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Gordon Giltrap

Whether performing classical, jazz or folk music throughout four decades+ of graceful guitar playing, virtuoso GORDON GILTRAP will always be remembered in the fickle pop/rock world for having one near-Top 20 hit, `Heartsong’. Only the ageing GG fan will have followed his mighty career from his semi-pro days in the mid-60s to his most lilting, acoustic and instrumental CD, SHINING MORN (2010) {*6}.
Born 6 April 1948, Brenchley, Kent in England, Gordon grew up in Deptford, south London, intending initially to go to art school, only to be denied due to insufficient qualifications (“painting by numbers” should not have been the main criteria – only talent). Anyway, having learnt guitar (and in turn, an unusual plectrum/pinkie technique) from the age of 12, but slightly curtailed by working as a labourer on London’s building sites, teenage GILTRAP steadily worked his way into finding regular spots at the Greek Street folk venue Les Cousins. There he would rub shoulders with the likes of JOHN MARTYN, AL STEWART, JOHN RENBOURN and BERT JANSCH, and before long musical folk apprentice GILTRAP was one of the many to be invited on to the burgeoning roster of Nat Joseph’s Transatlantic Records.
The eponymous GORDON GILTRAP (1968) {*6} and PORTRAIT (1969) {*6} didn’t exactly catch light or the public’s attention, and in the meantime he sessioned on Pauline Filby’s rare 1969 set, `Show me A Rainbow’, and teamed up with folk-busker DON PARTRIDGE in the short-lived ACCOLADE.
Although moving up the major-label ladder to M.C.A. and Philips respectively, both subsequent LPs A TESTAMENT OF TIME (1971) {*6} and GILTRAP (1973) {*5} fell short of their promise and requirements. The first of these found Gordon ambitiously expanding his sound somewhat to include baroque/renaissance-period type instrumentals topped by `Catwalk Blues’ and `Harlequin’; best “songs” included opener `Starting All Over’, the minstrelsy `Cycle’ and the AL STEWART-like, strum-friendly `The Entertainer’. But it was indeed time for a swerve in direction.
With his songwriting deviating more and more into classically-biased instrumental pieces, with an imagery to initially envelop the thematic works of 18th/19th century English poet, William Blake, a long three years was rewarded with 1976’s VISIONARY {*6}. Intending to have the title track as a prog-length 15 minutes (thankfully it was cut into smaller excerpts) and showboating GG’s take of `Jerusalem’, the vinyl record had its moments via `Lucifer’s Cage’, `Awakening’ and another orchestral manoeuvre, `From The Four Winds’; one could say this was closer to STEVE HACKETT than any previous folk venture.
From his lone Top 30 album, PERILOUS JOURNEY (1978) {*5}, the aforementioned `Heartsong’ became his only major hit, and a bit of a millstone around his neck (it was subsequently play-listed as the theme to television “Holiday…” programmes). The album itself sounded so much like a TV soundtrack, it was inevitable that GILTRAP would end up composing themes for said medium in the 80s.
Although billed as GORDON GILTRAP BAND, FEAR OF THE DARK (1978) {*5} continued his classical-meets-folk sojourn in the land of banal mediocrity. Of his 80s, 90s & 00s sets (collaborations with RIC SANDERS, Juan Martin, MARTIN TAYLOR, Raymond Burley and RICK WAKEMAN, among them), one could vouch for at least one in each decade: ELEGY (1986) {*6}, TROUBADOUR (1998) {*7} and UNDER THIS BLUE SKY (2002) {*6} – featuring GEORGE HARRISON’s `Here Comes The Sun’; forget the self-descriptive but misleading JANSCHOLOGY (2001) {*4}.
Prolific to the point of market saturation, GILTRAP and cohorts kept the albums coming through covers set REMEMBER THIS (2003) {*6}, LIVE AT AMBERGATE (2004) {*6}, the collaborative re-workings set DOUBLE VISION (2004) {*6} with Burley, and DRIFTER (2005) {*6}; the latter featuring the violin of John Bradbury. 2006’s AT THE SYMPHONY HALL BIRMINGHAM {*6} was just what fans would expect from a CD/DVD package “with friends”, while AS IT HAPPENS… (2007) {*7}, FROM BRUSH & STONE (2009) {*6} resumed his partnership with RICK WAKEMAN and RAVENS & LULLABIES (2013) {*6} featuring the YES man’s son Oliver Wakeman.
© MC Strong 2010/GFD // rev-up MCS Aug2015

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