Gryphon - Red Queen To Gryphon Three

Year of Release: 1994
Label: Progressive International
Catalog Number: PRO 042
Format: CD
Total Time: 38:06:00

Red Queen To Gryphon Three (Bell (1316)) was the third release by the English band Gryphon. Gryphon began as a medieval/folk/progressive band, and released their self-titled debut in 1973. They released two recordings in 1974, the much ballyhooed Midnight Mushrumps and their third album, reviewed here, Red Queen To Gryphon Three. The group initially produced fairly faithful adaptations of renaissance pieces and re-arranged early English folk music. An all acoustic band, they had a couple of full blown instrumental virtuosos on their hands, Richard Harvey on recorders and keyboard instruments, and Brian Gulland, who excelled on the early reed instrument the crumhorn, and its modern cousin, the bassoon. Initially, the two were joined by guitarist Graeme Taylor and percussionist/vocalist David Oberle. The release of Midnight Mushrumps would see the addition of bassist Philip Nestor, and a move toward electric, and quite eclectic progressive rock music, still heavily influenced by the ancient styles, but now incorporating elements of more standard English symphonic progressive rock, similar to Gentle Giant and Yes, and classical music, using influences of the late Romantic period composers

This release is an all instrumental concept album of sorts, a musical representation of a chess game, laid out in four compositions. The pieces are all fairly lengthy, and provide the band ample time to fully explore the themes laid out This is intelligent art rock, with the group producing a work that is absent most of the clichés of the genre. Their affinity for the electric sound they had only recently added is nothing short of amazing, and their sound is exciting and blends their previous acoustic focus well with their new synthesizers and electric guitars

The first track "Opening Move" starts with a Yes like barrage of Moog and speedy, Howe like licks on electric guitar. It morphs into a section reminiscent of "Starship Trooper" and just as quickly becomes a solo piano interlude, and then back to true progressive bombast. We will get a series of gentle interludes contrasted with electric generated pomp, and well developed themes that carry us through this number. Bassoon and crumhorn are used as well as some mind blowing lines on the recorder. Where many people can perform nice melodic work on the recorder, Richard Harvey really rips on this instrument. This tune ends with penetrating cathedral organ and rich lines from the bassoon.

"Second Spasm" opens as a medieval dance on recorders and acoustic guitar, and is contrasted with another passage of Yes like material, a section that might be looked at as similar to the single note lines played Howe and Squire in the beginning of "Heart Of The Sunrise." This tune again goes back and forth between passages of subdued acoustic dances and full on progressive instrumental firepower. David Oberle's drumming is spare but full of pep and energy when called for.

"Lament," the third track begins with acoustic guitar and lovely bassoon and flute, eventually joined by tasteful, melodic electric guitar. The lush guitar sound leads into the second theme, with the vibrant bassoon taking the lead role. This work reminds me quite a bit of the early days of The Paul Winter Consort. We then get a reprise of the first theme as a bouncing rocking dance, and several more contrasts in dynamics, acoustic, electric, and contrasts in mood, studied and precise, and joyful. This work ends with a final triumphant theme graced with a restrained moog solo.

Track four, "Checkmate," begins sounding quite a bit like Gentle Giant with a busy, complicated flourish of keyboards and guitar, and a difficult counterpoint. This leads to a traditional Celtic sounding section contrasting the early musical melee. The playing on the pipes is especially noteworthy in this section, which segues into an acoustic piece featuring the bassoon and piano. Many changes of tone and tempo occur within the finale to this awesome CD, and the last few minutes of "Checkmate" allow Harvey to show some serious ability on his bank of keyboards, with impressive work on the clavinet and his Moog.

This album is an essential addition to any good collection of English progressive, and it is the best example of this odd, eclectic style of mid 70s British folk/prog.. Bands like The Strawbs and Steeleye Span produced some interesting blends of early English music and rock, but no one came anywhere close to the mastery of Gryphon, and Gryphon made their premiere musical statement with this release.

Opening Move (8:15) / Second Spasm (9:42) / Lament (10:45) / Checkmate (9:50)

Richard Harvey - keyboards, recorder, crumhorn
Brian Gulland - bassoon, crumhorns
David Oberle - drums, percussion, tympani
Graeme Taylor - guitars
Ernest Hart - organ
Peter Redding - acoustic bass

Gryphon (1973)
Midnight Mushrumps (1974)
Red Queen To Gryphon Three (1974)
Raindance (1975)
Treason (1977)
The Collection (1991)
Collection II (1995)
About As Curious As It Can Be (2002)
Glastonbury Carol (2003)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: May 2nd 2004
Reviewer: Tom Karr
Artist website:
Hits: 1143
Language: english


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