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Gracious

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. Their first released album appeared in 1970; with its rich harmonies, heavy prog feel, and religious themes that hearkened back to the band's Catholic school roots, it was a worthy contemporary to such progressive bands as King Crimson and the Zombies. But when this album failed to chart, the band found itself scraping for money. Tensions flared up, precipitating Lipson's and then Kitcat's departures in 1971. The rest staggered on to tour in Germany, but they had clearly reached the end of the road. Gracious had recorded a second album, but the poor sales of their first album caused it be shelved by their label until a half-hearted posthumous release two years later. Cowderoy and Kitcat had already both moved into music industry jobs at a variety of major labels, largely forsaking their instruments, while the rest of the band drifted into family businesses, session work, and studio jobs; Davis even turned up on Jesus Christ Superstar. Meanwhile, their hard-to-find LPs acquired a certain cachet among collectors. Deprived fans got some relief at last in 1995, when Beat Goes On Records re-released their two albums on CD. That same year, Wheatley and Lipson reunited under the Gracious name to put out the album Echo on the Centa label. ~ Paul Collins
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