Gryphon


Gryphon were a British progressive folk band of the 1970s, best known for their unusual Medieval sound and instrumentation. Spawned at the Royal College of Music and proficient in their musicianship, they started out making a name for themselves in folk-rock, but their classical training and their approach to composition, recording, and performance soon took them into the much bigger field of progressive rock, and eventually had them playing gigs in front of arena-size audiences.

HISTORY

Multi-instrumentalist Richard Harvey and his fellow Royal College of Music graduate Brian Gulland (winds, bassoon, keyboards, vocals) began the group as an all-acoustic ensemble that mixed traditional English folk, Baroque instrumentation and Renaissance music in a modern format. They began playing a brand of what might best be called archaic folk music on instruments that were decidedly pre-20th century in either origin or sound, not previously used in rock music. The compositions resemble those of Gentle Giant but give greater emphasis to the authentic textures and sounds of the Renaissance period. The duo was joined by guitarist Graeme Taylor and drummer/percussionist Dave Oberlé, they were signed to Transatlantic Records, which was then one of the biggest of England's independent labels, with a special emphasis on folk music in their line up of artists and they recorded their all-acoustic first album Gryphon in 1973. Their debut album was taken seriously enough to get them gigs at places like the Victoria & Albert Museum and other venues outside the usual range of folk performances. 

Juniper suite


In 1974, bassist Philip Nestor was added to the line up and the group's publicist Martin Lewis arranged for the band to be commissioned to write and record the music for a major stage production of Shakespeare's The Tempest at Britain's National Theatre, directed by Sir Peter Hall. It opened at the historic Old Vic Theatre in April 1974. The music the band wrote and recorded for the stage production inspired the album-side length fantasia "Midnight Mushrumps" (named after a phrase mentioned in The Tempest) which became the title track of their second album. Midnight Mushrumps featured an increased number of original compositions and leanings in a rock direction. Following the successful premiere of the play and acclaim for its music, Lewis arranged for Gryphon to give a Sunday evening concert at the Old Vic in July 1974, the first-ever and to date only rock concert held at Britain's National Theatre. At the concert, the band performed "Midnight Mushrumps". The concert was considered a major breakthrough for progressive rock music. Gryphon's music could leap, in a single measure, from a piece of 15th century religious music across four hundred years, from medieval recorder to electric guitar, without skipping a beat. Richard Harvey could play the recorder flute at a speed that made flutist Ian Anderson look like he was playing in slow motion.

Ethelion


Later in 1974, the group released what is usually regarded as their magnum opus, Red Queen to Gryphon Three, which marked their headfirst plunge into progressive rock, eschewing vocals for the first time in their history and stretching out their playing on a quartet of extended tracks clocking in at ten minutes or more each. For that album, they added a sixth member in organist Ernest Hart. Red Queen to Gryphon Three became their first album to get a U.S. release which was confined to the Bell Records label (not known as a bastion of progressive or folk-rock). It was also sufficiently impressive to get Gryphon noticed by Steve Howe, the lead guitarist of Yes. The group subsequently appeared on his solo album Beginnings, but much more important was their presence on Yes' 1975 tour of North America, opening for the better-known band, picking up thousands of new fans in the process, and even getting one of their performances broadcast over FM radio in the United States.

Second spasm

The mid-1970s brought big changes to the band with new bass player Malcom Bennet taking over from Nestor. Raindance (1975) restored their vocals and allowed Gryphon to return to more of a song-oriented output.

Down the dog

Graeme Taylor left the band and he was replaced by Bob Foster, Jonathan Davie took over the bassist spot replacing Malcolm Bennett, Oberlé switched to lead vocals and Alex Baird came in on drums. By the time their album Treason (1977) appeared, they'd left Transatlantic in favor of Harvest Records, and had lost most of the folk and antique instrument attributes that had made them distinctive in the first place.

Spring song

Gryphon had broken up by the end of the 1970s, but retained enough of an audience to get their work anthologized several times on CD. In the years since their breakup, Harvey has gone on to a multi-tiered career in film music, classical chamber music, and forays into rock in collaboration with Kate Bush, Elvis Costello, et al. Gulland appeared on records with Richard & Linda Thompson and Billy Squier, Graeme Taylor passed through the Albion Band and also worked with Richard & Linda Thompson, and Oberlé turned to the business side of rock journalism. The group's sound on the four Transatlantic albums was so distinctive and accomplished that reissues of their work into the 21st century have ensured the addition of new fans to their ranks of admirers, more than a generation after Gryphon disbanded.



DISCOGRAPHY
(Studio albums)

Gryphon (1973):
1. Kemp's Jig
2. Sir Gavin Grimbold
3. Touch And Go
4. Three Jolly Butchers
5. Pastime with Good Company
6. The Unquiet Grave
7. Estampie
8. Crossing The Stiles
9. The Astrologer
10. Tea Wrecks
11. Juniper Suite
12. The Devil And The Farmer's Wife


Midnight Mushrumps (1974):
1. Midnight Mushrumps
2. The Plough-Boy's Dream
3. The Last Flash Of Gaberdine Taylor
4. Gulland Rock
5. Dubbel Dutch
6. Ethelion








Red Queen to Gryphon Three (1974):
1. Opening Move
2. Second Spasm
3. Lament
4. Checkmate










Raindance (1975):
1. Down The Dog
2. Raindance
3. Mother Nature's Son
4. Le Cambrioleur Est Dans Le Mouchoir
5. Ormolu
6. Fontinental Version
7. Wallbanger
8. Don't Say Go
9. (Ein Klein) Heldenleben





Treason (1977):
1. Spring Song
2. Round & Round
3. Flash In The Pantry
4. Falero Lady
5. Snakes And Ladders
6. The Fall Of The Leaf
7. Major Disaster








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