Gryphon was an English Elizabethan symphonic folk and rock band that released four albums on Transatlantic, including the popular 1974 titles and Red Queen to Gryphon Three. With a revised lineup, they switched to Harvest for the 1977 album Treason.
Members: Richard Harvey (keyboards, woodwinds, mandolin), Brian Gulland ([renaissance] winds, bassoon, keyboards, vocals), Dave Oberlé (drums, percussion, flageolet, vocals), Graeme Taylor (guitar, bass, recorder, mandolin, 1972-75, 1998-2003), Philip Nestor (bass, 1974, 1998-2003), Malcolm Bennett (bass, flute, 1974-75, 2002), Jonathan Davie (bass, 1975-77, 2009-present), Bob Foster (guitar, vocals, 1977), Alex Baird (drums, 1977)
Gryphon sprung from a musical partnership between Richard Harvey and Brian Gulland, classically trained graduates of London’s Royal College of Music.
Harvey (b. 1953, Enfield, Middlesex) took up the recorder at age four. As a teenager, he played clarinet in the British Youth Orchestra. While enrolled at the Royal College, he mastered flute, mandolin, keyboards, and the krumhorn: a bent woodwind of the Renaissance. He declined an invite by the London Philharmonic to join Musica Reservata, an ensemble devoted to early music.
In 1972, Harvey formed an acoustic partnership with Gulland, a reedist, keyboardist and fellow RCM alumni. They started a band with percussionist Dave Oberlé and 18-year-old guitarist Graeme Taylor.
Naming their act Gryphon — an alternate spelling of griffon: a mythological lion/eagle hybrid creature — they made their live debut at the Stone Parish Church in Aylesbury. In an early promo for the band, publicist Martin Smith wrote “Imagine Henry VIII in a rock ‘n’ roll band – think Gryphon.”
Gryphon released their self-titled debut album in June 1973 on Transatlantic Records, an established folk-specialty label. The album contains nine adaptations of Renaissance pieces from anonymous sources, arranged by Taylor (“Three Jolly Butchers”), Gulland (“Sir Gavin Grimbold”), and the entire band (“Kemp’s Jig,” “The Unquiet Grave,” “Estampie,” “The Astrologer”). One number, “Pastime With Good Company,” is credited to Henry VIII. Four of the numbers are under two minutes, including the 90-second Taylor/Harvey cut “Touch and Go.” Side two contains the Taylor original “Crossing the Stiles” and the group-written “Juniper Suite.”
Gryphon was co-produced by Transatlantic’s Laurence Aston and musician Adam Skeaping of Musica Reservata. Sessions took place at Riverside Recordings and Livingston Studios, engineered by Skeaping and composer/conductor Nick Glennie-Smith, who eventually joined Wally.
Gulland and Harvey both play krumhorn. Taylor’s arsenal consists of harpsichord, organ, and guitar. classical guitar, mandolin, recorder, and harmonium. handles glockenspiel in addition to drums and percussion. Harvey himself plays a list of instruments, including
Gryphon appeared in the UK and Japan in a gatefold sleeve with a cover illustration by Dan Pearce. It shows a griffon perched on a jetty, dipping into a pot of nuts. The inner-spread features credits, song notes, and a sepia group-rehearsal pic by label photographer Roger Perry. In Australia, the album appeared in a single sleeve with deeper colors.
with engineer Dave Grinsted, who also worked on albums by Zakarrias, East of Eden, Bread Love and Dreams (The Strange Tale of Captain Shannon), Caravan (In the Land of Grey and Pink), Galliard (Strange Pleasure), and Kayak (See See the Sun). Harvey’s arsenal now includes multiple pianos (grand, electric, toy) and keyboard glockenspiel. Taylor plays five different guitars: electric, acoustic, semi-acoustic, classical, and 12-string.
Red Queen to Gryphon Three appeared that December on Transatlantic (UK, Japan, NZ) and Bell Records (US). It features two lengthy instrumentals per side, including “Opening Move” (9:42) and “Checkmate” (9:50), both composed by the core quartet. Taylor and Gulland co-composed “Second Spasm” (8:15); Nestor collaborated with the pair on “Lament” (10:45).
Gryphon arranged and co-produced the album with . Organist Ernest Hart and bassist Pete Redding augment the group on select passages.
Pearce illustrated the cover: an old man looking over a chess board, seated in a temple overlooking a scenic backdrop. The griffon from the 1973 album appears in the center background. The image is alternately framed in blue (Transatlantic) and black (Bell). The back contains tinted performance shots of each member.
Gryphon toured the UK and North America as an opening act for Yes, who they joined on stage for encores on select dates. On November 20, 1974, they played to an audience of 20,000 at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Their set comprised four numbers: “Midnight Mushrumps,” “Ethelion,” “Dubbel Dutch,” and “Checkmate.” On December 2, the two bands played with John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra at the Houston Astrodome.
In Europe, Red Queen to Gryphon Three later appeared on Brain (Germany, 1975) and Transatlantic (Spain, 1976).
Concurrent to the Red Queen sessions, Harvey recorded Divisions On a Ground (An Introduction to the Recorder And Its Music), and album of Baroque pieces by Handel, Vivaldi, Godfrey Finger, Jacob van Eyck, and Jean Baptiste Loeillet. Skeaping engineered the album, which features Harvey on recorder accompanied by harpsichord and a five-piece string section, including cellist Catherine Finnis (Centipede). Divisions appeared on Transatlantic in 1975 (UK only).
Harvey also appeared on 1974 folk-rock titles by the duo’s Richard & Linda Thompson (with Gulland) and Ashley Hutchings & John Kirkpatrick, both on Island Records.
Prior to the fourth album, cleared out for ex-Quincicasm bassist and flutist Malcolm Bennett.
Gryphon released Raindance in late 1975 on Transatlantic (UK, Oceania, Germany). The album was largely composed by Harvey, who wrote the title track and the 16-minute “(Ein Klein) Heldenleben” that consumes most of side two, plus the interlude “Ormolu” and the side openers “Down the Dog” and “Wallbanger.” Taylor contributed “Fontinental Version,” “Don’t Say Go,” and “Le Cabrioleur est Dans le Mouchoir.” Side one contains their only modern pop cover: The Beatles‘ 1968 ballad “Mother Nature’s Son.”
Gryphon co-produced Raindance at Sawmills Studio during June and July 1975 with engineer
- Gryphon (1973)
- Midnight Mushrumps (1974)
- Red Queen to Gryphon Three (1974)
- Raindance (1975)
- Treason (1977)
- Record Collector: “‘Phon Memories” (April 20, 2015)
Dorian Zero — aka Kenneth J. Passante (Jan. 16, 1948 — Jan. 7, 1994) — is an American art-rock mu...
Attila were an American organ-rock/psych duo that released a self-titled album on Epic in 1970. Th...
Survival Kit were an American jazz-rock quintet led by guitarist Mike Warren, whose name was affix...
Peter Hammill (born Nov. 5, 1948) is an English singer–songwriter and multi-instrumentalist whose mu...
Python Lee Jackson were an Australian blues-rock/soul band from Sydney that released four singles ...