Gracious began as a schoolboy lark in 1964, when guitarist Alan Cowderoy and vocalist/drummer Paul Davis banded together to cover pop songs at school concerts. To arouse maximum ire at their Catholic school, the adopted the band name "Satan's Disciples." Over the next several years the recording lineup of the band coalesced with Cowderoy and Davis (who now only sang), former road manager Tim Wheatley on bass, Martin Kitcat on keyboards, and drummer Robert Lipson.
Renamed Gracious (or Gracious!), the band toured Germany in 1968 and then recorded a concept album about the seasons of the year, although this went unreleased. Still, their ambitions were unabated. After playing on a double bill with the newly formed King Crimson, an awestruck Kitcat immediately adopted the Mellotron as a lead instrument for the band. Kitcat and Davis were the band's composers, and Kitcat in particular lent the group its distinctive sound. He played the Mellotron as a lead instrument, much like a blues organ -- that is, with percussive single notes, rather than the grandiose chords favored by bands that used it as a faux-orchestral backdrop.
The debut of Gracious! begins with the blandly but accurately titled "Introduction." One of the album's strongest tracks, it's a Nice-like combination of menacing Moog breaks and shimmering harpsichords, and it foreshadows the band's use of both heavy prog music and ghostly lyrics tinged with Catholic dread. "Heaven" is a gorgeous minor-key ballad of stately Mellotron and chiming guitar tones, with harmonies reminiscent of late-model Zombies.
"Hell," not surprisingly, is another thing altogether: a descent into drunken declamations, clinking bottles, rowdy bar sounds, loopy piano riffs, and creepy phasing effects. In coclusion it's a fine debut, and it presaged the superb second effort that was to follow.
by Paul Collins
1. Introduction - 5:53
2. Heaven - 8:09
3. Hell - 8:33
4. Fugue in 'D' Minor - 5:05
5. The Dream - 16:58
6. Beautiful - 2:50
7. What A Lovely Rain (Paul Davis, Martin Kitcat) - 2:49
8. Once On A Windy Day - 4:03
All song by Paul Davis except where noted.
*Alan Cowderoy - Guitar, Vocals
*Martin Kitcat - Piano, Harpsichord, Keyboards, Vocals, Mellotron
*Robert Lipson - Drums
*Tim Wheatley - Bass
*Paul Davis - Vocals, Acoustic Guitar