Tuesday, 7 June 2016

"Visionary" by GORDON GILTRAP (2013 Esoteric Recordings 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Robes And Crowns..."

Starting out as a UK Folkie on Transatlantic Records in 1968 - virtuoso guitarist Gordon Giltrap (if you'll forgive the pun) 'progressed' into the arena of instrumental Rock with his 1976 "Visionary" album on the ever so slightly odd British record label "The Electric Record Company". A belated 7” single released off the LP in February 1977 called "Lucifer's Cage" with "The Echoing Green" on the B-side (Electric Record Company WOT 11) didn't do much business either.

And on CD – the "Visionary" album's history has been murky too. Along with his popular "Perilous Journey" album from 1977 with "Heartsong" on it (the follow up LP) – there have been varying CD reissues of these titles before. Most have been only 'OK' audiowise, deleted as quickly as they were released and thereafter garnished a rather nasty price tag. Well at last - along comes Cherry Red's subsidiary label ESOTERIC RECORDINGS with a fabulous new remaster from the original tapes, decent presentation and input from the artist, a reasonable price tag and 5 bonus tracks thrown into the bargain. Here are the musical movements...

UK released 29 July 2013 - "Visionary" by GORDON GILTRAP on Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 2400 (Barcode 5013929450042) is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster with five Bonus Tracks and plays out as follows (62:43 minutes).

1. Awakening
2. Robes And Crowns
3. From The Four Winds
4. Lucifer's Cage
5. Revelation
6. The Price Of Experience
7. The Dance Of Albion
8. The Tyger
9. The Echoing Green
10. London
11. Night
Tracks 1 to 11 are the album "Visionary" – released November 1976 in the UK on The Electric Record Company TRIX 2

12. Concerto: Movement One
13. Concerto: Movement Two
14. Concerto: Movement Three
15. On Wings Of Hope
16. Visionary (Original Version)
(Tracks 12 to 14 Previously Unreleased - Tracks 15 and 16 first issued 2000)

PASCHAL BYRNE and MARK POWELL have handled the 24-Bit Remastered Audio at The Audio Archiving Company in London and the sound is uniformly wonderful. The instruments are clear and full - not overly loud – with details now popping up everywhere. The 16-page booklet has liner notes by MALCOLM DOME with input from the artist himself and pictures trade paper reviews from "Sounds" and "Melody Maker" of the time. There are also period band photos and adverts for The Gordon Giltrap Band on Tour in the UK. It's tastefully done.

Giltrap described the entire follow up LP "Perilous Journey" in 1977 as “Opus 2” (see separate review) – so I suppose you could call "Visionary" his "Opus 1". Entirely instrumental and Steve Hackett Prog Rock in its structures and sound – "Visionary" opens with the multi-layered acoustic/keyboard assault of "Awakening". It sneaks into your speakers as a fade-in - sounding not unlike English Pastoral Folk music meets Sci Fi. The ELP keyboards and complimentary string arrangements give way to his beautiful and fluid Acoustic playing about half way through and it's here that the Remaster excels in every way. That segues into the lovely meandering of "Robes And Crowns" which feels like Part 2. Its one and half minutes are quickly up and we're then met with a gorgeous madrigal-sounding "From The Four Winds" – the kind of Steve Hackett Acoustic ditty that would have opened a Side on "Foxtrot" in 1972.

It's easy to see why Electric thought the commercial-sounding theme-of-a-non-existent TV program "Lucifer's Cage" might garnish some airplay. About one minute in Giltrap goes into an Acoustic solo that now sounds gorgeous - and that almost YES keyboard break always brings a smile to my face. "Revelation" is a sad and string-laden epic sounding not unlike an Elton John strings-and-piano interlude from "Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy" from the preceding year (1975). I love Shirley Roden's vocal contributions towards the end - giving the piece a "Great Gig In The Sky" touch. Two many strings in "The Dance Of Albion" for me – better is his 'Flyde 12-String Acoustic Guitar' playing on the beautifully English "The Tyger" – pretty yet accomplished too. The album ends on the quiet yet uplifting duo of "London" and "Night" – expert strumming, swirling symbols and tasteful synth fills. The whole album feels beautiful like that – instrumental Prog that's been too easily forgotten. Very impressive stuff and easy to hear why it's been a firm fan favourite ever since.

The 5 bonus tracks are pure fan pleasers material - uniformly excellent. The 'Original' version of "Visionary" and "On The Wings Of Hope" first turned up as Bonus Tracks on the December 2000 Voiceprint Records CD Reissue of "Fear Of The Dark" - but the 3-part 'Concerto" is new - a Previously Unreleased piece - and what a bonus it is. Mostly Acoustic Guitar - it's beautifully played and perfectly complimentary to the album. Very cool stuff...

This 2013 Remaster of "Visionary" is a blast - 'so good' to hear this criminally forgotten nugget back in such good shape. Forward looking indeed...

Esoteric Recordings have also issued:
1. Perilous Journey (1977) on Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 2400
2. Fear Of The Dark (1978) on Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 2402
3. Live At Oxford – Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 2409
4. Ravens And Lullabies (with Rick Wakeman of YES) – Esoteric Recordings EANTCD 1013

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