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Spooky Tooth - Spooky Two

Review: 181
Date: 18 Jun 04

 


Rating: 5 Stars

Musicians:
Luther Grosvenor - Guitars
Mike Harrison - Keyboards and Vocals
Gary Wright - Keyboards and Vocals
Greg Ridley - Bass
Mike Kellie - Drums

Tracks Listing:
Waitin' For The Wind
Feelin' Bad
I've Got Enough Heartaches
Evil Woman
Lost In My Dream
That Was Only Yesterday
Better By Me, Better Than Me
Hangman Hang My Shell On A Tree

 


‘Spooky Tooth’. What a marvelous name for a progressive rock band from the late sixties. Pity they could not have been a bit more original with the name of their second album. 'Spooky Two' smacks far too much of 'Chicago 17', but that is a small quibble when the standard of the musicianship and songwriting on this album is truly masterful.

Four Members of ‘Spooky Tooth’, Luther Grosvener, Mike Kellie, Greg Ridley, and Mike Harrison, had been playing together for several years in the area of Carlisle, England, since 1963. First as ‘The VIP's’ they numbered Keith Emerson in their ranks, and then as 'Art', who released one magical, Guy Stevens produced, album called 'Supernatural Fairy Tales'. (Recently this album has been released again on C.D and is well worth a listen.) Then with a stroke of genius it was decided to add singer/songwriter/keyboardist/American Gary Wright to the ranks, and ‘Art’ changed their moniker to ‘Spooky Tooth’.

The first album 'It's All About' was released to great critical acclaim, being produced by the master of getting the best out of his charges, Jimmy Miller. (After his work with 'The Rolling Stones' (Sticky Fingers), Jimmy became one of the most demanded producers in the world.) The engineer for these sessions was a certain Glyn Johns, who soon found his own piece of history for his work with ‘The Who’s’ ‘Who's Next'. It was a cracking debut album giving birth to the hit single 'Sunshine Help' as well as including the first ‘Spooky Tooth’ version of Loudermilk's Tobacco Road', which was to remain a concert favorite of the band no matter what lineup changes they went through. Apart from the three cover versions on the album Gary Wright at least had a hand in writing all the other seven songs.

After a year on the road, gigging almost every night on both sides of the Atlantic, and having built up a strong live following, the road toughened and much tighter ‘Spooky Tooth’ went back into the studio to record their magnum opus 'Spooky Two' (1969). Keeping Jimmy Miller in the producer role, the unavailable Glyn Johns was replaced by Andrew Johns in the engineer’s seat. (Andrew Johns was later to work on all the early 'Led Zeppelin albums'.) The resulting eight songs were to be more influential on the world of rock music than anybody at the time would of dared imagine. Apart from the cover 'Evil Woman', Gary Wright again had a hand in writing all the songs; everyone a classic of its time.

‘Spooky Tooth’ had so many strengths within the band; it is hard to name them all. There was the obvious songwriting skill of Gary Wright.

The groundbreaking lineup in the classic rock format of two keyboard players (used to dramatic effect live with a bank of keyboards on each side of the stage surrounding the rest of the band), both of them in their own contrasting styles, had a couple of the best two voices of their decade. They were used to great effect almost as two separate instruments within the band.

On lead guitar there was a young Luther Grosvenor, probably the most underrated lead guitarist to ever come out of the British Isles. Merge this in with the bass playing skills of Mr. Thunder himself, Greg Ridley, and the drummer's drummer Mike Kellie, and you have a very formidable lineup.

The one cover song, 'Evil Woman', was written by Larry Wies (Larry also wrote 'Rhinestone Cowboy' and 'Bend me Shape me'), which was already well known through its release by American blues and boogie giants 'Canned Heat'. However, the ‘Heat’ never did anything like this with it, ‘Spooky’ turning it into a 9-minute epic of such intensity that it strains your speakers. At over 9-minute length it allows the band to really show off their musical abilities. As in all ‘Spooky Tooth’ material, there are soaring vocals, great changes of pace, and the really dangerous sense of drama, but on 'Evil Woman' it is Luther Grosvenor, who for once gets his nose in front of his two keyboards associates. He truly takes the reigns, making the song his own, as he was to do several years later with Mott the Hoople, where he claimed Ian Hunter's 'Walkin' with a Mountain' by spraying his sonic lead breaks all over it. Luther Grosvenor had by then metamorphosed into Ariel Bender. But here it is still the original Luther Grosvenor, who pulled out some of the most heavy and whacked out guitar licks ever put down on tape.

There is also the double whammy of 'That was Only Yesterday' and 'Better By You, Better Than Me', the latter of which was to be at the center of a long court case after heavy metal band 'Judas Priest' covered the song and got taken to court by the parents of a young man, who had committed suicide due to the songs lyrics. The case was finally thrown out of court. The song is a bit like Leonard Cohen's version of heavy rock, but I think that was taking things a little too far.

'Spooky Too' is a must for any serious collector of rock music, not only for the songs, but for its place in history. The following year the ‘Spookies’ were to lose their minds and record an album with French musical impressionist Pierre Henry, which was very pretentiously called 'Ceremony An Electronic Mass'. The cover has a picture of a man having a nail driven into his head by a hammer, which well describes the results. It was released to wide spread critical ridicule (quite rightly) and the only thing ‘Mass’ about it was the public's disbelief.

Greg Ridley had been horrified by the idea in the first place, fleeing the ship before recording started, and joined up with Steve Marriott, Peter Frampton, and Jerry Shirley to form Humble Pie, who he stayed with throughout their Ten album career.

After the release of ‘Ceremony’ a disillusioned ‘Spooky Tooth’ split up, claiming “That after two and a half years they had slumped into stale and predictable music”, words that they would soon have to eat of course as within a year three of them were back in the studio recording as 'Spooky Tooth' for 'The Final Puff '.

Luther Grosvenor went onto 'Stealers Wheel' and then hit the headlines recreated as Ariel Bender in Mott The Hoople. Gary Wright went onto an incredibly successful solo career as ‘The Dreamweaver’. Mike Harrison had a reasonably successful solo career. Actually he did rather well, but pales a little in comparisons to his former keyboard partner. And Mike Kellie went on to join Peter Frampton's ‘Camel’, and then 'The Only Ones'.

‘Spooky Tooth’ has constantly reformed over the years. Mick Jones was in one version of the band for some time before he went on to form 'Foreigner'. All the original members have at some time or other popped back home to record an album or two, even some touring. In fact, four original members got back together in 1999 (only Gary Wright couldn't make it due to other commitments, which was a shame) to record some unfinished business, releasing 'Cross Purposes', and a jolly nice little album it was, too.

However, the magic of the original ‘Spooky Tooth’ was in all five people at the beginning, and no matter who or what they tried, they could never recreate the magic of those first two albums.

 

Pawed by Mott The Dog
Remastered by Ella Crew

E-mail: review@mott-the-dog.com


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