3.5 out of 5 Stars!
For Rock fans, Gryphon’s debut album might almost be considered an introduction to the type of music (more merged with Rock and Folk) better integrated into the Prog-Rock category by bands such as Gentle Giant and Jethro Tull. But taken by itself (due to the general repetitiveness in style and instrumentation on the twelve tracks) this platter is nothing more than a quaint portrait as to the type of music preferred by our ancestors many centuries ago when wandering minstrels roamed the countryside in search of a fleeting gig at various manor houses and castles. (By the way, I often wonder where they shopped for strings and other musical accoutrement—at “Ye Ol’ Mandolin Center” perhaps?) Regardless, no matter how you slice it, this is music for a highly limited niche market.
Be that as it may, musicianship-wise, Gryphon is terrific and certainly unique in its approach, and the band members really show mastery of their “ancient” and unexpected instruments. I mean, seriously, when was the last time any band included alto and tenor crumhorn, soprano and descant recorder, bassoon, glockenspiel, mandolin, harpsichord, and harmonium as part of its instrumental arsenal?
But regarding Gryphon’s appeal to a wider audience (other than today’s Renaissance-Fair devotees), I’m almost certain the music on this particular album will hold little interest. Still, I applaud a band of the ’70s for attempting something (in those days) different in the realm of Rock, and this collection of tunes, with the obvious Gentle Giant and Jethro Tull influences sprinkled throughout, might be of marginal interest to fans of those aforementioned groups.
So based on overall appeal in today’s marketplace, I’d give the medieval-styled music only a few stars. Yet for the band’s ingenuity back in the ’70s, for the efforts of the musicians to do something unique in the Rock world, as well as displaying their obvious passion when it comes to more archaic instruments, I’d give the album 5 Stars. Therefore, I’m rating this 3.5 Stars overall.
As a general note, the band’s Red Queen To Gryphon Three album (my favorite in the group’s catalogue), which features the same type of instrumentation (bassoon, crumhorn, etc.) but has a more pronounced Progressive Rock atmosphere (including the liberal use of electric bass and drums and synths), will likely better appeal to Prog-Rock fans and certainly deserves inspection.