mostly famous for The Beatles recoding their albums there and many other well known artists have used it over the years including Pink Floyd.

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Abbey Road Studio

Abbey Road is one of the largest studios in the world. It’s studio 1 is actually the largest studio in the world and can quite easily accommodate a symphony orchestra and a 100 piece choir simultaneously. Way back In November 1931 Edward Elgar conducted The London Symphony Orchestra in recording sessions of his own music at the studio. 1931 was the year it had opened up as a studio as well.

Cliff Richard & The Shadows recorded their first song and hit “Move It” back in 1958. The Shadows were still known as The Drifters back then too.

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The building was built way back in 1831 and was originally a 9 bedroom Georgian town house. Later on it got converted into residential flats and it was sometime in 1929 that the Gramophone Company acquired the building. They spent the next couple of years converting it into a recording studio and It eventually opened its doors in 1931 after all the alterations. They also extended the property being as it also came with a large back garden.

The Gramophone Company was the predecessor of the British music company EMI who owned the studios right up till 2013 when Universal music took control of EMI. In 2009 the studio came under threat of being sold to property developers. However the British Government stepped into the rescue and protected the site by making it part of English Heritage and slapped a Grade II listed status on it in 2010. Thereby preserving any major alterations to the building.

They even done the same thing for Zebra Crossing oddly enough, so it shows just how important The Beatles history means to people. I am sure Gryphon made its own bit of personal history by getting to record 1 song out of its entire career at the famous studios. Though they certainly never went on to bigger things and the leaf was about to fall by the end of making their last album back in the 70’s.

Musicians & Credits…

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Produced & Co-ordinated by Mike Thorpe. All songs recorded at The Manor Oxford. Except track 6 recorded at Abbey Road London 1977. Engineered by Mick Glossop & John Leckie. Album Cover & Artwork Illustrations by Pat Elliott Shircore. Photography by Pete Vernon & Alan Coleman. All lyrics written by Tim Sebastion.

Musicians.
Richard Harvery: Keyboards/Piano/Sax/Recorders.
Brian Gulland: Bassoon/English Horn/Recorders/Backing Vocals.
Dave Oberlé: Lead Vocals/Percussion.
Bob Foster: Guitars/Backing Vocals.
Jonathan Davie: Bass Guitars.
Alex Baird: Drums.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Gryphon’s album Treason is certainly different and no doubt the plan here with their new producer Mike Thorpe was to try an make the band a bit more commercial to gain a bit more popularity. However he perhaps could not of chose a more inconvenient time being that punk rock had raised its ugly head around the same time, and there was no way you could simply turn a band like Gryphon into a pop band.

No doubt over the years Dave Oberlé would of got a bit more stick from this album, even if he was not the man with the sticks on the drums. But this is the album where he would of been dubbed as the bands pop singer. There is no doubt that Oberlé was the guy with the sweet voice in this band, and that’s a quality of his I always admired since Gryphon launched it’s debut album back in 1973.

Every Gryphon album they released over the 4 years between 1973 – 1977 is different. But the one ingredient they kept throughout its entirety was their love for folk music, and it’s reminiscent on all 5 albums. I think for many fans of the band including myself, their first 3 albums contain the strongest material of the bands output. But both of the albums Raindance and Treason also contains some very strong well written material. But they do differ with some of the material that was written for both of those albums.

Both of those albums to some degree contain material that was written in a way of trying to break out with something more popular, and I think if anybody was to try and accuse the band of going pop with their album Treason. I could just as easily say they tried to do the same thing on Raindance as well. As an album I personally think that Treason is not so much of a mixed bag in relation to their previous album Raindance. The material that was written for it is better produced in the way of making all the tracks sound like they belong to an album and nothing is really out place.

I have always seen Treason very much as the album where Gryphon should of arrived at, coming off the back of their 3rd album Red Queen To Red Gryphon Three. Simply because if you look at how Gryphon started out with the first 3 albums they made, they was always advancing forwards and not going backwards. Raindance is the album that does take a step back. Whereas Treason is certainly more of a step forwards and I very much felt it worked to some degree as well.

So now let’s take a deeper look into the albums 7 tracks as I take you through them individually.

Track 1. Spring Song.

The album kicks off with a 10 minute classic that no doubt is perhaps more like Yes than Gryphon. But even though the band may have ditched the Crumhorns on this album in particular we still very much have the bassoon, flutes and harpsichord that very much put that Gryphon stamp on things here and makes even their own unique style stand out a bit more. Most of the Yes presence on this song is coming from the bands new guitarist Bob Foster. Who is very much more or less modelling the sound of his guitar to sound something more like Steve Howe.

Could Bob Foster be Steve Howe?. I personally do not think anybody could be Steve Howe or any other guitarist for that matter, but he’s doing a pretty good job of having a go I will say. I personally think any Yes fan would like “Spring Song” and even though the song may appear to have that Yes sound and presence about it. You could never accuse the band of plagiarism simply because it also injects Gryphon’s own uniqueness and stamp into the whole of the piece. I could also identify Gryphon on this song more than I ever could on the first 2 tracks of Raindance.

This song to me is prog rock heaven and my personal favourite track on the album. I am sure for many others it will be their favourite too. Richard Harvey’s keyboard work on this track is outstanding. Even Brian Gulland’s bassoon is on speed and it’s got this most gorgeous glistening melancholy section running through the piece like a river. The way the song builds up is pure magic, it contains bags of diversity and progression and the interplay between musicians is also quite magical.

I think in some ways “Spring Song” could be seen as a futuristic advance forward for a band like Gryphon. Just like the tracks “The Gates Of Delirium” and “Soundchaser” were for Yes on the album Relayer. Oddly enough I think both bands made a step backwards as well with the albums they put out after Yes made Relayer and Gryphon made Red Queen To Gryphon Three.

Spring Song” can very much be seen as the albums self titled track because it contains the word “Treason” and song is all about betrayal as well. There is no doubt that at times Gryphon put some pretty bizarre lyrics to their songs at times, and had a bit of fun along the way. The set of lyrics that Tim Sebastion wrote for this particular song may appear to look a bit silly, but these lyrics are very much far from the case, and are quite poetic in the way they have been written.

No doubt Sebastion knew his way with words and the lyrics we have here could very much put him in line to be some sort of a genius. The song is all about treason and the betrayal of sovereignty in one’s own country, the betrayal of a kiss and even down to how one season betrays and befriends one another as it changes from one to another. The lyrics may appear to like look Yes lyrics when starring them in the face. But there is much more sense that lies beneath, and once you delve deeper into them you will get to see how magical they are.

Spring Song” merits my top spot award of the album and it contains a good couple of well tasty solos from the guitar and keyboards too. David Oberlé does a grand job of projecting Sebastion’s GREAT! lyrics too and very much handles them with ease, with his more higher vocal range, and the other members do a grand job with the harmonies too.

Track 2. Round & Round.

The 2nd song on the album is more of an acoustic ballad of a song. This is perhaps not a song you would really identify a band like Gryphon with, and it’s not the only song on this album you will get something more along these lines either. I actually find some of the songs on this album I could quite easily associate more with the band Stackridge than Gryphon and this is certainly one of those songs as well.

No doubt the band are going more around the lines of popular music here, and this may not appeal to everyone and it depends on your taste as to how you will see a song like this. I for one very much like Stackridge and they was another band I was into back in the 70’s as well. I still play their albums even today. I also think like Gryphon they had some pretty darn good musicians as well and were a great band.

But even with a song like this Gryphon still try and put their stamp on it towards the end of the song between the 3:17 – 4:13 mark where Brian Gulland brings in the bassoon and they add a bit of a twist. They even take the title of the song literally as well by making it sound like the needle on the record got stuck and is going round and round :))))) for near  enough a minute, and they inject a bit of fun into the piece.

I quite like the song and I like how it’s been placed on the album too. I think because of the glistening melancholy we got on the opening track it helps to ease the track in with it’s pleasantness and for me it really works as well. Once again the song is credited to HarveySebastion.

Track 3. Flash in the Pantry.

This is my 2nd favourite track on the album and I also see this song as another piece of prog rock heaven. The song as a very quirky almost stab feel over its verse sections the way it projects and punctuates. It’s got more of a Yes funky groove and vibe about it as well, especially with the short burst quick melody lines on the electric guitar. The song is very tight and even the punctuating bass line is to die for.

One of the interesting features that sticks out so bold in this song comes into play around the 1:38 – 3:16 mark. It’s here that we get this massive percussion section with choral like vocal harmonies come into play. In many ways this is perhaps more like the band Gentle Giant than Gryphon but as much as I love Gentle Giant I actually think this is better than they could of done it. No doubt the band put it in for fun, but it’s quite amazing and a very well thought out part of the song.

The band then fall back into the groove to round the song off in fine style. The lyrics are about as mad as a butchers broom and honestly my mind boggles how on earth anyone could of come up with them. But when it comes to writing lyrics I do not even think they are missing Graeme Taylor at this point at all, and he was one for bizarre lyrics like this too. It’s the only track on the album that Brian Gulland wrote the music for. I only wish he wrote more :))))) cause this track is purely Fantastic.

Track 4. Falero Lady.

Another one of my favourite tracks on the album and this one is much more suited to Gryphon’s style. Once again we get this quirky funky groove only if I was to compare a track like “Falero Lady” to say both the funky tracks on the album Raindance such as “Down The Dog” and “Wallbanger“. This song as 10 times more things going for it and leaves both of those tracks in the dust.

There is never a dull moment throughout this song and the progression and diversity is much more like Gryphon themselves. Not only did they inject their usual bit of humour into the song, but also done that bit of magic of not holding onto a melody for too long before making a change. They also managed to do it over a much shorter distance too, and throw in bags of progression along the way.

It’s another one of the bands finer moments on the album and along with “Flash in the Pantry” both tracks are very much strong contenders for the top spot on the album and was once again penned by HarveySebastion.

Track 5. Snakes and Ladders.

Snakes and Ladders” oddly enough is the only instrumental track that’s on the album and was written by Richard Harvey. It’s perhaps very unusual for a Gryphon album to have more vocal tracks than instrumental tracks, and this has to be a first for them. It’s quite jazzy and starts off in an ambient dramatic way, that gives you the impression of being in the jungle, it’s like a call in the wild sort of thing.

The piece builds its way up slowly and breaks out into more of a great jazz style and its quite a very well arranged and structured piece that gives Harvey the chance to get out his saxophone, he also utilises the recorder and the odd bit of keyboard on the piece as well. Whilst Gulland gets on the English horn and bassoon. Oberlé works in some fine percussion in the intro section and the band do a great job here.

Track 6. Fall Of The Leaf.

A wonderful song about autumn penned by HarveySebastion. It’s another fine ballad of a song with some fine lyrics from Tim Sebastion and Dave Oberlé does a grand job in putting them over. The music is structured around the piano and Harvey does a fine job on it. Gulland’s bassoon works wonders on the quite long intro and features very well in the song.

Once again it’s perhaps not a song you would associate with Gryphon’s normal style of traditional folk, but it is more of a folk song than a pop song, and I think the last 2 songs on the album are perhaps something more along the lines of Stackridge than they are to Gryphon. This one may even have that Simon & Garfunkel flavour about it as well. But what you have here is a very well written song, and I personally cannot fault it at all. It even makes a great B’ Side too.

Track 7. Major Disaster.

The final song on the album is very much a pop song and is more of a love song that is more out of place in relation to Gryphon’s normal output. I dare say some may even see a song like this as a major disaster :))))). It’s a very well written song and is perhaps even more along the lines of a Stackridge song. The song was written by the new members in the band and was penned by Foster & Sebastion.

The band throw in a bit of a quirky lead section with the flutes and bassoon to give it that bit more of a familiar Gryphon presence and feel. However this another of those songs that would be hard to spot who the band was by hearing it for the first time on the radio. It’s a very pleasant and relaxing way to round off the album.

Summary

To sum up Gyphon’s 5th album Treason it’s an album that was without a doubt made in the way of trying to be a bit more commercial. You could say it was one more last stab or  ditch at trying to gain more recognition to be able survive. Making records costs money and if the record company or the band cannot generate enough of it to be able to pay for it all, it ends up costing them.

At the end of the day music is a viable product, and your product needs to be able to sell to continue to survive. Gryphon were not selling records at the rate that Coca Cola were selling cans of pop that’s for sure. They were perhaps more of an unknown brand and the very fact that punk rock had came out at the time, made it even more pointless to try and carry on.

From my research and as far as I can make out Gryphon played their very last gig at the Penthouse in Scarborough. The following list shows you the last gigs they played from the end of 1976 and into 1977.

01/10/76 76 Club, Burton-on-Trent
09/03/77 Marquee Club, Wardour Street, London
11/03/77 76 Club, Burton-on-Trent
12/03/77 Great Hall, Bradford
23/03/77 Marquee Club, Wardour Street, London
06/04/77 Marquee Club, Wardour Street, London
27/04/77 Marquee Club, Wardour Street, London
14/05/77 Barbarella’s, Birmingham
23/05/77 Music Hall, Shrewsbury
03/06/77 Penthouse, Scarborough

I noticed they even played at Barbarella’s in my home town of Birmingham. I went to the place a few times back then and remember seeing the Ian Gillan Band there. I was even amazed to see that Gryphon had played there and wished I would paid more attention to who was on at the place more often. But to be honest most of the time that was the kind of place that had more pop acts on than anything else, which is why I never bothered with the place that much.

I even remember seeing Paul Young there in the Streetband doing some silly song that was called “Toast” before it became a hit. The only time I ever really went to the place was when I was with an old friend of mine. He used to go there a lot, but having seen the Streetband it did not take me long to leave the place and shoot off to another pub, and I never went there again after seeing that crap :))))). The Ian Gillan Band was perhaps the only decent band I got to see at the place.

It was not that long after Gryphon had decided to call it a day and in the same year of 1977 both Richard Harvey and Jonathan Davie got together with Paul Aitken, Pete Airey and Peter Scathlock and formed a punk rock band and called themselves The Banned. Though none of them used their original names, which was most likely-to avoid the embarrassment :)))))). Harvey went under the name of Rik Manswoth and Davie called himself John Thomas.

To be honest I was not even aware of this bit of history but it really shows how popular punk rock was at the time, and how a band like Gryphon never really stood a chance of surviving. None of the members of The Banned were really into punk rock at all, they done the whole thing for laugh and as a bit of a scam.

I think the group only lasted about 6 months and both Harvey and Davie left well before that and not long after making their first record which was put out as a single. They done a cover version of a 1966 U.S. hit song entitled “Little Girl” which was originally done by  an American band called The Syndicate Of Sound.

Richard Harvey played the guitar on the song. To be honest I do not like posting original songs that other people have put on Youtube for copyright reasons. But I thought I would take a bit of a gamble by posting this one, and it’s not as if my blog site is going to attract that much attention, and even if it did I do not really have two pennies to rub together, so it would be pointless trying to sue me :)))))).

No doubt Gryphon would of been far more successful if they would of went down this road of making music just like punk rock. But Gryphon were a band that consisted of real quality musicians and not some idiots who could hardly string more than a couple of chords together and could not sing for toffee just like most punk bands were. I myself despised punk rock and hated it for what it did to the many great bands that were about at the time. I still cannot stand it today after all these years.

The strange coincidence is that the very guy who produced and co-ordinated Gryphon’s final album Treason. Who was Mike Thorne. Was the very guy who was responsible for signing The Sex Pistols to EMI. There is no telling what Gryphon would of sounded like if they went on to do another album back then. Richard Harvey was also certainly more interested in pursuing his solo career as well. In some ways I suppose he also became far more successful in doing so too.

Brian Gulland went on to do the odd bit of session work here and there for the likes of The Nolan Sisters. Ian Dury and classical guitarist John Williams. He also done some composition work, working in television, films and advertising as well as producing and arranging for other artists. Dave Oberlé also done the odd bit of session work over many years and went on to help launch the heavy rock magazine Kerrang.

It took some 32 years for all 4 original members of Gryphon to get back together again, and even then it was for 1 gig only that took place at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London. Jonathan Davie who was also with them that night along with a new band member who goes by the name of Graham Preskett.

Since then the band started to play a few more concerts from 2015 onwards, and in 2016 Richard Harvey quit the band to go back into his work in film and classical music. The remaining 3 members along with Graham Preskett have kept the band going, and today Gryphon have very much reinvented themselves and after some 42 years. They have added a 6th album to their discography.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of Gryphon’s 5th album Treason. It may be a bit of a different breed regarding the band and material that was written for it, No doubt for the majority of the bands fans they will have their own opinions of how the album spoke to them. It may not be the bands best album but I personally think it’s still a good album that does contain at least 3 classic songs.

My personal highlights from the album are “Spring Song“. “Flash in the Pantry” and “Falero Lady“. I also would say that all 3 of these songs are the most progmatic songs on the album and for me they are up there with some of the finest songs Gryphon have ever made. No way should the band be ignoring these songs like they tend to do at their live shows. I know Graeme Taylor was not part of the making of these songs, but that is no excuse not to play them. These 3 songs in reality very much represent were the band should of been at the end of their 3rd album.

Just like the bands 4th album Raindance. I do not see Treason as a solid album. But as an album I personally think it flows and works better with the material that’s on it. It’s also a very well produced album and I certainly do not think Gryphon were finished when Graeme Taylor made that statement in an interview after he had left the band. I myself was certainly glad the band went on to make this album, and I very much like all 5 albums the band made back in the 70’s.

That concludes my review of this series of of the bands 5 albums that came out of that golden decade of the 70’s. But Gryphon are not quite finished yet, and they have very much ReInvented themselves and the review of the bands 6th studio album will be coming up next.

The Vicar, Skips Quicker Cassacks In The Wind. I Have Never Sinned Says He…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Spring Song. 10:00.
02. Round & Round. 4:30.
03. Flash in the Pantry. 4:57.
04. Falero Lady. 4:08.
05. Snakes and Ladders. 5:15.
06. Fall of the Leaf. 4:22.
07. Major Disaster. 4:04.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 07/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 7/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #96

Raindance – Gryphon

Raindance

Introduction…

Having come off the back of their North American Tour with Yes in 1974. Gryphon and it’s new bass player Malcolm Bennett embarked on their UK tour with Yes in 1975 on their final leg of their Relayer tour in 1975. But just before they embarked on the tour Steve Howe invited Graeme Taylor, Dave Oberlé and Malcolm Bennett to play on a track on his first solo album Beginnings.

The UK Tour kicked it off at the Newcastle Civic Hall and they played 3 nights there from the 15th – 17th April.

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Over the following 2 nights on the 18th & 19th they was back at Greens the Glasgow Apollo again where they had played the previous year with Steeleye Span followed up by 2 nights in Edinburgh at the Usher Hall. The tour finished on the 17th May in Stoke On Trent at the Victoria Ground. The band had played 24 shows between April & May that year in various cities including Preston. Leicester. Liverpool. Manchester. Cardiff. Bristol. Southampton and they even played the Queens Park Rangers Football stadium, London on the 10th May.

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Although Gryphon’s name was not on the ticket Yes were supported by 3 bands on that day and it was Seals & Crofts who was the first of the support acts up that day and they were followed by Gryphon who hit the stage around 2:30 pm on that afternoon. Then Ace followed them and the main act of the night Yes hit the stage at around 7:30 in the evening.

In the following month of June after their tour supporting Yes. Gryphon decided to head back to the studios to work on their next album, only this time they where heading down to Cornwall and not Oxford where they recorded their previous 2 albums at the Chipping Norton Recording Studios. Once again the band had nothing prepared or written down before heading to the studios, though they did have “Wallbanger” to which they had already recorded in October 1974. To which they decided to use on this album.

There was no doubt that Gryphon were making progress and moving forward with the material they wrote for their previous album Red Queen To Gryphon Three. However the bands 4th album Raindance was perhaps taking a step backwards with quite a bit of the material they wrote for it. But before I go any further, let’s take a look at the artwork and packaging.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The CD comes in a standard plastic Jewel Case which no doubt protects the disc very well. It also comes with a 2 page booklet which contains the usual linear production notes and credits, but does not include the lyrics.

Speaking of an old remasters this album had not been remastered that many times at all, and even when Talking Elephant remastered Gryphon’s first 3 albums in 2016 for some reason they decided not do a new remaster of Raindance. However I did discover that Talking Elephant did remaster it back in 2010 and has my older CD was released in Japan on Canyon International label back in the 90’s I still decided to buy this new remaster.

It only cost me £5.49 as well, which proves my point that older remasters in jewel cases can be picked up for around £5. Talking Elephant have certainly done a fine job with all these newer remasters and I cannot complain with the quality of the recording either. I did also notice that in 2016 this same release had been reissued in Russia. Though it was a reissue of this 2010 remaster and not a new remaster.

The Artwork.

The art work was done by Tony Wright and the art direction by Philip Warr. I was quite surprised they never used Dan Pearce again, but I guess they fancied a bit of a change. I quite like the artwork and like Dan Pearce’s work it’s also quite colourful. However for the life of me I cannot see how some Geezer sitting down naked in a chair relates to the title of Raindance. The fact that he is also sitting down may give the impression that the record on the old wind up Gramophone is not going make you want to get up and dance either :))))).

The Album In Review…

Gryphon’s 4th album Raindance was released on the 17th October 1975. The album contained 9 tracks, most of which are instrumental pieces and has an overall playing time of 41 minutes, 45 seconds. The band had spent some time between June and July recording the album at Sawmills Studios down in Cornwall. Judging by its location its perhaps a bit more understandable why they spent a bit more time there :)))).

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The studio was founded by Tony Cox in 1974 and has been a studio since. The main building is a 17th century water mill and the site itself has been documented in history stretching back as far as the 11th century. Because of its unusual location it can only be reached by boat and by a footpath. Over the years many other artists have recorded their albums here including Oasis. The Verve. Robert Plant. Muse and many others.

There is no doubt that out of all the 5 albums Gryphon made in the 70’s that they was all quite different from one another. I also felt that there was no real way forward for them to go after their 3rd magnificent album Red Queen To Gryphon Three. They had to take a step back, and no doubt this album is quite a step back in some ways, and here they are going back to their debut album in some respects, particularly in the way that once again they are combining instrumental pieces with songs that come with words.

But there is a difference between the more folky side that Gryphon had applied to their debut album and this particular album. The album Raindance certainly contains quite a bit of the jazz element in some of the material we have on this particular album. It’s a bit  more evident on this album than any other Gryphon album. It also has more of a funky modern vibe on a couple of the tracks.

To be honest this was not the type of album that one would of expected to arrive coming off the back of their 3rd album. I also found it quite disappointing hearing the album for the first time as well.

I did mention in my first review in this Gryphon series of the bands debut album that I had a lesser favourite album out of the 5 albums the band made back in the 70’s, and this is very much the one. I did also mention that out of the 5 albums Gryphon made they never let me down as well, and that is true. But for me personally there is not a lot on this album that measures up to the strength of the material that was written for the  bands first 3 albums, and it does contain some weaker written material.

There was also some disappointment brewing up within the bands camp after they made this album which led to Graeme Taylor leaving the band and Malcolm Bennett joining him as well. His reasons for leaving were down to musical differences, he also felt that Gryphon at this point had, had its day.

I can see Graeme Taylor’s point in making that statement about Gryphon had. had it’s day, and these guys were working their socks off and got very little for it. Gryphon were hardly making any money from making albums, and it was costing them money to make them. Even when they made their debut album in 1973 they was in debt for a grand with Transatlantic Records, and it was only by some of the members doing session work for other artists that they was able to pay them back.

Raindance was the last of Gryphon’s albums to be released on Transatlantic Records apart from the odd compilation albums that surfaced after the band had ceased to be in 1977. The album never did very well on it’s release either, so it may have been the case that Transatlantic Records either dropped them, or Gryphon decided to leave them after what little promotion the company gave to their new album at the time.

All of this, plus not being happy with how the collaborative material got dished out on the album could of led to Taylor’s departure from the band. But despite both his and Bennett’s decision to leave, it was not quite the end of Gryphon yet.

Musicians & Credits…

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Produced by Gryphon. Co-produced and engineered by Richard Elen. “Down At The Dog” co-produced by Ritchie Gold. All tracks recorded at Sawmill Studios Cornwall England between June & July 1975. Except for “Wallbanger” which recorded on the Manor Mobile at Brian Goodman’s PLS Studios London. England October 1974. Phil Newall Engineer. Remasterd by M. Artwork by Tony Wright. Art Direction by Philip Warr.

Musicians.
Richard Harvery: Grand Piano/Rhodes/RMI & Crumar Pianos/Minimoog/Copeman Hart Organ/Mellotron/Clavinet/Keyboard Glockenspiel/Recorders/Crumhorns/Clarinet/Penny Whistle.
Brian Gulland: Bassoon/Backing & Lead Vocals (Track 6).
Graeme Taylor: Guitars & Backing Vocals.
Malcolm Bennett: Bass Guitar/Flute.
Dave Oberlé: Drums/Percussion/Lead Vocals (Tracks 3,6,8).

The Album Tracks In Review…

Finding out any information regarding just how many concerts Gryphon had played to promote their 4th album Raindance is like trying to find a needle in an haystack. To be honest I am quite surprised how a most unusual band like this never got to appear on The Old Grey Whistle Test. You will not even find any film footage of the band playing live back in the 70’s either, which is most unusual.

There does not even seem to exist a picture of the band with Malcolm Bennett in it, and I had to use the only photo I could find of the band in 1975 for my musicians & credits section, which was of Dave Oberlé and was taken at the Sawmill Studios whilst they was recording the album. They did however play at the Kings College in London the night before Raindance was released.

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I also know they played at the Paris Theatre in London on the 13th November 1975. Which was recorded by the BBC and produced by Jeff Griffin for their Radio 1 series of concerts to which the live recordings can be found on the About As Curious As It Can Be CD released on Hux Records in 2002. I cannot find any information regarding the time both Taylor & Bennett left the band, but I would expected it to sometime in 1976 and not long after they played at Friars in Aylesbury on the 10th January.

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That night was the 3rd time Gryphon had played at the venue and it was a popular place for many major artists. Both Taylor & Bennett went off to form their own band, but it never worked out, and Taylor ended up joining The Albion Band.

Richard Harvey’s first solo album Divisions On A Ground also got released in 1975. The material for the album was recorded in the previous year between July and August at St. Paul’s Church London with a bunch of other musicians. It features Harvey playing the music of Vivaldi, Matthysz, Handel, Finger, Van Eyck & Loeillet on treble and descant recorders only, accompanied by 3 violinists, a cello player and harpsichord player. Adam Skeaping who co-produced and co-recorded Gryphon’s debut album, recorded and also played a violone on the album which is an early form of a double bass.

Harvery Album

The album is based on an introduction to the recorder and its music and interestingly enough Dan Pearce also done the artwork and illustration for the album. It also has a chessboard but no Griffins on it :)))))). Well that about wraps up all that was happening in 1975 with Gryphon. So let’s take a deeper look at the 9 individual tracks that featured on the bands 4th album Raindance.

Track 1. Down The Dog.

The album kicks off with a funky little stomper of a jig penned by Richard Harvey and it features him mainly on the clavinet which along with Malcolm Bennett’s bass line gives it that funky presence and feel. It’s perhaps in some ways a bit reminiscent to something that Dave Pegg occasionally wrote a bit later on for Fairport Convention. It’s certainly more along the lines of folk rock rather than prog rock, even though the band may be  throwing in a few more elements with the instrumentation.

Gryphon are no doubt going back to their folk roots only with a more popular vane and more modern approach. It’s perhaps a piece that does not leave a lot of room for Brian Gulland. But amazingly his bassoon does not sound out of place in the track and fits in quite well. The title they gave to the piece is most likely referring to down at the pub, which I dare say they was on a few occasions whilst they were down in Cornwall.

It’s certainly different in relation to what we got from the bands previous albums, and it’s also perhaps not got that unique overall style one could easily identify the band with. But never the less it’s got a good upbeat to it and is not a bad track at all.

Track 2, Raindance.

Up next is the albums self titled track to which was also written by Richard Harvey. It’s a lovely ambient instrumental piece that features an array of keyboards and even has a sequencer running throughout the whole track. It’s perhaps something more along the lines of Camel’s Snow Goose and once again it leaves very little scope for the rest of the members of the band to do anything with. I can also see why Graeme Taylor would not of been so happy making this album and wanted to leave as well.

To be honest this is the sort of thing Harvey could of done on his Jack Jones and I would have no problem doing it myself. The whole piece is structured and driven around the sequence, and that would of inspired what we have here. The sound of the river, rain and thunderstorm would most likely have been added afterwards, rather than being the inspiration for the actual piece. Though it may have been the other way around.

The thunderstorm was recorded by the recording engineer Richard Elen whilst the guys were down at the pub, they phoned him up and asked him to stick a couple of mics in the porch to record it. It’s a simple and effective piece of work that is once again different. I also like how it flows and runs into the next track, which happens to be something more constructive.

Track 3. Mother Natures Son.

Well who would of thought that it would of took a Lennon & McCartney song to get a band like Gryphon to sound something more like themselves, and that is precisely what this song does in relation to the opening two tracks on the album. This to me is much more like it, and the arrangement is absolutely Gorgeous. It also allows all the members of the band to work in unison with one another too, to which I felt was missing on the opening couple of  tracks.

It’s perhaps most unusual for Gryphon to choose a song like this to cover and they are more known for covering something more accustomed to English traditional folk songs. But they even make this song feel more like one of those great folk songs with how well they have arranged it. The original song was included on The Beatles White Album. It’s one of the better songs from that album too.

Dave Oberlé takes on the lead vocals and it really suits his voice to be honest and I have always admired his voice and singing duties he contributes to the band as well. I love how the acoustic guitar, flutes and bassoon slot into the arrangement, and they fit in like a glove too, and this is one of my contenders for the top spot on the album.

Track 4. Le Cambrioleur Est Dans Le Mouchoir.

This next piece I suppose could be seen as a bit more humour from the band. It’s very much got a European Jazzy flavour about it, and is like a slow waltz. It’s French title translates to “The Cabrioler Is In The Handkerchief” in English and not what the band will quite often tell you it is such as “The Burglar Is In The Handkerchief” which is them having a bit of fun as ever. The word “Cabrioler” is very much a form of entertainment, and in this case I would of thought it would be a magician doing some trick with an handkerchief. The music is also well suited to the magicians antics with how he paces out his trick in a theatrical way on the stage.

The piece is credited to Taylor & Bennett although it’s certainly more composed and structured around Taylor’s acoustic guitar, and my guess is that Taylor got along well with Bennett and was being kind by giving him a writing credit here. According to the musician credits Bennett also plays flute as well as bass on this track. Though I have to say if he is, it’s hardly noticeable at all, unlike Harvey on the clarinet to which is more noticeable. It’s not as if they needed another flute player anyway, especially when they already have a couple of very well accomplished woodwind players in the band.

I quite like the arrangement and Brian Gulland gets to fart his way along with a bit of Um Pah on the bassoon every now and then, and the voice you can hear is Taylor doing his best French impression ;)))). Oberlé’s timely job on the percussion sets the pace very well and it’s one of the more frequent tunes Gryphon play live from this album.

Track 5. Ormolu.

The shortest little ditty on the album and this is more of a jingle that would be used for radio & television, its perhaps a bit more reminiscent to the jingle used on channel 4’s TV program Countdown. The piece was written by Richard Harvey who is more noted for his work with Television and Films these days, and it’s title is once again derived from the French language.

Ormolu is the term that’s been used since the 18th century to describe gilt brass on decorative art objects, such as what you might find on ornaments and furniture. The gilding was applied using the mercury amalgam process, sometimes also called fire gilding. The Copper corrosion products can form on the gold surface through minute gaps in the gilding. And from this mantle clock I have pictured below, you can plainly  see that all that glitters is not Gold :))))).

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This fine piece can be found in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and dates back to 1860. The only thing I can find wrong with it, is that it would of looked better if that chap was on a Griffin and not an Horse :)))))). I also think Harvey’s little jingle here is also more fitting to Gryphon’s music than the first two pieces he wrote to kick off the album with, and it’s a great little ditty.

Track 6. Fontinental Version.

This is another one of Graeme Taylor’s very well written GEMS and for me this is my personal favourite track on the album, and merits my top spot on the album award. To be honest you could of quite easily of slotted a song like this on the bands 2nd album Midnight Mushrumps and it would of fitted like a glove. This is certainly a step back to that album as well. The song wreaks of great progression and features both Dave Oberlé and Brian Gulland on lead vocals.

This is Gryphon doing what they do the best when it comes to songs like this and the arrangement is purely fantastic. But what is also so good about this song is the lyrics Taylor wrote for it. There is no doubt that Gryphon liked to have a lot of fun and these may look like the most bizarre set of lyrics on the planet and there is no doubt he has incorporated some fun into them. There is no doubt there is a French theme that runs throughout a good few of the tracks on this album, and the songs title is merely written in the way that this is a version of something by all accounts.

Now I am perhaps well off the mark with how these weird lyrics pertain to my way of thinking, especially as the word “Turdion” relates to dance and I am not sure what the Clint Eastwood connection is. But how I look at it, is that it could pertain to a version of the continental system or rather the continental blockade that Napoleon put on Great Britain during the Napoleon wars. Which prevented the French and English from trading with each other. But then again Graeme may have just had a few too many down at the dog :))))))))).

No matter what the lyrics are all about the song features some great musicianship from all the band, and it also contains a great lead section in the middle where they go off on a mad frenzy. Gryphon are in fine prog rock mode on this magical song.

Track 7. Wallbanger.

Another one of Harvey’s instrumental pieces and this more or less along the same lines as the opening track “Down The Dog” with it’s funky bass line and it’s upbeat only minus the clavinet. It’s perhaps more domineered by the keyboards as well but works its way along with some fine melody lines which allow the bassoon and flutes to play a feature in the piece to give that bit more of a renascence feel. It’s another fine little piece.

Track 8. Don’t Say Go.

This is perhaps Gryphon’s shortest song and once again it features Dave Oberlé on lead vocals. It’s another song written by Graeme Taylor only here the words are more easier to understand and simple enough. It’s a very pleasant song and once again done in folk rock style, I also like how bassoon features in the song too. The band do a great little job here.

Track 9. (Ein Klein) Heldenleben.

The final track on the album is written in German and translates too “A Small Hero Life” or “A Small Heroes Life”. It’s the longest track on the album and weighs in at whopping 16 minutes. In many ways this piece written by Richard Harvey is perhaps going back once again to the Midnight Mushrumps album with its 19 minute epic self titled track. However unlike that epic 19 minute masterpiece, I do not really see this track like a symphony or a masterpiece for that matter.

Even though “(Ein Klein) Heldenleben” is some 16 minutes long and is the 2nd longest track in Gryphon history, I personally would associate it more with the 5 minute track “Ethelion” from that album. I also think “Ethelion” is better constructed musically even though it has nowhere near the progression, but it does have the power and strength to hold its head up over its shorter distance. Whereas I certainly feel that “(Ein Klein) Heldenleben” tends to lose its way a bit over its longer time slot.

I am sure for many Gryphon fans this particular piece will be there favourite track on the album, and even I myself would put it as a very strong contender for the top spot. There is no doubt it has some magic moments along it’s lengthy duration. But I do also think it does have some weaker points.

I also think the more heavier section that runs from the 6:19 mark right up to the end, the band tend to embark over the same thing for too long, and it does not offer enough variety with the other instrumentation. You get the odd bits with the flute and bassoon sections where you think you are going to get something a bit more different with the melody lines they play. But all too often it falls back into the same thing.

For example you get this gorgeous bassoon section that runs from 9:50 – 10:44 playing such a beautiful melody, and this is actually my favourite section throughout the whole piece. Then it spirals back into all the bizarre frenzyness which is crazy. In some ways there are parts in this piece that actually remind me more of Focus than Gryphon. They may have been still influenced by Yes also.

No doubt Graeme Taylor is perhaps having the time of his life on the electric guitar on this piece. But I would of loved to have seen a few more acoustic sections along the the path we have here. It’s a bit too overblown I feel and they are trying to inject too much into the piece. I still very much like it, and it’s great to hear live too. It’s certainly a piece that harks back to their Midnight Mushrumps album, but I do not think it’s on par with the material on that album. But on an album like this, I am sure many would of been grateful for it.

Summary

To sum up Gryphon’s 4th album Raindance. There is no doubt that the band have made a step backwards and tried to do something a bit more different in the way of adding a bit more of a modern approach with the funk and even thrown in a bit more jazz here and there. No doubt the folk side of things is still here along with the odd bit of prog rock. In some respect it could also be seen as a bit of a mixed bag with how the material differs on the album and presents itself to you too.

Coming off the back of Red Queen To Gryphon Three I think it was always going to be hard to compete with that album, and Raindance is an album that does not really say where Gryphon should of been at this point. I personally think that the bands 5th album Treason is much more like where they should of been.

But that’s not to say it’s a bad album and just like any Gryphon album they are all more or less give you something different in all respects. But I do also feel that some of the tracks on the album are not so distinguishable enough for you to identity the band with, especially if you was to hear them for the first time on the radio. My personal highlights from the album are “Fontinental Version“. “(Ein Klein) Heldenleben” and “Mother Natures Son“.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of Raindance by Gryphon. I would not say it was a solid album, but if like myself you are into the band, it’s still very much an album one would want in their collection, especially as they only ever made 5 albums all those years ago. I do not think it could ever be my Go-To album, and it’s perhaps not one I would recommend as a starting point for new listeners either.

For me personally I have always seen this album as the weakest Gryphon album, but no doubt it does contain some really excellent tracks and its still an enjoyable album that does not really disappoint overall.

It’s certainly going to be interesting to hear what the bands new album will sound like after some 41 years, and I am about to find out pretty soon as well as it’s just been released earlier than expected. So no doubt that will be coming up soon for review as well in this series. But coming up next for review will be the bands 5th album Treason.

Tidy The Turdion Watch For The Fontanel…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Down The Dog. 2:45.
02. Raindance. 5:33.
03. Mother Nature’s Son. 3:08.
04. ‘Le Cambrioleur Est Dans Le Mouchoir’. 2:13.
05. Ormolu. 1:03.
06. Fontinental Version. 5:34.
07. Wallbanger. 3:35.
08. Don’t Say Go. 1:51.
09. (Ein Klein) Heldenleben. 16:03.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 07/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 7/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #95

Red Queen To Gryphon Three – Gryphon

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Introduction…

Gryphon were on a roll in 1974 and things were about to change even more so when the band once again returned to the Chipping Norton Recording Studios in Oxford just a few months later in August 1974 to record their 3rd album Red Queen To Gryphon Three. By this time the band were going even more progressive and even more electric with Graeme Taylor using electric guitars as well as acoustic.

Things were changing and happening that fast that the band never had no time to stop. It was a very busy year for them, and by the end of the year they would play in America for the first time. Though despite all their hard work Gryphon were not much more popular than many support acts, and the biggest venues they played at where only as a support act, and they was certainly not known or popular enough to go and play America in the first place. But it was not about what you know? And rather more like who you know?.

On 27th of July 1974 Gryphon played a support gig at the Crystal Palace Garden Party in London. A couple of months earlier they played support to Steeleye Span at Greens the Glasgow Apollo on the 17th May. They had played and supported that band quite a few times even earlier on. But the main act and attraction on the night they played at the Crystal Palace Garden Party was Rick Wakeman who at the time was touring his Journey To Centre Of The Earth album. The poster below shows the acts who was on that day.

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Both Richard Harvey and Brian Gulland had already met Rick Wakeman at The Royal College of Music and it was when Wakeman joined Yes he introduced the band to the Yes’s manager Brian Lane. Besides being a manager Lane had promoted many well known artists in the 60’s and 70’s, and it was at this time that Lane had an office in Notting Hill, London. It was also he who got them their first record contract in America with Bell Records the very record label that started the birth of Arista Records founded by Clive Davis.

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The American release on Bell records came with a black border instead of blue like the UK release. Red Queen To Gryphon Three was the only album of Gryphon’s that got released in the USA back in the 70’s. Because of its lack of sales the record company had to drop them from their books. But the other thing Brian Lane did for the band was suggest to Clive Davis the MD of the American label that they should support Yes on their winter tour later in the same year of 1974.

Considering the band were already fans of Yes. This could only have been a dream to come true. But before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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As with all these new remasters done by Talking Elephant they come in a standard jewel case, just like all Gryphon albums that have been put on CD over all these years. Who knows one day they may discover that these days there are such things as DigiPaks and Digisleeves that give the album more of a mini vinyl representation and makes the package look a lot better.

In some ways I think the artist is better off with his own independent label these days, and nearly all those who sell their own records these days do happen to do the right thing by using such things to give their albums a better presentation. The trouble is with many major record labels is that they are only in it for the money, and the Jewel Case is their way of saving themselves a few pennies.

No doubt the Jewel Case does and adequate job and protects the disc very well, but like I have said so many times, they are becoming a bit outdated now. But I did get this 2016 remaster cheaper from Amazon and I got it for £10.33p. It’s also an excellent quality recording as well and I have no complaints at all regarding the quality of the recording.

The Artwork.

The albums cover design and illustration was once again done by Dan Pearce and I have to say I certainly missed his artwork on the bands previous album. Just like the bands debut album we get this gorgeous colourful picture and in this case it’s of an old man playing a game of chess, and the pieces on the board are very much Griffin’s. The Griffin is also most likely his opponent and he can be seen in the garden fighting the battle that’s going on in the game.

There is also plenty of things in the background of this gorgeous landscape. Medieval cities and sea vessels bearing red crosses suggestive of the emblem of the Knights Templar and also a few little animals such as the horse and rider, an owl, bird, cat and even a butterfly. Although has you can see by the cover on my CD. They did not do a very good job capturing all the original artwork, and the 1 pillar is lopsided and I appear to be missing the cat who sat on the ledge on the right hand side :)))))).

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No doubt the vinyl album does a lot more justice to the artwork and Pearce done a super job here. The art direction was done by Ann Sullivan & Vanessa East. Both Robert Ellis & Roger Perry provided the band photographs.

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The Album In Review…

Gryphon’s 3rd studio album Red Queen To Gryphon Three was released in December 1974. The album contains 4 tracks all of which were instrumental pieces that spanned over an overall time of 38 minutes, 39 seconds. By now the Yes influence had grown larger on the band and they was certainly heading more down the road of progressive rock with the musical concept they had in mind for this album.

I must admit to walk into a studio with absolutely nothing and come out with an album like this is quite a remarkable achievement. Once again the band were booked into the Chipping Norton Recording Studios in Oxford to start work on the new album. They came out of the studios in the same month with an album that has always been regarded as their most finest prog rock album they ever made.

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It was during the winter of 1974 that Gryphon went to America to support Yes who where touring their latest album Relayer to which Patrick Moraz had joined the band to replace Rick Wakeman on keyboards earlier on in the same year. If it was not for the fact that Gryphon were supporting Yes the chances are that they may of never of got to have toured in America, and they certainly could not fill the stadiums and many of the larger venues Yes had no problem filling either.

Yes kicked off their Northern American Tour on the 8th November 1974 at the St. John Arena in Columbus. Gryphon got to support the band on their very first show. Although Gryphon did not get to support Yes at every show on this tour, they did on a good few occasions though, and even got to play at Madison Square Gardens with them on the 20th November in front of 20,000 Yes fans.

I am not entirely sure but Red Queen To Gryphon Three may have been released a month earlier and actually released in November in America to coincide with this tour they was doing with Yes. They got to play more shows in December and even got to meet the Mahavishnu Orchestra who also supported Yes.

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And on the 11th December they supported Yes at Boston Gardens in Massachusetts in front of a crowd of 15,000. Even though Gryphon were only supporting Yes at the time it must of been quite an experience and they was most likely having the time of their lives. I am pretty sure from my research the only track from Gryphon’s album Red Queen To Gryphon Three they played on this tour, was the final track on the album “Checkmate“.

Gryphon’s medieval prog rock did not go down particularly that well at every show they played with Yes, and for the American audience it may have been too much of a new experience for them to take it in. I also find the problem being a support act is that most of the people in general are only mainly interested in the main event on the night.

The trouble is with a lot of people is that they are not willing to give most support artists the time of day, and I find that a shame. Though no doubt you will get the odd few who certainly would of appreciated them, and they even got a standing ovation at some of those shows. Both the members of Yes and Gryphon got along very well and became quite close friends during their tour of USA. Yes even invited them to support them in the following year on their UK tour as well.

I myself never went to a great deal of concerts in the 70’s and I never got to see Gryphon either back then. Though I did get to see Yes in 1977 who were touring their Going For The One album which was part of their Yesshows Tour at the Stafford Bingley Hall. I had been to quite a few prog rock concerts before that as well more locally at the Odeon in the New Street in my own town of Birmingham.

Concert tickets were quite cheap in those days, but as I paid for the ticket, I always made a point of watching the support act to get full value from the ticket and enjoyed quite a few artists and bands I had never heard of before. Donovan was making a comeback when I got to see Yes and he was supporting them that night at the Stafford Bingley Hall. At this time Donovan was very much going all electric to which I never thought really suited him, not in comparison to the acoustic material he wrote and played in the late 60’s and early 70’s.

To be honest Donovan never really impressed me one bit that night, but I still watched the whole of his set and showed my appreciation by applauding at the end of his songs. I am pretty sure if Gryphon was supporting Yes that night they would of blew my brains out, especially if they performed their material back then live as well as they do today.

Musicians & Credits…

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Produced & Arranged by Gryphon. Recorded at Chipping Norton Recording Studio in August 1974. Engineered & Co-Produced by Dave Grimsted. Cover Design & Illustration by Dan Pearce. Photography by Robert Ellis & Roger Perry. Art direction by Ann Sullivan & Vanessa East.

Musicians.
Richard Harvery: Keyboards/Recorders/Krumhorns.
Brian Gulland: Bassoon/Krumhorns.
Graeme Taylor: Guitars.
Phillip Nestor: Bass Guitar.
Dave Oberlé: Drums/Percussion/Tymps.

The Album Tracks In Review…

The bands 3rd album is an instrumental album that contains 4 very well worked out pieces and have been titled in the way of the movements you will find throughout a game of Chess. It’s perhaps not an album one would want to stick on the turntable to play whilst playing a game of chess. Well not for any serious game of chess because that takes up a lot of one’s concentration and is best played without any distractions.

Chess is very much a strategic game that takes a lot of skill to play it at a professional level, just as the 4 pieces we have here on Gryphon’s 3rd album have been skilfully crafted, it requires a great deal of skill to play as well. It’s also interesting that during the time the band made this album back in 1974 the American world champion chess player Bobby Fischer was creating a bit of a popular stir during 1972 – 1975 and it may have just inspired the band to base the music for this album around the game.

However skilful the game of chess was, the bands bass player Phillip Nestor was not going to be playing the game much longer. I do not know the reason behind Nestor’s departure from the band, though he had been replaced by Malcolm Bennett before the album was released and the band went on tour with Yes in America in November. I find it quite strange how many musicians either choose to leave or are no longer required at the most pivotal point of a bands career.

Phillip Nestor had only joined the band in January of the same year, and even though he was only with the band from around 8 to 10 months he got to feature on two really great albums. In October 1974 the band got to record a new song that they entitled “Wallbanger” with their new bass player which eventually found its way on the bands 4th album Raindance in 1975.

One of the many spoofs that have confused countless reviews of this album, even some of Gryphon’s other albums since the birth of the internet. Is of the couple of additional musicians that was printed on the back of this albums original vinyl album cover. It credits both Ernest Hart on organ and Peter Redding on acoustic bass.

The fact of the matter is, that the members of Gryphon always liked a good laugh and often added some silly bits of humour printed in the linear notes and credits. These were in fact the names of the manufacturers who made their instruments. For example Ernest Hart is of Copeman Hart Organs and made the organ Richard Harvey was playing. Just the same as Peter Redding made the acoustic bass Phillip Nestor was playing.

This was the 2nd and only other vinyl album I brought of Gryphon in the 70’s and I stumbled across it brand new in one of my favourite record shops in Bristol Street in the Birmingham City Centre. The shop was called the Diskery and was run by a couple of guys who knew their music. I had left school by now and had been in full time work for over a year and it would of been in 1977 that I landed on this album, and it was the artwork that immediately drew my attention to it.

To be honest when I seen the name Gryphon as large as life printed at the top, it never surprised me that is was their album, and on the vinyl sleeve it was a lot easier to see the Griffin in the garden. It was the only Gryphon album I noticed in the shop at the time and I dare say if Midnight Mushrumps was there I would never of noticed it at all. There is quite a massive contrast in between the album covers of their debut and their 3rd album Red Queen To Gryphon Three.

But I was well chuffed to see this album at the time and I am sure it was priced at around £2.75 and I snapped it up straight away, cause it was the only one in the shop. To be honest even if the bands 4th album Raindance was in that shop at the time, I doubt if I would of recognized it as a Gryphon album. I think the artwork is good what they did with it, but it was missing a Griffin :)))))). But there was one on the back of the cover.

I think it was down to the artwork and the time span of only a year in between the release of Gryphon’s debut album and Red Queen To Gryphon Three that led me to believe that Gryphon had only made 2 albums in the 70’s and had quit after them. I was so glad to discover it was not the case later on, but I was also disappointed to find out they had done in the same year I stumbled across their 3rd album.

So let’s take a closer look at this album and its 4 tracks as I go through them individually in my review.

Track 1. Opening Move.

The opening move in a game of chess can be a very important and decisive one, and I suppose one of the most popular choices would be along the lines of the Sicilian Defence. But Gryphon very much have their own grand opening which is perhaps set out on a grandeur scale of things. Once again the band are composing classical symphonies, only this one comes with 4 movements that sum up the game as an whole with every move, and this opening move is credited to Harvey/Taylor/Gulland/Oberlé.

The “Opening Move” opens up with a bit of strength and the bass plays a domineering part on this opening, supported very well by the keyboards, guitar and drums. The piece meanders it’s way along and settles down nicely to some fine flourishes on the piano at first and the piano then settles down to a fine melody line that soon gets supported by the other members and builds up to the next melody line.

Gryphon are the type of band that never really hold on to a melody too long before making a change, and this like many other of their pieces on this album is constructed out of many short melody lines that are often brought into play with all the other instrumentation and the arrangement. No doubt all their instruments make quite bold statements, and whilst they are meandering along through these short spasms and transitional changes there instruments also get to make individual statements in parts too.

Though a piece like this is perhaps domineered by the keyboards and guitar, it’s actually the bassoon that makes the most majestic statement in the piece, and that’s were the real beauty of a piece like this lies. Though no doubt the arrangement behind it all is also quite breathtaking. A couple of the real beauty spots on this particular piece follow each other, and around the 3:52 – 4:32 mark we get this delightful Krumhorn and flute section which is supported by the acoustic guitar, which is followed by this lovely sweet bassoon section from 4:32 – 5:05.

We also get some reversed effects thrown in along the way which were most likely inspired by Yes or even The Beatles to which makes quite an effective drone. Back in those days even synthesizers were hard work given that they was mono and you could not play chords on them, and Richard Harvey spent many late hours overdubbing the sounds from them to create chords with them on this album in particular.

Whether the “Opening Move” speaks the same language as a game of chess or not, there is no doubt it tries to dramatise it’s way through each movement of the opening game. It’s like playing chess in the 16th century and progressive rock was even born then by the sounds of it all. I love how the piece ends off with organ and bassoon too, as if to say we have not finished yet, and it’s an excellent well crafted well thought out piece of work, and along with every track on this album is so unique, and has never been done before.

Track 2. Second Spasm.

The “Second Spasm” is a piece written by Taylor & Gulland. it’s actually the shortest piece on the album, though they are all around the 8 to 10 minute mark. Considering this piece is only 8 minutes 19 seconds long, it’s perhaps got more transitional changes along it’s path that what you will hear in the entire discography of Yes music. It’s very much a piece that takes on quite a few styles as it progresses along and not only has tremendous power, but can be quite comically quirky as well.

I quite often find my mind boggling has to how anyone could of come up with an idea like this in the first place, and this piece, or pieces must of been done in sections and glued together, cause for the life of me I cannot see anybody just playing this in one go. To be honest I am not sure if Gryphon have ever played this piece live. My guess would be that they never have. I know when I seen them live in 2016 they played a medley of the album, and when I seen them in the following year they played the 3rd track from the album “Lament“.

What we have here is quite a range of contrasting musical styles that have all been thrown into one big melting pot and it purely cooks on gas and works. The way piece kicks off is quite jolly with the flute playing along a fine little melody along to the chords on the acoustic guitar for the first minute. Then it bursts into something that is perhaps more familiar with the prog rock styles of Genesis and Yes and no doubt the band was heavily influenced by both bands to some degree but were also much more classically minded with how they went about things.

This is an album that we get to hear Graeme Taylor on electric guitar for a change, and no doubt the fact the he is even fleshing out the electric guitar on this particular track, it also gives Phillip Nestor the chance to work his ass off on the bass to which is something he does extremely well on this track. This section no doubt lifts the piece up and is soon followed by some pretty awesome keyboard work by Richard Harvey and things start to get a bit heavier.

Then all of a sudden we get this quite comical section on the Krumhorns come into play which at this point is certainly most intriguing and no doubt will have many thinking well that’s something completely different :))))). Who on earth could think of such thing, yet even though Gryphon are well known for using krumhorns they perhaps would not of been expected to appear here, yet it’s quite magical how they slotted it in out of the blue almost. The a drum roll leads us into another quite quirky section that sounds like they brought in the salvation army :)))))).

Even more interesting is the next section that comes into play around the 3:44 mark. Where we get this military roll on the drums which allows the band to play in some continental European sort of  style that is also skilfully masterly played and executed with fine precision. Even though the band do not have a violin player, Richard Harvey makes it sound like they have one with whatever keyboards he’s using. The band then go into a sort of medieval European style before heading back into the heavier bass and guitar section to end it all off.

There is never a dull moment in the piece and its quite amazing how they fitted it all together. Listening to a piece like this in some ways reminds me how much the artist John Miles crammed into his 1976 UK hit “Music“. Most people may have took that as pop song, but the fact the he fused and blended so many styles into 6 minutes it was far from the case at all, and spoke just as much about progressive rock as many artists did back then.

I thought that was an excellent piece of work, but unfortunately was a one off for him, and I remember buying the album when I first heard that song back then and it never really had a lot more to say about it, apart from that song of his. But there is no doubt John Miles did fuse more modern day pop and reggae music along with classical and rock into his piece, unlike how Gyrphon did here. But in reality Gryphon crammed just as many styles into this masterpiece and done a terrific job of it.

Track 3. Lament.

This for me is my personal favourite on the album and merits my top spot on the album award. But if the truth be told, all 4 pieces on this album very much have equal measures in reality and are all masterpieces. There is a lot of beauty in this particular piece and it’s the acoustics that very much ring out on it, which is perhaps why I favour this piece in the first place.

The piece opens up nice and simple enough with Taylor strumming away on the acoustic guitar who is accompanied by Gulland on bassoon and Harvey on the flute. These 3 instruments alone play in beautiful unison with one another throughout the intro which builds up nicely enough with other instruments coming into play, and it simmers down after 3 minutes to take us into the next transitional change.

This is actually the longest track on the album at some 10 minutes and 48 seconds, and to be honest it’s perhaps the least constructive and difficult piece on the album to play as well. It also centres itself around one particular melody line or theme. But it’s the way it builds up that really makes it shine. The only real changes come into play over the next couple of transitions after the 3 minute mark to which changes to a darker mood.

The first of which is still using the acoustic guitar leading it’s way and the bassoon gives it the darker mood which is now accompanied by the bass and drums. The next change comes in around the 5:28 mark and is brought in with the cymbals, and for the next couple of minutes we get a bit of a frenzy which features some delightful interplay with band.

Around half way through the frenzy we get this gorgeous acoustic guitar section from Taylor which is accompanied by Nestor on the bass. It’s perhaps the most intricate part of the piece and it builds back up to a bit of a frenzy to which the main theme comes back into play at around the 7:37 mark. The main theme being played by Harvey on the synth instead of Gulland on the bassoon this time around and it drives the piece home and frizzles it’s way out with the guitar, bassoon, flute, piano and the odd bit of vibes.

I suppose “Lament” could be seen as that part in chess where one has to comprehend his next move and takes more time dwelling over it. It’s coming up to the end game so his move has to be precise. It’s such a lovely piece that was written by Taylor, Gulland and Nestor and I may just have a soft spot for it. especially with what the last piece really has to offer. Which in reality is so much more.

Track 4. Checkmate.

The final movement just like the opening track on the album is also credited to Harvey, Taylor, Gulland and Oberlé. It’s the most powerful piece on the album and is a very well constructed masterpiece. Here we are into the end game and pieces are moving in at a menacing pace with quite some force to break through the castles walls to bring an end to the kings reign so to speak.

Each move is a well devised one, and this piece paces out each move on the chessboard with how it runs along through its stages leading up to its final kill. Sometimes at pace and others times more cunningly and graciously. It’s one of those pieces that weaves it’s way in and out along the way as it moves in for the final kill and unleashes its mighty power at the end as it delivers its final blow. Which happens to come from striking one of the keys on the lower regions of the piano :))))).

The piece goes through as many changes as a stock broker on wall street and is mostly constructed around Richard Harvey’s keyboards which play a more domineering part on this particular track. But however the keyboards may appear to be dominating the piece, the rest of the band work in their own personal bit of magic along the way.

There is some well tasty lead lines coming from Graeme Taylor’s electric guitar, and once again Phillip Nestor has plenty to do on the bass and works his ass off. Sir Brian Gulland meanders his majestic magic on the bassoon as ever, whilst David Oberlé provides all the crash bang wallop to bring down the walls of Jericho.

Checkmate” could easily be seen as the most progmatic track on the album and for that reason its also going to merit my top spot award of the album along with “Lament“. I suppose the best way I can describe both tracks is to pair them up as “Beauty And The Beast”. Because this final track is a Monster.

I also think like the first track on the album “Opening Move” it was also more worked out without having to stop so much to piece all the parts together. It’s also most likely after the band had finished the album, why they most likely chose this piece first to learn and play first to take it on the road with them in America on the Yes tour.

This particular track contains bags of progression and diversity along its path with its many splendiferous changes, it intertwines and interlocks one melody after another and you need to be some sort of wizard to work your way along and play a piece as complex as this. Like I have said before Gryphon are not the type of band that will hang onto one particular melody line for long, and there are some fine melodic intervals that have been woven in between the the lines of this masterpiece.

The piece opens up menacingly enough as if the chess player as already worked out his next 4 to 5 moves and planned his route to move in and launch his attack. The opening 1 minute and 54 seconds may reflect his plan as the band meander along, but of course each move he makes his opponent can always put the mockers on it, by blocking his path and forcing him to go down another route and make another plan of action. So more strategic planning has to be made and the real battle begins at the 1:55 mark with the fife and drum so to speak.

This short 33 second change features Oberlé playing a military roll on the snare drum accompanied by Harvey on the flute. It’s quite interesting in that the recording has not only captured the sound of the snare drum, but also the springs vibrating underneath it. No doubt the piece goes through many routes and reoccurring melody lines as it builds up to it’s final powerful climax to reach it’s final goal and win the game.

The band were not only playing the game but very much won it in the unique style only a band like Gryphon could present it all to you, and it puts an end to yet another brilliant album.

Summary

Gryphon’s 3rd album Red Queen To Gryphon Three was quite well received on its release back in 1974. No doubt over the years it has gained even more recognition. It’s always been regarded as the bands finest album. I think for the many who have never heard this album and have recently stumbled across it. They will get to see that this is one of those unique GEMS that came out of that Golden decade of prog rock.

Once again Gryphon had managed to churn out yet another solid album, and all 4 tracks on it are masterpieces. Once again they also came up with something different, and yet still managed to use their unusual instrumentation to achieve it as well. 1974 had proved to be a very good year for the band, and one would of thought by now they would be the main attraction for a change. No doubt they deserved to be far more successful, but these guys were happy just to get out there and play, and play they certainly could.

I may have my personal favourite tracks on this album, but my personal highlights from this album are pretty easy enough to make. Just stick the album on and play it from start to finish. It does not disappoint at all and makes a very exciting experience.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of Gryphon’s magnificent album Red Queen To Gryphon Three. For me personally all 3 of the bands first albums have always been amongst my personal favourite Gryphon albums. But this one is certainly the most unique album in same way that the band Yes had created their own unique style and their own music. There is simply nothing out there quite like it whatsoever, and that is something that is very, very hard to achieve.

The band had created an album that was going to be very difficult to follow up, and I also feel they had also created an album that was going to be very difficult to take to the stage and perform live. There was no way forward at this point, and the only way they could really go, was to take a step backwards. Which is something I personally felt they did on their next album that was to follow up. And you can find out just what they did in my next review of the bands 4th album Raindance.

The Red Strategic Gryphon Takes The Progmatic Game…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Opening Move. 9:45.
02. Second Spasm. 8:19.
03. Lament. 10:48.
04. Checkmate. 9:47.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 07/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 10/10.