Gryphon was a distinct anomaly in the early-'70s British folky and progressive rock scene. Although somewhat unimaginatively titled, Collection (1991) is the first of two full-length CDs to collect prime sides from the first four long players: Gryphon (1973) , Midnight Mushrumps (1974), Red Queen to Gryphon Three (1974), and Raindance (1975). To call Gryphon an eclectic combo might well redefine the term. The band was borne from the same acoustic-based folk-rock infusion that likewise predisposed other English artists such as Pentangle, the Incredible String Band, and, to a certain extent Fairport Convention and early Jethro Tull. However, by its third offering -- the brilliant Red Queen to Gryphon Three (1974) as Collection aptly demonstrates -- Gryphon had progressed into much more dense prog rock. While providing an accurate overview of the group's styles and approaches, this Collection leans most heavily on the self-titled debut by containing nearly half of the album. The quaint and spry "Kemp's Jug," the dream-like and pastoral "Touch and Go," as well as the intricate instrumental interplay on the mournful "Unquiet Grave" are among the notable early entries. The follow-up platter Midnight Mushrumps is somewhat meagerly represented. However, both the excerpt from the 18-minute-plus title track as well as the advanced arrangement of traditional mid-tempo ballad "Ploughboy's Dream" are good examples of the incremental shift in style concurrently taking place. These cuts also represent the first appearance by Ernest Hart (organ), who would join as a permanent member by the time of Red Queen to Gryphon Three. As the LP's name suggests, this four-movement suite contextually centers on the strategy-heavy game of chess. Criminally, only a five-minute excerpt -- taken from the lengthy "Lament" -- is included here. The remainder of this Collection is taken from their fourth release, Raindance. There is a notable contrast between shorter works such as the frenetic yet unquestionably catchy instrumental "Ormolu" or the upbeat shuffle groove on "Don't Say Go" and the moody, ethereal "(Ein Klein) Heldenleben [excerpt]" -- which is edited from the original 16-minute running time to under ten. The 19-song companion volume Collection II (1995) features not only a vast majority of the remaining music from the four LPs represented here, but also four previously unissued tunes as well.
AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer