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Gryphon: Midnight Mushrumps

Album Notes

The group was still doing some folk-type vocal numbers on this, their second album, but it was clearly moving in the direction of progressive rock. The 18-minute title track by Richard Harvey took up one whole side of the original LP, and incorporated medieval, baroque, and classical-era influences in its structure. That track is probably what attracted Yes (and, more specifically, Steve Howe) to the group in time for them to be booked as an opening act on the progressive rock supergroup's 1975 tour. The tempo changes come just often enough to keep the material from being remotely stilted or boring, and the radical shifts in dynamics make this a rather sonically impressive piece -- and the melodies are gorgeous. The resulting album is a strange brand of "progressive folk," never veering too far from traditional English and European source material, but played within structures as appropriate to the concert hall as they were to the club or the pub. New member Philip Nestor (bass, vocals) added considerably to the weightiness of the band's sound. For an unofficial member, organist Ernest Hart (who would join on the next album) plays a surprisingly important and visible role here, vastly expanding the range of their sound so that Gryphon seems like it can fill a full-sized concert hall. The shorter vocal piece "The Ploughboy's Dream" is also handled on a far more sophisticated level than the work on the first album. Amazingly, the highlight may be the closer, a hybrid folk/rock/classical instrumental called "Ethelion," which showcases each member's major instruments (including one of the most delectable and appropriate drum solos in rock music history). ~ Bruce Eder



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