Electric 1977 / Esoteric 2013
The pilgrim’s progress paving the way to a pride of place, great English guitarist paces past the palace of complacency.
Moving on seems to be a natural process for Gordon Giltrap: perhaps, that’s why the transitional "Visionary" that saw the artist sew the folk of his previous albums onto symphonic scope. Its follow-up, though, took Giltrap onto a ground more shallow than the imagination-stirring poetry of Blake; this time the literary basis lay in the producers-suggested “Die Morgenlandfahrt” by Herman Hesse, and its musical interpretation left Gordon less space for an acoustic texture so delicious in “To The High Throne” ebbing towards the end of the suite. What does flow from here the upbeat “Quest” to its reprise “Vision” is a refined prog rock where the ivory input from one of those producers, Rod Edwards, plays as important a part as the leader’s six-string patterns.
The record even produced a handclaps-abetted hit, a magnificently throbbing “Heartsong” – present here also in an original, long and bare (as the rest of fantastic guitar and piano demos on offer) form, miles away from the orchestral version of “Quest” – and it possesses an overall slicker sound. It may go against the title of the “Pastoral” effervescence, stimulated with Simon Phillips’ drums until the Arcadian strum chimes in, and it jars a bit in the middle, Hammond-helped section of “Morbio Gorge” that’s bombast enough to make Rick Wakeman cringe, yet such an approach doesn’t eat away at the elegancy of “The Deserter” which marries guitar twang to the elegiac sax shimmer shaped by AVERAGE WHITE BAND’s Roger Ball and Malcolm Duncan.
This nocturnal sway, despite its occasional sympho-sleaze, turns spaced-out and dramatic in “Reflections & Despair” before “Cascade” adds synthesizers to the cosmic mix and sharpens its heaviosity, albeit not so eerily as a dark undercurrent Gordon pours under his take on FLEETWOOD MAC’s “Oh Well” that, for all its brass-brandishing weirdness, reveals Giltrap as a willing risk taker. Which, of course, looks like a logical continuation of his perilous journey.