It has been a long time. Gryphon broke up in 1977 after recording Treason, which a lot of people seem to like but which I don’t particularly care for. Rumours started to emerge some eleven years ago and the band played a one-off gig at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in 2009. There followed silence until three years ago when Gryphon played half a dozen dates and announced that they were back. The result of their return is ReInvention, an album of new material with a new(ish) line-up.
Richard Harvey, much in demand as a screen composer, couldn’t commit to the schedule of a rock(ish) band intending to record and tour and his place has been taken, in part, by Andy Findon partnering Brian Gulland on aerophones with multi-instrumentalist Graham Preskett assuming the keyboard role. Rory McFarlane has replaced Jonathan Davie on bass and still present is percussionist Dave Oberlé with Graeme Taylor returning to the fold having, wisely perhaps, avoided Treason. As well as playing guitar Graeme has assumed the job of producer which he has been doing, very successfully, for other people for some time.
I would say that we can dispense with history now but much of the music here takes us back to the 70s which makes me very happy. Of course, the technology is much improved and the players have acquired years of experience but if you were a Gryphon fan back then you’re going to love ReInvention.
‘Pipeup Downsland DerryDellDanko’ is perhaps not the best opening title to convince the uncommitted but Gulland’s merry tune gives Findon a first chance to show off his skills and its one verse makes it a perfect opening or closing song for a live set. Findon moves to krumhorn for Preskett’s ‘Rhubarb Crumhorn’ but it must be emphasised that every track here is an ensemble piece moving between themes and instruments. In the old days Gryphon were noted for long compositions but there is just one here and it’s Taylor’s setting of ‘Haddocks’ Eyes’ from Alice Through The Looking Glass. The words are nonsense, of course, but Graeme treats it a seriously as he can until about six minutes in..
Preskett contributes three more compositions. He describes ‘Hampton Court’ as a cod piece; ‘Dumbe Dum Chit’ is based on a drum pattern and ‘Sailor V’ is an Irish/Scandinavian jig. ‘Hospitality At A Price…’ has a 1920’s feel and Taylor’s ‘Ashes’ is partly inspired by cricket – among other things – before Gulland’s ‘The Euphrates Connection’ brings the album to its close.
It really is impossible to describe in detail everything that happens in ReInventions – it would be much better for you to sit back, close your eyes and listen. Occasionally you may wish to chuckle.
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Live at The Union Chapel, 2015: