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About Gordon Giltrap

A widely respected and versatile British guitarist and composer, Gordon Giltrap came up through the London folk scene of the late '60s alongside contemporaries like Bert Jansch and John Renbourn, releasing a pair of singer/songwriter albums for the Transatlantic label before finding mainstream success in the late '70s with a series of instrumental prog rock albums, including the 1977 career standout Perilous Journey. His journey continued throughout the '80s and '90s with detours into new age and relaxation music and a return to his instrumental acoustic roots with the 1998 highlight Troubadour. A frequent collaborator, Giltrap has recorded albums with a variety of partners, including two with jazz guitarist Martin Taylor, an outing with Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman, and another with Wakeman's son Oliver Wakeman. Giltrap's diverse résumé also includes composing for orchestra and scoring numerous television programs.
Born in Kent in 1948, Giltrap grew up in the South East London district of Deptford, where he began playing guitar at the age of 12. Developing his own distinctive playing style without ever receiving any formal training, he played in local rock bands in his early teens and eventually gravitated toward the mid-'60s London folk scene alongside John Renbourn, John Martyn, and Bert Jansch. In 1966, at the age of 18, Giltrap signed a deal with Transatlantic Records and released his self-titled debut two years later. A mix of inventive instrumental pieces and vocal songs with experimental and psych flourishes, it was followed in 1969 by the similarly minded Portrait, Giltrap's second and last release for Transatlantic. In the spring of that year, he joined famed U.K. busker Don Partridge on a tour and soon formed the acoustic rock band Accolade with him. Although he wrote several songs and played lead guitar for the project, Giltrap left Accolade in 1970 following the release of their first album. Arriving in 1971, A Testament of Time featured a more typical singer/songwriter storytelling style replete with sections and slightly more elaborate arrangements, and also marked his first and only release for MCA. After another brief one-off tenure on the Philips label for 1973's Giltrap, he landed on a new approach that focused more intensely on instrumental compositions and leaned toward orchestrally arranged prog rock.
Released in 1976, Visionary was based on the art and poetry of William Blake and marked Giltrap's first release in this new mode. Having found more success in this arena than with his singer/songwriter albums, he formed the Gordon Giltrap Band and toured in support of Visionary while completing his 1977 follow-up, Perilous Journey, another instrumental prog album that became his most successful release to date. A chart success reaching number 29 on the U.K. albums chart, Perilous Journey also yielded the hit single "Heartsong," which was eventually used as the theme song for the BBC travel television show Holiday. Ironically, another Giltrap song, "The Carnival" was later used as the theme song for Holiday's rival program, Wish You Were Here...? on the ITV network. Released in 1978, Fear of the Dark followed in the same vein as its two predecessors and marked the completion of a trilogy of albums that cemented Giltrap's successful second career phase.
While 1979's The Peacock Party expanded on his prog rock approach, it also marked the re-emergence of Giltrap as an acoustic guitarist on several tracks, a trend he would continue with 1982's Airwaves and 1984's In at the Deep End, two albums that leaned more heavily toward new age than progressive. Coming full circle back to his first love, acoustic guitar music, Giltrap recorded the pleasingly spartan Elegy in 1986, offering a mix of solo acoustic six- and 12-string instrumentals with only occasional additions of electric guitar and bass. Following the 1987 Christmas album A Midnight Clear, Giltrap spent the early part of the 1990s working on a wide range of personal projects and collaborations. In addition to the live albums On a Summer's Night (1991) and Live at the BBC (1995), he recorded a duets album with jazz guitarist Martin Taylor; composed and performed The Brotherhood Suite, a classical work based on pre-Raphaelite painters (1995), and oversaw the reissue of his two Transatlantic albums. In 1996, he played alongside an early hero, Cliff Richard, in his West End musical Heathcliff. Two years later, in 1998, Giltrap delivered the career highlight Troubadour, an intricate instrumental album that paired his acoustic finesse with lush orchestral arrangements by the legendary Del Newman.
Released in the year 2000, Music for the Small Screen collated the various television compositions Giltrap recorded throughout his career. That same year, he was honored by an invitation to join the British entertainment industry fraternity and charity organization The Grand Order of Water Rats, whose ranks have included everyone from comic actor Charlie Chaplin to Queen guitarist Brian May. He remained highly active throughout the early 2000s, both on-stage and in the studio, releasing the spare and elegant Under This Blue Sky in 2002, a 2003 covers album called Remember This, and 2004's pastoral Drifter. Also during this period, he worked with his friend Ian Wood, a hypnotherapy expert, on a mental health recorded project called Receptive Relaxation, which involved tranquil compositions from Giltrap paired with hypnosis affirmations spoken by Wood. Between 2011 and 2012, they released seven volumes in this series. Following a second guitar duets album with Martin Taylor in 2005, he issued the live CD/DVD set Gordon Giltrap and Friends Live at the Symphony Hall Birmingham. Another live offering, a solo concert titled As It Happens, appeared in 2007 along with the studio album Secret Valentine.
In 2010, Giltrap paired up with progressive keyboard legend and longtime friend Rick Wakeman for the duo album From Brush & Stone and delivered a solo album, Shining Morn, later that year. A few years later, he teamed up with Wakeman's son, keyboardist Oliver, to record the collaborative Ravens & Lullabies, which saw Giltrap return to the harder prog rock sound of his late-'70s albums. Another collaboration arrived in 2017, this time with keyboardist Paul Ward on The Last of England, which offered a mix of prog, folk, pop, and classical. ~ Timothy Monger

HOMETOWN
East Peckham, Tonbridge, Kent, En
GENRE
Rock
BORN
6 Apr 1948

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