When you see “and friends” in a billing you tend to think of a group of worthy but unknown local musicians. On Bold Reynold, however, the friends include three Gryphons: Dave Oberle, Brian Gulland and Graeme Taylor; two Fairports: Chris Leslie and Dave Pegg plus Lucy Cooper and Tom Spencer. David himself is a veteran of the 70s with a career including instrument making and innumerable groups, which is presumably where he made such good friends.
The album opens in striking fashion with Andy Barnes’ ‘The Last Leviathan’ starting almost sub-sonically with Gulland’s whale song amid a variety of bass instruments and Oberle’s bass synth. David doesn’t like to rush things – when you have a band like this, you have to give them space to play – so this magnificent song weighs in at seven and a half minutes and it’s not the longest track on the album. By comparison, ‘Follow Me Up To Carlow’ is a mere throwaway.
‘Poor Murdered Woman’ always strikes me as a local newspaper report set to music but once again the band is given free rein with Taylor and Leslie leading the way on the long instrumental passages. Unless it’s a misprint Oberle takes the lead vocal here as Lucy Cooper does on ‘The Banks Of The Nile’. David is back, sharing the lead vocal with Cooper and playing uilleann pipes on ‘She Moved Through The Fair’, with an arrangement that borrows a little from Fairport’s version. Can I say that I’ve heard the song too many times since 1969 but the inclusion of the melody of ‘The Skye Boat Song’ as a coda lifts this version.
A rousing ‘High Barbaree’, a famous tale of thwarted piracy is next and David proves my earlier point by restoring all the verses of ‘Poor Man’s Sorrow’ relating all the gory details of the miserable chap’s marriage’.
The real production is David’s interpretation of Dave Cousins’ ‘The Battle’ which begins in medieval style with Gulland’s crumhorns. It is a song I’ve long loved and I must confess that I always hear Cousins’ distinctive voice when I listen to it. David has made a slight alteration to the melody of the first line of the verses which, although very slight, I find irritating particularly as he doesn’t sing it that way every time. Just call me king picky of the picky people.
Finally, ‘Gentlemen Of High Renown’, which gives the album its title, enjoys an arrangement reminiscent of early 70s Fairport until Gulland weighs in with more crumhorns and a brief snatch of hunting horn. It’s far from being politically correct but it provides Bold Reynold with a rousing finish.
Any criticisms I have expressed are mere niggles (and personal idiosyncrasies) because Bold Reynold is an absolutely splendid album and I commend it to you whole-heartedly.
Artists’ website: www.boldreynold.co.uk
Bold Reynold sampler: