GRYPHON may not be one of the better known of the British Progressive bands, but they are surely one of the most unique and interesting. The five albums they produced between 1973 and 1977 show their evolution from an all-acoustic medieval music quartet to a Progressive pop band. Richard Harvey and Brian Gulland, both alumni of the Royal Academy of Music, built Gryphon around their interest in ancient classical and folk music. Harvey, a true virtuoso on the recorder, also played keyboards and other instruments, while Gulland played crumhorn and its modern cousin, the bassoon. The first line-up of Gryphon was completed with the addition of guitarist Graeme Taylor and percussionist/singer David Oberle.
The first album, simply titled Gryphon, combines medieval and renaissance dance tunes, traditional British folk songs, and original compositions by the group. The album features humor, some shockingly fast recorder licks from Harvey, and a taste of things to come in the adventurous, group-composed "Juniper Suite."
Midnight Mushrumps (1974) found Gryphon enlarged to a quintet with the addition of bassist Philip Nestor. No longer sticking to acoustic instrumentation, the band dived head first into Progressive rock with the 19-minute title track, which picked up w "Juniper Suite" left off. Only one song, the traditional "The Ploughboy's Dream," was not an original composition.
The all-instrumental Red Queen to Gryphon Three followed later that year. This album consists of four lengthy pieces, all originals, and is much more rock-oriented than its predecessors. Red Queen… is the only Gryphon album released in America.
Gryphon toured the U.S. in late 1974 as a support act to Yes, and even appeared on the King Biscuit Flower Hour radio concert series. Members of Gryphon, including new bassist Malcolm Bennett, later appeared on Steve Howe's 1975 solo album, Beginnings. With Bennett replacing Nestor, Gryphon recorded Raindance in 1975. Although the album featured another extended classical-styled composition by Richard Harvey, "(Ein Klein) Heldenleben," it also marked a turn towards a more pop-oriented style, especially in Taylor's Cat Stevens-ish "Don't Say Go" and a hushed version of the Beatles' "Mother Nature's Son."
Gryphon went through major changes before the release of their 1977 finale, Treason. Graeme Taylor, who left to join Ashley Hutching's Albion Band, was replaced by Bob Foster; bassist Jonathan Davie replaced Bennett; and Alex Baird was added on drums, freeing Oberle to concentrate on lead vocals. As if swelling the ranks to a sextet wasn't enough, the band brought in an outside lyricist, Tim Sebastion
Some of' the resulting album is genial but conservative pop, mote reminiscent of pre-disco Bee Gees than the Gryphon of old. Still, Harvey's "Spring Song" is a Progressive master-piece reminiscent of Yes and Genesis, while Gulland's "Flash in the Pantry"' is an amazing little whirlwind of quirky rhythms and humorous lyrics that sound like the ravings of a mad medieval herbalist.
Gryphon members have had numerous outside projects. in 1975 (at the tender age of 21), Richard Harvey recorded a solo album, Divisions on a Ground, consisting of baroque recorder pieces, including a concerto by Vivaldi and a sonata by Handel. His playing can also be heard on albums by Kate Bush, Mike Heron, Richard and Linda Thompson (playing crumhorn alongside Brian Gulland), and many others