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From Luther Grosvenor to Ariel Bender & Beyond
The Story of a 5* Rock 'n' Roll Star
(Part 2 of 5)

Review: 214
Date: 12 Feb 05

 


Rating: n/a

Musicians: n/a

Albums with Luther Grosvenor during this period:
> Spooky Two - Spooky Tooth
> Ceremony - Pierre Henry and
Spooky Tooth
> The Last Puff - Spooky Tooth
> Under Open Skies - Luther
Grosvenor

 

 


With the release of ‘Spooky Two’ at the beginning of 1969, Luther Grosvenor and his band mates found themselves propelled into the major leagues. The album crashed into the American Billboard Charts and raced up the British Top Thirty. The whole album just reeks with class.

‘Waitin' For The Wind' is the perfect opening song, kicking off with Mike Kellie battering the beat off his drum kit before being joined by the robust Hammond organ of Gary Wright and the magnificently harsh vocals of Mike Harrison, singing the first verse. Then Mike breaks onto his own keyboards to support even further the rumbling heavy Spooky Tooth rock sound. On the second verse the monumental bass notes of Greg Ridley's guitar sledgehammer their way into the chorus line, anchoring the sound and allowing Luther Grosvenor to swoop in with his guitar licks to bring proceedings to a dramatic conclusion. It's as if each individual within the band is saying "Hello".

The album is jammed packed with the songs that Spooky Tooth will always be remembered by. 'That Was Only Yesterday', 'Better By You, Better by Me', and the gospel anthem 'I've Got Enough Heartaches', which goes to prove that although Mike Harrison and Gary Wright were the used lead vocalists in the band, in any other band any of the quintet could of been lead vocalist in the band. In fact, in one way or another all of them were in later bands.

Luther Grosvenor only had a hand in writing the opening song, but his guitar playing throughout set new standards in defining Heavy Rock, is nothing short of jaw dropping. His guitar solo when jousting for three minutes with the organ play of Gary Wright to bring the only cover song on the album, 'Evil Woman' by L. Weiss, to a musical orgasm of notes, was one of the spectacular highlights of the live show.

Oh, the high's and low's of rock 'n' roll! After successfully touring the United States of America and Europe, with ‘Spooky Two’ still selling well, somebody at Island Records had the idea of putting Spooky Tooth back in the studio with French performance artist Pierre Henry to collaborate on an album. Spooky Tooth entered the studio first and laid down some backtracks. Then, when the band had left the studio, Pierre Henry came in and did what he did, and laid it over the top of Spooky Tooth's music. The resulting album 'Ceremony, An Electronic Mass' was released to the public in 1970 to the horror of the band, the press, and the record buying public. The album was unbearable to listen to and all the songs were credited to Pierre Henry/G. Wright. If it was supposed to be an experiment in 'Avant Garde', it was more like 'Haven't Got A Clue'. The press reviews were unanimous in panning everything about the record, even the cover came in for stick.

Poor Luther Grosvenor’s squeaks and squawks from his guitar are annoying. When he does get to solo, it's all over the place, being taken up and down in the mix. Fans of the band, who bought the album in expectation of similar music to Spooky Two, were left in dismay. The conflict that the release of ‘Ceremony’ caused within the band was terminal. Gary Wright, shouldering too much of the blame for co-writing credits, sloped off to America to start his solo career before returning to reform Spooky Tooth after the dust had settled. Greg Ridley took his bass guitar over to Humble Pie, where he did very nicely, thank you. The remaining trio was invited back into the studio to try to make a record to clear the good name of Spooky Tooth. With the addition of three ex members of the Grease Band, Alan Spenner on bass guitar, Henry McCulloch on guitar, and musical director and filling the keyboard duties was Chris Stainton, later to take a similar role with Eric Clapton.

Despite the new lineup, the album was a stunning success. The aptly titled 'The Last Puff' was released at the back end of 1970.The album opens with a heavy cover of John Lennon's classic 'I Am The Walrus', one of the few covers of a Beatles’ song that matches the original in brilliance. They also showed great taste in covering David Ackle’s 'Down River', which showcased Mike Harrison's vocals perfectly.

With the keyboards now further down in the mix, there was plenty of room for Luther's solos. Each solo was nailed down with the enthusiasm of a youth knowing he is the master of his craft. The solo in 'I Am The Walrus' will strip the wallpaper from your walls. With the good name of Spooky Tooth cleared, the band quickly split up.

There were lots of rumors that the split was not permanent; the members of Spooky Tooth were merely taking time to recuperate. This, of course, proved to be true, when the trio of Wright, Harrison, and Kellie reformed Spooky Tooth in 1972. Luther declined the offer to re-join, thinking it a regressive step and was replaced by Mick Jones, who, after the final demise of Spooky Tooth, went on to form the hugely successful Foreigner. Mike Kellie at the time said that the idea of reforming the band came to them in the jobcentre! Spooky Tooth soldiered on for two more years, but could never recapture former glories. However, they succeeded in releasing an album with my favorite title ‘You Broke My Heart So I Busted Your Jaw’. Great title! Terrible album.

Meanwhile Luther Grosvenor retreated to Spain (during this time Mick and Keith of the Stones made enquiries about Luther's availability to join them, but nothing ever came of it.) to, as the saying went at the time, “get it together”. On his return the results of his sabbatical were laid down for Luther Grosvenor's first solo album.

'Under Open Skies' came out in 1971, recorded with friends old and new including Jim Capaldi, Mick Ralphs (a bit prophetic), Trevor Burton, and former Spooky Toother Mike Kellie. It's a lovely album that reflects the relaxed mood of its creator. The single from the album, 'Here Comes The Queen', got plenty of air play, and the guitar playing was as ever mesmerizing, but commercially the project was not a great success.

When Gerry Rafferty left Stealers Wheel it seemed an obvious move for Luther to take his place and join the band. But after six months and a couple of singles - 'Stuck in the Middle With You', a Gerry Rafferty song, became an enormous hit - Gerry Rafferty came back and Luther was out.

Whilst working out his next move, the phone rings long distance from America with a request from a certain Mr. Ian Hunter….

Ah! Rock 'n' roll has some strange twists and turns. Next week the arrival of Ariel Bender.

 

Pawed by Mott The Dog
Re-chewed by Ella Crew

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

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