Some albums lose their relevance and effect over time, eventually fading away into nothingness, and some albums are simply too good to be forgotten. This classic album is now re-mastered and the original artwork is fully restored for 2012, one of several reissues it has seen over the years. I mention that with due reverence to Esoteric Records, they have chosen wisely to ensure this album is never lost. In fact, they are responsible for keeping many brilliant albums available, so they deserve much appreciation from the progressive music community. If your interest in prog leans toward the more radio-friendly efforts of neo-prog AOR acts like IQ, Marillion, or The Pineapple Thief, then this album might not be quite what you're after, unless of course you like some variety in your musical diet. If you are already familiar with it, then you know exactly what to do, stop reading my review and go get your own copy, you know you need it. If this is unfamiliar territory for you, then this review is for you, and you have been fortunate indeed to cross paths with an essential landmark album! This album certainly should have garnered far more attention than it did upon release in the early 1970s, but time has been kind, and these days Gnidrolog (an anagram of the founding brothers name) has managed to continue to grow in popularity over the years and has now achieved legendary status among listeners and collectors of so called “Golden Era” prog...
Originally released on vinyl in 1972, the debut album from the twin brothers Colin (guitars, lead vocals, recorders, tenor sax, horns, harmonicas) and Stewart (lead guitar, vocals) Goldring, Peter “Mars” Cowling (bass, cello), and Nigel Pegrum (percussion, oboe, flute, and piano) comes out of the gate with a “take no prisoners” attitude that remains a constant throughout the songs. There is not a single weak piece of music to be found anywhere, though each is quite different from the previous. The musicianship is as first-rate as the song writing is. The track Snails is the highest peak attained, it is nothing short of remarkable. I cannot imagine not having it in my collection at all times, though Long Live Man Dead is a stunner as well. The only area that can be considered a weakness are the vocals, but it must be noted that Colin is attempting some truly difficult lines, not many vocalists are so adventurous or confident. His dedication to the quality of the music rather than his ease of singing is remarkable and quite commendable. I've been a fan of Gnidrolog for many years now, and I'd like to point out that it wasn't long before I could not envision anyone else singing on this music. His voice is an acquired taste, but it is one that quickly becomes essential, very much an instrument in the soundscape. Add up all of these factors and it's pretty easy to understand why so Gnidrolog often gets compared to Van Der Graaf Generator, Gentle Giant, and The Strawbs... at their finest moments.
While I have been listening to Gnidrolog for many years, I too had a surprise coming! It turns out that one of the members names had been ringing a bell with me for good reason. Nigel had been the drummer for none other than Uriah Heep, and he went on to become the drummer for Steeleye Span. Both of these groups are long-time favourites, and I had seen his name on cover after cover without making the connection. Oops! So I continued checking, and sure enough, Peter was yet another familiar name as he went on to become the bassist for none other than Pat Travers... for nearly 20 years!
Included in this reissue is a wonderfully detailed and informative story line as told by Colin and Stewart detailing some of the difficulties Gnidrolog encountered during its all too brief existence. It goes without saying that musicians were among their biggest fans, and the average audience member in the early 1970s may have had some difficulties accepting such a musically challenging group, eventually leading to their untimely demise in 1973. Why is it that the moment some intellect gets applied to music the audience tends to get smaller and smaller? I suppose some of us are satisfied with three chord music, but thankfully the prog community is not. I do not wish to over-analyze this wonderful album, listen and decide for yourself. I encourage anyone looking to explore the Golden Era to invest in both Gnidrolog albums released in the 1970s, and learn what it means to be masters and innovators. In closing, I must add: I LOVE the title In Spite Of Harry's Toe Nail, it is my # 1 favourite for all of rock music!
****+ Thomas Rhymer
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