Gracious

Gracious was an English symphonic/art-rock band that released a self-titled album on Vertigo in 1970, followed by This is…Gracious!! on Phillips in 1971. Each album contained one multi-movement sidelong suite and four short-to-medium-length songs and instrumentals. The band had already split by the time their second album hit the shelves. Drummer Tim Wheatley later surfaced in rustic-rockers Taggett.

Members: Alan Cowderoy (guitar), Sandy Davis (vocals), Robert Lipson (drums), Martin Kitcat (keyboards, 1968-71), Mark Laird (bass, 1968-69), Tim Wheatley (bass, 1969-71), Chris Brayne (drums, 1971)


Background

In 1965, students Alan Cowderoy (guitar) and Paul ‘Sandy’ Davis (drums, vocals) assembled the beat group Satan’s Disciples — quickly shortened to The Disciples — which performed covers of the day’s pop hits for fellow Esther pupils. Other members passed through the lineup as the band outgrew the school circuit and progressed into blues and psych-rock. By 1968, the band included keyboardist Martin Kitcat, bassist Rick Laird, and drummer Robert Lipson, whose presence allowed Davis to concentrate on vocals. They changed their name to Gracious at the insistence of manager David Booth.

In 1968, Gracious toured with The Who and drew the interest of producer Norrie Paramor (Cliff Richard & The Shadows), who arranged a recording session with Tim Rice at the helm. The band recorded some early Davis/Kitcat originals, including a suite based on the four seasons. However, the only release to show for this liaison is the Polydor single “Beautiful” (b/w “Oh What a Lovely Rain”). When Laird left the band in 1969, roadie Tim Wheatley assumed the bass slot.


1970: Gracious!

Gracious released their self-titled debut album in 1970 on Vertigo’s legendary “swirl” label. It features five songs, the bulk of side two claimed by the multi-movement suite “The Dream” (16:58). Davis plays timpani and 12-string in addition to vocals while Kitcan handles an arsenal of keyboards (Mellotron, piano, electric piano, harpsichord). The album was produced by Hugh Murphy (Jody Grind, Justine, Gerry Rafferty, Stray, Diabolus, Sunday) and engineered by Roger Wake (The Move, Czar, Cochise, Linda Hoyle, Beggars Opera, Nucleus).

The slanted exclamation mark that graces the cover was affixed to the Gracious nameplate. The image is credited to Teenburger Designs (Cressida, Brinsley Schwarz, Red Dirt, Quintessence), the novice firm of Barney Bubbles. The inner-fold depicts a giant pink stripper crawling through marble walls.


1971: This is…Gracious!!

Spirits soured in the Gracious camp when Vertigo rejected their second album. This is…Gracious!! was ultimately released on Philips in 1971 after the group disbanded. Side one features the four-part suite “Super Nova.” The original vinyl contained three songs in the five-to-seven-minute range on side two, including “Blue Skies and Alibis” and “Hold Me Down.” Painter/illustrator Roger Dean (Yes, Uriah Heep, Osibisa, Greenslade, Gentle Giant, Magna Carta) designed the cover, which features a stained-glass window variation of the exclamation mark.

CD issues of This is…Gracious!! add a missing middle section (1c) to the suite, bringing its playing time to 24:58. Another missing track, “Once In a Windy Day,” — omitted from vinyl due to time constraints — has also been added to the running order.


Later Activity

Davis issued two solo singles on United Artists in 1972, followed by a pair of 1973–75 albums on EMI. Kitcat appeared alongside members of Brand X on the 1975 Warner Bros. release The Eddie Howell Gramophone Record by singer/songwriter Eddie Howell. Wheatley surfaced in the Hollies-spinoff Taggett, which issued a self-titled album on U.A. in 1973.

Cowderoy later did the compiling work on best-of releases by Kraftwerk, Todd Rundgren, and The Sensational Alex Harvey Band. In 1977, Cowderoy assembled the Vertigo compilation New Wave, which features tracks by The Boomtown Rats, The Damned, Skyhooks, Talking Heads, and Richard Hell & The Voidoids.

Four songs from the 1968 Gracious sessions were unearthed on the 1994 Renaissance Records compilation Buried Treasures, which also includes cuts by Touch and Stray Dog. In 1996, Wheatley and Lipson resurrected Gracious for the CD Echoes on Centaur Discs.


Discography:


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