CULT CLASSIC: CRAIG PEYTON GROUP-PYRAMID LOVE.

Cult Classic: Craig Peyton Group-Pyramid Love.

For Craig Peyton, the founder member of Band X, 1976 was the most important year of his nascent musical career. It was the year they released their debut album The Best Of Band X. However, The Best Of Band X a private pressing, wasn’t a commercial success and instead, this innovative, genre-melting album passed record buyers, critics and cultural commentators by.  Band X were left licking their wounds. They had hoped would be the start of a successful career but that wasn’t to be. Instead, Band X split-up, and its founder Craig Peyton moved on.

Craig Peyton’s next musical venture was the Craig Peyton Group, which featured bassist Victor Preston and reeds-man Al Gryzb of Band X. They were joined by guitarist Willie Upshaw and drummer and percussionist Chris Meisel. This was the lineup that recorded the Craig Peyton Group’s debut album Pyramid Love, which was released in 1977, on Broken Records. 

Pyramid Love was a very different album from Band X’s debut The Best Of Band X. Gone was the experimental sound of Band X. Replacing it was a jazzier sound. Essentially, this was a return to Craig’s roots. He’d grownup listening to, and playing fusion. Add to fusion elements of blue-eyed soul and rock, and this describes Pyramid Love, the Craig Peyton Group’s debut album, which was recorded in May 1977.

Members of the Craig Peyton Group wrote eight songs for Pyramid Love. Craig penned Snow, Pyramid Love, Marjorie and Waiting. Craig Meisel wrote Fire and Ice and Willie Upshaw Plupts 77. The other two tracks were written by former members of Band X. Bassist Victor Preston contributed Painted Desert and reeds-man Al Gryzb penned Funky Boogie. These seven tracks became Pyramid Love, the Craig Peyton Group’s debut album.

Recording of Pyramid Love took place during May 1977, with Craig Peyton producing. Two studios were used. Long View Farms was where Band X recorded The Best Of Band X. The other studio used Intermedia Sound. Craig played electric vibes, elka strings, orgasmitron and added vocals. Willie Upshaw played guitar, Chris Meisel drums and percussion and Victor Preston electric bass, string bass, trombone and trumpet. Al Gryzb added reeds, bassoon and clarinet. Once the eight tracks were recorded, Pyramid Love was released later in 1977.

Just like The Best Of Band X, Pyramid Love was an independent release. It was released in 1977, on Broken Records. Sadly, lightning struck twice for Craig Peyton. Pyramid Love suffered the same fate as The Best Of Band X. On its release, it disappeared without trace. This was the case with a plethora of independent releases during the seventies. Pyramid Love didn’t find the audience it deserved in 1977. That wasn’t the end of the story.

Fast forward thirty years, and somewhat belatedly the Craig Peyton Group’s debut album Pyramid Love had became a collectable. Just like The Best Of Band X, Pyramid Love had been discovered by discerning record collectors. Soon, word spread about this little known album. With the Band X connection, Pyramid Love became a highly prized album which is a cult classic.

Snow, which opens Pyramid Love, allows the Craig Peyton Group to stretch their legs. Just the drums open the track, before an uber funky bass and lightning fast vibes glide across the arrangement. They’re joined by a braying horn. Soon, the Craig Peyton Group settle into a groove. The rhythm section sashay along, while guitarist Willie Upshaw unleashes a blistering guitar solo. Along with the sashaying rhythm section and Craig’s vibes, they showcase just what the Craig Peyton Group are capable of. In this case, it’s funky, dance-floor friendly music.

Pyramid Love has a much more understated sound. Just the thoughtful sound of the vibes set the scene for Craig’s needy, hopeful vocal. He sings call and response, before this slice of blue-eyed soul gets funky. That’s down to the rhythm section and a blazing horn. Stabs of urgent drums and searing guitars join the funky rhythm section and grizzled horn. Soon, the Craig Peyton Group are in full flow. The result is a track that’s veers between funky, jazz-tinged and soulful to understated and dramatic.

Straight away, Funky Boogie sounds like a musical pastiche. There’s a nod to the Charleston and an English  pastoral sound. That’s down to reeds-man Al Gryzb and Craig on vibes. They play starring role, continue to do so. After that, the arrangement floats, and glides elegantly away. Later, with the rhythm section driving  the arrangement along, it heads in the direction of fusion. This is no ordinary fusion. Instead, it’s a laid-back brand of fusion. Only, later do the Craig Peyton Group briefly kick loose. Briefly, the English  pastoral sound returns and the Craig Peyton Group bid their farewell on this laid-back slice of fusion.

The understated arrangement to Marjorie meanders into being. Then when Craig’s vocal enter, he takes the track in the direction of blue-eyed soul. Meanwhile, the rest of the Craig Peyton Group drive the funky arrangement along. Bassist Victor Preston plays a starring role. So does guitarist Willie Upshaw. He unleashes some blistering licks. Not to be outdone trumpeter Al Gryzb and Craig on vibes joins in. By now, the Craig Peyton Group are in full flow. It’s a joy to behold, as they’re a tight, talented band. As for Craig, he delivers his best vocal. Heartfelt and emotive, this inspires the rest of the Craig Peyton Group, as they fuse blue-eyed soul, funk, jazz and rock.

Plupts 77 is the polar opposite of the previous track. It’s an adrenaline fuelled, genre-melting track. Think Weather Report and that’s a starting point. Screaming, searing, blistering guitars join the rhythm section and Craig’s vibes. Bursts of growling horns enter, as machine gun guitars are unleashed. From there, there’s diversions via jazz, fusion, rock and space funk, courtesy of the synths. What Plupts 77 shows, is that the five members of the Craig Peyton Group, individually were gifted musicians. When the solos come round, none of them are left lacking. Far from it, they revel in the opportunity to showcase their talents. Stealing the show, however, is guitarist Willie Upshaw, who delivers a series of breathtaking solos.

Waiting sees the tempo drop and a dreamy, wistful sounding track take shape. It’s the rhythm section and vibes that set the scene. Meanwhile, washes of guitar reverberate. Horns bray, drifting above the arrangement. For the time being, it becomes a dreamy, lysergic soundscape. That’s until Craig’s vocal enters. It shimmers, before becoming urgent and dramatic. The arrangement reflects the drama and urgency in Craig’s vocal. Then later, the arrangement becomes a vehicle for Al Gryzb’s braying horn and to some extent, Craig’s vibes. After the arrangement is stripped bare, it slowly and gradually rebuilds. Eventually, it becomes a droning, dramatic, futuristic epic, where reeds-man Al Gryzb becomes a sonic explorer.

Driving, dramatic, urgent and rock describes Fire and Ice. As the rhythm section provide a backdrop for the rest of the Craig Peyton Group, a marriage of funk, fusion and rock emerges. Al Gryzb’s sultry horn soars above the arrangement. Meanwhile Craig delivers a vibes masterclass. This inspires the rest of the Group. Especially, guitarist Willie Upshaw. He delivers a series of lightning fast, scorching, searing solos. With the choppy rhythm section and vibes for company, Willie more than plays his part in this musical opus.

Painted Desert closes Pyramid Love. From the get-go, the Craig Peyton Group drive the arrangement along. The rhythm section and a melancholy horn become one. Then they slow things down, before going through the gears and kicking loose. This gives them the opportunity to showcase their considerable talents. Craig adds vibes and Willie unleashes some crystalline guitar solos. After three minutes of this eight minute epic, it’s all change. A futuristic sound gives way to what’s best described as a marriage of ambient, avant-garde, experimental and modern classical. A cinematic sound emerges, before a futuristic, sci-fi inspired fusion of free jazz and space funk takes shape. It’s a truly captivating track, where the Craig Peyton Group take you in the most unexpected directions. Latterly, a much more orthodox combination of fusion and rock emerges, as the track reaches a dramatic crescendo.

Just a year after the release of Band X’s groundbreaking debut album, The Best Of Band X, Craig Peyton returned with his new group, the Craig Peyton Group. Their debut album, Pyramid Love, was a similarly ambitious, innovative album. However, this didn’t seem to matter. Still, it passed record buyers by.

The problem was, Pyramid Love was released on an independent label, Broken Records. Small labels were unable to compete with the budgets of majors. They couldn’t get their records on radio or in the racks of major record shops. Instead, the best that the Craig Peyton Group could hope for, was that Pyramid Love would be a local hit. Maybe then, Pyramid Love would be picked up by a bigger label. Then, maybe, the Craig Peyton Group would find the audience their music deserved. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. Just like Band X’s debut album The Best Of Band X, the Craig Peyton Group debut album, Pyramid Love wasn’t a commercial success. However, this wasn’t because of the music. 

Far from it. Just like Band X, the Craig Peyton Group were musical pioneers. They didn’t stick to one musical genre and combined everything from blue-eyed sound, classical, funk, fusion, pastoral, psychedelia, rock and space-funk. Elements of each and every one of these genres can be heard on Pyramid Love which is an album of eclectic music. That’s no bad thing.

While some bands resolutely stick by the same sound, that wasn’t for the Craig Peyton Group. They were determined to innovate and create ambitious, groundbreaking music. Back in 1977, very few bands were creating groundbreaking music. Instead, many musicians were jumping on the disco bandwagon. Not Craig Peyton. 

With his new band, the Craig Peyton Group, he picked up where he left off with Band X. His new band’s music was just as ambitious, innovative and genre-melting. Just like The Best Of Band X, you never knew what direction the Craig Peyton Group were taking Pyramid Love in. It was another magical, musical, mystery tour. You jumped on and enjoyed the ride. During eight tracks, you heard musical genres melt into one. Sometimes, it was only briefly. Other times, these influences are much more obvious on Pyramid Love the one and only album from the Craig Peyton Group.

After Pyramid Love was released in 1977, the Craig Peyton Group released no further albums. Just like Band X it was the end of the road for this short-lived and talented group. 

Forty-two years later and original copies of Pyramid Love are almost impossible to find, and this highly collectable album is much prized amongst discerning record collectors. Pyramid Love,  the Craig Peyton Group’s 1977 groundbreaking, genre-defying debut album is  cult classic that should’ve enjoyed commercial success and critical acclaim upon its release, and a reminder of a truly talented band who should’ve gone on to greater things. Sadly, that wasn’t to be and it’s only recently that the Craig Peyton Group and their only album Pyramid Love is receiving the recognition it so richly deserves.

Cult Classic: Craig Peyton Group-Pyramid Love.

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