Gryphon (band)

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

Career[edit]

Multi-instrumentalist Richard Harvey and his fellow Royal College of Music graduate Brian Gulland, a woodwind player, began the group as an all-acoustic ensemble that mixed 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. 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.

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]

In September 2007 it was announced on Gryphon's website that, after a silence of 31 years, the band had finally decided to produce a new album. Whether the new Gryphon album will be a modern progressive and commercial sounding offering, like their later albums, 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 with a one-off London concert date also suggested, although not confirmed. On 15 September 2008, Gryphon announced via their website that the album was still in production, "albeit slowly". As of December 2010, no album has materialised and there have been no further updates on the band's webpage relating to it.

On Saturday 6 June 2009, 32 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.

Members[edit]

Auxiliary members

The following craftsmen manufactured instruments used on Gryphon albums, but they were not band members:

  • Ernest Hart – Organ (Midnight Mushrumps and Red Queen to Gryphon Three)
  • Peter Redding – Acoustic bass (Red Queen to Gryphon Three)

Tim Sebastion co-wrote lyrics for Treason.

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

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

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]