Gryphon (band)

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Gryphon
Origin London, England
Genres Progressive rock, traditional English folk music with medieval and Renaissance influences
Years active Early 1970s-1977
reunion: 2009
Labels Transatlantic Records (1973-1975)
EMI/Harvest Records (1977)
Website www.gaudela.net/gryphon/
Members (since 2009)
Richard Harvey
Brian Gulland
Graeme Taylor
Dave Oberlé
Jonathan Davie
Graham Preskett
Past members Philip Nestor
Malcolm Bennett
Bob Foster

Gryphon were a British progressive rock band of the 1970s, best known for their unusual medieval and Renaissance sound and instrumentation.

History[edit]

Origins[edit]

In the early 1970s, two fellow Royal College of Music graduates, multi-instrumentalist Richard Harvey and the woodwind player Brian Gulland began the group as an all-acoustic ensemble, mixing traditional English folk music with medieval and Renaissance influences. Shortly after this, the duo was joined by guitarist Graeme Taylor and drummer/percussionist Dave Oberlé.

1973-1977: band career and breakup[edit]

After their self-titled debut, they expanded their sound to include electric guitars and keyboards as well as wind instruments, such as bassoons and krumhorns, not previously used in rock music. Gryphon's music often sounded as much like rural English folk or renaissance chansons as it did rock, at least on their early recordings. After their third album Red Queen to Gryphon Three and the subsequent tour as a supporting act for Yes, their instrumentation became more conventional and the use of non-standard instruments was reduced. Fans and critics generally regard Midnight Mushrumps and the all-instrumental Red Queen to Gryphon Three as their finest albums.

In 1974, 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 21-minute fantasia "Midnight Mushrumps" (named after a phrase mentioned in The Tempest) which became the title track of their second album. 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. Audio tapes of the fabled concert exist, but none have yet surfaced publicly. The band's sound engineer at the time, Richard Elen, recorded the event on a 4-track machine (2 tracks PA feed, 2 tracks stereo acoustic sound picked up at the balcony) and subsequently mixed it to stereo. He has cassette copies of the master tape (which have some technical issues), but Martin Lewis is believed to have the master itself. It is not known whether the master is of releasable quality.

Graeme Taylor left the band in 1975 after the recording of the fourth album Raindance.

In 1977, Richard Harvey and Jonathan Davie - under the names Rik Mansworth and John Thomas - were members of The Banned, supposedly a punk rock group, who had a hit in the UK pop charts with a version of "Little Girl", originally recorded in the 1960s by The Syndicate of Sound.[1]

Gryphon split up in 1977 after the release of their fifth and final album Treason (Harvest Records).

2007-present: on-going plans for a band reunion[edit]

Since 2007: working on a new album and planning a one-off London concert and a reunion tour[edit]

In September 2007, Gryphon announced on their website that they had finally decided to produce a new album after a silence of thirty-one years. Whether the new Gryphon album would be, like their later albums, a modern progressive and commercial sounding offering, or a return to the predominantly medieval-based themes of their earlier works, has yet to be announced. Whilst there was no timescale planned, it was envisaged that it would be released in the Summer of 2008. Gryphon also suggested the possibility of a one-off live performance in London then yet «currently being discussed» but «no further dates [were] planned as yet, although this may change closer to the time of the album's release».

On 15 September 2008, Gryphon announced via their website that they «[had] been forced to postpone the reunion concert until [the following] year [2009] due to lack of venue availability for the [then] current year [2008]». The band also announced that «the album project [was] moving forward (albeit slowly)». No album has yet materialized to date (November 2014) and there have been no further updates on the band's webpage relating to it.

June 2009: one-off reunion concert in London[edit]

On Saturday 6 June 2009, thirty-two years after its last performance, Gryphon reformed for a reunion concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London. The four original members - Richard Harvey, Brian Gulland, Graeme Taylor and Dave Oberlé - opened the evening with a selection of songs and instrumentals from the first album Gryphon. They were then joined by Jon Davie (the final bass player, who appeared on Treason) and a new member, the multi-instrumentalist and film/production music composer Graham Preskett for the rest of the evening.

2014-2015: on-going plans for a reunion tour[edit]

After the one-off sell-out concert in June 2009 at London's Queen Elizabeth Hall, Gryphon announced on 29 September 2013 a (then) upcoming short 2014 UK reunion tour of clubs, arts centres and festivals, the band due to perform new songs and old favourites.

But a year later, on 23 August 2014, Gryphon announced that they «will not tour this year [2014], due to a number of contributing logistical and technical factors as well as difficulty in finding suitable venues». However, the band confirmed that they are still hoping to «have some good news regarding 2015 shortly, plans [being] in the making» and that «the beast may well fly again [...] thirty-eight years since we last toured».

Members[edit]

Founding members[edit]

Later members[edit]

Additional personnel[edit]

  • Ernest Hart – Organ (on Midnight Mushrumps and Red Queen to Gryphon Three)
  • Peter Redding – Acoustic bass (on Red Queen to Gryphon Three)
  • Tim Sebastion – lyrics (on Treason)

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

All albums were released by Transatlantic Records, except Treason, which was released by EMI/Harvest Records.

Compilations and other releases[edit]

  • The Collection (1991)
  • The Collection II (1995)
  • About as Curious as It Can Be (2002) - 1974 & 1975 BBC Radio session performances
  • Glastonbury Carol (2003) - 1972 & 1974 BBC Radio session performances plus the title track, theme music for the Peter Neal film Glastonbury Fayre about the 1971 Glastonbury Festival
  • Crossing the Styles: The Transatlantic Anthology (2004)

References[edit]

External links[edit]