Sunday, May 28, 2006
REVIEW: Gryphon - Red Queen to Gryphon Three
Let me start by saying that although Gryphon made good albums before and after, none would be as flawless and of the same quality as this one. There is not a moment between Opening Move and the end of Checkmate that you could call padded or forced. As you may have estimated the theme of this album is the game or to others the sport of chess (if I have deeply offended you because Chess is neither a sport nor a game then you will have to deal with this.) It is not the organization of the pieces but the music that tells the story from the movement of the first pawn to the ending by checkmate. This is not any game of Chess as it is a mythological match and one that does not have to conform to our current reality, therefore Gryphons are welcomed.
Gryphon did not originate as a progressive rock band as their first album was a folk album nothing more, nothing less. However it was clear from their 1973 album Midnight Mushrumps they had changed musical directions and were now a glorious Prog-folk band. Their sound was evolving particularly under the influence of another prog rock great Yes. Some say Gryphon were guilty of transforming their own sound into something that was not them. I believe the increase of complexity in their sound was due to personal growth as musicians and not just because they wanted to be like Yes. At any rate if you heard their first album the symphonic prog influence is noticeable on the following albums.
The Bassoon does not ultimately make Gryphon a revolutionary band but it does help establish Gryphon’s unique sound that is truly of another time and place. The bassoon is used frequently and adds a middle age folk sound to what is really a pure prog album. Listening to the album one feels like they are on a mystic spiritual journey for which no paid guide is necessary (possibly 20 bucks at the local record shop.) The current lineup of Harvey, Gulland, Taylor, Oberle and Nestor is in my opinion the bands best lineup and they handle their instruments with unbelievable authority. Note that Brian Gulland (bassoon) and Graeme Taylor (Guitar) are the only band members with writing credits on all tracks.
One criticism of RQ2G3 (and there are not many) involves the musical diversity from one song to another. At first listen the album may leave the feeling that you have heard four slightly different songs. If you are experiencing this problem I recommend that one treats this album as a one song album (like Jethro Tull’s A Passion Play or Thick as a Brick another Prog folk band that we all know well) with different themes that occur throughout its duration (i.e. one being Checkmate and another being Lament.) If find if you treat the album in this manner the similarities between each song become irrelevant and you can spend your time enjoy two side longs instead of lamenting which song you are listening to at that point in time.
It was fitting that North America discovered Gryphon on their tour with their idols Yes that occurred just after the release of RQ2G3 during the Relayer Tour. I’ll have a second spasm with gates of delirium any day! The only legitimate criticism of the album in my mind of this album is that musically the entire album is too similar. This lack of diversity in my mind does not warrant harsh criticism as musical integrity is not compromised. If you love the genre you love the album a must have for any prog rock junky, there is no other way of putting it!
My Rating: 9/10
My favorite lyrical moment: N/A