Monday, 12 June 2017

"Spooky Two" by SPOOKY TOOTH (September 2016 Universal/Island 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster with Nine Bonus Tracks) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Better By You..."

With a sabre-rattling tune-rich debut in July 1968's "It's All About" already under their musical belt - it took only eight months for the British/American five-piece SPOOKY TOOTH to unleash what many feel is their best album - March 1969's imaginatively entitled "Spooky Two".

Germany's Repertoire Records made a decent stab at a CD Remaster in 2005 - but fans are going to need and love this new 2016 version expertly and sympathetically transferred by Audio Engineers Paschal Byrne and Ben Wiseman - two names who've graced oodles of much-praised reissues.

"Spooky Two" is just one amongst seven reissues covering their stay at Island Records from 1968 to 1973 before they moved to Good Ear Records in the mid Seventies amidst myriad personnel changes (see full list below) and I'll admit that I bought the whole lot on release in the UK with a genuine sense of newfound glee. Lost in my dream indeed - here are the scary dental details...

UK released 30 September 2016 (7 October 2016 in the USA) - "Spooky Two" by SPOOKY TOOTH on Universal/Island 570 547-3 (Barcode 602557054736) is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster of their 2nd studio LP from 1969 with Nine Bonus Tracks that plays out as follows (72:25 minutes):

1. Waitin' For The Wind [Side 1]
2. Feelin' Bad
3. I've Got Enough Heartache
4. Evil Woman
5. Lost In My Dream [Side 2]
6. That Was Only Yesterday
7. Better By You, Better Than Me
8. Hangman, Hang My Shell On A Tree
Tracks 1 to 8 are their second studio album "Spooky Two" - released March 1969 in the UK on Island ILPS 9098 and August 1969 in the USA on A&M Records SP 4194. Produced by JIMMY MILLER and Engineered by ANDREW JOHN - it peaked at No. 44 in the USA (didn't chart UK). Uncredited musicians include JOE COCKER who sings backing vocals on "Feelin' Bad" - STEVE WINWOOD who plays piano on "I've Got Enough Heartache" and DAVE MASON who plays guitar on "That Was Only Yesterday" (Winwood and Mason were with Traffic at the time, another Island Records act).

9. Feelin' Bad
10. I Can't Quit Her
11. Blues Town
Tracks 9 to 11 recorded 30 Sep 1968 for BBC Radio One's "Top Gear" Session in Mono. Produced by Bernie Andrews, first broadcast 6 Oct 1968

12. Something Got Into Your Life
13. When I Get Home
Tracks 12 and 13 recorded 13 November 1968 at London's Morgan Studio in Mono

14. Waitin' For The Wind (First Mix)
15. Lost In My Dream (First Mix)
16. Better By You, Better Than Me (First Mix)
Tracks 14 to 16 mixed 12 Feb 1969 at London's Morgan Studios

17. Pretty Woman
Track 17 is the non-album B-side to "That Was Only Yesterday", a Dutch 7" single released August 1969 on Island WIP 6058 in Mono. It's a cover of the A.C. Williams Blues song made famous by Albert King on his "Born Under A Bad Sign" LP on Stax Records in 1967.

MIKE HARRISON – Lead Vocals  and Keyboards
GARY WRIGHT – Lead Vocals and Keyboards

MARK POWELL - head honcho at Esoteric Recordings reissue label (part of Cherry Red) researched, co-ordinated and produced the reissue. His 12-page liner notes include new interviews with key players - the American Gary Wright and Brit boys Mike Harrison and Mike Kellie. You get period photos (black and white and colour), tour posters where ST shared the bill with other like-minded British bands Traffic and Family and a rare Euro picture sleeve for "Waitin' For The Wind" (German Island) with "Feelin' Bad" on the flipside. The recollections are fun and insightful with most admitting that "Spooky Two" is the album they are probably most proud off - a coherent whole only added to here with some crackalackin bonus tracks.

But the big news here is new 2016 Remasters from original master tapes by two hugely experienced Audio Engineers - PASCHAL BYRNE and BEN WISEMAN - names that have graced large numbers of reissues - the Strawbs, T. Rex, Audience, Unicorn, Help Yourself, Dada, Moody Blues, Procol Harum, Terry Riley and many more. This album feels like an amplified Free circa "Tons Of Sobs", "Free" and "Fire And Water" meets "Mr. Fantasy" Traffic - a combo of sound I'll take any day of the week. The drums opening to "Waitin' For The Wind" followed quickly by that organ and bass kick-in is absolutely monster - and from there is doesn't let up. A very tasty job done and it feels like that across the whole series...

Quite why the sexy Rock riffage of "Waitin' For The Wind" wasn't chosen for a second British 45 is anybody's guess - but I think a winning radio hook was missed out there (a Grosvenor, Wright and Harrison composition). The huge sound of melody and voices continues with the excellent "Feelin' Bad" where the liner notes now inform us that the equally gravel-laced larynx of Joe Cocker is adorning those backing singers alongside Mike Harrison - and if you listen hard enough - you can just about make out his distinctive Brummie rasp amidst the guys and gals. It's actually not surprising that the deeply Soulful "I've Got Enough Heartaches" got chosen as the LP's one and only UK 7" single in June 1969 (Island WIP 6060) - even if it was tucked away on the B-side of a non-album A-side written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin - "Son Of Your Father" - a song that would eventually turn up on album number four "The Last Puff" in 1970 with Gary Wright on Lead Vocals. Although the riffage for "Evil Woman" is 'rawk' with a capital 'r' (a cover of the Larry Weiss blues song first released by Guy Darrell in September 1967 on Piccadilly Records in the UK) - for me its clichéd lyrics and sentiment make it the most dated song on the LP (though many love it - especially that gee-tar solo towards the end).

The combo of Wright and Kellie penned both “Feelin’ Bad and I’ve Got Enough Heartaches” over on Side 1 but all of Side 2 is Gary Wright. He opens accounts with the trippy-psych-rock of the album's most famous cut - the wicked and cool "Lost In My Dream" - a tune where nightmares do battle with reality amidst floating organ, marching drums and Harrison's intense vocals – the Englishman channelling another Rock belter throughout - Steve Marriott of Humble Pie. In fact as an example of Sixties triptastic lysergic bombast - "Lost In My Dream" can't be beat. Things mellow into the Soundtrack sounding harmonica-wail of "That Was Only Yesterday" where she's gone for sure and our poor boy is wondering how he's gonna face the weekend (get the beers in son). Re-listening to it after all these years – I'd forgotten how good the song is and can easily hear why it was such a hit on German radio. None other than Judas Priest covered the choppy riff of "Better By You, Better Than Me" on their "Stained Glass" album in 1978 and it all ends on the acoustic-ethereal "Hangman, Hang My Shell On A Tree" - another waiting-to-die tune that builds and builds until it feels like a Spooky Tooth meets Humble Pie epic.

Even though they're in Mono - the three "Top Gear" tracks from September 1968 are well recorded (God Bless Bernie Andrews, RIP) and show a band that sounds 'so' Island Records - a mash-up between Free, Humble Pie and well - Spooky Tooth (the non-album track "Blues Town" is the rocking prize here). We get two surprisingly good album outtakes in Mono - the first "Something Got Into Your Life" being very Atomic Rooster in its heavy guitar tone while "When I Get Home" feels like a really good Family song and is the more cleverly melodic of the pair. The three 'first mix' variants of key album tracks will thrill long-time fans - subtle differences in all. And Spooky Tooth's cover of Albert King's "Pretty Woman" has been a sought-after European-only B-side rarity for decades – so how cool is it to see that forgotten flip-side back on CD here.

To sum-up - a great Spooky Tooth album given quality audio, good presentation and at least some Extra Tracks that actually warrant the moniker 'Bonus'. 1969's "Spooky Two" is no longer lost in anyone's dream. Well done to all involved in this superb CD reissue...

Reissue Titles for SPOOKY TOOTH 
In the 30 September 2016 (UK)/7 October 2016 (USA) 
Universal/Island CD Remaster Series

1. It's All About (1968 Debut) - on Universal/Island 570 547-1 (Barcode 602557054712) with 10 Bonus Tracks
2. Spooky Two (1969 2nd LP) – on Universal/Island 570 547-3 (Barcode 602557054736) with 9 Bonus Tracks
3. Ceremony: An Electronic Mass (1969 3rd LP with Pierre Henry) - on Universal/Island 570 547-0 (Barcode 602557054705) with 6 Bonus Tracks
4. The Last Puff (1970 4th LP) - on Universal/Island 570 547-5 (Barcode 602557054750) with 6 Bonus Tracks
5. You Broke My Heart...So I Busted Your Jaw (1973 5th LP) - on Universal/Island 570 547-8 (Barcode 602557054781)
6. Witness (1973 6th LP) - on Universal/Island 570 547-7 (Barcode 602557054774) with 1 Bonus Track
7. The Mirror (1974 7th LP) - on Universal/Island 570 547-6 (Barcode 602557054767)

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