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Gnidrolog:In Spite Of Harry's Toenail
Label: original LP on RCA Records,  1972.
CD reissue on AudioArchives,
in association with Gnidrolog / Goldring Publishing,  1999.
Email: gnidrolog@lineone.net
Web-site: http://www.stewartelliott.org/gnidrolog/

Gnidrolog was a band I was turned on to while in boarding school.  It
was of the great lost 70s prog groups.  An outfit that had enormous
potential, it delivered two outstanding albums before disbanding and
disappearing for 27 years.  During that time its members went on to play
with numerous pop artists, and some quite well known folk and rock
artists.  In 1997 feeling a need to return to their progressive roots,
the Goldring twins reformed a Gnidrolog lineup, leading to the release
in 1999 of a new album called Gnosis along with re-issues of
the band's two excellent early seventies studio albums, and a corker
live set recorded in 1972.

In Spite Of Harry's Toenail was the debut album.  Buy it and
you'll learn the in-joke that gave the LP its name.  It is a very
passionate album, full of excellent musicianship and a variety of
complex early prog styles leading to praiseworthy comparisons with early
Gentle Giant, early Jethro Tull, early Van der Graaf Generator and early
Wishbone Ash.  And yet, as the contemporary of those superb bands,
Gnidrolog never once sounded like it was copping styles from them,
and -- sad to say -- never got the same level of either critical or
popular response.

The album opens with the lengthy "Long Live Man Dead"...right up in your
face, angry and belligerent.  But within minutes the violence transmutes
itself into smoothness, with lead recorder coming to the front.  Through
tricky time changes the band morphs the tune into dizzying sonic
territory.  From there the album moves through the shorter, delicate,
peaceful tune "Peter", built around dueting flutes.  This segues (via
early entry of the drums) into "Snails" -- which is for me one of the
band's strongest compositions.  Very heavy guitar work and a sense of
vicious atonality that would have done King Crimson proud produce a very
satisfying listening experience.

The beautiful and ethereal acoustic "Time and Space" opens with
delicate guitar, flute and more recorder -- not unlike early Gryphon, a
band that might well have been influenced by Gnidrolog -- before
evolving itself into a beast bristling with more heavy guitars and bad
attitude drumming.  The best part though -- which shows how much
the band thought about the detail of its arrangements -- is the use of a
spacey / jazzy horns.  The tune contains some slightly Ian Anderson-ish
flute work, and passages that would not have been out of place on
Thick As A Brick.  Fans of the twin lead guitar attack of Turner
and Powell (Wishbone Ash) will nod their heads as Stewart Goldring's
axe catches fire!

More parallels with the quieter yet still intricate side of Gentle Giantcanbe
drawn on the short acoustic track that follows: "Who Spoke",  which leads
to the grand finale...the magnificent title track. "In Spite Of Harry's Toenail"
is, like the album opener, divided into two sections. Once again, early
Wishbone Ash colliding head on wiith early Gentle Giant gives a reasonably
good idea of the sound and the dramatic power of the piece.

As if this wasn't enough, the reissue contains four bonus tracks, of
lower sonic quality but of very high musicality.  Two of these were
recorded at IBC studios in 1969; two were recorded at Maida Vale in
1971.  The latter pair appear to have been recovered from a low-grade
master (apparently the only known surviving recordings from this
session).  Very well-developed demos would be the best way of describing
them, and they provide an interesting peek at how the band was evolving
and refining its sound in the three years between the earliest
recordings and the release of In Spite Of Harry's Toenail.

Who would like this?  Fans of early Gentle Giant and early Jethro Tull
should go for this in a big way.  If you like music growing out of the
cusp of proto-prog and full-fledged progressive with lots of sax and /
or flute in it, check this out.  If you yearn for blues-tinged dark
prog, infused with some of that adventurous early VdGG angst in it, look
no further, 'cos this has it all.

Who would hate it?  If  you don't like sax and / or flute in your prog
then stay away!  These guys made sax, flute and recorder an integral
part of their sound, whilst cavalierly dispensing with the Hammond
organ.  If you find early Gentle Giant a bit annoying and / or early
Tull and Wishbone Ash not prog enough for you then you might want to
pass on this one.  If a whiff of VdGG in the stew makes you run like
hell...keep running.

The best tracks:  "Snails" and the title track, or is it "Long Live Man
Dead" and "Time And Space"?  Good stuff all the way down the line.

The tracks that best represents Gnidrolog's style: "Snails".

Star rating: 3 1/2 out of 5, threatening a 4 star rating.  It has a very
early 70s, somewhat dated sound to the production, which may turn some
people off, but made me feel like a schoolboy again.  This is a jewel of
a reissue that was long overdue in coming.  It would be great without
the bonus tracks, having them is just icing on the cake.

The Band in 1972:
Colin Goldring -- lead vocals, guitars, recorders, tenor sax, horn,
harmonica.
Stewart Goldring -- lead guitar, vocals.
Peter Cowling -- bass, cello.
Nigel Pegrum -- drums, percussion, flute, oboe, piano.

All titles composed and arranged by Gnidrolog.
Produced by John Schroeder.
Acetate restoration of tracks 9 and 10 by David J. Burrows.

Tracks 1-8 recorded at De Lane Lea Sound Studios, London in 1972.
Tracks 9-10 recorded at IBC Studios, London in 1969.
Tracks 11-12 recorded at Maida Vale Studios, London in 1971.

The Tunes:
1 & 2. Long Live Man Dead [9:43]
    (a) Long Live Man Dead
    (b) Skull
3. Peter [3:26]
4. Snails [7:14]
5. Time And Space [7:30]
6. Who Spoke [2:22]
7 & 8. In Spite Of Harry's Toenail [9:23]
    (a) Goodbye-Farewell-Adieu
    (b) Harry's Toenail
Bonus Tracks:
9. Smokescreen [6:34]
10. Saga Of Smith And Smythe [8:29]
11. My Room [6:32]
12. Saga Of Smith And Smythe [7:20]

Steven Davies-Morris (SDM) -- A 21st Century Schizoid Man
sdavmor@systemstheory.net

http://systemstheory.net






Gnidrolog: Gnosis - (CD, 74:10) Snails Records 70091022 Sarastro Records PO Box 17096 London SW15 1ZT, UK Old-school English proggies Gnidrolog have returned after an absence of over a quarter century with their latest release Gnosis. The classically-trained twins that make up the core of the band (Colin and Stewart Goldring) have been joined by Rick Kemp on bass, Nigel Pegrum on drums, Nessa Glen on keyboards, and an assortment of guest musicians (including a Didjerdoo player). The liner notes claim that this group has expertise in styles ranging from Funk to Middle Eastern religious to Argentintine tangos; given this eclecticism coupled with the Goldrings' classical training, one would certainly expect and interesting and challenging sonic experience. Why then, is Gnosis so... ORDINARY? The CD starts off intrestingly enough with a song title "Reach for Tomorrow" that incorporates Middle-Eastern style chord structures and chanting-like vocals interspersed with pockets of Canterbury-esque guitar and flute sections. If the rest of the CD was as interesting as the first track, Gnosis could've really left it's mark on modern progressive music. However, it's all downhill after that track as Gnidrolog seems to be content playing it safe with nothing more than simple pop tunes - and bad ones at that. The only track that really jumped out at me besides the opener was a 6 minute song titled "Kings of Rock," and the only reason that one is noticable is because it is clearly the nadir of the album - it comes across as sounding like a Yiddish Spinal Tap. An acoustical guitar piece called "Two Helens" starts off promising with some nice fret work, but after a minute or so it also draws a bit too heavily on one's patience. There's just no payoff in these songs. I'd like to see Gnidrolog give it another try (hopefully sooner than 27 years from now) and do more with their Middle-Eastern influences - when those inflections come across on Gnosis, the CD raises up a notch or two. Unfortunately, these moments are few and far between, and what should have been one of the most important progressive releases of the year instead becomess 75 minutes of incredibly tedious sub-par pop music. ~ Michael Askounes Official Gnidrolog information - and some sheet music - can be found at http://ww.stewartelliott.org/gnidrolog.

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