Gordon Giltrap - 'Visionary' / 'Perilous Journey' / 'Fear Of The Dark' / 'Live At Oxford'

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Gordon Giltrap - 'Visionary' / 'Perilous Journey' / 'Fear Of The Dark' / 'Live At Oxford'

They are all tours-de-force, combining rock and classical music in a vivacious, compelling and absolutely attention-grabbing manner.

Now here's a sensible move. Mark and Vicky Powell at Esoteric Recordings have followed up the release of Gordon Giltrap and Oliver Wakeman's 'Ravens & Lullabies' by reissuing Giltrap's three adventurous and atmospheric symphonic rock albums from the second half of the 1970s along with the highly regarded recording of a live show from 1979 that fused the very best from these studio albums together.

All three of the studio albums were recorded with a well-respected trio of producers known as Triumvirate, and a slew of highly regarded guest musicians who gave a cohesive feel not only within but also between each album. All three are wonderful pieces of work but there is no doubting that 'Fear Of The Dark' is the pinnacle and culmination of a developing expertise and mutual trust. Indeed, whereas Giltrap had written everything for the first two albums, for this final one, Rod Edwards and Roger Hand of the Triumvirate team also contributed to three of the tracks, the title track plus 'Nightrider' and 'Weary Eyes'.

'Visionary' and 'Perilous Journey' both have an underlying concept: the former having the works of William Blake as a subtext, the latter including song titles that emanated from Herman Hesse's 'The Wasteland'. These details will actually be lost upon any listener to the albums. 'Fear...' has no definitive underlying conceptual framework and the removal of any shackles this might have imposed plus being conceived by "going away into the country" to write it, has perhaps lead to a more ambitious album, free as it was from previous artificial constraints.

Identifying the highlights of each of these instrumental albums is an almost vacuous procedure, for they are all magnificent and any listener hearing them for the first time will undoubtedly be struck by the way that many of the tracks segue effortlessly into longer pieces. Thus, the live album has perhaps done the job for me, with only the addition of long-established live favourite 'Catfish Blues' to interrupt the flow of material from the aforementioned albums. Only keyboardist Rod Edwards and vocalist Shirlie Roden remain from the supporting musicians who appeared on these, so while overall the versions to be heard are very faithful to the originals, there are some where I personally prefer the re-imagined approach, for example on 'Inner Dream' and also the two tracks where Roden has added some enhancing lyrics ('The Deserter' and 'Fear Of The Dark') rather than just using her voice as an additional instrument adding texture.

The 24-bit remastering is impressive and the three studio albums include an extensive array of additional material some of which is merely esoteric (sorry!!) charting as it does the development of some of the music on both 'Visionary' and 'Perilous Journey'. 'Heartsong' from the latter was a significant and popular Single release and we get this version as a bonus, along with his misguided follow-up release – a cover of Fleetwood Mac's 'Oh Well' – which Giltrap now acknowledges was foolhardy! Further, more appropriate, contemporaneous Singles are amongst the bonus material on 'Fear...' while also included is 'Smiler', a lively number that neither made it onto a Single or the album.

I do recognise that instrumental albums are not to everyone's liking, but here we have ones that are easy to recommend as within their spectrum they are all tours-de-force, combining rock and classical music in a vivacious, compelling and absolutely attention-grabbing manner.

Paul Jerome Smith

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