Esoteric [Release date 29.07.13]
Gordon Giltrap should be certified A National Treasure. He’s laboured tirelessly since the late-1960′s honing and preening his guitar style, dipping into various genres including prog, and generally maintaining the highest quality standards.
These new reissues bring together Giltrap’s late-seventies sortie into progressive rock. Inspired by William Blake the most interesting aspect of the reissued Visionary (1976) is the fifteen minute demo for the album using more acoustic instrumentation and early instruments like the recorder.
Giltrap’s characteristic percussive acoustic guitar flourishes are present throughout and the whole experience is uplifting, a very English sounding album and perfectly blending acoustic motifs and electric. On this album he was joined by a young Simon Phillips (later with Toto) and John G Perry on bass who had worked with Caravan.
Collectors will also be interested in the previously unreleased ‘Concerto’ in three parts which was written in 1975/6 and from which some of the ideas for ‘Visionary’ were taken. Informative liner notes (with Giltrap’s active participation) round out an excellent package. As with all these releases, time to replace your lacklustre Voiceprint reissue of several years ago. ***1/2
Now, before you ask, the hit single ‘Heartsong’ appeared on 1977′s follow-up Perilous Journey and is included on the reissue in album and original format. Giltrap’s pastoral prog rock continued unabated and he retained the core of his ‘Visionary’ band and the orchestral content was increased.
Also included as bonuses, his 1978 single ‘Oh Well’ (his take on the Fleetwood Mac song complete with his vocals), an orchestral version of ‘Quest’, and demos recorded during the album sessions which appears as one 21 minute piece. ***
Also released in 1978 is perhaps the strongest album of the trilogy, Fear Of The Dark, now expanded with bonus tracks that either appeared on EPs or singles or, in the case of ‘Smiler’ an outtake from the FOTD sessions. Some are available for the first time on CD.
There is some discussion in the sleeve notes about possible connections with Iron Maiden even down to the artist logos; perhaps a young Steve Harris was subconsciously influenced by an album released some 14 years before his band’s similarly titled offering. This theory shouldn’t detract from a splendid and frequently stirring blend of rock, folk and classical, the summation of what Giltrap had started in 1976. ****
Giltrap was soon to return to his more conventional acoustic format (‘Live At Oxford’ completed this period of his musical career and with his original band – also available as part of this reissue campaign but with no bonus material).
Giltrap is quick to eschew any comparisons with Mike Oldfield preferring to be aligned to guitarists like John Williams and Bert Jansch. And it was Williams who would carry the baton for classical/rock fusion in the early eighties with his band Sky.
If you like these albums, Giltrap had a further dalliance with crossover in the early eighties with the albums ‘The Peacock Party’ and ‘Airwaves’. (I am sure these are already on the Esoteric forward release schedule). Interestingly, his 2013 album ‘Ravens & Lullabies’ – a collaboration with Oliver Wakeman – saw Giltrap return again to the electric/prog format although I have to say he’s never sounded that comfortable cranking up the electric guitar.
His acoustic playing, however, which permeates all these reissues, is exemplary. And, finally, these albums get the dust-off treatment they deserve.
Review by David Randall
David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.
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