When 2016 finally draws to its inevitable conclusion, I doubt that Griot’s debut album will feature in many, if any, of the end of year polls which, as is so often the case, will once more remain the preserve of the somewhat predictable. A real shame as this mini concept album is certainly deserving of greater plaudits.
Convincing a sometimes blinkered, and often sceptical audience, to take a plunge into uncharted territory can be tricky, and as someone who spends much of his time listening to new material, I can be as guilty as the next person, so somewhere along the line there has to be a catalyst to pique further listening.
Gerald achieves this by having all the requisite elements necessary for a “prog album”, in the traditional sense, however what precipitates Gerald is the modern song writing approach that Griot have adopted to deliver their concept and their music. At times it grooves – surely prog doesn’t groove! It’s predictable and unpredictable in equal measures, so from start to finish you are continually re-evaluating. It’s smooth jazz; it’s neo prog; it’s Pink Floyd; it’s not pink; it’s fusion with pop sensibilities? Cue: Into The Fold…
So who – or what – is Griot? Well Wikipedia have a griot as an African storyteller, possibly so as Portugal’s Griot bring us a tale of Gerald, a man undertaking one of life’s searching journeys. A concept put together by the two principal members of the band, multi-instrumentalists João Pascoal and Sérgio Ferreira, and a tale that unfolds in the accompanying twenty plus page storybook illustrated by Maria Branco.
I’ve elected not to delve into the music for this review, nor comment on any of the individual tracks, primarily, and as mentioned above, this is an album that, as its concept suggests, evolves with the passage of time. Gerald‘s charm lies in its ability to encompass traditional prog values in a modern cocoon and one that should engage across a broad spectrum of listeners. Worthy of mention here are the impressive ensemble of musicians and vocalists who collectively add to the varied palette of sound with their memorable performances.
Now some releases resonate immediately and some take a little longer, as was the case with Griot’s debut. Gerald‘s modern slant did take more time to click, but once it did then it soon revealed it’s warmth, charm and depth.
The whole album is available to hear (and buy) from Bandcamp – linked below – so there’s no reason not to invest half an hour of your time. However if half an hour is too long then might I suggest you give the aforementioned Into The Fold a try, assuming you didn’t already click the link above. Troubled by the Neo-sounding synth line, Into The Fold, was my least favourite track, first time through, but turned out to be a cracking song from an accomplished and well conceived debut release.
01. The Drive [Chapter I] (5:15)
02. Through The Haze [Chapter II] (4:27)
03. Into The Fold [Chapter III] (6:37)
04. The Curtain Falls [Chapter IV] (5:37)
05. Fadeaway [Chapter V] (10:34)
Total Time – 32:30
João Pascoal – Bass Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Keyboards, Programming & Composing (1,2,3,4 & 5)
Sérgio Ferreira – Drums, Percussion & Composing (tracks 1,2,3,4 & 5)
Nuno Aleluia – Vocals (tracks 1,3,4 & 5)
António Branco – Backing Vocals (tracks 1,3,4 & 5)
Pedro Marques – Backing Vocals (track 5)
Eduardo Ferreira – Violin (tracks 1,2,3,4 & 5)
Carolina Resende – Violin (tracks 1,2,3,4 & 5)
Rita Fernandes – Violoncello (tracks 1,2,3,4 & 5)
Paulo Bernardino – Clarinet (track 3)
Andy Panayi – Tenor Saxophone (track 2)
André Loureiro – Flute (tracks 2,3,4 & 5)
João Baião – Acoustic Steel String Guitar (tracks 3 & 5)
Alexandre Veiga – Electric Guitar (tracks 1,2,3,4 & 5)
Filipe Salgueiro – Electric Guitar (track 5)
Bruno Miguel – Electric Guitar (track 2)
Vikram Shankar – Synthesizer (track 1)
Diogo Santos – Moog Synthesizer (track 5)
André Barros – Piano & Composing (track 5 intro)
Record Label – Independent
Country of Origin – Portugal
Release Date – 14th August 2016