If you thought Home Service had gone a bit quiet of late here’s some good news – the band is back with some great gigs in the diary and the major news is that John Tams has re-enlisted alongside John Kirkpatrick as joint front man and lead vocalist. This is very exciting for us all and furthermore there are rumours of new material, which could mean we might see the boys back in the studio before long. A series of EPs is a possibility this time.
Main thing is, just don’t miss this rare opportunity to be blown away by the sheer might, grace and grandeur of the one and only Home Service when they come your way.
We have very sad news regarding dear and wonderful bass player, Rory McFarlane. Rory has had to stand down from the position of bassist owing to a currently incurable neurological illness, which renders it impossible for him to play. This is such a blow after most of a lifetime as a musician and our deepest sympathies are with Rory. We shall miss him terrnbly. Because of the terrible news that Rory can no longer play bass for us, we are enlisting the talents of another old friend, Rob Levy to supply the low notes. Welcome to the fold Rob!
The new line-up of Home Service played their first gig in Nettlebed on September 31st.
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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Would you believe it? Gryphon are releasing an all-new studio album of especially written, previously unheard material – and this comes all of 41 years after their fifth album, way back in 1977. Release date is set for 17th August. Now they really are the oldest and the newest thing – a legendary British band that’s as exhilarating, energetic, unpredictable and addictive now as it ever was.
No-one could ever pigeonhole Gryphon. When the first album came out, the band appeared on BBC Radios 1, 2, 3 and 4, all in the same week. They appeared with Yes at Madison Square Garden and Houston Astrodome, played prog rock festivals, folk clubs and cathedrals. They wrote and played the music for Sir Peter Hall’s National Theatre production of The Tempest at the Old Vic and found a unique place in the hearts of folkies, proggers, Early Music aficionados and anyone with an ear for something creative, fresh and different.
When they split, the members furthered their experience appearing alongside everyone from Kate Bush to Van Morrison, Cher to McCartney, John Williams to Long John Baldry, but after a one-off sell-out show in 2009 at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London the band reformed in 2016 as a six-piece with three new members and since then have been back on the road wowing audiences all over again and rapidly gaining a new fanbase.
ReInvention returns in part to their early connection with Lewis Carroll’s Alice books, in which they found their name. Guitarist Graeme Taylor has set the White Knight’s song ‘A-Sitting on a Gate’ into an epic eleven minute extravaganza which takes us on a musical journey from a reflective Brittenesque bassoon, clarinet and violin trio introduction, into a prog-rocky dialogue between the White Knight (Brian Gulland) and an ‘aged, aged man’ (Dave Oberlé), through a heavy-metal riff with a suddenly distorted and harmonised bassoon, and thence to a plaintively tragi-comic conclusion to bring us home with a rousing military march. Something for all the family!
Brian Gulland, as usual, entirely off the wall, provides four new compositions, displaying his wide influences from 20s English humour, through harrowingly massive church organ chordal sequences, and haunting New Age recorder, acoustic guitar and vocal moments, through the gamut to some strident and stirring full-on electric rock riffs.
Relatively new member (of a mere 9 years’ service!) Graham Preskett also contributes four new compositions, very much in a mid-70s Gryphon style, though adding for the first time some Celtic influence, and demonstrating his experience in writing filmic music. Graham is not only invaluable for his writing, but is also a brilliant multi-instrumentalist and employs his talents on violin, mandolin, harmonica and keyboards to great effect.
So what is Gryphon’s music? It’s just as it always was – imaginative, quirky, dazzling yet full of humour. It’s mainly acoustic, featuring a kaleidoscope of instruments. Every gig and album utilises at least 40 instruments, so the textures can be pretty varied and unfamiliar.
Singer Dave Oberlé provides creative percussion, whilst alongside founder member, Brian Gulland on bassoon and bass crumhorn, the extraordinarily virtuosic Andy Findon shines on clarinets, saxes and flutes. Rory McFarlane supports all this with his solid, sensitive bass, and also donates his original composition, ‘Bathsheba’.
Gryphon, as ever, is the antidote to genres. Whatever you expect, you’ll get something different, surprising, and exciting. Whatever you get, it’ll make you wonder why it took these guys so long to crank up the engines and get back in the studio again. But, as ReInvention proves, it will certainly be worth the wait.
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John Tams has announced his retirement from Home Service – we thank him mightily for all his work with us and wish him well!
“A combination of circumstance not least and most recently an 8-part television drama series has drawn me reluctantly to leave Home Service effective from September 13th 2015”, said John. “This decision, whilst difficult, aims to avoid compromising the future for Home Service at a time when my restricted diary would make forward planning impossible. There are no issues beyond this and I leave my friends and colleagues, some of almost 40 years standing, in the certain knowledge that they are ‘The best damn band in the land.’ I send them my fondest thoughts and support for their continuing success. I’ll miss you lads!”
We are excited to announce that we have now regrouped with two new members and a revamped brass section.
Replacing Tam would never be an easy task, but with John Kirkpatrick joining our ranks we have found exactly the calibre of character and musicianship required. John will take over the lead vocal role and add his inimitably masterful accordion.
Also, we must announce the emigration of Jonathan Davie to Thailand. Huge gratitude and best wishes are due to Jon, whose replacement has also taken a lot of consideration. However, we can heartily welcome the wonderful Rory McFarlane (ex Richard Thompson band) to join us on bass.
Furthermore, now we have John K on board, Steve King will be not only be gracing the keyboard, but freed to stand tall amongst the brass section and exhibit his skills on tenor saxophone, helping to create an even more dynamic sound. The new line-up has already begun recording a new album at Morden Shoals Studio – watch this space to follow its development!
We shall miss you both greatly Tam and Jon, but know that you both wish the band all good fortune in its future voyage of discovery…