maandag 24 maart 2014

Spooky Two. Spooky Tooth

It's time to start a new series. In the early fall of 1968 I discovered that something like the Top 40 existed and became a great fan of lists, numbers and the songs in that list. In the first year I discovered many new songs and bands, some that I know only one song of, that major or minor hit in the Top 40. Most bands I forgot about totally. Albums didn't exist for me at that time. I had some singles and the radio, every day. Later on I never bought an album from bands mostly forgotten. Now with Spotify on hand it is possible to delve into this treasure trove of vague memories of songs and hits. So what is the album that holds this hit like? We start with Spooky Two, because of the hit 'That was only yesterday'.

This was a quite surprising journey to be honest. From memory I had a vague recollection of the chorus of 'That was only yesterday'. The whole rest of the song was totally unfamiliar to me. I had a recollection of a great chorus, that was all. So let's take a closer look at Spooky Tooth and its second album.

Spooky Two was released in March of 1969, obviously as the second album of the band. Spooky Tooth had formed in 1967 under the name Art and has released one album under that name, 'Supernatural fairy tales' in 1967. Soon after U.S. born organ player/vocals Gary Wright joined Art the name was changed to Spooky Tooth. The other band members were Mike Harrison, keyboard/vocals; Luke Grosvenor, guitar/vocals; Greg Ridley, bass/vocals and Mike Kellie, drums. This means that Spooky Tooth had a line up like Procul Harum with two keyboard players in the band, which is not an average line up for a rock band.

Spooky two kicks off with bare drums. After a while a rough sounding organ comes in with a just as rough singing. Reminding me of Paul Rodgers of Free. The organ is played like Jon Lord would rise to fame with from 1970 onwards. 'Waitin' for the wind' has two lead vocals actually. Something that is something of a trademark for Spooky Tooth. The hard rocking sound is just fine, with some nice riffing by Grosvenor.

The surprise with the second song could not be greater. A west coast hippy, folk song, that would have fitted nicely on a Jefferson Airplane record. 'Feeling bad' is a great song, something I really, really, like. Some great singing, with some female background singing hidden in the masses. Something which is not so subtly hidden in the ballad 'I've got enough heartaches'. The sort of song that mixes pop, soul and rocksinging like Steve Winwood used to be so good at. Joe Cocker could have covered this song as well. The surprising thing is that drummer Mike Kellie is involved in the songwriting of the last two songs.

The fourth song is the 9.00 minutes full rock riffery of 'Evil woman' a song written by a Larry Weiss. The high voice used here is something to get used to, but does underscore the emotions evoked by the two keyboards. In 'Evil woman' Grosvenor can rock out on his guitar in a long solo. A solo that has speed but seems to lose the song for a while under way, before it all comes nicely together again.

After 'Evil woman' Gary Wright takes over the album. Probably the whole side two of the vinyl album. The last four songs are all from his hand. The mood changes from a rock, bluesy band to more psychedelic. 'Lost in my dreams' is much more subtle than the other songs. There is this dreamy quality to the song. Not in the slightest because of the female harmony oohs and aahs, but also in the tempo changes that are going on in the song. In the verses, Grosvenor's guitar riffs hard in the back of the right side of the mix. Traffic comes to mind here and not for the first time on this album.

And then, the famous single. To my surprise Spooky Tooth is doing a The Monkees here. A jab at a commercial hit 'That was only yesterday' was. The verses are these sweet, soft and poppy with an extremely neat mouth harp intro. That 45 years after hearing the song for the first time, I still remembered the chorus (mostly without the lyrics as I couldn't understand English at the time) is not a surprise. This is a chorus. With great guitar playing, again not unlike Jorma Kaukonen on JA's first album 'Takes off'. Also I would like to point out that bass player Greg Ridley (who soon switched to Humble Pie after this release) plays some nice notes here. This makes that 'That was only yesterday' is sort of set aside from all else going on on Spooky two. 'Better by you, better than me' is again a rougher sounding song, with some bitter, emotional singing stressed by guitar and keyboard. Another song that sounds like a prelude to Deep Purple in 1970.

It all ends with 'Hangman hang my shell on tree'. This song has a folk start. Acoustic guitar and soft singing. Further on in the song it is shown that 'Feeling bad' was no exception for Spooky Tooth. Another good song. Not very much unlike Led Zeppelin would be doing very, very soon in 1969, just a little slicker.

To be honest, I'm quite surprised by the quality offered on Spooky Two. The album may not be totally consistent in music as in the sort of music played, as far as the songs go individually there's not one single miss here. Spooky Two is embedded in music that I have bought through the years by bands that became famous soon after 1969. Some names were mentioned above. Spooky Tooth missed out here. Perhaps because band members started walking out soon after this release and the next, perhaps Spooky Two was just it. Anyway, if you like some good classic rock infused with some blues, soul and a slice psychedelia, this is something to try out.


You can listen to 'That was only yesterday' here.

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