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Gracious (or Gracious!) were a British quintet who operated during the early 1970s, when they released two albums, 'Gracious!' (released 1970 on Vertigo) and 'This Is... Gracious' (posthumously released in 1972 on the Philips International label). The band was formed in the mid-Sixties in Esher, a well-to-do spot south of London in Surrey's stockbroker belt, by guitarist Alan Cowderoy and drummer/vocalist Paul 'Sandy' Davis, who were at school together. This was prior to them adopting the name under which they recorded - they were first called Satan's Disciples (many years before punk/metal bands began using similarly lurid names), according to Cowderoy: "It was a Catholic school, so we thought this was the most contentious name we could come up with, and we played a couple of school concerts. It was an out and out pop group - we were just doing other people's songs, and then gradually we started putting in our own tunes. It was all covers in the first school concert - 'Sweets For My Sweet', all the popular hits of the day - and we went down fantastically well. That was probably in 1964 or '65". Schooldays over and several personnel changes later, keyboard player Martin Kitcat (his real name, apparently) joined first on piano and later, as eventual bass player Tim Wheatley recalled, a Hohner pianet, a trendy type of electric piano.
Next, Davis was asked to concentrate on singing and give up drumming (few have mastered such a double act!), and Robert Lipson was invited to join from a rival Esher band. Tim Wheatley first joined the band as road manager, but when original bass player Mark Laird decided to leave Gracious, Wheatley graduated to playing bass. The line-up when they recorded was thus Sandy Davis (vocals), Martin Kitcat (keyboards), Alan Cowderoy (guitar), Tim Wheatley (bass) and Robert Lipson (drums).
By then, the group had been using the name Gracious, which was conceived by their manager, David Booth, for some time. Cowderoy recalled: "I think he dreamt up the name and sold it to a couple of guys in the band, who liked the double meaning of it - it was either an exclamation or an adjective. I hated it, and I'm embarrassed by it to this day, but it stuck, and I was outvoted by the majority - people said if I didn't like it, I should think of something better, and I couldn't". It was, feels Wheatley, "quite a good name, a name with hippy connotations, although at that stage, we were still very much a pop band doing three minute pop songs".
There was a sixth member for a while, Keith Ireland, a back-up and harmony vocalist who also played percussion and was in the band when they went on tour in Germany earlier in 1968. Wheatley, at the time still I a roadie, recalls: "We went out there for six weeks, and we were so green, we knew nothing, just teenagers. Hamburg, The Star Club, the Reeperbahn - we just couldn't believe what was going on". Gracious did record before making their two albums, although the results hardly appeared at the time. (more...)
"Legendary British progressive band, and their classic debut-album explains why. The first side of the album seems to have a concept about heaven and hell, and the lifestyles which will lead to one of those places (if you believe that bullshit!). The music is good old English progressive with loads of mellotron and harpsichord. The highlight is the beautiful "Heaven". With its floating mellotron theme and symphonic sound, this track lives up to its name. "Hell" is, as you may suggest, a much more uglier and heavier track with some very distorted organ creating a perfect hell-atmosphere. You can almost smell the sulphur! "Fugue in 'D' Minor" is a pure baroque piece played on guitar and harpsichord. The 16-minute "The Dream" features a load of time changes and different moods. From symphonic and beautiful, to disharmonious and energetic. This is a impressive and truly progressive rock album that every 70's progressive rock fan should own." (buy it)
Gracious - Introduction