Gordon Giltrap is an English musician-composer and a master on the acoustic and electric guitars. He started to play the guitar at the age of twelve; he never received any formal tuition for the instrument and he gradually developed his own styles and techniques. His musical styles are quite diverse including prog rock, folk rock, blues, pop and classical music. This can be particularly heard on Visionary, his debut album from 1976, which is based on the art and poetry of William Blake. The success of this album encouraged Giltrap to drift away from the singer-songwriter approach and form the Gordon Giltrap Band, which toured extensively in the UK at the time. The successor Perilous Journey, being named as one of the best albums of 1977, consolidated this success. The single Heartsong from that album received extensive airplay. Later on it was used as the signature tune for the BBC TV series Holiday. Giltrap's third album Fear Of The Dark, also recorded in the same style, was released in 1978.
After the success of Ravens & Lullabies (2013, see review), an album he made with Oliver Wakeman, the career of Giltrap got again a boost. Therefore it was obvious that his first three albums would get a reissue by Esoteric Recordings. These are all remastered and extended editions that also feature a lavishly illustrated booklet with new liner notes and interviews with Gordon Giltrap.
Giltrap made his first recordings in the sixties as a folk artist. In 1976 he entered the then popular progressive rock scene with Visionary. On this album he was supported by some outstanding musicians such as John G. Perry (bass), Rod Edwards (keyboards) and Simon Phillips (drums). Most of the compositions sound very laid-back. Occasionally the tempo goes up when Giltrap is joined by a rhythm section. The songs on Visionary already show the influences of folk, classical music and prog rock, which can also be heard on his follow-up albums. The included bonus track is the previously unreleased thirteen-minute composition Concerto, which is divided into three movements. It only contains Gordon Giltrap playing the acoustic guitars, which is a real treat to the ears since his playing is excellent just as on the entire album.
Giltrap's second prog rock album was his most famous one mainly because it featured the hit single Heartsong. However, Perilous Journey has of course a lot more to offer. His band played much better although they were the same musicians as on Visionary. The album sounds much more as a band effort mainly due to the fact that more synthesizers and electric guitars were used. Furthermore the rhythm section really rocks! On this reissue four bonus tracks have been included. These are the original version of Heartsong played by Giltrap on the acoustic guitar, and an orchestral version of Quest that strongly differs from the album version having elements that could be used for a movie soundtrack. Furthermore the guitar and piano demos which sound nice, but don't add much value to the album. However, Oh Well , the famous hit single by Fleetwood Mac, released by Giltrap in 1978 as a single, comes pretty close to the original version. The orchestral arrangements with lots of brass just make the difference.
Fear Of The Dark was his third prog album released in 1978. At the time I found this one rather disappointing compared to Perilous Journey, but when I listened to the album after so many years I had to admit that I was wrong! Giltrap was still accompanied by the same musicians on this record and the musical style is similar to his previous prog rock albums. This CD contains seven bonus tracks including a series of singles released between 1978 and 1980: a shorter version of Fear Of The Dark and the then new pieces O Jerusalem and Theme From The Waltons with their flipsides. These tracks are all very enjoyable and played in the same style as the original album tracks. Especially O Jerusalem sounds superb and quite similar to the way Emerson, Lake & Palmer arranged this well-known piece. Finally the live track Catwalk Blues and a track called Smiler have been included. This latter tune was recorded during the making of the album, but was never released on the original LP.
Unfortunately Giltrap's next album The Peacock Party (1981) isn't featured in this series of reissues. It contains the same musical style as these three reviewed re-releases. However, there's no reason to complain because these records have been remastered fantastically. So my compliments go to those who were responsible for the reissues of some of Gordon Giltrap's finest works!
All **** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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