02. Sir Gavin Grimbold (2:45)
03. Touch and Go (1:29)
04. Three Jolly Butchers (3:54)
05. Pastime with Good Company (1:31)
06. The Unquiet Grave (5:40)
07. Estampie (4:53)
08. Crossing the Stiles (2:22)
09. The Astrologer (3:12)
10. Tea Wrecks (1:06)
11. Juniper Suite (4:49)
12. The Devil and the Farmer's Wife (1:55)
- Brian Gulland / bassoon, bass & tenor crumhorns, recorders, keyboards, vocals
- Richard Harvey / recorders, soprano, alto & tenor crumhorns, organ, harpsichord, harmonium, glockenspiel, mandolin, classical guitar, vocals
- Graeme Taylor / guitar, harpsichord, organ, recorder, vocals
- David Oberlé / drums, percussion, glockenspiel, vocals
Gryphon was formed in the early seventies, soon after two graduates of Royal Academy of Music, a multiinstrumentalist Richard Harvey and a woodwind player Brian Gulland, met, finding a mutual approach to music. The duo played a few local concerts and were soon joined by a guitarist Graeme Taylor and a drummer and percussionist Dave Oberlé. In March of 1973, the quartet entered the studio to record the first tracks for what would become their self-titled debut album, which was released in June of the same year under the Transatlantic label. The cover art, portraying a mighty, masculine creature, half an eagle, half a lion, Gryphon, was designed by Transatlantic's artist, Dan Pearce.
Since its very first days, Gryphon's aim was to put the original English folk of the middle ages and renaissance into the framework of modern folk music, reminiscent of the sixties folk revival, artists like Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, and even Bob Dylan. The results are absolutely charming. The interplay of a wide plethora of instruments like recorders, flutes, crumhorns, a bassoon, a mandolin, a guitar, a harpsichord, a harmonium, organ, and various percussion instruments gives the album a rich, majestic sound. Furthermore, Gryphon is dripping with cascading, labyrinthine arrangements. Everything, as technical and sophisticated as it could be, is often executed in a tongue-in-cheek manner. All these elements do not give an impression of overabundance. Everything seems to have its own place in the musical layers, while the minimalistic factor makes Gryphon's material sound authentic. The emotion, character, spirit, and atmosphere of this album are dense enough to fire up listener's imagination and put their "alter ego" on a busy street of the 14th century London. With this release, Gryphon created an image of medieval troubadours with incredible instrumental skill.
What undoubtedly shaped Gryphon's sound to a high degree, was its members' classical training. The previously mentioned variety of wind instruments works in favor of the band's unique sound. The instruments are played with great precision and passion. Dave Oberlé's percussion playing is versatile, he finds himself incredibly proficient in rapid rhythmic play on many types of drums at once. While a good most of folk bands at the time usually used two acoustic guitars, Gryphon only needed one - Graeme Taylor's traditional, percussive style covers all guitar parts needed. Harmony vocals, which play a crucial role in the band's sound, range from deep, washy bass, to baritone, to a high, tounge-in-cheek, almost Monty Python-like countertenor.
The album opens with an instrumental piece "Kemp's Jig". Although the title suggests so, this is not a jig in the traditional meaning of the word. Nonetheless, it proficiently sets up the right atmosphere for the rest of the album. "Sir Gavin Grimbold" is the most comedic of the songs, telling a story of an adventurer, who set out on a journey never to be seen again. "Three Jolly Butchers" is quite similar in appeal, showcasing the fantastic harmony vocals of the band's members. "The Unquiet Grave" is less cheerful than the previous tracks, with its meditative, pastoral feel. "Juniper Suite" is in fact not a suite, but only a five minute track with great interaction of various wind instruments and a moody harpsichord. "The Devil and the Farmer's Wife" is another comedic, short-format story song, which closes the album with a quick allusion to Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag" on harmonium.
Gryphon are most often associated with their instrumental 1974 release Red Queen to Gryphon Three, which showcased the more classical-oriented, electric folk sound. However, just one year before that, the group had recorded their all-acoustic self-titled debut. It could shortly be described as an incredibly moody take on music of the middle ages and renaissance. The album is an incredibly pleasing journey through medieval England and should be a pleasing experience for folk fans! Highly recommended!