12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Crowning glory of English pastoral prog,
This review is from: Red Queen To Gryphon Three (Audio CD)
What would it be like to hear this for the first time now? I've no idea;
it's been with me since soon after it first came out. I've no idea why
I bought it; just curiosity, perhaps. I couldn't imagine rock music
with recorders! A friend of a friend warned that Gryphon were an
acquired taste, and he was right: I didn't like it at all at first. But
I can remember the day it clicked: a gloriously sunny day, sitting in
my sister's garden, listening to LPs playing through the window.
Suddenly, it was just so right; this was the perfect music for high
summer (and this was in Scotland!) It quickly became one of my
favourites, and has remained so ever since.
The recorders, krumhorns and bassoon are here in abundance; but what
sets this apart from the previous two Gryphon albums is the prevalence
of synthesizers that add more colour yet somehow don't detract from the
pastoral feel. (Having read of Richard Harvey's brilliance as a
recorder player, I was gobsmacked by his keyboard skills.) Philip
Nestor's crisp bass sound (Rickenbacker, I'd guess) really helps fill
things out. The only hint of the jokiness from the earlier albums is a
brief whoopee-cushion noise in the "krumhorn choir" section of Second
The four long tracks are complex, carefully-composed and arranged (by
various subgroups of members, this is not just The Richard Harvey Band.)
No long free-form jams or rambling solos here (the nearest thing is a
dazzling but fairly brief recorder solo near the start of Checkmate).
Though it's a close-run thing with the bouncy folk-jig-rock of Second
Spasm, my favourite track is Lament, which begins with a quiet
unassuming melody, goes off on various tangents, and then the opening
melody returns in a sunny, triumphant blaze of glory at the end.
So what of this version? (Talking Elephant, 2007, in case this review
ends up attached to other releases.) Well, it's certainly mastered more
loudly than even my Japanese edition (I now have three CDs of Red
Queen.) This makes it harder to compare, but I think this one has the
edge in terms of detail and clarity.
The only drawback is that for me this album really needs sunny English
days to work best, and they seem to be quite rare at the moment!